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Posted: September 23, 2014 in Uncategorized
Enter the Portal. Image Created by Ross Cochrane.

Enter the Portal. Image Created by Ross Cochrane.

Matthew 17:14-18 – HOW TO SUPPORT SOMEONE WITH A LIFE THREATENING ILLNESS – Revisited

He was having a biopsy on a lump. The doctor was concerned and rightly so. It turned out to be bowel cancer, a devastating discovery and as we walked into my office he asked me for my support in prayer. Of course I prayed, then and most days since, through the biopsies and tests and surgery and soon the Chemotherapy. Many others join us in prayer. He is part of our tribe.

Image created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, Morguefiles.org, and FilterForge.org

Image created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, Morguefiles.org, and FilterForge.org

I have been reading an excellent blog recently at http://wp.me/p4V5We-1R called Beautiful Life With Cancer. Have you experienced a life-threatening illness? I would be interested to find out what it was that helped you the most? 

HOW DO YOU SUPPORT SOMEONE WITH A LIFE THREATENING ILLNESS?

I wonder what it would be like for the Father in Mark 9:14 who was trying to find answers for his son. His son had a life-threatening illness.

Mark 9:14 (NLT) says “When they (Jesus, Peter, James and John) returned to the other disciples (from the mountain), they saw a large crowd surrounding them,” Perhaps the crowd had been gathered by the 9 disciples who did not go up the mountain with Jesus.

14 some teachers of religious law were ARGUING with them. 

What Jesus found when He came down the mountain was an ARGUMENT. We don’t know what the argument was about but we do know that it wasn’t helping anybody find healing that morning. In the middle of the argument was a little boy who desperately needed healing physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The negativity of the scribes almost sabotaged the future of this little boy. He needed people to be PRESENT, but he needed POSITIVE PRESENCE to give him hope. What support can we give to someone with a life threatening illness?

  1. BE PRESENT AND BE POSITIVE

15 When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet Him. Most people want to get away from NEGATIVE people and this crowd was no exception. They ran to Jesus and away from the Scribes. Would you want people like the Scribes, or someone like Jesus, to speak into your life when you are sick? I would want Jesus.

16 “What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asked. In effect Jesus is saying – This isn’t a time for argument. It’s time for COMPASSION. Negativity won’t heal this little boy.

17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk.” This young man couldn’t talk. His Dad brought me to Jesus and WAS HIS VOICE when he had none. He verbalised his deepest prayer on his son’s behalf.

One lady I spoke to recently is so sick she finds it hard to pray. What can we do to support someone with a life-threatening illness?

  1. BE THEIR VOICE BEFORE GOD.

They may not be able to pray but we can pray for them.

The father described the spiritual oppression taking place in his son’s life 18 … whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. This young man was sick physically, emotionally and spiritually. The Bible says that he had a DEMON plaguing his life. His spiritual illness led him to have physical illness.

If it hadn’t been for his DAD, he would not have found the healing he so desperately needed. The father of the boy said, “So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” 

What I love about this father is that when the Scribes couldn’t help, this father didn’t give up. When the disciples couldn’t help, this father didn’t give up. Now he comes to Jesus.

19 Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you?” I don’t think Jesus was talking to the disciples or the Dad when He said “You faithless people”. I imagine He was looking at the Scribes. Their NEGATIVITY had created an ATMOSPHERE OF UNBELIEF that had limited the ability of the disciples to heal this boy. Negativity certainly isn’t one of the spiritual gifts. It definitely doesn’t provide the atmosphere for a miracle to take place.

Jesus says “Bring the boy to me.” 20 So they brought the boy. A great choice to make. What can we do to support a person with a life threatening illness. 

  1. INTRODUCE THEM TO CHRIST.

Jesus took the boy away from the Scribes and their negativity.

20 But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. The evil spirit felt comfortable in the negativity of the Scribes and in the middle of an argument, but very uncomfortable in the presence of Jesus and the mustard seed faith of the Father. Sin and evil are always exposed in the presence of Jesus, but so is forgiveness and healing. Invite people to reach out to Christ.

21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. The Dad describes to Jesus what has been HAPPENING IN THE PAST. This spirit was making this little boy suicidal.

But Jesus shows us that we don’t have to be RULED BY OUR PAST. He gave this little boy a POSITIVE FUTURE.

The Dad said “Have mercy on us and help us…” Notice this illness had affected the father too. He said have mercy on US. Family members often need support too. He identified with his son. We can do this too. How can you do that?

  1. PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES.

Have empathy rather than sympathy. Bring all the family to Jesus in prayer,

22 …Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”  23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

What Jesus is saying is that YOUR OUTLOOK IS DETERMINED BY WHAT YOU’RE ARE LOOKING OUT FROM (Brian Houston). Is your perspective one of unbelief or faith? We can help in this way too.

  1. ENCOURAGE THEM TO RESPOND IN FAITH

Jesus was NOT AFRAID TO TALK ABOUT FAITH. Jesus changed the atmosphere when He spoke personally to this Dad about faith in Him. It was as if He wanted the Dad to CO-OPERATE with Him to get his son healed.

Instantly the Dad cried out, 24 “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” He admitted he had only a speck of faith and needed help with the rest. We always need to LIFT OUR EXPERIENCE TO THE LEVEL OF OUR BELIEF, rather than bring our faith down to the level of our experience (Brian Houston).

All we need is MUSTARD SEED FAITH in a HUGE God. It’s an active PARTICIPATION with God to grow and be involved in His purposes for our lives.

God is more concerned with the SPIRITUAL sickness of our lives than even physical sicknesses because He wants us to have eternal life. PHYSICAL HEALING IS TEMPORAL. SPIRITUAL HEALING IS ETERNAL. 

25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, He rebuked the evil spirit. He didn’t rebuke the FATHER for his lack of faith. He gave him hope.

He didn’t rebuke the BOY for allowing a demon into his life. He healed him. He got to the heart of the matter and rebuked the demon and cast it out. When He dealt with the spiritual matter then the little boy was healed physically and emotionally.

25 “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” He said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!” 26 Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.”  

They PRESUMED THE WORST INSTEAD OF EXPECTING THE BEST. 

27 But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up. Luke 9:42 (NLT) adds Then He gave him back to his father.

From that moment on he was well. What a great outcome. 

BUT YOU MIGHT BE ASKING “WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO ARE NOT HEALED?”

I cannot pretend to know what God is doing when someone is not healed. All I know is that when I pray and support and show compassion in Jesus name I can leave things in God’s hands. I trust Him to know what He’s doing.

I do know one thing. Jesus is interested in HEALING US SPIRITUALLY. That’s the ETERNAL solution. A relationship with Christ. He invites us into relationship with Him. 

It would have been wonderful for that young boy when Jesus reached down and took hold of him and he opened his eyes. Jesus face was the first person he saw after he was cured. That would be life-changing. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:14-18 – IN THE QUIET MOMENTS WHEN ARGUMENTS NO LONGER MATTER

IN THE QUIET MOMENTS WHEN ARGUMENTS NO LONGER MATTER - Image created by Ross Cochrane.

IN THE QUIET MOMENTS WHEN ARGUMENTS NO LONGER MATTER – Image created by Ross Cochrane.

It is in the silence of the moment when there are no more discordant arguments; where there is a pause in the perpetual warring of words and the clamour of severe speeches. That is the peaceful habitation where trust is born. It is there in the shadow of a simple question where there are no answers or words left to explain away a spark of faith, that a man kneels with great respect and finds his opportunity to believe.

He and his son had gathered with the crowd in anticipation, waiting for the four men to return from the mountain. His purpose is to find answers for his son. But there are some opinions of protest in the crowd, disturbing the mob, a verdict of voices representing themselves with their forbidding arguments and ridicule. They are not interested in the boy but want to find a platform to spread their malicious media; toxic teachers. They have “…an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth” (1 Timothy 6:3-6 NLT).

Every Sunday crowds of people still gather to hear the Word of God over the noise of the week, and still there are the Transcribers of terror in our world who forge their tongues in hell and bring an atmosphere of argument seeking to quench faith. Those who fear them hear them. Their form of truth is upheld by controlling others, and anything to do with Jesus is a threat.

So it happens that a time of incredible worship and miraculous encounters; glorious meetings on the mountain, is followed by a valley of corrupt and godless people arguing over a demonised boy. That will bring you down to earth every time.

But then the crowd becomes aware of Jesus. He speaks and once you hear the voice of Jesus, you are “overwhelmed with awe” (Mark 9:15 NLT). What is it about Jesus that inspires this response? The crowd leaves the arguments with the religious teachers behind and runs to Him (Mark 9:15). He has that kind of influence. “What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asks (Mark 9:16 NLT). The Scribes don’t have an answer.

That’s the moment when the father of the demonised boy broke the embarrassing silence, and kneels before Jesus with just a mustard seed of faith (Luke 9:37-43, Mark 9:14-29, Matthew 17:14). In the quietness of the moment when there is no arguing; in the shadow of Jesus question where there are no answers to interrupt, this father kneels, and prays,

“Lord, have mercy and heal my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I beg You to look at him. He is my only child. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk” (see Luke 9:37-43, Mark 9:14-29 and Matthew 17:15).

Children need parents to bring them to Christ, but how did this child end up with an evil spirit? He suffered greatly. He appears to have Epilepsy. He is plagued physically with an illness but spiritually by a demon. Prone to self-harm and suicide, He tries to burn himself or drown himself. What happens in a little boy’s life to leave him demonised? What was he exposed to? What happened? What kind of experiences and evil indoctrination allowed a demon to have such a foothold?

Jesus seems quite rude as he turns towards the Scribes in the crowd. The Scribes had probably started the argument over healing the boy. They are corrupt, with twisted minds who have distorted the truth with their perverse religious control. Easily impressionable, the boy is probably demonised because of the inculcation during his earliest years of their evil influence. The child stands in their midst and Jesus says, “Bring the boy to me.” So they bring the boy. The further from the Scribes he gets the better.

Jesus said to them, “You faithless and corrupt people, how long must I be with you and put up with you?” (Luke 9:37-43 and Mark 9:14-29 NLT). Jesus doesn’t suffer fools easily. He attracts those with a teachable spirit. He supports those who express a need for God but calls these wicked men for what they are. He could easily have called them crooked serpents; people who have opened themselves up to corruption, instruments of the devil who pave the way for people to be demonised rather than be opened to the miracle of a transformed life of faith in Christ.

Jesus wasn’t impressed with their sinful, arrogant rebellion. The boy was merely a pawn in their midst to stir up a religious dispute, an opportunity to find targets for their threats. Unbelief swaps the blessing of God for an argument. Because it stems from warped thinking, it expresses no mercy to others and is stubborn and unjust. Crosseyed and twisted in their thinking, they pervert the truth. They are wicked in their behaviour and attitudes. They cause irreparable damage in the lives of people and it seems they have wreaked havoc in the life of this little boy.

Jesus rebukes the Scribes just as He rebukes the demon in this little boy. Does justice demand such a rebuke? Yes. Jesus is the only one truly able to deliver such a rebuke. This perverse, malicious group of religious miscreants don’t deserve the favour of God yet instead of fire from heaven they get to witness a miracle. The demon is probably released back into their midst.

Come to think of it, as angry as I get about corrupt and evil people in the world, the Bible says not one of us deserves God’s favour. Only the grace of God can save us. Romans 3:23 (NLT) says “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 6:23 (NLT) says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The invitation is to come to Jesus with a speck of faith in the quiet space when arguments no longer matter and receive the miracle of grace which will transform your life. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:10 – LOOKING FOR A FOOTHOLD ON THE MOUNTAIN 

Foothold. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Foothold. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

They are bewildered. They are reeling, trying to find some perspective, something to help them come to grips with all this; something in their experience of the world that relates to this event that will help them; a clue, any clue. 

They only have one small trace; one small hint of understanding that might start to unravel this mystery mountain tour. They have heard some talk of how a man, a great leader, would one day come to bring justice to the world. They are now convinced that Jesus is that man. Is this the beginning of the end? 

Jesus tells them to keep quiet about what they have just witnessed but a flailing question searches for a tiny crevice that would provide them with a foothold. What question could possibly give them enough purchase on this mountain? 

Surprisingly they don’t ask about the sudden appearance of Moses who had been dead for over 1000 years. They don’t ask about the voice that came from the cloud leaving them prostrate on the ground, frozen with fear. They don’t ask Him about His face, though it shone like the sun? It seems they only want to know about one thing. 

They ask “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?” (Matthew 17:10 NLT). I mean, that’s the first question that came into my head too. NOT. 

All they can think about after such a dramatic appearance on the mountain is the nagging possibility that this might be the beginning of the great and dreadful day that will bring judgment and justice to the earth. If I had just been introduced to the prophet Elijah on a mountain 900 years after his sudden disappearance from the earth and if I knew about the prophecy about him, then perhaps I would ask that question too. 

The prophecy the teachers of religious law have been speaking about was written in the book of Malachi, “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6 NLT). The question could be rephrased. “Since Elijah has just appeared on the mountain with You, Jesus, is this the beginning of the end of the world as we know it?” 

Jesus replies “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready for the Messiah” (Matthew 17:11 NLT). Now here’s the opportunity for the disciples to really get a handle on the end times, but they don’t ask anything more. The conversation could have gone something like this… 

“Hang on. Did You say Elijah is COMING, as in HASN’T ARRIVED YET? He was just on the mountain and You are saying that he is STILL YET TO COME? 

So let me get this straight. Moses and Elijah were talking to You about Your death. That doesn’t sound like plans to bring justice to the world. 

Is Elijah going to COME AGAIN and intervene with fire from heaven to stop You from being executed by the religious leaders?” 

“Has Elijah gone ahead to Jerusalem to fulfil the Malachi prophecy, to preach and get people ready to receive You as the Messiah? Lord, I need Your help here. Could you elaborate just a little more? I’m confused.” 

Jesus says “…Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer” (Matthew 17:12 NLT). 

“Slow down a bit. You just said Elijah is YET TO COME and now you are saying Elijah has ALREADY COME? Not on the mountain but sometime BEFORE the mountain, incognito?” 

Then it clicks. He’s talked about this before (Matthew 11:14). And there was a prophecy about John. “I get it! You aretalking about John the Baptist’ (Matthew 17:13 NLT). It was once said that John ‘will be A MAN WITH THE SPIRIT AND POWER OF ELIJAH. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly’ (Luke 1:17 NLT). He fits the prophecy about Elijah. Right? John the Baptist was really Elijah the Baptiser?” 

“So Elijah was just on the mountain to talk about the death of Jesus, not to usher in the end of the world (Luke 9:31). The prophecy of Malachi was fulfilled by John the Baptist who ALREADY CAME with the spirit and power of Elijah, but was rejected.” 

“But Elijah is still YET TO COME and when he does he will get everything ready by preparing the way for Jesus and a generation of rebellious people will repent and be saved. Stop me any time here, Lord, if I’ve got this wrong.” 

Elijah gets Fathers to have a heart for their kids by teaching them to accept godly wisdom. This is a generational blessing that comes to those who repent of their rebellion against God and trust in Jesus. That’s the foothold for the question. That’s the secure place that will lead us down this mountain experience. 

“2 Kings 2:11 tells us that Elijah was taken up into heaven and didn’t die. Did he go on living in heaven as an immortal man until he returned to the mountain? Where did he and Moses go then? Back to heaven? Will they return again? Will Elijah be one of the “two witnesses” described in Revelation 11. TOO MUCH INFORMATION! I NEED THAT SECURE FOOTHOLD AGAIN!” 

What I do know is that at the bottom of the mountain a father’s heart is turned toward his son and he brings him to Jesus (Matthew 17:14-18). A generational imprint will be left upon this family as Jesus heals him. The spirit and power of Elijah is already at work as we bring our families into relationship with the Lord, preparing the way for Jesus’ return. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:8-9 – A DIFFICULT THING TO TALK ABOUT

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

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

I just realised I believe in the most extraordinary things. I have just read about Jesus shining like the sun, Elijah and Moses returning to a mountain and God speaking from a bright cloud. Bizarre! Even more bizarre; I believe it. All of it. I really do. I believe that it actually happened on a mountain witnessed by Peter, James and John and when it was all over, they saw that it was only Jesus that remained.

I found myself praying this morning when I read about these amazing events. “It seems a little unusual to say that “when they looked, they saw only Jesus” (Matthew 17:8 NLT). So often I only see my circumstances and not always You, Lord. But here, this morning, in my study when I look I see only You and Your glory rather than be distracted by the commonplace, the routine, the unremarkable things of my life. 

As I begin this day, I need Your touch and Your Word to empower me. Let the past fade (Moses and the law) and the future find it’s way (Elijah and the prophets) but today I would see only You. Like the blind man You put Your spit mixed with dirt in my eyes and I open them to see the Light of the world (John 9:5). Only You. 

Sometimes I find it is difficult to put my faith into words and share what has happened to me. Peter, James and John must have wanted to say something but what do you say to people after seeing Moses and Elijah returned after a 1000 years and hearing the voice of God from a cloud, in the presence of Jesus shining like the sun? 

What do you say? Do you speak about the reality of an afterlife? Of spirits of the saints returned? Of how we are eternal beings? Do you talk about resurrection one day when we will have resurrection bodies? Do you talk about the end of the law of Moses and the fulfilment of prophecies in Christ? Do you talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus? Do you talk about what it means to encounter Christ in all His majesty? Do you talk about the presence of Christ being the most important thing in your life? Will people think I am crazy? Probably. It’s difficult to talk about. 

It doesn’t surprise me that as You go down the mountain that You command them “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead” (Matthew 17:9 NLT). 

After the resurrection that’s what Peter did. He had to preface what he said by saying he wasn’t making it up. How do you start to tell of such an event? Peter did his best in 2 Peter 1:16-21 (NLT); “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw His majestic splendour with our own eyes when He received honour and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to Him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.”   

Timing is always important to You, Lord. There is a right time to share the gospel message. I can only share it when the person to whom You lead me is ready to receive the truth about who You are. It’s knowing the redemptive moment. Even then the miraculous transformation that takes place in a person’s life when they come to know You is difficult to explain. And how do I explain some of the most extraordinary things that I believe from Your Word? I can only trust that the Spirit of God will reveal His truth (John 16:13)”.

As I read my Bible He speaks to me. As I pray He speaks to me. It is almost audible. And today I can’t help but think of you, reading my blog. Forget the intrusions from the past for a moment. Forget your anxieties or plans about the future. Alone with only Jesus. It seems to me that He is also speaking to you, inviting you to that place of secure trust in Him. 

Pastor Ross

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

Matthew 17:1-8 – STAYIN’ ALIVE

Stayin' Alive. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Stayin’ Alive. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

I need to be interrupted, startled from the stupor of my wandering heart in order to really listen. I am all too willing to hear the voice of sleep in my early morning encounters drawing me away from the significance of prayer (Luke 9:32).

I am all too willing to listen to the voices of the past that meet me on the mountains of my vision, and listen to them, to take their lead, to live vicariously through their exploits rather than be challenged by difficult things of which Jesus speaks.

I am all too enthusiastic to give voice to half-baked solutions when faced with something I don’t understand, too eager to enshrine the holy moments of life in velvet coverings embroidered in gold and leave them in a drawer somewhere for remembrance sake.

So many voices haunt me from my past, call to me from the mirrored images of the present each morning, and dance around in my head with curious suggestions of what could be for the future.

Yet today I stand with Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, Old Testament saints with New Testament saints as God says “Listen to Him”, because Christ is the only One able to interpret my past, present and future.

A voice comes with bell-like clarity from within the continually changing, mysterious, all-encompassing billows, from the intangible substance of a bright cloud (Ezekiel 1:4, Ezekiel 1:28, Exodus 16:10; 40:33, Exodus 19:9; 20:21; Ezekiel 43:2; 2 Chronicles 5:14).

I listen, prostrate on the ground, as the bright cloud envelopes us, and we are transported to another age when Israel was guided by the Shekinah glory. Cloud by day. Fire by night (Exodus 13:21, Exodus 40:34-38). The radiance of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in deepest harmony. Three in one. And we are drowned in His magnificent attendance.

“Listen to Him”. Not to the voices of the past (Moses or Elijah), not to voices of the present trying to enshrine the moment (Peter), but to Him who is the Word of God, and to His unlimited wisdom for every timespan (Jesus).

Hebrews 12:18-25 (NLT) says “You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. … No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, … You have come to God Himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness … Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven!”  

There are quietimes where I have experienced that strong, penetrating sense of His presence. Alone with Him as I walk or as I read His Word, or share His company. He continually urges me to listen to His Son and when I do, like saints of old, I pass in such close proximity to God that it is a miracle to have survived. Ephesians 3:12 (NLT) gives the reason for my escape “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” Lord, I come. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:1-5 TRANSFIGURATION – Poem

© by Ross Cochrane

I need this startled interruption from morning’s stupor, 
Shining, splendid, stark, splashed colours of the dawn, now
Drawing me and calling my wandering heart to prayer, 
Yet somehow 
While there, 
I hear the voices of my past call me to come 
And to re-live the darkness of their exploits, plum
Their depths once again,
And not tread heights that Jesus would allow my heart to climb. 
Am I to disavow my destiny for such a stain? 
Claim half-answers that come 
From trying to enshrine more noble moments of my life? 
A voice calls with bell-like clarity riding on the cloud
And I, prostrate, listen to it cut the air, two edged knife
At once I let my hardened heart be ploughed
bow the shredded sorrows of my strife
And in His radiant presence find new life.

Matthew 17:4-5 – THE RIGHT TO SPEAK AND THE CHOICE TO LISTEN 

Listening Button, by Ross Cochrane

Listening Button, by Ross Cochrane

He is always getting into trouble. He opens his mouth and it ends up being offensive and someone goes away upset or embarrassed. It’s not that he doesn’t think or listen. It’s just that he interprets things through the eyes of impetuosity, chauvinism or even racism. As a follower of Jesus he is maturing but he still has a way to go.

Because he thinks that he has something worthwhile to contribute he blurts out ideas and suggestions and that’s what usually gets him into trouble. I shouldn’t talk. Most of the time I am thinking the same thing, but don’t say anything.

I learn a lot from Peter’s impulsiveness although he embarrasses me and himself in the process. He speaks openly when he should listen. He is insensitive and tactless and later regrets saying anything at all. He is spontaneous but borders on recklessness. It’s not as if he doesn’t know others are listening. Classic foot-in-mouth. Unprompted theatre.

Benjamin Franklin said “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” Peter maybe impetuous but his suggestion in this case is not stupid, just wrong. He may misunderstand the significance of what is happening but he is actively seeking to piece it all together. He will always remember that although he had the right to speak, he also had the choice to listen.

Having little experience of Jewish culture Peter’s suggestion seems odd to me, but apparently far away in Jerusalem there are many at present who are commemorating the Feast of Tabernacles. They build and live in make-shift shelters for a week to remember the Exodus when Moses led the Hebrews from Egypt; camping out in the wilderness before entering the promised land.

Shelters in the Exodus of Moses were necessary because although Israel was free from oppression, they were not free from their sin. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they entered into the promised land because of their disobedience; their mistrust of God’s appointed leaders and their lack of trust in God’s provision. Their make-shift shelters spoke of their sin. 

Peter blurts out, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Matthew 17:4 NLT). But associating Jesus and these returned saints with Israel’s sin isn’t a good idea. On the contrary, Jesus death will lead people directly into the freedom of forgiveness and the promises of God. Milk, honey and grapes would have been better memorial symbols. 

“But even as Peter spoke, a bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy. Listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5 NLT).

Sometimes my words are the sound of a broken window and unfamiliar footsteps creeping through God’s truth like unwelcome guests. When such words presumptuously seek to break and enter into God’s territory, then He invites me to listen and obey Jesus. I have the right to speak but more importantly the choice to listen to His voice. I can receive the light of forgiveness rather than dwell in the shadows of the make-shift shelters of my sin. I can give voice to my shame and regrets, or choose to listen to the voice of His mercy. Lord, I’m listening. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:1-5 – WHEN LISTENING FINDS THE RIGHT VOICE 

Listening. © Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Listening. © Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

When Listening walks with a friend in the park or offers them a cup of coffee in a quiet bay window overlooking her garden she happens upon the most amazing stories. People are always willing to open up to Listening. She mirrors your movements as you speak to her and hears your heart. She doesn’t interrupt or tell you what you should do, but somehow at the end of the conversation you discover for yourself a pathway ahead. 

Listening has a twin sister called Hearing. Although they bear a strong family resemblance to each other, they are quite different. Hearing is distracted easily. She watches the News at night on TV but could not tell you what was said. She is more interested in the sound of your voice than in the conversation. She can sit with you but the sounds float around her head and she gets lost in the domain of imagination or in the pressing things she is yet to act upon. 

It is when Hearing becomes too emotional that she least resembles Listening. She parks in clearways and blocks the traffic with conversational narcissism; showing no interest in what you are saying. In her childhood she had trouble remembering and paying attention to what she was told. As a result her grades suffered and she developed behaviour problems. 

Being a child of Nurture, Listening makes her living as a Nanny. She takes hold of the sounds born into the world from anothers thoughts, and cradles them in nurturing arms, raising them into responsible maturity, and returns them to the conversations of life with Understanding. 

I found Listening at the beach when I wanted to give voice to my questions. She was gazing at the ocean waves rolling in. “Conversations are like the ocean” she said. She taught me how to surf, riding the noisy waves on a board called Perspective, deftly and sensitively responding to each rise and fall as the crests curled around us. My questions became less insistent as we made our way to the shore and by the time we had reached the sand the world once again almost made sense. 

Once, when I was walking through the city, crowded in by voices and traffic noise; just an anonymous face in a crowd, somehow Listening recognised me from afar, smiled and waved. She knew a quiet café to sit and talk. 

Sometimes it seems that Listening waits at the door for me to return home, and hearing the keys jingling as the door opens, anticipates my presence by being fully engaged and ready to hear how my day has gone. Listening looks me in the eye but sees beyond my words. 

Listening loves me. I see her often personified in the eyes of my wife as she greets me after a long day or in the mischievous smile of a grandchild who finds me in my study, gives me a hug, asks me a question and waits patiently with big eyes for my response. She is defined by relationship; family, friends and innumerable encounters, and she is nurtured with Prayer when my words remain unspoken and I begin to be attentive to the whispers of God. 

Prayer and Listening are mountain climbers. On a mountain they can stir my imagination, inform my opinions, hold me enthralled by exposing me to my deepest creative self, open me to new ideas, and make me expect more, reach for more and motivate my very being with appreciation or inspiration or worship. 

I was not surprised to find Listening climbing the mountain with Jesus and the disciples. When she saw Jesus shine like the sun and heard Moses and Elijah talking with Him about His exodus, she tried to help Peter interpret what was going on. But Peter had been asleep, and Prayer had remained with Jesus. It was only on waking that Peter learned that some conversations cannot be interpreted without Prayer’s access to heaven’s perspective. Without Prayer even Listening was unable to help. 

When Listening is directed to the voices of our experience, voices of our emotions, voices of our expertise or voices of our senses, despite her insights, she is still not suitable to interpret miracles or spiritual truth. 

On this mountain Listening is directed to a Person, the only One able to interpret the past, give voice to the present and fulfil the future. God’s voice whispers from the cloud, “This is My dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy. Listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5 NLT). 

Pastor Ross