Matthew 17:14-18 – HOW TO SUPPORT SOMEONE WITH A LIFE THREATENING ILLNESS – Part 1

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 interviewed a young man with a life threatening illness recently.

David, thanks for talking to me today. You are now 30 years of age but there was a time when your life was in the balance.

Yes, when I was much younger I almost died from an illness which affected me physically, emotionally and spiritually.

What happened to change all that?

If it hadn’t been for my Dad, I would not have found the healing I needed. He had heard about a physician who might be able to help me. When I met Him I was immediately struck by His presence. He wanted to stop and listen to us. When He saw my father’s heart and heard what was happening in my life it made a difference. He was truly present (Mark 9:17-18).

I’m not saying that others didn’t care for me. Many of them said “I’ll be there for you no matter what!” but of course they could not. You can only be there when you are able. And besides I pushed them away. The religious leaders couldn’t help me. They were only interested in their indoctrination of my childhood. But my Healer will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

Can you give us any suggestions on how we can support a person who has a life threatening illness?

PRESENCE

Well, first of all be present. Be as available as possible. I felt alone in a crowd and I desperately needed help, someone to care, even though I pushed people away from me and made them afraid.

On the day I found my answer, many people were in the crowd but not many were present to give me support in the illness that plagued me (Mark 9:14). Only some tried and they failed, but at least they were there for me at that time.

David. Tell us about your illness. How did you end up this way when you were so young.

The religious classes that my father made me attend as a young person actually encouraged me to hate and push others away and involved me in a very corrupt and twisted group of people. I was easily influenced and knew nothing different. I was spiritually in a very dark place, and eventually opened my life up to the forces of darkness completely and was demonised. This in turn caused me to have seizures and on many occasions I tried to kill myself by throwing myself into the fire and trying to drown myself in water. I was not in a healthy frame of mind and I refused to talk for years.

You said your father was an important part of your eventual healing. Tell us more about him.

A SECOND OPINION

My father is a stubborn man. He was a hard man but he loved me. He tried everything to find someone who could heal me. That day he brought me to some disciples of Jesus. He begged them to cast out the spirit but they couldn’t heal me (Matthew 17:16). The Religious Leaders had tried to dissuade my Dad but He refused to give up and sought a second opinion.

So many people become disappointed with God when people in the Church can’t help them or don’t stroke their egos or meet their expectations. They don’t go to Christ directly for help but instead, like the Scribes, spend their lives arguing about faith.

My Dad, to his credit, came directly to Jesus and begged Him for a second opinion. There is always hope in Him if you are searching for a second chance.

Thanks David. We’ll continue this interview tomorrow.

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 17:14-18 – HOW TO SUPPORT SOMEONE WITH A LIFE THREATENING ILLNESS – Part 2

Yesterday I began an interview with David. David, welcome back. You say you were in a pretty bad way with your illness. What could we do to help people who are in the situation you found yourself in?

SPEAK WORDS OF HOPE

I was overwhelmed by what was happening and I needed someone to help me to focus on what would GIVE ME HOPE. Someone said, “Cancer is a diagnosis; not a death sentence.” Although I was demonised and had no control over my actions or illness, I still needed someone to help me find a positive solution.

You mentioned the Religious Leaders in our talk yesterday. Tell me about the part they now play in your life.

RESPECT

None since the day of my healing. They showed no respect for me when I was desperately sick. The Scribes tolerated me and brainwashed me with their teaching. They abused me and used me and focused on the worst things that were happening to me. They were critical of me as a person.

The Religious Leaders were more interested in arguing about healing than in caring for me. On the day that I was healed Jesus was not interested in the disagreement about healing that His disciples were having with the Scribes. He rebuked the Scribes for their perverse attitudes and corrupt natures. Later He rebuked the demon in me, but I still remember that He did not rebuke my father or me.

My father came to Jesus and showed great respect and Jesus with great compassion respected the anguish that my father and I were experiencing.

AN ATMOSPHERE FOR HEALING

I really didn’t need people arguing about me. I needed someone to create an environment which would nurture my healing.

So what happened to change the atmosphere?

Jesus appeared and a simple question gave an opportunity for the crowd to choose who they wanted to listen to and they flocked towards Jesus. He said “What have you been arguing about?” but the Scribes didn’t answer. It’s as if Jesus was saying, “This is not the time for arguing. It’s a time to show compassion for this young boy,” to create an atmosphere for healing to be nurtured.

Did that happen?

INVOLVEMENT

Yes and that’s why family is so important. That’s when my father took his opportunity. He saw Jesus, ran to him and became involved in seeing me healed. I love him for that.

So Jesus became your specialist.

CONSULTATION

Yes, you need to consult a good specialist when you have a life threatening illness. Jesus is a specialist who has a good reputation and knows what He is doing. My Dad ran to Him.

David, what a great note to end on. I want to invite you back tomorrow to talk more about how we can support those with a life threatening illness. Thankyou for speaking to us on Words of Life.

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 17:14-18 – HOW TO SUPPORT SOMEONE WITH A LIFE THREATENING ILLNESS – Part 3

We have been speaking with David, a young man who has experienced a life-threatening illness and we are exploring how we can support someone who goes through this.

Good morning David. Yesterday you were speaking about how your father finally found a good specialist. What was it about that specialist that your father found most helpful?

OPENNESS

Jesus asked my Dad some questions to discover what had been going on. I remember the interview well. Jesus wasn’t afraid to talk about the illness. Dad told him that a demon had been plaguing my life. He asked my Dad “How long has this been happening?” My Dad said since I was a little boy. He told Him how the spirit often threw me into the fire or into water, trying to kill me, but I must admit, I also wanted to die (see Matthew 17:17, Luke 9:37-43 and Mark 9:14-29 NLT).

UNDERSTANDING

Jesus has a way of asking you the right kind of questions to get at the heart of the matter and He explained the nature of what faith is all about. I trusted Him because He was the first one to take the time to understand me. He had a good bedside manner and He genuinely cared about me, not just my behaviour.

But Jesus did more than just understand. Explain what He did.

FAITH

The most amazing thing. My Dad said “Have mercy on US and help US, if you can.” (Mark 9:22 NLT) He identified with me and he realises that he needed help as well as me. He needed the mercy of Jesus healing grace in his life as well as me.

And Jesus pulled him up and said “What do you mean, ‘If I can’? Anything is possible if a person believes” (Mark 9:23 NLT).

Jesus was not afraid to talk about faith. Jesus changed the atmosphere when He spoke personally to my Dad about faith in Him. It was as if He wanted my Dad to co-operate with Him to get me healed. Instantly my Dad cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NLT). He admitted he had only a speck of faith and needed help with the rest. My Dad was willing to explore faith. He was very teachable.

So tell me, does healing depend upon our faith or Jesus power?

CO-OPERATION

Only Jesus can heal but he wants us to co-operate. It would have been no use praying for me if I didn’t desperately want to be healed. If my Dad had been in opposition to me being healed it would have been meaningless. I would have only got sick again. It was no use releasing me back into a family where I would be demonised again and where my Dad was constantly keeping in contact with the Scribes. The perversity of the Scribes was an atmosphere for demonization.

So it was your fathers faith that saved the day?

No. He only had a speck of faith (Mark 9:24). He asked for Jesus to increase his faith. The first step is coming to Jesus. The second is co-operating with Jesus in recognising any blockages to healing and committing ourselves into His hands.

It’s an active participation with God to grow and be involved in His purposes for our lives. Sometimes, like my Dad, it is the family who can participate with Jesus the most with just a speck of faith that they ask Jesus to increase.

Thanks David. I look forward to having you back on Words of Life tomorrow to tell us more about how we can support someone with a life-threatening illness.

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 17:14-18 – HOW TO SUPPORT SOMEONE WITH A LIFE THREATENING ILLNESS – Part 4

For the last few days we have been speaking with David, a young man who has experienced a life-threatening illness and exploring how we can support someone who finds himself in the same situation.

Good morning David. Yesterday you were speaking about how your father participated in your healing process. I understand that you hadn’t spoken to anyone for years so your Dad was your voice when you had none.

BE A VOICE FOR THOSE WHO DON’T HAVE ONE

Yes. I had a deep-seated spiritual problem that left me unable able to talk as well as a plethora of other physical symptoms. I couldn’t give voice to any faith at the time.

My Dad brought me to Jesus and was my voice when I had none. My Dad loved me enough to verbalise my deepest prayer on my behalf. We both needed God’s mercy.

I have learned since that there are times when we can’t verbalise our prayers. The Holy Spirit also speaks for us in our times of despair and confusion. He gives voice to our deepest prayers. Romans 8:26-28 (NLT) says “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”

Jesus also speaks on behalf of those who have come to Him like your father did and trusted in Him. 1 John 2:1-2 (NLT) says “…we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the One who is truly righteous. He Himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.”

Exactly.

What was NOT helpful for you when you had your life threatening illness?

HONESTY

I guess it was well-meaning people trying to minimise what I was feeling. It is normal to be afraid and give voice to anxieties. The Holy Spirit can transform these fears into a trigger for a powerful trust and faith in God when we are honest with God, but they are real to start off with. I didn’t need someone telling me everything would be alright. My Dad was realistic. He was afraid that I would die (Mark 9:22-24 NLT). He didn’t minimise the physical severity or the spiritual reality of what was happening.

What impressed you about what Jesus did?

COMPASSION

Many people felt sorry for me but it didn’t help. I was struggling with demonic darkness. I didn’t need to be a victim of their sympathetic onslaughts. I needed healing. Sympathy is passive and focused on my illness. Jesus chose compassion over sympathy. Compassion gave me genuine care and supported me actively.

Well, it has been such a pleasure to speak with you David. We have only one day left and tomorrow on Words of Life we will talk about the specifics of how you were cured of your life-threatening illness. Thankyou.

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 17:14-18 – HOW TO SUPPORT SOMEONE WITH A LIFE THREATENING ILLNESS – Part 5

For the past few days we have been speaking with David, a young man who has experienced a life-threatening illness and we have explored how we can support someone who finds themselves facing the same situation.

Good morning David. Yesterday you were speaking about choosing compassion over sympathy. Today, could you start us off by telling us about the specifics of how Jesus healed you.

PRAYER

I think a lot of it had to do with prayer. Jesus had been on the mountain of Transfiguration in prayer (Luke 9:29) all night. He received the Father’s affirmation on His life. He was prepared for anything because of His relationship with the Father. We can’t underestimate the power of prayer.

So what exactly did He do when He healed you?

Well, just as Jesus had rebuked the Scribes, He rebuked the demon and commanded it to come out. He said “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak, I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!” (Mark 9:25 NLT). The demon left me and I was healed.

But I understand that your healing was not an easy journey? Some people experience side effects when they have Chemotherapy or after operations, such as pain, lethargy, nausea. Did you experience any side effects?

SEVERE SIDE EFFECTS

Yes I did. They were quite severe but they didn’t last long. I remember the evil spirit screaming and it threw me into a violent convulsion and left me. I was so exhausted I lay there on the ground unable to move. I think I passed out. People thought I was dead (Mark 9:26 NLT). They presumed the worst.

But Jesus took me by the hand and helped me to my feet. Immediately I felt my strength return and I stood up. Then He gave me back to my Dad. We hugged and I spoke to him for the first time in many years. From that moment on I was well.

How did the crowd respond to this?

Absolute awe. The people had seen what amounted to a majestic display of God’s power (Matthew 17:18, Luke 9:42-43, Mark 9:25-27). They had been expecting a negative outcome but were forced to SEE A BLESSING.

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.

What is it that stands out the most in this journey you have been on with your life-threatening illness?

I remember when Jesus reached down and took hold of me and I opened my eyes. His face was the first person I saw after I was cured. I can only give praise to Him and encourage all your readers to look to Him.

Thanks David. This is Words of Life.

Pastor Ross

PS A great blog to follow is http://beautifullifewithcancer.com/ which speaks of the journey with cancer. It is beautifully written.

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

Matthew 17:3 – YOU ARE INVITED? 

You are invited! Image created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Filter Forge.org

You are invited! Image created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Filter Forge.org

Abraham: “Alright everyone. I have just been in conference with the Father. Jesus has already told His disciples that He is the Messiah.” A cheer goes up. “Yes, this is a high point in His life and so it’s not surprising that He has chosen a mountain to pray about how all this will unfold in the future when He goes to Jerusalem. As you can see, He has taken Peter, James and John with Him.” They look at Jesus climbing the mountain with His disciples and there is silence as they reflect on what Jesus must face soon in Jerusalem. “This is going to be a miraculous night and the exciting thing is that some of us are going to be included on the guest list.” There is a collective intake of breath that makes the mountain air even thinner for a moment. 

“Yes, two of us can go as representatives. We have been asked to make suggestions as to who can be included and who will not. It’s not going to be easy, but doing the right thing is important as you can all appreciate. There’s no room for bruised feelings here. Everyone of us hopes it will be us, but there’s just not enough room on that mountain to accommodate us all.” 

“So who would you invite?” 

Noah: “I think it should be Adam and Eve. After all Jesus is the last Adam. The Scriptures will testify that “just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22 NLT). They would have to go clothed of course. 

Abraham: “A good choice. Any other suggestions?” 

The Prophet Joel: “We need someone who will shine in the radiance of Jesus. Maybe some angels. Angels carry His light. After the resurrection there is going to be a great earthquake and an angel of the Lord will come down from heaven and roll aside the stone, and sit on it. His face will shine like lightning, and his clothing will be as white as snow. The guards will shake with fear when they see him, and they will fall into a dead faint” (Matthew 28:2-4 NLT). 

Abraham: “Great suggestion but no. The Father specifically wants two of us this time, not the angels. Love the idea of connecting this with the theme of light, though.” 

The prophet Amos: “Well, if we want someone to reflect the radiance of Jesus what about Stephen. Stephen’s face shone before he was martyred. Everyone in the high council stared at Stephen, because his face became as bright as an angel’s” (Acts 6:15 NLT). He literally reflected the light of Christ, the colours of grace.” 

Abraham: “Another great choice. But you forget. Stephen hasn’t even become a Christian yet. What you are seeing is in the future. We will need someone from the past; the Old Testament saints must be the ones to represent us. 

All sorts of suggestions come. “What about you, Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation?” Some say Isaac and Jacob? Others say David, whose throne Jesus inherits forever? What about Noah, Joseph, Nehemiah, Daniel? So many others were suggested but all of a sudden they are quiet again. They all know the guest list is limited to two. 

Abraham: “We don’t seem to be getting very far, here. Perhaps we ought to be asking ‘Who would Jesus choose? This is His day, not ours. Not the disciples. Not what the people want. Bottom line, who would He want to be there?” All are quiet for a moment. 

Elisha: “Well, Jesus has already told His disciples about prophecies about His death being fulfilled and even after His resurrection He will tell them again …everything written about Me in the law of MOSES AND THE PROPHETS …must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44 NLT). So maybe Moses and one of the prophets could go? Moses face shone when he came down from the mountain with the tablets of the law of God so that fits. He wrote the Pentateuch.” 

Joshua: “That makes sense. “There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10 NLT). He could hand to Jesus the Old Covenant and Jesus could usher in the New Covenant by handing it on to the disciples.” Everybody is keen about Moses being one of their representatives. 

Abraham: “OK, that’s one. Moses the giver of the law and leader in the exodus. That also relates well to the exodus Jesus must face. Who else?” 

Malachi speaks up: “I don’t think we have to look any further. I think I know who it is. God told me once “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives.” (Malachi 4:5 NLT). Who better than Elijah, guardian of the law. He has been in the mountain and heard the whisper of God. Elijah came to us in a whirlwind without tasting death. He connects us to the resurrection in the future.” 

Suddenly a light as bright as the sun appears on the mountain. Their attention is drawn immediately to Jesus. The Father has made His choice and “then two men, Moses and Elijah, appear and begin talking with Jesus. They are glorious to see. And they are speaking about His exodus from this world, which is about to be FULFILLED in Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:30-31 NLT).

Oh, and you are invited too, retrospectively into His presence then, now and always. But you’ll need to RSVP by responding in faith to Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:6-18 (NLT) says “… The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For HIS FACE SHONE with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. …If the old way, which brings condemnation, and was replaced, was glorious, HOW MUCH MORE GLORIOUS is the new way, WHICH MAKES US RIGHT WITH GOD AND REMAINS FOREVER! … WHENEVER SOMEONE TURNS TO THE LORD, THE VEIL IS TAKEN AWAY. … SO ALL OF US WHO HAVE HAD THAT VEIL REMOVED CAN SEE AND REFLECT THE GLORY OF THE LORD. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as WE ARE CHANGED INTO HIS GLORIOUS IMAGE.”   

Pastor Ross