AWAKENING FROM A DREAM

Posted: July 18, 2016 in Dreams
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AWAKENING FROM A DREAM

Wait, not yet! A scurrying, hurrying rush, a flittering of featherwings through pockets in air to hide in clouds, and then all that was so crystal clear a moment before is disappearing into a blur of nonsense. I am sad to see it go.

I had found a mysterious place forgotten, and gradually began remapping my historical connection with it and in the process discovering so much that made sense. But it’s truth, like butterfly wings against my face flickers briefly in wakefulness and becomes only an illusion of reality. Shadows linger but cannot connect themselves permanently to the light of day.

Sad, not to be wandering in the boundless imaginings, timeless halls of unreasoned stories which touch the edges of my waking world, and though frantically I tried to hold them, they are gone.

© Ross Cochrane – 2016

WHO KICKED JESUS OUT OF POLITICS? Theocracy and Democracy.

DEMOCRACY

We get what we ask for, but for Australia it seems we don’t really know what that is. Australia voted and it seems no-one really likes any particular party.

The common definition of democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” That means free and fair elections, the people get to vote, human rights are respected and we live with the consequences equally. It is not the freedom to elect our own dictators.

It’s been around since at least the 5th century BC.

THEOCRACY

The simple definition of Theocracy is “Government by God through His Word”. For example God’s Word is the GPS by which followers of Christ navigate a pathway in this world. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT) says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.”

God is recognised as the Supreme Leader and the government system is run according to the guidance of God through His Word.

Today Theocracy is not a desired form of government by most Western countries. In historical terms we remember those who tried to impose their form of Theocracy on others such as Oliver Cromwell or Bloody Mary in England and more recently Isis and the many countries where exercising free speech is suppressed by the religious political leaders.

Yet Jesus spoke of a Theocracy; a new kind of Theocracy. In John 18:36 (NLT) Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep Me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

Today, His politics are too dangerous; His Theocracy too risky. We don’t vote for Him because His rulership is not based on the wishes of a majority, but on individuals making a life-changing choice to serve Him no matter what party you vote for. It is not established by passing policies through parliament, but by followers of Christ choosing to love God wholeheartedly and seeking to make the love of Christ known to others no matter who governs. The Kingdom of God is extended as Christians live as God intends. Not policies but purpose in life.

Today the neglect of the Bible and of God in society is evident. The separation of Church and state was originally designed to protect both Church and state, but is now used to subjugate any influence of God in politics?

To many in society, to share the love of Christ is outrageously dangerous. We must no longer say the Lords prayer in Schools, swear on the Bible in a court of law, use the name of Jesus, Christmas, or espouse the values and standards of the Bible in public for fear of … well, for fear of … I don’t know. Apparently Biblical principles of loving your neighbour, and loving God are intolerable for many who consider a more secularist and popularist saviour in a particular political party.

Aligned with Democracy are those who are involved in socially engineering their own agendas. Politically correct secularists systematically impose their far from neutral morality system on society and seek to presume it to be enforced. It is promoted with autocratic zeal incessantly. Anyone who disagrees is labelled and belittled. But Colossians 2:8 (NLT) says, “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.”

In a Theocracy only God is able to judge right and wrong with absolute justice. If we are sinful people as the Bible indicates, then we are not able to implement Biblical laws in a just way? No-one is. Romans 3:23 (NLT) says For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” So for a follower of Christ, their heart-change will always be more important than a policy change. A genuinely changed life is the greatest influence of all in family, a community, a city, a nation.

Therefore, a follower of Christ can exist under any kind of government system because they are ultimately under the authority of God. Christ followers seek to apply Biblical principles rather than simply politically popularist and secularist views. They pray for their national leaders so that laws will not prevent followers of Christ from living as God intends. 1 Timothy 2:2 (NLT) says “Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”

In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus teaches us to pray like this: “Our Father in heaven, may Your name be kept holy. MAY YOUR KINGDOM COME SOON. MAY YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. The Message Bible says, “Our Father in heaven, Reveal who You are. SET THE WORLD RIGHT; DO WHAT’S BEST— AS ABOVE, SO BELOW.”  

Followers of Christ speak of Jesus as Lord, meaning the Lord, above all other rulers. He is the King of kings. Jesus makes it clear by saying in John 14:6 (NLT) “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” Universities with the motto “the truth shall make you free” apply this quote to secularist teachings but John 8:31-32 (NLT) gives the context “Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly My disciples if you remain faithful to My teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

But His is a very different Theocracy. If you want to come under the authority of Christ as King of kings, then Jesus says “… you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24 NLT). Matthew 23:11-36 (NLT) says, “The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.”

Those who disagreed with Jesus, violently tried to impose their kind of Theocratic dictatorship upon Him by crucifying Him. Similarly, Western thought rejects the Theocracy of the Servant Leadership of Christ, handing over their authority to scientism and democracy to rule. Unfortunately there are ever increasing restrictions on those who follow Christ.

Those who want to impose their form of Theocracy, Jesus calls “Hypocrites!” … “Blind guides!” … “Blind fools!” … “For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness” … “Snakes! Sons of vipers!” Politically incorrect hate speech or an accurate assessment of many religious leaders in our world today?

The walk of faith is a life under the authority of Christ and directed towards influencing, not imposing our views upon, the people of the world around us to respond to His love, so they can repent of their sin and believe the message of Christ. Unlike the Crusaders of past history and Isis in modern history, Jesus does not impose His rulership on anyone. He is a Servant King.

1 Peter 2:9 (NLT) says “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.”

Every man and woman has become a priest (spiritually sensitive to God) and royal (part of God’s family) when they believe in Christ. His authority is not coercive but very influential. A Biblical Theocracy incorporates individuals from every nation of the world responding to Christ and living free within the boundaries of Christ’s love. Bishop Tom Wright says, “We with the gospels have… a story, but it is a love story, not a power story.”

We are people with a message of great influence. The invitation of God’s Word is to believe in Christ. As we do, Jesus says “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.  “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:13-16 (NLT). Shine on.

Pastor Ross

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© Lost/Found – Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:11-14 – SAVE ME!

Matthew 18:12-14 (NLT) “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

God lost the human race. God lost their love, worship and friendship. Romans 3:10-12 (NLT) says “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” All we like sheep have gone astray.

He hasn’t stopped loving us or seeking after us. He sent His Son to save us. But what does that mean? The Bible unfolds that message of being saved …

1. CHRIST CAME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE ME

Matthew 18:14 (NLT) says, “In the same way, it is not My heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

Romans 10:13 (NLT) says “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 

2. CHRIST IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAME TO SAVE ME

In John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me”. No-one else came to save us.

3. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE SINNERS

Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT), “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE SINNERS’—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of His great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.”

God loves to forgive. God does not approve of or condone the sin, but He loves the sinner and extends His grace to anyone who becomes positive to the message of Christ.

4. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE ME FROM MY SINS

In Matthew 1:21 (NLT) an angel spoke to Joseph about the birth of Jesus, “And she (Mary) will have a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.” 

5. CHRIST CAME TO FORGIVE ME

Acts 10:43 (NLT) says “…everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) will have their SINS FORGIVEN through His Name.”

6. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE ME FROM JUDGEMENT AND ETERNAL SEPARATION FROM GOD

John 3:17-18 (NLT) “… God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to SAVE the world through Him. “There is NO JUDGMENT AGAINST ANYONE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

In John 12:46-48 (NLT) Jesus said again “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in Me will no longer remain in the dark. I will not judge those who hear Me but don’t obey Me, for I have come to SAVE THE WORLD AND NOT TO JUDGE IT. But all who reject Me and My message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.” 

Being positive to the message of Christ leaves tracks for God to follow. The Shepherd searches for them and finds us.

Why does God seek us? Because He does not want us to be lost, devastated. This is an example we can all follow concerning anyone who is positive towards the things of God. This is a prime reason for not looking down on or despising these new followers of Christ. They are loved by God and they have become positive towards Christ, and they have come into relationship with God. They are part of His flock.

Followers of Christ share with God in seeking and protecting people who are positive towards the things of God, not looking down on them or despising them because of their past. The world is full of those who are lost and need to be found. We pursue them because this is the example of God Himself. 1 John 5:1 (NLT) says “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves His children, too.”

John Calvin said, “It is in the highest degree unreasonable that we should disdainfully reject those whom the Son of God has so highly esteemed.” John 3:16 (NLT) agrees. It says, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” The invitation is to believe in Him who came to save us.

Pastor Ross

 

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© Image Created by Ross Cochrane – Lost but Found (Seek and you will find the words Lost and Found)

Matthew 18:11-14 – DOES IT REALLY MATTER?

Matthew 18:12-14 (NLT) “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

The owner/shepherd still has the ninety-nine. Does it really matter to lose one sheep? I guess it matters to the lost sheep. Then again sometimes a lost sheep won’t even realise it is lost until it is too late. Sheep can be stupid at times.

But who are those who wander away in this parable? Isaiah 53:6 (NIV) answers that question by saying “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…”  What was I saying about being stupid?

In the context of Matthew 18, the Lost Sheep is someone who has become positive to the things of God and is a new follower of Christ. Jesus says not to look down on them or despise them, because they are loved by God. They are part of His flock. They wandered away but now they are found.

It’s not so unusual to think of God as an Owner/Shepherd. The profile fits Him well.

  1. HE IS AWARE OF THOSE WHO ARE LOST

Most owner/shepherds in the time when this was written in Israel knew their sheep by name, so they were aware of which one was missing. They knew each characteristic of their sheep. The sheep also knew the voice of the Shepherd and followed.

  1. HE CARES FOR THOSE WHO ARE LOST

This is a parable. The key theme – God cares for, knows and seeks for His lost sheep. He seeks every person individually, patiently and relentlessly.

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “The Lord … does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

God loves the world (John 3:16) but He also loves us individually. One sheep in the flock. One face in the crowd. God wants to have a relationship with each one of us. He knows each sheep and seeks each sheep that strays.

The Shepherd doesn’t wait for us to be ready to come home. He makes the first move. 1 John 4:19 (KJV) says, “We love Him, because He first loved us.”   

  1. HE TRACKS AND PROTECTS LOST SHEEP

In Israel when this parable was told, sheep could easily get lost in the rugged terrain and shepherds became experts at tracking lost sheep, protecting them from wild animals such as wolves or lions, and caring for the wounded wanderers. Each sheep was important.

We were all designed to be part of God’s flock, and having wandered off, it is good to know that there is the potential to be found by Him.

Being positive to the message of Christ leaves tracks for God to follow, but if you listen, you will hear the voice of the Shepherd.

In John 10:27-30 (NLT) Jesus says, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from Me, for my Father has given them to Me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

  1. HE DOES NOT PUNISH THOSE WHO ARE FOUND

This shows the difference between Jesus and the spiritual leaders of Israel. The Scribes and Pharisees didn’t care for their people. If someone wandered away spiritually or morally, they were condemned, punished or expelled, rather than brought back into the fold and cared for.

If God’s lost sheep are found, there are no beatings. No punishments. He seeks us out and does everything to bring us back to the fold.

John 3:16 (NLT) says “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” Being lost is a punishment in itself until we are saved.

  1. HE SAVES AND CELEBRATES THOSE WHO ARE FOUND

Matthew 18:14 ends by emphasizing being found. It is not God’s will that anyone be lost but that all who have become positive to God are saved from certain destruction. Being lost carries with it implications of being injured, wounded or of certain disaster if they were not saved, and so it is used to describe death and hell or eternity without God. God cares. Christ saves, and all of heaven celebrates when those who were lost are now found (Luke 15:10).

If there are ninety-nine who are saved, does it really matter that one is lost? It matters to the sheep and fortunately also to the Shepherd. He seeks you and calls your name.

Pastor Ross

 

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© Lost and Found. Image Created by Ross Cochrane (Look for the words Lost, Found)

Matthew 18:11 – THE LOST

Jesus came to save those who are LOST (Matthew 18:11, Luke 19:10) whatever that means. A man in his 90’s recently asked me “Who are those who are lost? Save them from what?” Because whatever lost means, Jesus came to save them from it, so it must be important. It’s a good question.

What does it mean to be lost and for that matter what does it mean to be found?

  1. LOST FRIENDSHIP

I am lost when I do not have a relationship with God. Romans 5:10-11 (NLT) says “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”  

  1. LOST LIFE

I am lost when I am unable to enjoy what life offers. Jesus said, “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)

  1. LOST BATTLE

I am lost when I am overcome by the battles of life. 1 John 5:4 (NIV) says “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”  

  1. LOST TIME

I am lost when I am wasting time and have no real meaning in my life. Romans 8:28 (NLT) “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.” Ephesians 5:15-17 NLT says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity (or redeem the time) in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”

  1. LOST SOUL

I am lost when my mind, emotions and will do not line up with God’s purpose for my life. In Matthew 16:24-26 (NLT) Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

  1. LOST CAUSE

I am lost when I am fighting for a lost cause without God and clearly need to change allegiances. Colossians 2:8-10 (NLT) “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.”

  1. LOST IN MY OWN WORLD

I am lost when I neglect all other influence in my life; lost in the foci of my own pursuits. The Bible encourages us not to be so absorbed in our own pursuits that we miss God’s purposes for us. Hebrews 12:2 (NLT) says to run the race “by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”

  1. LOST IN A CROWD

I am lost when I feel so small in the world that I am unnoticed and my contribution seems insignificant. Jesus wants to show you that you are valued by God and can make an eternal difference. John 3:16 (NLT) “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” In Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) the Lord says, “For I know the plans I have for you, they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

  1. LOST IN A FOG

I am lost when there’s a fog that clouds my thinking and a darkness that makes it hard to find my way in life. In John 8:12 (NLT) Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” And in John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.”

  1. LOST GENERATION

I am lost when I am part of a generation that is disillusioned by the world and without hope for the future. Hebrews 6:18-19 (NLT) says “we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” In Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) the Lord says, “For I know the plans I have for you, they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

  1. LOST AT SEA

I am lost when I have a sense of sinking in life or being overwhelmed. In Isaiah 43:2-3 (NLT) God promises to those who believe “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, … your Savior.”

  1. LOST THE RACE

I am lost when I feel I am last in the contest or competition of life’s race. 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 (NLT) says “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step …”

  1. LOST LIVELIHOOD

I am lost when I am sitting in the ashes of a burnt-out life. In Isaiah 61:3-4 (NLT), God’s promise to His people is that “… He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair …” 

  1. LOST FOOTING

I am lost when I have lost my footing spiritually. Romans 3:10-31 (NLT) says “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one … For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. … God declares sinners to be right in His sight when they believe in Jesus.”

The lost person is described by the Bible as being dead spiritually, separate from God. That person is in danger of being lost to an eternity without God. But that is not what God desires for our lives. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 

  1. SURE FOUND-ATION

In the context of Matthew 18 and Luke 19 we are not to look down on them or despise those who have found faith in Christ because God loves them enough to send His own Son to die on a Cross for their sins so that they can be forgiven and live as God intended, here and in eternity. They had lost their footing but now they have a strong found-ation on which to stand in Christ.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 18:11 – THE LOST THING

Animated Film by Shaun Tan

Matthew 18:11 – THE LOST THING

Sometimes we discover that not everything fits into the secure boxes in which our perspectives are housed. Our curiosity is not simply drawn to those things that are easily explained but mostly to those things that defy conformity.

The dull colour palette of our everyday existence with signs that seek to direct us away from exploring anything that doesn’t line up, go on the rails, or that challenges the design is different to the unboxed, unfettered and unexplainable world around us, waiting to be explored by those fearless enough to take a step of faith.

In a city signposted, clear and functional, all meaning is predefined and presumed. What if we know we just don’t fit into this world of predetermined answers?

The story of The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan, explores our inner world and is an invitation not to lose that which is extraordinary, creative and fun-loving, that which is beyond explanation. It is an invitation to find a place for the expression and fulfilment of our human spirit, to discover our inner journey. So here are just a few random thoughts on this brilliant story…

YOU WILL NEED THE EYES OF A CHILD TO SEE THE LOST THING

You will need the eyes of a child to see the Lost Thing; to see that part of you that does not belong, does not conform, does not feel at ease or fit in with the surroundings of a world which concerns itself with other matters of limited importance, because it is the trust of a little child that truly understands how to give full expression to your purpose. Only the eyes of a little child can see the Lost Thing.

THE LOST PART OF US NEEDS A PLACE TO BELONG

The Lost thing has tentacles and an iron shell for protection, drawers and doors that contain secrets and at the end of the day, after playful interaction and masterfully innovative projects, it is still there, asking without words, “Where do I really belong?”

THE LOST PART OF YOU CAN NOT BE EXPLAINED

Along the way we try to find people who might know something about our plight, to explain this odd nowhereness feeling we have that no-one really notices. It’s big to us and sometimes friends will try to find the exact answer from a psychological, scientific point of view, identifying the lost part of our life from empirical evidence and careful observation and experimentation, as if there is something wrong with us, but in the end the textbook doesn’t help and they encourage us not to think about it. “Some things are like that,” they say. “You just have to live with it,” and so we don’t mention it again and take our Lostness home with us.

YOU’RE LOSTNESS CAN NOT BE CONTAINED

But it gets in the way at home and so you have to hide your Lostness in the back shed where you go to be alone and feed your thoughts. It’s better when you don’t share this Lost Thing you feel with anyone else. You are kind of happier keeping it to yourself but you know you can’t keep it in the shed forever. It’s too big for the shed. This isn’t the right place for it to find it’s true potential. It really is a dilemma.

It doesn’t belong at home or in the emptiness of beurocracy or places devoid of imagination where people sit in the darkness of disinterest or in the rush of things to do.

THERE IS HOPE

Then comes a still, small voice and you are given a sign of hope. It points you to a long and narrow way through the city to a place you would never know existed unless you are actually looking for it.

You find a door, reach out in faith and turn the key and it whirs and eventually someone opens it up to a wide world that you knew somehow, even with your Lostness, must exist. There is colour. There is creativity and you are in awe. You have found the purpose of the Lost Thing and it belongs here, where you are free to express who you really are. Your life has meaning and purpose. What was lost has been found.

Oh, you can’t enter fully into that place of belonging yet, but that “Found Thing” can. That inner part of you that was lost has finally found a home, a place to express the full realisation of your potential.

And somehow I hear the voice of Jesus gently saying “Don’t ever lose the childlike humility of responding to Me and My purposes for you. I came to give you life and life to the full. The Son of Man came to save that which was lost”

Pastor Ross

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© Calling all Angels – Image created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:10 – ARE YOU KIDDING ME – ANGELS?

Matthew 18:10 (NLT) “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven THEIR ANGELS are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.”  

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds write in their song Into My Arms

And I don’t believe in the existence of angels
But looking at you I wonder if that’s true
But if I did I would summon them together
And ask them to watch over you.

In Matthew 18:10 Jesus moves into what many regard as fiction. He has already likened the humbly obedient person who is receptive to Christ to a child. Then He says that new followers of Christ have GUARDIAN ANGELS READY AT HAND! Hebrews 1:14 indicates that they are assigned to care for your spiritual growth when you have placed your trust in Christ.

Psalm 91 also mentions angels, and it’s evident that this is not some romantic baby cherub firing arrows at lovers, but more like the Science Fiction winged hero like Falcon in the new Captain America movie who fights for our deliverance (but without the mechanical wings).

Psalm 91:1-16 (NLT) says, “… If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. FOR HE WILL ORDER HIS ANGELS TO PROTECT YOU wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!”

Turn to any section of the Bible and sooner or later you’ll come up against an angel. It seems these guys don’t care that people don’t believe in them. So when Jesus talks about new followers of Christ having angels in heaven, ready at hand, He’s not kidding?

What will these heavenly creatures do if a new follower of Christ is looked down on, despised or demeaned? Come down with swords ready at hand to annihilate all opposition? Obviously not. New Christians are despised and demeaned all the time and those who do this seem to get away with it.

It’s clear we still experience evil situations in life, but according to Psalm 91, with God’s help, they will not overwhelm or overcome us, and even for plagues and diseases, God will find the way through in terms of protection and rescue. The Psalm continues,

“The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love Me. I will protect those who trust in My name. When they call on Me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honour them.” Things will come against those who trust in God but nothing will be successful?

Moses is possibly the writer of Psalm 91. Moses had it good. He only had to grapple with desert perils; hidden traps, terrors by night and arrows by day, deadly diseases, stumbling over rocks and facing lions and snakes. Today that translates into terrorist attacks, stabbings, road rage drivers, cancer, rapes, riots, Ebola or Aids and a whole lot more threats to health and home. Hebrews 11:37 describes heroes of the faith who experienced much worse.

God unfolds His Story throughout the pages of Scripture and we realise that there is even more to the story of God’s protection and victories in life than even Psalm 91 shares with us. And apparently angels are part of that story. I’m not kidding!

The invitation is to trust in Christ and in doing so we are promised the victory and protection of God available to us during times of difficulty. Calling all angels.

Pastor Ross

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© Wings – Image created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:10 – CALLING ALL ANGELS

He contends with constant pressure from the local neighbours to renounce his Christian faith. Yesterday he was threatened by a group of young Muslims who told him he will “regret it” if he does not forsake his belief in Christ.

“I might be expelled from my village. I could be beaten, but Jesus went through it all. If my Lord faced persecution, who am I not to expect the same treatment?” Muhammed is willing to die for his newfound beliefs. (Name changed)

To be a follower of Christ in North Korea, Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Libya and Yemen and many other countries in the world today is dangerous. Christians are abducted, arrested, enslaved, isolated, beaten, tortured, raped and murdered (Open doors).

Jesus is direct to all of us concerning new followers of Christ. “Beware that you don’t look down on (or despise) any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my Heavenly Father” (Matthew 18:10 NLT).  

Jesus: “Take care of my child.”

Angel: “But he is not a child, Lord. He has wrinkles around his eyes and he walks slowly. He has a body that is dying, like all humankind. And his human spirit … Oh, I see what you mean! He IS a child.”

Many people look at Matthew 18:10 and think it is talking about looking down on or despising little children. It is not. I have no doubt that children who have not reached an age of accountability also have angels watching over them, but in the context of Matthew 18, it is clear that this verse is about those who become like little children and who have believed and trusted in Christ.

Jesus: “Yes, he is My child. His spirit has awakened and he has received new birth, and we have all welcomed him into My family. I am assigning you to watch over him and care for his spiritual growth. His neighbours will not be as welcoming.”

“We understand Lord. He has responded to You with a childlike faith as a new follower. Don’t his neighbours realise that if they welcome him, they are welcoming You?”

“No, not yet. They don’t realise that demeaning him and looking down on him is like demeaning and looking down on God Himself. Their consciences have been seared and scar tissue has formed over their hearts” (1 Timothy 4:2). The angels looked horrified. It was incredulous to them that anyone would choose to do this.

Hebrews 1:14 (NLT) makes an amazing statement. “Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.”

Angel: “If someone looks down on and despises this new follower of Yours who has become humbly obedient to Your message, Lord, we will destroy them with the sword of justice!” The angels looked serious but a little unsure.

Jesus: “No. He will be despised and demeaned during his time on earth but he will have an opportunity to be my witness to his persecutors and others will respond to My message. He has My favour and love. You are to guard what is happening to his human spirit. Leave his human will intact and provide opportunities for him to grow as my follower. Use everything he goes through to make him stronger in his faith.”

Angel: “We will care for him, Lord, throughout his life, and witness what it is that You want to do through him.”

In Matthew 18:10, Jesus is saying in effect that God doesn’t look down on or despise new followers of Christ. He invites us strongly to respond to what He is saying. This has implications for those who would persecute, despise or demean those who respond to others who respond to the message of Christ.

Jesus makes it clear that to cause a new follower of Christ to stumble in their faith and lead them to sin by tempting them or despising them is to go against God Himself. Yet He leaves a way open for even the vilest of persecutors to repent and to follow Him.

The Bible indicates that if you have responded to Christ’s invitation and have been humbly obedient in trusting Him, you will be in the presence of God also one day, “… Absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 KJV). You are valued by God. You will one day have free access into His presence and who knows, perhaps meet personally the angelic beings who have guarded your journey.

Pastor Ross

IMG_4896© Photo by Ross Cochrane – Rothenburg City Square

Matthew 18:7-9 – SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN ROTHENBURG

IMG_8292.JPG© Photo by Julie Cochrane – Rothenburg Welcome

The yellow flowers growing in the fields heralded our entrance to a quaint, walled medieval city called Rothenburg in Germany. There we found streets untouched by the centuries, ancient doors that led us to fascinating treasures and a garden overlooking a beautiful valley.

IMG_8347.JPG© Photo by Julie Cochrane – Path to a beautiful Park and Garden

Doorway to garden.jpeg© Photo by Ross Cochrane – Doorway through Church into walled garden.

IMG_8342.JPG© Photo by Julie Cochrane – Bella Vista from the walled garden

I climbed the bell tower in the city centre with my brother-in-law, up a long narrow stone and wooden stairway, finally arriving at a small doorway which led to the upper part of the tower. I admired the door with its ancient iron tracery and latches.

Tower of Torture.jpg© Photo by Julie Cochrane – The Bell Tower

Looking forward to the view from the top, my mistake was to look down as I attempted to pass through the passage, the visor of my cap screening the top of the opening. I discovered that the stone in the tower is very unforgiving and despite the unkind remarks later about the tower rocking and the bell ringing, the only thing resounding was my head as I reeled back toward the stairs from which I had ascended.

Bruised and battered and with a bell sized lump on my forehead, I tentatively made my way, somewhat more carefully, to the top, to be confronted with the most amazing view of the township.

IMG_4891© Photo by Ross Cochrane – walkway around top of Bell Tower

© Video by Ross Cochrane – View from Bell Tower

With all its quaint beauty, my thumping headache perhaps should have reminded me of a more sinister past in this Medieval haven. Through a beautiful archway, we came across a wood and iron basket hanging from a lever, a relic from the Torture Museum. Torture was considered to be a legitimate way of extracting confessions, names of accomplices, or the details of a crime or treasonous act against the king.

Torture at Rothenburg May 2016.jpg© Image by Ross Cochrane – Torture Museum

Here in the loveliest of places, even the Church leaders, in an effort to maintain power, decided that any deviation from Church doctrines amounted to treason against the King of kings. And those who search for inconsistencies in the Christian faith are quick to point out the travesties of Biblical thinking these leaders used to justify their own use of torture to extract confessions and even to make people recant their faith in Christ.

IMG_8311.JPG© Photo by Julie Cochrane – A Quaint Village

Apparently Church leaders in Rothenburg somehow justified themselves in ignoring Jesus teaching on loving your enemy. In Matthew 5:43-47 and Luke 6:27 Jesus says, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.” 

Such torture reminds me of the gross images of torment Jesus uses in Matthew 18:7-9, not towards others but in relation to ourselves; “So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet.

And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell (Greek the Gehenna of fire).” 

Sure, Jesus is not being literal but don’t water this down! This is important! Jesus is using graphic hyperbole (obvious and intentional exaggeration). Jesus tells His disciples that humble obedience is essential when you become a follower of Christ and not to be dissuaded by others. He uses language that is forceful and overstated to get His point across.

Did the religious leaders of His time threaten to employ such torturous methods to stop people from believing in Christ? If so, Jesus turns their language around, using the very language of persecution and torture to emphasise how important it is to believe in Him without wavering.

In Matthew 18:7 (NLT) Jesus warns “What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting.” 

He goes on to say that it is better to do the torture on yourself than be tempted to enter eternity without believing in Christ. Better to be rid of actions and behaviours (hands), focus and vision (eyes) and any other course or direction (feet) that would try to tempt you away from trusting in Christ.

In context, temptation to sin is the exact opposite of being humbly obedient and responding to Christ. Anything or anybody who thwarts a person’s response to Christ in humble obedience is tempting them to sin.

Obviously, Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation to deal with temptation to sin. So what is He saying to me and you? He is saying in effect, “Deal with the cause! Focus your attention on the things that would stop you from being humbly obedient to Christ (eyes). Take whatever action is necessary (hands) so that you don’t stumble (feet) in this basic area of belief.”

Wall of Rothenburg 2016.jpg© Photo by Ross Cochrane (Walled Village of Rothenburg)

So does this mean if I am not humbly obedient to Christ then I’ll go to hell? Jesus is simply saying do whatever is necessary! Whatever or whoever tries to stop you from believing in Christ, cut it or them off from your life, because those motivations and people will not be found in eternity.

This is important because the only unforgivable sin is not believing in Christ.

2 Cor. 10:5 says “we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,”

Romans 6:11-13 (NLT) says “So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”

1 John 5:18-21 (NLT) says “… We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and He has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and He is eternal life. Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”

Ross Cochrane

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EAU DE COLOGNE – SOMETHING STINKS IN COLOGNE

The original Eau de Cologne is a spirit-citrus perfume created in Cologne in 1709 by Giovanni Maria Farina (1685–1766). In 1708, Farina wrote to his brother: “I have found a fragrance that reminds me of an Italian spring morning, of mountain daffodils and orange blossoms after the rain”. He named his fragrance Eau de Cologne, in honour of his new hometown. A single vial of this aqua mirabilis (Latin for miracle water) cost half the annual salary of a civil servant.

But something else stinks in Cologne.

The skyline is dominated by an imposing, dark, dirty, sandstone structure, one of the largest Church buildings in the world. We visited the Cathedral in the old part of the city of Cologne today (21st May 2016), begun in 1248 and finally finished in 1880, and constantly being repaired to this day. It remained standing, despite 14 hits by aerial bombs, when the city was decimated by WWII.

Accumulating the pollution of the world around it over the years, Cologne Cathedral is a tortured ugly soul, streaked black on the outside with the residue of war and industry since its medieval history. The sandstone could not withstand the pressure of the water needed to clean it, and the city could not afford the cost of the “bathwater and soap” for such an enormous enterprise.

The only alternative is to replace the offending parts, stone by stone. Some stained glass and damaged sections have been replaced by modern designs and these stand in contrast to the dirt and soot of the years.

As a whole, it stands as a testament to the sins of the world around it absorbed into its structure and it groans babel-like, a giant coal-worker unable to wash itself of the grime accumulated throughout it’s working life. Having gone through the hell of wars it now faces a world gone mad with values and lifestyles that deny the reason for its existence.

Around 20,000 visitors a day look up at her mace-like, contaminated spires. She is another story of degradation, a metaphor of a vestige of humanity standing there with bare, dirty feet, reaching out to God with sin-stained hands, mascara stained face, wanting to shake herself free of grime and collapse in a heap of rubble. But although wars have spared this creature, she is still abused by a miscreant city who continues to impregnate her with filth and use her for its own profit.

Some Cathedrals in Europe are no longer places where a Church meets but have been taken over by the city to operate as Museums, empty relics of the past (We visited a Cathedral in Bruges which had a Michelangelo statue that the city charged 20 euro’s just to look at. The altar was screened off, an unholy of unholies formed for the city’s greed. I wondered what happened to the people of faith who once met here to worship God).

1 Peter 2:4 (NLT) says that God’s Church is far from an empty relic of the past. “You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but He was chosen by God for great honour. And you are living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple.” Not a dead monumental, stained, empty tower, but a living organism responding to what God is building.

Far from the dirt and grime image of Cologne Cathedral, Titus 3:5 (NLT) says, Jesus “… washes away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” He invites us to become a living temple, pure and holy, untainted by the world’s polluting influence.

Ephesians 2:20 (NLT) says “Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself.”

Colossians 2:7 says “… let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

Romans 12:2 (NLT) says, “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” 

Eau de Cologne was believed to ward off Bubonic plague. But even Eau de Cologne cannot ward off the deep-seated stains of sin in our world.

Something stinks in Cologne that needs more than a perfume to fix. John 12:3 gives me hope as Mary pours a costly perfume over Jesus’ feet, wiping His feet with her hair in an expression of trust and hope. The room is filled with the perfume of faith in Christ. Such a fragrance is the worship of those who have become a sweet smelling incense to the Lord as they trust in Christ.

I pray for such a fragrance in Cologne and in my own life, today. Perhaps then we, like Giovanni Maria Farina of old could rephrase his sentiments, “I have found a fragrance that reminds me of worship that is new every morning, of a holy mountain climb in spring, of a stream in the desert and the lilies of the field after the rain”.

Pastor Ross