Archive for December, 2012

MAY GOD BLESS YOU THIS YEAR

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Genesis 27:38 – 28:4 – WHAT WILL YOUR LIFE ATTRACT THIS YEAR?

Growing up, I never really got to know my father. I knew that at Christmas I could give him a record of Engelbert Humperdinck (Yes, a record and yes, that was his name, or at least his stagename). He liked cars, cigarettes and I liked reading, the Beatles and Bob Dylan. He was a tough man who worked hard for a living and went to the pub after work with his mates. I was a recluse who liked to hibernate in my room to paint, invent and write bad poetry. Having so little in common, I consequently learned nothing from him, (not even how to smoke, curse or drink). It might have been different if I had made an effort, and taken the initiative, but that was the farthest thing from my mind. I didn’t like him or want to be around him. Perhaps I was feeling the generational curse of a dysfunctional family rather than any sense of wanting to receive his blessing. I don’t remember him taking an active part in even giving gifts at Christmas. I guess Jacob felt a similar kind of estrangement from his Dad and affinity with his Mum.

But Esau had a good relationship with his Dad and wanted his blessing, any blessing, although it had already been given to Jacob. Genesis 27:39 (NLT) says “Finally, his father, Isaac, said to him, “You will live away from the richness of the earth, and away from the dew of the heaven above.” You will live in a desert! What does he mean by this blessing? “Away from the richness of the earth and dew of heaven…”? Not a good way to start blessing your son. Sounds more like a curse. What kind of blessing will your life attract this year?

Where Esau lives will be a reflection of the state of his heart. Esau’s descendents inhabited Idumea, a desert in comparison with where Jacob settled. Malachi 1:2-5 (NLT) is an indictment upon Esau’s negative attitude to God. Among other things the Lord says of Esau’s descendents “… Their country will be known as ‘The Land of Wickedness,’ and their people will be called ‘The People with Whom the Lord Is Forever Angry.’…”

In Genesis 27:40 (NLT) Isaac reflects his sons destiny and says “You will live by your sword, and you will serve your brother. But when you decide to break free, you will shake his yoke from your neck.”” These are fighting words. This is a blessing with a mean streak. Esau attracts the kind of blessing for Vikings and the vanquished, villains and the violent, not what you would expect for a son! He was going to be a man of war when it comes to his brother. Esau had the nature of a warrior. He would hunt and fight for his living.

Repentance might have attracted a very different blessing. It’s interesting that Esau took no responsibility for the loss of his birthright and blessing. It did not bring him to a place of confession, only anger, jealousy and hatred of his brother. He even seems keen for his father to die so he can get on with murdering his brother. Isaac, his father, virtually gave him permission to live by the sword and break free of Jacob.

Esau’s people took Mount Seir by force from the Horites. Continually at war with the descendents of Jacob, they chose every occasion to be in coalition with their enemies, but never succeeded in overthrowing their Jewish overlords. King David made the Edomites slaves but they eventually shook free of this yoke and assimilated into the Arab nations. Isaac’s prophetic blessing was thus realised. What kind of blessing will your life attract this year?

Jacob, no doubt to his relief, is about to leave home to live with his uncle Laban for the next 20 years, and Isaac gives part 2 of the blessing that God intended for the line of Jacob. It is in such contrast to that of Esau but reflects what is in Jacob’s heart. Jacob’s life, despite his shortcomings, attracts the blessing of God. Jacob has included God in his life and God has included him in the ancestral line of Christ Himself. Isaac says “May God Almighty bless you and give you many children. And may your descendants multiply and become many nations! May God pass on to you and your descendants the blessings He promised to Abraham. May you own this land where you are now living as a foreigner, for God gave this land to Abraham” (Genesis 28:1-4 NLT). Now that’s a blessing! What will your life attract this year?

May God articulate His vision and blessing over your life this year, to release your full potential as you trust in Christ. May He extend your territory and increase your fruitfulness and influence for Him. May He increase your love for Him and for others. May love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control be characteristics of your heart that overflow in your life. May He give you opportunities to honour Him and may you take them.

Julie and Ross Cochrane

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JUSTICE AND GRACE

JUSTICE AND GRACE

“Matthew and his friends were sliding down a Mammoth Mountain ski run on a foam pad at 3am, when he crashed into a lift tower and died. His makeshift sledge of yellow foam had been stolen from the legs of a lift tower on Stump Alley. The cushion is meant to protect skiers who hit the tower, and the tower Matthew ran into was the one from which he had created his sledge.” (The “Darwin Awards” 1998). In Genesis 27 each family member takes their own infamous ski run which causes untold damage to themselves.

There is a rhyme and rhythm to poetic justice. Job 4:8 (NLT) says “My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same.” We reap what we sow. Deception’s voice has an echo. The dissonant chords of sin are often resolved by Poetic Justice. In Genesis 27, amazingly, the tangled web of deceptive words and actions serves to highlight God’s Prophetic Grace.

ISAAC targeted Jacob. The operation sought to take territory rightly belonging to Jacob and put it in control of Esau. His efforts to bypass God’s purposes brought about great damage in his own life, a form of Poetic Justice. He lost the respect of both his sons (Genesis 28:1-5). He lost the trust of his wife. His desire to bless Esau instead of Jacob led to Esau being hurt deeply by his unfulfilled promise.

REBEKAH targeted Isaac and Esau. Her covert operation was enacted with military precision but caused untold collateral damage to herself. She suffered the loss of her favourite son and the trust of her other son (Genesis 27:43-45). Intelligence reports alerted Rebekah on Esau’s intentions to kill Jacob. Her deception had put her boy in harm’s way, and she was forced to make contingency plans on the run. Jacob was now trapped behind enemy lines, and had to be evacuated (Genesis 27:46 – Genesis 28:1-5). She paid the price for all her deceptive tactics in Poetic Justice – she never saw him again. She died before he returned. No doubt she spent a lot of time in a foxhole seeking to avoid the bullets flying around her from her husband Isaac and son Esau who no doubt had lost all confidence and trust in her as an ally.

ESAU targeted Jacob. His covert plans with his father tried to change God’s purposes and it left him in conflict with his brother and severely wounded by his father and mother. The unintended rejection by his father wounded Esau (Genesis 28:6-9) and left him bitter and insecure. Instead of a blessing he received a curse. Esau’s only option was to live the rest of his life in survival mode amidst constant conflict as a mercenary in many unstable military situations. He would be captured (Genesis 27:39-40) and subjected to hardship but eventually escape.

JACOB targeted his father Isaac and brother Jacob. He impersonated his brother to gain his objective (Genesis 27:6-29) but this led to devastating damage to himself. He obtained only the hate of his brother, Esau. (Genesis 27:41). In this climate of instability Jacob would have lived in constant fear of being murdered by his own brother.

Fearing civil war in the family Isaac makes the decision to extract Jacob from danger, and move him to a more friendly environment with his uncle (Genesis 27:42 – Genesis 28:1-5). He suffered the separation from his family, living as a fugitive (Genesis 27:42). He never saw his mother again. Although his uncle gave him refuge Jacob was tricked into serving him for about twenty years. The damage was ongoing (Genesis 29:15-30; 37:1-35), years of reaping what he had sown. Poetic Justice. 

Despite all this, God’s purposes were achieved and the promise of Abraham (Prophetic Grace) was passed down through Jacob as God had originally intended. Deception always reaps a harvest of unexpected, unintentional suffering and pain, but God still has the desire and power to turn cursing to blessing. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says “For the wages of sin is death, (Poetic Justice) but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Prophetic Grace).

Romans 5:8-10 (NLT) says “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” It seems our sin killed the One sent to save us from sin. The consequences of Poetic Justice are resolved by the covenant of Prophetic Grace when we believe in Christ. The choice is ours. 

Pastor Ross

LOST TWICE FOR THREE DAYS – CHRISTMAS
FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS

FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS

 

FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS

It struck me as Pastor Brian Houston was speaking at the Christmas Eve Service that for 3 days Mary lost her Son when He was 12 and for 3 days she lost Him again when He was 33. Both times He was “about His Fathers business” (Luke 2:42-51 NLT). Mary was present for His birth and present at His death. We celebrate both Christmas and Easter so as not to miss the significance of His birth and His death.

At the Beginning of His life there was no room for Him at the Inn and He was laid in a borrowed manger. At the end of His life there was no room for Him so they laid Him in a borrowed tomb. Followers of Christ make room for Him in their lives.

At His birth lowly Shepherds came. At His death the great Shepherd was abandoned, yet He said “I am the Good shepherd; I know My own sheep, and they know Me, … So I sacrifice My life for the sheep” (John 10:11-15 NLT).

At the beginning innocent babies were killed. At the end of His life guilty thieves died with Him on the Cross. The Bible says “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT).

Wise men followed God’s directions intentionally after He was born. Foolish men knew not what they were doing at His death. Yet in Luke 23:34 (NLT) Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” He still offers His forgiveness for our sins.

He was visited by shepherds at His birth. Disciples abandoned Him at His death. It takes commitment to be a follower of Jesus.

Herod tried to put Him to death at His birth. Pilate tried to save Him from death at His trial, but ended up washing his hands of Him. All of us are given a choice concerning what we will do with Jesus.

Wise men acknowledged Him as King soon after He was born. At the end of His life foolish men put Him on a Cross with a sign they thought was mocking Him as King of the Jews. Yet Revelation 17:14 (NLT) calls Him “… Lord of all lords and King of all kings…” Followers of Christ acknowledge His rulership in their lives.

After His birth wise men gave generously to Jesus. At His death the religious rulers gave Judas “thirty pieces of silver” to betray Him (Matthew 26:15 NLT). Matthew 16:26 (NLT) says “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

Wise men invested their wealth as they gave it to Jesus. At His crucifixion foolish soldiers “gambled for His clothes” at the Cross Luke 23:34 (NLT) concerned only with taking. Jesus said “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35 NLT).

A star shone at His birth. He was the light of the world at His death. God still directs us to Him.

Angels at His birth spoke of a Saviour. Angels at the tomb said He is risen. Romans 6:9 (NLT) says “Death no longer has any power over Him.”

Jesus was born into the family of Abraham, ancestor of King David. He died so that we could be born again into His family.

At His Conception the Holy Spirit came upon Mary. At the conception of the Church the Holy Spirit came upon 120 disciples in an upper room. Zacharias was speechless before Jesus was born. Peter preached a powerful message after Jesus rose again (Acts 2). With the help of the Holy Spirit we can share the message of Christ boldly.

At His birth He is called Immanuel “God with us”. After His death Hebrews 13:5 says God will “never leave You or forsake You”

He is the Alpha and Omega. The Beginning and the end. Saviour, Born that we may never die. He who Is and Was and Is to come. The great I Am. Born in a manger, died on a cross. Born that I might be born again. Immanuel, God with us. King of Kings, Lord of Lords, My Lord Jesus.

Pastor Ross

 

THE 4 KINGS OF CHRISTMAS

4 KINGS. 4 cards. Spades, Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts. Each King represents a person in the Christmas Story. Three of these kings represent people today as well,… maybe you. Three of them missed Christmas altogether. The fourth invented it!

The first person who missed Christmas is represented by THE KING OF SPADES.

KING OF SPADES

KING OF SPADES

If you look at the KING OF SPADES you will see a King with a SWORD in his hand. In the Christmas Story this king is violent and cruel. History tells us he killed his wife and three of his own sons because he suspected they were trying to take his throne. Some people said it was safer to be his sow than his son, because Jews didn’t eat pigs but this king slaughtered his own sons. Like the gunman over in Newtown Connecticut recently, he also murdered children at Christmas time (Our hearts grieve for your loss). Bethlehem mourned that first Christmas also because of a king who had to WIN AT ALL COSTS.

SPADES is a good sign for him because if you tried to play games with this king, you would end up DIGGING YOUR OWN GRAVE.

Matthew 2:1-8 (NLT) tells us his name. It says “Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of KING HEROD. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw His star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.” King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.”

The wise men CALLED HIS BLUFF and found Jesus but returned to their home another way.

Herod was a WILD CARD. He was more than a few cards short of a deck. He certainly didn’t call a spade a spade. He said he wanted to worship Jesus but he really wanted to get rid of him. He was a negative, bitter, angry, revengeful leader. Like a lot of world leaders today who want to HOLD ALL THE CARDS, to have absolute rulership and power, Herod was willing to do anything to hold onto his kingdom.

HEROD MISSED CHRISTMAS

Today many people miss Christmas for the same reason. Afraid that Jesus might cramp their lifestyles, or their ambitions, they are self-sufficient and don’t see their need of a Saviour. They play games with God and are not willing to lay all their cards on the table with Him. People miss Jesus because they don’t want Him to be LORD AND KING of their lives. What about you?

But there was ANOTHER KING in our Christmas Story. I have represented him by THE KING OF CLUBS.

KING OF CLUBS

KING OF CLUBS

Also holding a sword, he is a dangerous leader. I have chosen the KING OF CLUBS because he headed up a group of leaders, a CLUB of people who missed Christmas.

Self-centred, suspicious and always getting offended, they were a very negative club. They always saw problems and were always looking for an argument. They were perfectionists, trying to keep all kinds of laws, and systems of their own making, and always critical of others. Wallowing in gloom and doom, they considered that they had been dealt a bad hand in life. They harboured animosity and sought revenge. They were unforgiving and prejudiced and self-righteous.

But their religious system was really a HOUSE OF CARDS. Jesus layed His cards on the table with them. He had many confrontations with them and eventually they demanded His death. They were frauds, jokers in disguise. This religious Club was headed up by a leader called the high priest.

THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS MISSED CHRISTMAS

Matthew 2:4 says, “(Herod) called a meeting of the LEADING PRIESTS AND TEACHERS OF RELIGIOUS LAW and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”   “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:    ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”    These leaders (called the Sanhedrin) knew where Jesus was to be born but didn’t go there to find him. They MISSED CHRISTMAS! They had been waiting for the Messiah for years, yet this RELIGIOUS CLUB didn’t bother to walk 2-3 miles to see if this was Him. Why?

More interested in studying about the messiah than actually worshiping Him, they had RELIGION BUT NO REALITY. They considered themselves TOO HOLY. They were not willing to admit to their own sinfulness and therefore they didn’t think they needed the Saviour. Treacherous and secretive, they wanted to hold the cards close to their chest.

Many today ignore Christ because they don’t understand their need of a Saviour. They are religious but they don’t want a relationship with Christ. They don’t want to lay their cards on the table. What about you?

This Card is the KING OF DIAMONDS.

KING OF DIAMONDS

KING OF DIAMONDS

Diamonds speak of MONEY. It represents a man who wasn’t strictly a king, but certainly a man who loved making money. King of his own castle,he owned real estate, a lodging house. That Christmas he knew that if he played his cards right he could make a lot of money from all the people in town.

He doesn’t have a sword, but an AXE. Yet this man had no AXE TO GRIND with Mary and Joseph. When Joseph and Mary turned up he turned them away because there was no room in his Inn. He was already too busy. He had a Full House.Too many other people in Bethlehem that night

THE INNKEEPER MISSED CHRISTMAS

Luke 2:7 (NLT) says, “She (Mary) gave birth to her first child, a Son. She wrapped Him snugly in strips of cloth and laid Him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” It was a good deal for the Innkeeper. He’s not actually mentioned in the Bible but he must have been there.

We can get so caught up in the busyness of Christmas we can miss it’s REAL WORTH!

King Herod. The Religious leaders. The Innkeeper. All of Jerusalem missed Christmas. All of Bethlehem missed Jesus. No room.

Only a few found Christ that Christmas. Wise men followed a diamond in the sky, and came up aces. Only a few still find Him today. What about you?

The last King is the KING OF HEARTS.

KING OF HEARTS

KING OF HEARTS

He represents the REASON FOR THE SEASON, THE TRUMP CARD. He was born in Bethlehem, laid in a manger, and is called the KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS. The heart indicates His LOVE for the world.

John 3:16 (NLT) 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 Bible says that the cards are stacked against us without Christ. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says “For the wages of sin is death” (Spiritual Separation from God).

When it was on the cards that we would all fall short of God’s perfect standard, the Bible says that Jesus showed His cards, so to speak, and came up trumps. It says “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT).

But He will never FORCE YOUR HAND. He always gives us a choice. John 1:12 (NLT) simply says “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”

Herod missed Christmas. The Religious Leaders missed Christmas. The Innkeeper missed Christmas. Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem missed Christmas.

Ignorant preoccupation. Negativity. Jealous fear. Prideful indifference. Religious ritual. Unbelief. What about you? Will you miss Christmas? Is your life a house of cards. What are you following? Someone said WISE MEN STILL SEEK JESUS.

On Christmas Day, many years ago, I believed in Christ. He changed my life. The invitation God gives at Christmas is to receive Christ and trust your life to Him today. He’s got the best hand. He’s a great Bridge partner. In fact He is the BRIDGE to life and Peace with God.

The Bible says God is not mocked and He can’t be bluffed. He is great with Patience. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “…He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. He wants to count us in,not so that we can play games with God, but so we can lay our cards on the table before Him and commit our lives to Him, so that we will enjoy the true significance of Christmas. What about you?

Pastor Ross

LUKE 2:9 – MARY DID YOU KNOW? Poem

PIETA BY MICHELANGELO

PIETA BY MICHELANGELO

Mary, did you know? – the poem © by Ross Cochrane

Had Mary known the pain that He would bear
When in her arms this baby Jesus lay,
Would she have wanted Him to stay
to face a Cross, and give His very life?
Had Mary known the ugliness of strife
would she have held tiny hands tighter still
while thinking of them nail pierced on deaths hill?

Had Mary known that in this manger lay
the One whose head would lay within a tomb,
would she have gasped each time she came to pray
and sung with tears a lullaby each night
And mourned the seed that issued from her womb?

No! Mary would have only known the joy
Of heavens love within a baby boy.

And if we knew of God’s elusive plan
With eyes to see the pain that we would bear,
Would we have tried to run from grace and prayer
instead of face the cross He bids us take?
Without sufficient strength our pride to break
would we avoid the shaping hands of God,
the disciplines that issue from His rod?

Would we receive the testing desert sun
along with times of joy and hope and light?
Or shape a “painless” destiny and run
with such swift feet away from heaven’s tears
and any preparation for the fight?

No! From the future He has spared us much
That we might know His patient, perfect touch.

MATTHEW 2 – STILL THE GREATEST QUEST THIS CHRISTMAS

Following the Star

Following the Star

One Christmas when our kids were young, we decided to re-enact the Christmas story. I painted a background scene and we each played a part, dressing up as Shepherds one minute and Magi the next. We had towels on our head and the angels – Julie and her sister – were dressed in white sheets. We narrated the story and improvised. We had a big star that hung from the ceiling and a manger with a doll, instead of a Christmas tree, an old fence with paintings of animals hanging over the side. I also painted a picture of Mary and Joseph onto some cardboard and borrowed some old lamps. We split our sides laughing sometimes but at certain moments as Rachel our daughter held the Christ child (her doll) in her arms, we also felt the presence of God as the story found it’s way through the events of Jesus birth. Our re-created stable had a manger with gifts all around it (that year the Magi were particularly generous with more than 3 gifts). We opened the gifts that year with an acknowledgement that the greatest gift of all was found lying in a manger and ended with a birthday cake for Jesus. For me, that’s my greatest Christmas memory.

In the real Christmas story, Matthew 2 starts off with Magi searching for a king. Who are these guys? We don’t know if there were 2 or 40 of them. We do know they gave 3 gifts. Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, gifts for a king. Some people trace them back to Daniel 5:11 and I like to think that their journey to Bethlehem was because of the ancient writings of Daniel, which we no longer have. Perhaps he left a legacy that led them to Jesus. His Godly wisdom and insights from days gone by to Persian Magi, sent these men on a quest to find the Messiah.

What was the star that moved across the sky? Was it a comet or supernova? I like to think that it was the Shekinah glory that had once led the Israelites through the wilderness in the days of Moses that appeared in the sky as a sign of the Saviours birth, and led them to humblest of places – a humble house in Bethlehem. You wouldn’t expect to find a King in a place like Bethlehem. It has to be God impressing upon us that His rulership doesn’t depend upon the lavish palaces build by such kings as Herod.

Matthew cites an ancient prophecy in relation to Jesus birth.

“And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah; are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler, who will shepherd My people Israel.”

Christ is pictured as a powerful ruler but also as a caring shepherd. He is all powerful and able to accomplish all He purposes for your life. He is a caring and loving shepherd who acts with grace in our lives. So different to king Herod, whose reputation for brutality was renowned.

Herod was a descendant of Esau, an Edomite, and he was a cruel and ruthless king. History tells us that he even murdered his own wife and 3 of his sons because he was suspicious of them taking over his kingdom. The man was insane! It was said that it was better to be Herod’s sow (pig) than Herod’s son, but you wouldn’t say that to his face. A pig would not be slaughtered because Jewish people saw pigs as unclean. But Herod’s own sons were slaughtered. Such merciless power is not unusual in the East, even in our own day. He said he wanted to go and worship the Messiah but his brutality in killing the infants in Bethlehem shows what measures he went to in order to maintain his authority over the Jews.

When an angel told Joseph to escape to Egypt, he and Mary probably used the gold, frankincense and myrrh as trade to Egyptian merchants. They would be worth a great deal of money in Egypt where they used these things for embalming the dead.

God bless you as you seek Jesus this Christmas and find Him in the most unexpected places and in the humblest of settings and as you celebrate His birth, bring Him the very best of your worship.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 2:1-23 – COLLATERAL DAMAGE AT CHRISTMAS

Collateral Damage at Christmas

Collateral Damage at Christmas

TWO YOUNG RADIO JOURNALISTS in Australia make a prank call to the King Edward VII Hospital where Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, was being treated for acute morning sickness. They pretend to be Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth. A young nurse, Saldanha, takes the call and unknowingly passes the phone to another employee who provides personal information about Kate to the pranksters. Some days later Saldanha is found dead, having taken her own life due to the furore caused by this event. An aftermath of devastating proportion. Never intended!

A bomb explodes in Syria. The term “COLLATERAL DAMAGE” is used on the TV. It is a cold term and seems to seek to insulate those involved from any feelings of moral responsibility. The military authorities speak of wanting to minimize collateral damage of innocent civilians and speak of it in terms of PERCENTAGES not lives lost. “UNINTENTIONAL” is a key word. Collateral damage is damage that was NOT INTENDED but somehow expected as necessary to get the job done. One person’s collateral damage is another person’s son. A mother suffers the unbearable grief over the loss of her children. We see her on the news weeping and wailing.

When the wise men see king Herod they never intend to cause harm to innocent children. They couldn’t have foreseen that he would react to the birth of Jesus in such a violent, unpredictable way. After finding Christ, God warns them in a dream not to return to Herod and they return to their own country using another route.

An intelligence report from the Lord in a dream alerts Joseph of Herod’s intentions to kill Jesus. Joseph and Mary have to get their boy out of harm’s way, and the Lord gives them a contingency plan on the run. It is as if Jesus was trapped behind enemy lines, so God conducts a “rescue at any cost” operation for Jesus by getting Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt. He needs a quick recovery extraction by friendly elements.

On that first Christmas we tend to skip over the collateral damage inflicted on Bethlehem by King Herod’s rage when Christ was born. He slaughtered all the male babies 2 years and under of Bethlehem in an effort to eliminate Christ’s birth causing a problem to his reign. Herod saw it as collateral damage! Necessary to achieve his objective! Necessary to get the job done! And Matthew 2:18 (NLT) speaks of “A cry heard in Ramah— weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead”

But Herod’s rage was the fruit of the ongoing collateral damage inflicted on the human race when Adam sinned by disobeying God way back in Genesis 3. But listen to Romans 5:8-10 (NLT). It says “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from (the direct strike of) God’s condemnation. 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.”

Herod’s sin reaped it’s consequences. Our sin always reaps a harvest of unexpected, unintential, collateral suffering and pain. 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.” Spiritual death. No peace with God.

The innocent Son of God came into the world. 33 years later He died for the collateral damage produced by our sin. All of us have the opportunity to have peace with God and live under His promises and He is giving you that invitation today. All of us have the opportunity today to receive forgiveness, peace with God and the gift of eternal life this Christmas by believing in Christ. The Saviour was sent into enemy territory to extract us from the firestorm. The message of Christmas, endorsed by an army of angels to certain poor shepherds, is that the Saviour of the world has come, King of kings, Lord of Lords and Prince of peace. Collateral Healing and Hope!

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:13 – 14 – PRISON DIARY – JOURNEY TO LIFE

Prose, Poetry and Photos © By Ross Cochrane

Cross = Love

Cross = Love

In the Aged Facility where I am a Chaplain, I meet many people who, when finding themselves in high care, move through a process of grief over the losses that come with age. Life changes dramatically after a stroke or a fall or when dementia makes it impossible for people to live at home. All of a sudden they are living in a building with locked doors with keypads and nurses writing care plans, careworkers showering, lifting, and doing everything for them. It’s all a little confusing, confronting and unfamiliar. It can feel as if they are trapped.

It is often the inward prison of negativity that traps people more than their outward circumstances. This is true through life but can come to the forefront when someone comes into high care.

I have also noticed what happens when someone finds Christ. All of a sudden the prison on the inside is opened and they are free. Free to live as God intended. This prose and poem talks graphically about that journey. I have not tried to water down the grief. Isaiah 53:4 speaks of Jesus. It says “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;”

PRISON DIARY – JOURNEY TO LIFE

DAY 1 – LOSS OF YOUTH 

Journey to Life

Journey to Life

As to where I am or how I got here, I cannot tell you. But the diary I hold in my hands claims my name on the cover. Inside I find this verse from the Bible – John 21:18 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.”

Lifted like a mist on mountain slopes
The haze clears enough for me to see. I am old,
And wrinkles stare from mirrors on a clean white wall.
I cannot fathom how distant hopes
Ended, broken and bruised, torn, homeless and cold
These words I leave to journal such a fall.

A care worker and a walker, seem strange,
Whoever is crippled, cranky, unconvinced,
With soft, sweet, sure, safe, assuring words,
Is greeted, treated kindly in exchange.
Absurd!

DAY 2 – LOSS OF FREEDOM

Key to Life

Key to Life

I am able to walk with the help of a walking device. A Care Worker attended to me today, and when I asked her where I was, she said “You are in a safe place.” Despite constant reassurances to the contrary, I have concluded that I am in a prison! Files and Records. No privacy. Escape seems impossible. I would not get very far, even with my walking frame.

On the next page of my diary I read Psalms 118:5 (NLT) “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free.” If only.

I know I am meant for other things,
Not lies and patronising tones, and these locked doors.
My ears, dulled to all the other sounds around me
Hear freedom’s constant calls. Flightless wings
Refuse passage from this sad prison. It causes
Hope to fade, and fear fails to set me free.

Their care invades, interrogates, ensnares,
While ever I remain, constrained to live now,
What life is left, in this single room.
My private things in folders are shared, theirs
To Consume. 

DAY 3 – LOSS OF HEALTH, RELATIONSHIPS AND THE FAMILIAR

Key to life

Key to life

I have exchanged my friends and family with inmates and guards. The inmates are all very old. The guards all very young. Different generation, different cultures, paid to be friendly. I still shudder to think that young women take me to the toilet and shower and dress me in the morning. My son says I have no choice.

Sentenced, I seek for my release, reach
For keys to other kingdoms with a future sure
Where heartfelt cries are answered and I once more walk
Free, unfaltering, fearless. Each
Footstep closer to friends, fam’ly, and cure,
Where old mates, tried and true, gather to talk.

I have exchanged familiar with strange;
Whatever is diff’rent delights to devour
The sure, safe, secure and stable things,
And whispers words of warning of the change
It brings. 

DAY 4 – LOSS OF HOME AND HOPE

Boxed TimeMy family avails themselves of visiting rights occasionally, but it seems they think I deserve a life sentence and have abandoned trying to advocate for my release. Today I cried when they left. I learned that my beautiful four bedroom home, where I have lived for the last 40 years, is being sold by my son. Somewhere down the line I exchanged my home, spacious gardens, and a big back yard for a one room cell with photos. This hardly seems like a fair exchange. Life wasting.  Inheritance draining. A burden to my family. Set aside. Abandoned.

The Bible verse for today is Psalms 71:9 (NLT) “And now, in my old age, don’t set me aside. Don’t abandon me when my strength is failing.” Don’t abandon me.

Today, I have cried for life bereft,
For loved ones advocating not for my release.
For homes sold, taken, traded, forty years of waste,
Tears tasted forfeit fall, failed, unblessed.
Escape plotted and plans, so hollow, they cease
To make sense. My dreams in shackles, erased.

DAY 5 – LOSS OF MONEY, WORK, RESPECT, MEANING

Discovered today that I have no money to spend. A successful business, millions earned over a lifetime, money to burn in the bank but I am broke. My son told me that he is now my power of attorney and he will pay for everything. Enforced poverty.

I said somewhat foolishly “Have more respect! Don’t you realise who I am?” Has he forgotten? Have I forgotten who I am? A doctor, an army officer, Prisoner of war, a Businessman, a Mayor! Was I the Mayor? Who am I? No-one seems to care who I am anymore. I am just a grain of sand on the beach, a tiny ripple in an ocean. “Don’t laugh at me!”

Hebrews 13:5 (NLT) “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”” It seems even God wants Power of Attorney!

Power taken from me, enforced lack,
Where is my million dollar wealth? Has it dwindled now?
It evades, is inaccessible evermore,
A prisoner of time. Send me back!
Respect, honour are scorned, sold, shallow, but how?
And my trade, my craft, sawdust on the floor.

Sand sifts, hourglass-like, survival slips, slides,
Sedation is stable, settled, soothes for now.
Closed door, house of straw, coffee cups.
An imposed life where meaning from me hides
And ducks. 

DAY 6 – LOSS OF CHALLENGE

I was so pleased when one guard said she would take me home today, but she simply proceeded to take me back to my one room prison cell. Is she mad! Am I mad!

Tablets everyday. Surviving but not living. I have been issued a walker to get around, but there is nowhere to go, no challenges to face, no future to plan, no contribution to make, nothing truly meaningful that I can do in terms of work. Closed doors. Imposed routines. I have come to consider a cup of coffee as one of the most important events in life. Nothing dangerous or risky. Nothing to fear, no mountains to climb, no real difficulties to overcome. If I fall, a monstrous piece of machinery turns up to pluck me from the floor and place me on the bed. It seems the worst enemy around here is gravity.

Joshua 1:9 (NLT) “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

“Please, can you take me home!” Insane hopes,
But I am trundled, bundled to a prison cell,
Where assessed risks are guarded and no dangers lurk
Sentries pencil their paperwork, ropes
To choke challenge are wound, and sound the death knell
On all threats, and on adventure. Their work
Is to protect, to reduce all life’s dare.

Whoever has fallen, is plucked safe and well,
With swift, safe, sure, artificial arms.
No hazards here, but superficial care
Hurts, harms.

DAY 7 – FAITH FOUND

Cross

Cross

Devotions. Lumped together with people of different faiths. Might as well go as it’s all that I have got to express my faith. Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Chaplain says God doesn’t have a band-aid for the wounds I have on the inside, or a drawer full of pills to help me cope, but God does offer His total healing, forgiveness, friendship and direction in life and in eternity. He can be trusted to keep His promises. He will never leave me or forsake me. He can set me free on the inside.

Today I read about Abraham. Romans 4:19-22 (NLT) says “Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.”

Jesus loves me this I think I know. I better take it to the Lord in prayer. I’ve been invited to devotions by the Chaplain tomorrow. Pierced hearts cannot somehow with band-aids and pills and magic potions be healed.

DAY 8 – FREEDOM WITHIN

Old

Old

The Chaplain read from Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT) which says “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” That’d be right. Even the road to heaven is too narrow. Hopefully it has wheelchair access. Better take my walker and hope for the best.

Seriously though, perhaps it’s not that I am in a prison. It is that the prison is in me. In John 10:10 (NIV) Jesus says “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” His death on the Cross for my sins has set me free. Thought about this all day.

I read from Isaiah 46:4 (NLT) and it spoke to me. God says “I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.”

John 8:36 (NLT) says “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” 

DAY 9 – NEW REFLECTION

So I embark on the adventure of faith, with it’s challenges and potholes and narrow roads. My faith is still a bit bumpy and it is a challenge everyday. But today I choose life.

I look in the mirror. The old man who stares back at me is the real diary. My faith, written on my life.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) says “… anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 

DAY 10 – THE TRUE DIARY

Journey to Life

Journey to Life

Ascending like mist on mountain slopes
The haze has lifted. I still see that I am old,
My wrinkles stare from mirrors on a clean white wall,
But now I fathom who I am. Hopes
Fulfilled I see, reflected in that form so bold,
A shining light to journal such a call.

Fresh life written in that face revealed. True
Diary of faith, forgiveness I behold,
God’s grace for grief’s wounds, freely poured.
His faithful touch heals, redeems, makes me new,
I am restored.