Archive for May, 2013

Matthew 15:29-38 – FISH AND CHIPS ON A COLD WINTER’S DAY

Cross = Love.  (Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net)

Cross = Love.
(Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net)

Midday Friday the smell of Fish and Chips wafts in through the adjoining doors as our small group sings the last song. I scan the ancient, lined faces who listen to Words of Life every week in this area of the Shalom Centre and we feel the presence of the Lord as rusty voices give substance to their faith. We ask for Dave’s recovery in hospital and give thanks for the food and then begin the slow, measured and deliberate process of getting to the meal table in the next room. Sunshine washes through the window as I collect the hymn books but the persistent seeping draught under the door leaves no doubt that winter is arriving, and my thoughts, like shadows, flicker in the cold air of another winter long ago.

Jesus leaves Tyre and goes up to Sidon even further into Gentile territory. Before leaving Jewish territory the grass was green (Matthew 14:19). Now the ground is barren; winter has come (Matthew 15:33).

Decapolis. The miraculous events taking place here are lifechanging. Jews among Gentiles, His disciples are learning that these lost, outcast, and needy people are loved by God. Intensive training at the coalface instils in them that the message of the gospel is also for Gentiles. I attend to His words and take notes.

Jesus teaches me about…

AVAILABILITY – He sits down (Matthew 15:29) with those humble enough to see their need. APPROACHABILITY – No one an outcast. He welcomes me. COMPASSION – There are times when I am so NOT “moved with compassion” as Jesus is (Matthew 15:32). Pity maybe, but not compassion. Compassion is different. Compassion is committed to lean in and to DO something when pity has been overwhelmed. Jesus doesn’t just have sympathy or empathy. He goes further and meets the needs of the people who come to Him, healing everyone; every kind of sickness and suffering, both physical and spiritual. Nothing is impossible for Him (Matthew 15:30-31). Lord bring Your healing touch to Dave today.

PROVISION – He waits until I am well and truly hungry, after three days and nothing left to eat. When my resources are not enough. When my humanity is inadequate when faced with the enormity of the need. When I am empty, drained of solutions and concern, and feeling lost. Just when I want to leave work, go home, forget about those in need and be with my family. Let those in need learn to find a way to meet their own needs (Matthew 14:15)! Ever feel this way? That’s when Jesus says to me “I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.” (Matthew 15:32 NLT). “How much bread do you have?” (Matthew 15:34 NLT). He is more concerned with what I have in my hand than the enormity of the need.

4000 men! Some of the women and children would have stayed at home but many were there. 8,000 people? 16,000? It’s absurd to seat eight to sixteen thousand people with the view to feeding them with “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.” (Matthew 15:34 NLT). Surely not! “Unsatisfactory, insignificant, insufficient, inadequate, deficient, lacking, not nearly enough!”

THANKFULNESS – Jesus simply tells us to sit down and get ready for a miracle. The blessing is given and Jesus breaks the bread. CO-OPERATION – Jesus invites me to help distribute what He places in my hand. It seems to multiply in my hands as I go. He takes it, blesses it, breaks it, gives it away. The more I distribute the more there is that remains. 7 baskets of provision left over, untouched. Not junk food; fish and chips, but healthy Omega 3 oil bearing fish that only John West chooses (according to the Ad) and barley bread. What would the world look like if we brought what was in our hands to Jesus. Compassion and responsibility would accomplish the extraordinary (Matthew 14:15-21). More than enough!

Jesus, using bread as a symbol of relationship says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever COMES to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever BELIEVES in Me will never be thirsty” John 6:35 (NLT). THE JESUS DIET.

GENEROSITY – Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) says “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Jesus says “… pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38 NLT) More than enough.

It seems Jesus is deliberately inviting me to look beyond the simple awareness of a need. Jesus is inviting me NOT TO MISS AN OPPORTUNITY to accomplish the EXTRAORDINARY in ANY situation. He invites me to be responsive to what God can do through me, to use what I have in my hand. To show COMPASSION and not just pity. To rely on Him to get me through. 

So take what resources you have to God right now and allow Him to use them for His purposes. God’s EXTRAVAGANCE, your CO-OPERATION. Remain in a place where God wants you to be to see His purposes accomplished despite your reservations and your limitations. Be open to a MIRACLE! Never be hungry! Never be thirsty! Taste and see that the Lord is good. Bread of Life. Even better than fish and chips on a cold winter’s day.

Matthew 15:39 (NLT) “Then Jesus sent the people home, and He got into a boat and crossed over to the region of Magadan.” 

No time to bask in the glory of a miracle. We move on to the next thing He wants to accomplish in our lives. 

Pastor Ross

PS If this message has helped you, please pass it forward to others and watch it multiply in your hands.

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Matthew 15:21-28 – HOW GREAT FAITH IS AWAKENED

WOMAN OF GREAT FAITH Photo by Ross Cochrane

WOMAN OF GREAT FAITH
Photo by Ross Cochrane

They don’t want anything to do with her, but she walks into their midst to seek for Him anyway. She pleads with Him above the calls to send her away. He embodies the answers she needs to the prayers that have reached heaven’s corridors. Deuteronomy 4:29 (NLT) says “But from there you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for Him with all your heart and soul, you will find Him.” Prayer is a window of hope and He has responded by His presence in this far away place. Accessible. Approachable.

If only her husband would believe? There’s something about a Mother’s love that is willing to find a path to God. But Jesus does not respond.

In the silence of Jesus somehow persistent faith is awakened. Anyone can see that she is faced with total rejection. Yet she stays and persists in asking for help with a heart that is breaking and a faith that lingers. Would mine?

She comes to Him again. She worships Him. Somehow she knows that He is God. She pleads with Him for help. Her persistence is not thwarted by His silence but all the more insistent.

Her daughter is possessed by a demon. Jesus does not ask her how this happened? Canaanites worshiped all kinds of other gods; god’s that defiled and penetrated the mind with their poison.

She calls Him “Lord” and “Son of David”. Surely this descendent of king David will help her? She cries for mercy for her daughter.

And then comes that famous exchange. Jesus finally speaks, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replies, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their Master’s table” “Dear woman,” Jesus says to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter is instantly healed. (Matthew 15:26-28 NLT).

He said her faith was great. Her daughter was healed instantly. When my faith collides with His favour a miracle takes place. She didn’t have to wait. He didn’t have to go with her. Her master had spoken. She had come under the authority of the Lord of heaven and earth and her daughter was healed.

What does great faith look like? At times, it looks like a desperate cry for help (Matthew 15:22). It looks like an unstoppable persistence that refuses to give up when faced with an impossible situation (Matthew 15:23-24). It looks like worship (Matthew 15:25). It looks like humble surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 15:26-27). It looks bigger than the circumstance. Jesus said it was great faith. It is faith that waits for a miracle (Matthew 15:28).

Matthew 21:22 (NLT) says “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” John 14:13-14 (NLT) says “You can ask for anything in My name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it!” 

Jesus awakens that kind of faith as we worship Him. Faith that forces its way through rejection and seeming silence until it can appropriate a miracle. Jesus invites me and you to have such desperate and humble faith as this. 

Pastor Ross

WOMAN OF GREAT FAITH - Picture created by Ross Cochrane with Paint.net

WOMAN OF GREAT FAITH – Picture created by Ross Cochrane with Paint.net

Letter to my wife on Mother’s Day

Dear Julie,

Happy Mother’s day,

I have been reading about the Gentile mother who came to Jesus for help for her daughter. Like you she is a mother who comes to Jesus in humble surrender and worship on behalf of her children.

Like her, you are a Mother who wants to know and worship Jesus. Long before situations arise in our children’s lives you have been seeking the Lord on their behalf. You see prayer is a window of hope and you use it as a woman of faith to speak into impossible circumstances. Spiritual warfare for our children.

Like her, you take action as you come to Jesus for help. And you don’t give up. I admire that about you. Your persistence, despite not seeing answers straight away, despite the sacrifices you have to make and where you seem to hear silence for your efforts. You are not thwarted. You find the way.

Like her you see the favour of God. When faith collides with His favour a miracle takes place. So often your faithfulness sees it’s way through to a miracle.

What does great faith look like in a Mother? At times, it looks like a desperate cry for help for your children. It looks like an unstoppable persistence that refuses to give up when faced with an impossible situation. It looks like worship. It looks like humble surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. It looks bigger than the circumstance. Jesus says to this mother it was great faith; faith that waits for a miracle (Matthew 15:28).

You are a mother such as this. I am inspired by your faith, by your persistence, by your love for your children, your grandchildren and your respect for your own mother. God bless you on this Mother’s Day, woman of great faith.

Love you,

Ross

Matthew 15:21-28 – WAS JESUS A RACIST OR DEMOLITION SPECIALIST?

WAS JESUS A RACIST OR DEMOLITION SPECIALIST? (Artwork by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net)

WAS JESUS A RACIST OR DEMOLITION SPECIALIST?
(Artwork by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net)

Why then did the missionaries who came to speak at our Church when I was young at Wagga Wagga in NSW, Australia, encourage people to commit their lives to go to the uttermost parts of the world? They would even quote Jesus words in the great commission from Matthew 28:19 and preach on the word “GO!” They would quote Acts 1:8 (NLT) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me EVERYWHERE—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ENDS OF THE EARTH.”

So what is it with Jesus when He says to this Canaanite woman who lives on the edge of Israel’s territory that He is sent only to help Israel? (Matthew 15:24). Why was He sent only to help Israel? What makes them better than us? Is Jesus a racist; rejecting other nations? Did He limit the gospel to Galilee, His home territory? No Gentiles! No Samaritans! No Romans! Only to Jews. Only the familiar; the safe-ground; the Comfort Zone; the Sofa gospel; the selected invitation gospel; only the Jews can come to My party gospel!

Didn’t Jesus know about Acts 1:8 and what about John 3:16 “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.” This doesn’t paint Jesus a Racist and a Chauvinist so why then is He being so selective concerning the Jews when it comes to this Gentile woman crying out for mercy?

Doesn’t He know about Galatians 3:26-29 (NLT) – “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer JEW OR GENTILE, slave or free, MALE AND FEMALE. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are His heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” According to this, Jesus could never be accused of being a racist or a chauvinist.

What am I to make of this contradiction, Lord? What are you saying to me? If you drive by the Equal Rights verse from Galatians 3 above too quickly you’ll miss it. It speaks about a promise that was once made by God to Abraham. Abraham was the father of the Jewish race; all through the Old Testament the Jews are the people God chose to take His message to the nations. 1 Chronicles 16:24 (NLT) says they were to “Publish His glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things He does.” Psalms 67:2-3 (NLT) says “May Your ways be known throughout the earth, Your saving power among people everywhere. May the nations praise You, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise You.”

The Jews failed to take the message to the nations and became an exclusive club. Because of God’s promises to them Jesus is sent to give them a second chance; to help them concerning the New Covenant message; to enable them to fulfil their redemptive purpose. God honours His promise to Israel and in Matthew 15 Jesus obviates the prejudices of the disciples to bring them to see God’s purpose.

Jesus says His priority is to help first His lost sheep in Israel. He is less interested in equality and much more interested in this Gentile woman receiving and believing the message of the gospel? By His initial silence and a few words to this woman, He is helping His disciples understand that they have a responsibility to share the message of the gospel with the Gentiles. They still don’t get it until Jesus affirms this woman’s great faith and He heals her daughter as requested. This Gentile. This woman. This rejected one finds hope and healing, acceptance and inclusion in the presence of her Saviour.

He honours His promises to me today. His Word is faithful. Thankyou Father for being the God of the second chance when I don’t get it right the first time. Thankyou for making me an heir to the promises you made to Abraham so long ago. Thankyou for reaching out to the very ends of the earth. Thankyou for breaking down the walls of hostility and touching us with Your love.

Ephesians 2:13-14 (NLT) says “But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ. For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” Far from being a racist He is a demolition specialist, breaking down the walls between us and God and the walls we build between each other.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 15:21-28 – A HEART LIKE A DOG 

HEART LIKE A DOG

HEART LIKE A DOG

Poster – “What A Beautiful World It Would Be If People Had Hearts Like Dogs”

Like dogs in a pack they turn on her, bearing their teeth. All round her Rejection’s emissaries are insisting that she stop knocking, seeking and asking. Back off! His disciples want Jesus to send her away. They are bothered. They are embarrassed by this Gentile begging for mercy, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely” (Matthew 15:21-28 NLT).

She is met with silence. Jesus ignores her. Is this a test? Rudeness? Is He a Racist and a Chauvinist? Silent! Ignoring me while Mercy and Compassion are brushed from the table as crumbs? Is he waiting to see what I will do when faced with the dismissive growls of His followers, those who walk with Him and claim they know Him?

The disciples were concerned that Jesus offended the Pharisees, but are more than willing to send this Gentile away. She is defiled in their eyes like her demonised daughter. The hounds are baying, not realising their own natures resonate more with Pharisaic attitudes than with Jesus. Jesus has already said that it is what issues from the mouth that defiles you, and exposes your heart.

Is Jesus’ silence designed to confront and challenge His disciples with their prejudices? Are they really bothered by a woman in desperate need? Surely He cannot mould a miracle from the smouldering cauldrons of their narrow-mindedness? Is He waiting to test the mettle of any mercy He may find in them? In me?

In those moments of desertion and dismissal when disciples snarl and Jesus remains silent, she is faced with a choice to withdraw and keep her dignity, …. but she refuses to go away. Why would the Lord be in Gentile territory if not to help this woman of persistent faith? At what point will I turn away? Will it be the point just before I am to receive the miracle I need?

Jesus does not let her savour the sweetness of any hope, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” Another door shuts in her face, … yet still she knocks. Still she persists. She comes to Him and worships Him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” But Jesus is also persistent. He responds, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” Did Jesus just call this woman a DOG?

How would I respond? Would I turn away at this point, insulted and hurt. She isn’t disgusted that He is being insensitive or that she is being discriminated against. She isn’t interested in taking Him before the Anti-Discimination Tribunal. She cares more to seek His compassion than to court these words as offensive.

And in that moment she accepts that in His presence she is a dog, … but not a mangy, mongrel, rabid kind of dog; wild and prowling for garbage. She is a small domesticated persistent pet dog begging at the table for morsels of mercy. Even a discarded scrap from Jesus would be enough. Yes, she is more interested in grace than equality. She replies, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their Master’s table” (Matthew 15:27 NLT).

When Jesus leads her to understand who He is and why He has come, she worships Him, trusts in Him, humbles herself before Him. How do I feel about being a dog in Jesus’ presence? “Dear woman,” Jesus says to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed” (Matthew 15:28 NLT). 

James 4:10 (NLT) says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honour.” 

He cuts across my sensitivities. At the extremities of my despair I come to a sure realisation of who I am in the presence of a holy God and that I really don’t deserve anything from Him. Yet in that place of exposure and despair He extends to me His grace, and mercy falls like lifegiving crumbs from His table to bring healing and wholeness to my world. 

Pastor Ross