Archive for July, 2013

Matthew 16:8-12 – ENLARGING MY FAITH

WHEN FAITH IS ENLARGED - Photo by Ross Cochrane with FX

WHEN FAITH IS ENLARGED – Photo by Ross Cochrane with FX

What if we could run with immunity, childlike in the midst of such awesome power, between the huge stuttering shocks roaring challenges that need to be heeded; the intense glimpses of cityscape; the jagged shards of light slicing the sky. What if we could dance with defiance to the frantic rhythm of drum crescendos on the rooves and driveways, sing to the sweeping chorus of wind and play with innocent abandon in the rushing waters and the rain. What if we with faith unyielding on the sea could slip over the barriers of dread and walk where others fear to tread.

(by Ross Cochrane).

Philippians 4:13 (NLT) says “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

It intrigues me that Jesus commends a Gentile woman for her “great faith” in Matthew 15:28 but of His own disciples He remarks “YOU HAVE SO LITTLE FAITH” in the very next chapter (Matthew 16:8). Not good for self-esteem! Jesus calls it like it is, but doesn’t leave me there.

1. WHEN I LACK THE NECESSITIES OF LIFE Jesus says “… if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. WHY DO YOU HAVE SO LITTLE FAITH?” (Matthew 6:30 NLT). When I have seen Him feed the 5000 and then find that I am lacking provision Jesus knows my thoughts and says “YOU HAVE SO LITTLE FAITH! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread?” (Matthew 16:8).

2. WHEN I FACE STORMS and the horizon seems suddenly ravenous and growls out a thunderous warning from it’s billowing clouds; when the storm appears on the horizon as a snarling, rabid dog, hungry to fight, it’s nostrils flared as it lunges and bites; when the devil is in the storm and he is already reaching back with his whip ready to lunge at me again and sink the boat; when I look to Jesus but He is asleep, peaceful and undisturbed! (Can’t He at least tarry with me until the storm overtakes me?) In the midst of the storm, that’s when my frantic cries wake Him, and He is positively puzzled as He looks up at my face. He says, “Why are you afraid? YOU HAVE SO LITTLE FAITH!” As if it is up to me!

He hardly notices the wave that is about to swamp us coming up from behind Him … but the sky seemed to gasp as He turns and I hear a sudden guttural roar; the sound of a lion recoiling from a spear; astonished as it penetrates it’s heart. The blood begins to drain from my face as I see for a moment the assurance of Jesus gaze and then the stern censure of His voice as He rebukes the wind and waves, …

… and suddenly all is calm. A chill runs up and down my spine. I am astonished. “Who is this man? Even the winds and waves obey Him!” And that’s when my faith is enlarged.

3. IN THE MIDDLE OF MY DOUBTS AND PRESUMPTIONS (Mt. 14:31); when faith is flickering but I feel the breath of Jesus blowing on the embers; when Jesus is not asleep in the boat but walking on the storm and about to pass me by, that’s when, like Peter, I blurt out “Lord, if it’s really You, tell me to come to You, walking on the water.” And in a moment of worship, split from time, fear of the storm recedes, and I stand in awe of God’s presence. It’s a question of “Where is the safest place to be. In the boat or with Jesus.” That’s when my faith grows.

“Yes, come,” Jesus says. So I step into the unknown, over the side of the boat and walk on the water toward Jesus (Matthew 14:29). At first there is a mixture of doubt and impulsive presumption, but doubt transformed into faith allows me to accomplish the impossible. Impulsive presumption transformed into trust allowed me to be a part of the miracle. I am no longer frantically rowing in circles in the midst of an unresolved storm. “Yes, come”, He says and although it involves a miracle, He gives me the power I need to step out in faith (Matthew 14:29).

That’s when I realise that I am walking on a storm and once again I hear the whistling wind and falter on the waves; I am terrified and begin to sink. “Save me, Lord!” I shout. “YOU HAVE SO LITTLE FAITH,” He says as He takes my hand. “Why did you doubt Me?” In the aftermath of the storm, as I walk with Him through a wondrous array of wildflowers, He reminds me that when I trust more, I sink less, and that’s when my faith is enlarged.

Pastor Ross

YEAST BREAD - Created by Ross Cochrane

YEAST BREAD – Created by Ross Cochrane

Just add a little yeast! Her old gnarled hands are skilled as she kneads the yeast into the dough. She leaves the lump on the table to go about her household chores. A reaction takes place as the yeast begins to convert the sugars into carbon dioxide. The dough begins to expand and form tiny bubbles and gas pockets. Distorted formations begin to balloon from the dough. 

Bread Rising (Timelapsed) by Micaël Reynaud, YouTube

By the time she has returned the dough has risen. She breaks it into pieces to form each loaf, leaving them to rise again. The yeast will die when she bakes the bread but the air pockets will remain. I can smell the tantalising aroma of fresh bread filling the room and wafting on the morning breeze.

Just add yeast! When I add my rules and regulations to God’s intentions for my life; my rituals, habits and observances and hold myself and others to certain religious, intellectual or philosophical constraints and I have an inflated distortion of God’s truth; a life that appears larger but has no real substance; a life that lacks the freedom of the Holy Spirit, with an aroma that is alluring, tempting me with it’s cheap grace, then what I have added dies on the inside.

Just add the yeast! When I try to use my good behaviour as a means of being acceptable to God; a religion of good works, of social respectability; a “do-it-yourself” salvation. When I have an air of self-righteousness that permeates the loaf and folds in upon itself, as self-reliance rises above my dependence upon God; an external religion with no need for a personal relationship with Christ, just empty strivings; then I am blowing up a coloured balloon until it bursts.

When I add to God’s Word anything that neutralises the central message of God’s grace; anything that rejects Christ (the “Bread of Life”) dying for our sins and His work alone on the Cross in bringing us the gift of eternal life, I am using the “YEAST OF THE PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES”.

Romans 10:3-4 says “For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with Himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who BELIEVE in Him are made right with God.” 

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT) says “God saved you by His grace when you BELIEVED. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a GIFT from God. Salvation is NOT A REWARD FOR THE GOOD THINGS WE HAVE DONE, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”

The yeast of the Pharisees will never satisfy once I have tasted the bread of life. My service is a by-product not the catalyst of my salvation!

Christ is enough for me. No need for yeast when Christ is present in your life and when He is Lord of your life. He transforms, reforms and gives us the perspective and the direction we need to live life to the full, a life of substance, not a life that simply looks larger but is filled with air pockets. A beautiful song was recently released by our Church (Hillsong Church) written by Reuben Morgan. It expresses that Christ is enough.

The invitation is to acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that He alone died for your sins and offers you eternal life and to believe in Him, trusting in Him alone for salvation and fullness of life. We don’t serve to get saved by Him. But when we are saved, we get to serve Him and live a life of substance. 

Pastor Ross

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These are the hands of Alf Bourne, a 97 year old volunteer Chaplain. Photo by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

These are the hands of Alf Bourne, a 97 year old volunteer Chaplain. Photo by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

In the quietness of the morning, I hear a gentle knock on my office door and I am greeted by the smile of an old man in his late 90’s standing there with a walking stick, excited to tell me about the people he has visited through the week. A volunteer Chaplain of Chaplains, Alf Bourne has a quiet confidence and infectious enthusiasm that is disarming and charming, a gentleman who is both sensitive and engaging in his visits. We speak about Margo (not her real name), a woman in palliative care, who normally will have nothing to do with Chaplains or anything “religious”. She immediately warms to Alf’s visits, however. He has built up a friendship over the last 8 years sharing his faith only when invited. She had a dream of hell some years ago and called Alf to tell her about belief in Jesus. She prayed with Alf, inviting Christ into her life for the first time. Now she confides that all she wants to do is go up (she looks toward heaven) and as Alf holds her hand he speaks about that time when there will be no more pain, or crying, or tears and she will meet Jesus with a smile. He makes her smile despite her physical distress and he prays with her.

It is now Sunday. Alf has been playing the organ for the Church service in Dorothy Henderson Lodge and after it is finished we attend the service in the Shalom Centre. He greets each person after the services, smiling and laughing with them. We decide it would be good to visit Margo again but when we arrive the curtain is drawn. Margo has already stepped into eternity with Christ earlier that morning. There are tears in Alf’s eyes as we pray for the grieving family and a deep-seated joy in his heart at having played an important role in Margo’s life. He will miss her. He tells me that if he was not involved in Chaplaincy work, then his life would have been shortened long ago.

Alf tells me that he will go to renew his driving license in another year or so, when he is 99. His driving instructor told him last time that he was an excellent driver. He uses his car mainly to visit people in Ryde hospital. Two residents recently appreciated his visit and time of prayer with them.

He needs a little more help now, so he moved up from Wilandra village and now resides in Dorothy Henderson Lodge. As people enter Dorothy Henderson Lodge Alf makes them feel welcome. He says grace at meal times, visiting people on site regularly. What would I do without this extraordinary man on my team of volunteers? I am grateful to God for however long I have the privilege of his friendship and blessed by the wealth of experience he brings to my life and the lives of countless others whom he has touched with the respect, care and faith he shares.

Additional Note. On the 25th October 2015 Alf turned 100 years old. He has been looking forward to this celebration. He is my assistant Chaplain and insists on introducing me his senior Chaplain. He is my mentor, much-loved friend and outstanding colleague. I have drawn his picture below using a lead pencil and watercolour pencils. When he saw it, he thought he was looking old. I had to remind him that he is.

Alf Bourne

Matthew 16:5-12 – BEWARE OF THUMP-BACK WHALES AND STREET SHARKS!

AND THIS IS ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS? Photo by Ross Cochrane using effects with iPad apps and Filter Forge and Paint.net

THE THUMP-BACK WHALE. THIS IS ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS? Photo by Ross Cochrane using effects with iPad apps, Filter Forge and Paint.net

It has small beady eyes, a huge gruesome head bearing shark-like teeth and body of a muscled figure with large fists. My grandson tells me that he is one of the good guys but I can’t see how. I know, it’s just a small toy in an armoury of monsters, but I have to laugh as it bites at my memory and reminds me of various people I have known; perhaps a genre of people; various political figures and dominant power-hungry people; puffed up with pride, biting away at anyone who threatened to relieve them of power, determined to win petty and worthless causes at all costs.

Matthew 16:5-7 (NLT) says “Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any bread. “Watch out!” Jesus warns them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees (and Herod)… At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread.”

When Jesus speaks of the “YEAST of the Pharisees and Sadducees” and of king Herod in Matthew 16:6 and Mark 8:15 He is warning us. Yeast causes bread to ferment, enlarging and lightening it with swelling air pockets of gaseous matter. The religious pride and hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees and the dirty politics of Herod is expressed in hot air; no real substance, just a pervading influence like yeast. Gas bags! Poisonous, toxic gas bags! Religion and Politics; a hazardous mixture of hot air at the best of times, often polluting and blinding the minds of the people to the message of salvation found only in Christ. What use is Politics and religion if it falls short of God’s intentions for my life?

STREET SHARK - BIG HEAD, SHARK-LIKE TEETH AND FISTS. Another good guy?

STREET SHARK – BIG HEAD, SHARK-LIKE TEETH AND FISTS. Another good guy?

Shark-like they seek to encircle Jesus and bear their teeth with fists ready for a fight to maintain their dominance. Street Sharks and Thumpback Whales. Jesus spends little time with them and crosses the lake to those who are more willing to respond to His lifechanging presence.

His disciples don’t understand. They have tasted forbidden leaven. Orthodox Jews are careful not to buy bread made by Gentiles. It’s not clean if touched by a Gentile! The leaven (yeast) of the Gentiles infects everything around it. So His disciples are astonished that Jesus would say don’t buy bread from the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of the day! Surely the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees would be Kosher.

Then Jesus says something that makes me wonder. Matthew 16:9,10 (NLT) says “Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up?”  

Notice Jesus mentions both miracles. They participated in the miracle of provision, yet they don’t get it. They left the Pharisees and Sadducees behind in the wake of feeding well over 9000 people. But it’s the leftovers that interest me. Why the leftovers? Was it because the Pharisees and Sadducees and others refused to eat their portion? Jesus provided but they refused? The miracle of the leftovers alone should have been sign enough for the Pharisees. Interesting thought. One thing is sure – their rejection was like yeast.

They refused the bread and fish. Jesus refuses them. They were wary of the bread of Life. Jesus says beware of their teaching. Be less concerned with bread and more concerned with leaven. Be less aware of what I lack and beware of taking on what I don’t need for my life; those deceptive cultural, religious, intellectual, philosophical, scientific and political attitudes to feed my ego but not my soul. Beware of what feeds my self-image but leaves me less Christlike and starving for spiritual truth. Beware of Street Sharks and Thumpback Whales!.. well, you know what I mean; the yeast of an empty life without Christ.

In John 6:31-41 (NLT) Jesus says, “…The TRUE BREAD of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” … Jesus says, “I am the BREAD OF LIFE. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty…. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent Me, not to do My own will… For it is My Father’s will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” 

Pastor Ross

P.S. Don’t forget to purchase a copy of Above the Storm, my new e-book on the ancient book of Job, full of short stories to help you understand some deep truths. This is a creative exploration of Job. You will not read another commentary like it. All royalties for the e-book, if any, will go to Hope Street in Sydney, Australia.