Archive for December, 2013

Matthew 16:20 – COUNTING IN A NEW YEAR

Counting in a New Year

Counting in a New Year

In Luke 2:10-11 (NLT) an angel appears to shepherds and says “Don’t be afraid … “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The SAVIOUR—yes, the MESSIAH, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, …!”

These men are the Shepherds who look after the unblemished sheep sacrificed at the Temple in Jerusalem morning and evening. They are aware of what the angel is talking about – the Messiah is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The angel is declaring in effect that Jesus is the culmination of over one hundred prophetic expectations written ages before His birth, all very clear, referring to the Messiah; the Anointed One, the Deliverer, Prophet, Priest, Ruler and Judge. Jesus fulfils these predictions entirely. Uncanny! Unsettling! … especially to the Romans and the Religious leaders.

To the High Priests the message of Jesus as the Messiah (the antidote to certain judgment; the only vessel of salvation), is a toxic prescription. Before His influence goes viral, they decide to kill Him. They’ll ridicule, abuse and bring Jesus to trial as One who blasphemed God. A contaminating message demands extreme countermeasures. Too many countries are still applying such methods. But although Jesus accepts a borrowed manger, He refuses a borrowed grave and rises from the dead.

In Western countries Christianity is quashed in more acceptable ways; the news covers a story about some weirdo with a placards about the end of the world and creepy people with low IQ’s on the extreme fringe of a religious cult or with a mental illness. Jesus is not linked with my scientist friend who has a strong faith in Christ, or a business person or even a Prime Minister, and certainly not with the average person. The message is too toxic.

The message the angels brought has been a little distorted in today’s world. I wonder what they think of us as we react to John Lennon saying he is more popular than Christ but neglect to mention Jesus at Christmas to celebrate His birth (“Have a happy holiday” but not a “merry Christmas”). What do they think of a world where “In God we trust” is written on money, but not in people’s hearts? God bless America but not on His terms. In Australia – prayers in Parliament but not Christ in the classroom. Swear on the Bible in the courtroom but use Christ’s Name as a swearword in the street. Prayerword becomes swearword. Too toxic!

Is Jesus now the silent guest at every table because He makes conversation awkward? Is He the skeleton in the human closet; the One we never mention? Unpalatable to the general public. If only He would remain quiet and not rise from the dead. To a religious atheist; one of the High Priests of humanism, He is still public enemy number one. Judas wasn’t all that impressed with Jesus as the Messiah, either.

The great commission is a shock to our sensibilities. Suddenly Jesus gives us permission to “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” The Good News is that Jesus is the only One who saves us from sin and judgment. The Messiah has come. 

The prophecies are super accurate as each historical event becomes a reckoning and we count off the seconds towards another celebration of a new year. The Messiah is to be a descendent of David; TICK! Born in Bethlehem; TICK! Born of a virgin; He is God with us. TICK! He is a teacher with great authority who will be rejected. TICK! He is to open the eyes of the blind, heal the sick, and raise the dead. TICK! He is to be despised and rejected by His own people, charged falsely, denied justice, and condemned to a violent death. TICK! He is to rise from the dead, ascend to the right hand of God, and be given power and authority. TICK! The predictions line up at a minute to midnight on history’s clock as the seconds count down to when His enemies will be judged and He establishes His own spiritual kingdom, which shall never end … TICK, TICK, TICK

Christmas says that the truth about Jesus makes sense and it is a message that relentlessly refuses to be quashed; “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Acts 16:31 (NLT). Good news that will bring great joy …” Wonderful message for a world where there is still no room in the Inn! The invitation is to make room. Let the back stable, complete with animal trough to which He has been relegated, be transformed; let your heart become His throne room. The Saviour was born that you would find new birth in Him! TICK! “Happy New Year!”

Pastor Ross

AN AUSSIE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS IN THE OUTBACK

Adapted Version by Ross Cochrane (based on Niland and Morrison’s version)

Down to the barn in the old rusty ute

Down to the barn in the old rusty ute

The original poem is brilliant by Niland and Morrison but it spoke about Santa Claus arriving in Australia and mentioned nothing of the birth of Christ, so I have changed it around to include the celebration of Christmas. Hope you like it. What would it have looked like if Christ had been born in outback Australia?

‘Twas the night before Christmas;

There wasn’t a sound.

Not a possum was stirring;

Not even a hound.

The inn keepers table

had tucker and beer.

But out in the stable

Mary’s baby was near;

 

If it happened today we’d be safe in our beds,

While dreams of pavlova danced round in our heads;

Mum in her nightie, and dad in his shorts,

Would have just settled down to watch TV sports,

 

Outside the house

a star had arose;

Loud voices of praise

wake us up from our doze.

We run to the screen door,

peek cautiously out,

Sneek onto the deck,

To find what it’s about.

 

Guess what had woken us

Up from our snooze,

But a whole host of angels

Declaring good news.

And one of them standing

Above a gum tree,

Said the Saviour was born

And told us where He would be.

 

Now, I’m telling the truth-it’s all dinki-di,

Those heavenly angels filled up the sky.

One looked at us kids, his wings were like flames,

And he spoke to us all and called out our names.

‘Now, Kylie! Now, Kirsty!

Now, Shazza and Shane!

On, Kipper! On, Skipper!

On, Bazza and Wayne!

Go to the kitchen

Grab a quick drink,

Scoot down to the barn.

And see what you think!’

 

So down to the barn

In the old rusty ute

With hearts full of wonder,

All of us scoot,

We park by a gum tree

and jump to the ground,

Then in through the window

We all look around.

 

There were drovers and shearers,

A man with a beard.

And His wife had a baby

Whom the workmen revered;

Wearing singlets and shorts

Because of the heat

they took off their hats

and bowed at His feet

 

The baby awoke

And His eyes simply Shone!

His skin was all smooth,

Yes, this was God’s Son!

 

Three Swagmen arrived

From far east of the station

They’d been searching all day

For the King of Salvation

 

A swag full of prezzies

They flung from their backs,

And with everyone looking

they undid their packs.

They spoke not a word,

but bent down on one knee,

And presented their goodies

And gifts. There were three…

 

One brought gold nuggets

A gift for a king

And one brought Him frankinsence

A strange gift to bring

And then there was myrh

From the last one to come,

When he saw us he winked

and he held up his thumb;

 

Then the angels appeared clear out of the blue;

Flung out their wings and prepared to shoot through.

They bellowed out loud as they swooped past the gates –

‘Merry Christmas to all, and goodonya, mates!’

 

Matthew 16:20 – HOW TO START A CONVERSATION WITH JESUS

Conversation - Photo and Image by Ross Cochrane

Conversation – Photo and Image by Ross Cochrane

Walking into the building that morning (some years ago) a couple we did not know greeted us, engaging with us in conversation easily. How pleasing to go away on holidays and return to be welcomed warmly as guests by perfect strangers. They were quite surprised when I spoke to the crowd that morning. They had no idea that I was the Pastor of the Church they had attended for the last month. It was probably better that way. Sometimes a title can be an impediment.

ICEBREAKERS AND INTRODUCTIONS

Imagine what it must have been like for Jesus! How do you start a conversation with Jesus? If you were Jesus what would you say? The normal icebreakers are not going to work ….

“Hello, I’m Mark and I’m a mechanic?” 

“Hi, I’m Jesus, I’m the Messiah, Saviour of the world, the Way, Truth and Life, Deliverer, King of kings and Lord of lords, Son of God, and Light of the world.” 

(Awkward silence) “I see… well, nice meeting You.” 

Perhaps it’s better to let Jesus initiate the conversation. How does Jesus make a memorable first impression? Where do you begin when you are the Saviour of the world and Your purpose for coming is to form genuine trust relationships with others? How can you hope for initial rapport to be created? At least Jesus knows one thing to avoid in starting a conversation…

TITLES AND LABELS

I have read all kinds of reasons why Jesus “sternly warns the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah” (Matthew 16:20 NLT). It’s not that He is unsure of Himself. He’s not shy or embarrassed about who He is. Some say His disciples have a false understanding and He needs more time to teach them what the word Messiah really means. Others say He wants them to wait until the Holy Spirit comes to empower them before sharing who He is. Still others say that it would cause a riot to tell people that He is the Messiah and Jesus wants to avoid confrontation or an uprising. These reasons seem complicated and unnecessary.

The simplest explanation is that Jesus is not interested in titles but in genuine interactions; in starting up a conversation with us where we can get to know Him without any frills. He wants us to come to a knowledge of the truth by meeting us where we are and allowing us to be open with Him. Jesus doesn’t have to try to impress us and He’s not trying to impose Himself on us.

INTEREST AND HUMILITY

Philippians 2:3-5 (NLT) gives great advice in starting a conversation. It says “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. … take an interest in others, too. … have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had … Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God…” (Philippians 2:3-5 NLT) Christmas and the Cross remind us about the humility of Christ as He relates to us.

OPENNESS AND TRUST

So when Jesus “sternly warns the disciples not to tell anyone that He is the Messiah” (Matthew 16:20 NLT) it seems to me that He invites us to come to understand who He is, as Peter did (Matthew 16:13-19), through personal relationship and openness to God, not simply because of a label giving Him status.

Normally you can’t expect miracles to take place in your first interactions with someone new … except when you start a conversation with Jesus.

“So Jesus, I’ve heard a little bit about You. Some people say You are the prophetic voice of our time?” 

“But who do you say that I am?”

Great way to begin! But be warned – starting a conversation with Jesus could end up being a life-changing encounter. I know the traditional rule is that you never start a conversation with people you don’t know well with talk about religion, politics, money, relationships, family problems, health problems, or sex. The risk of offensiveness is way too high. Jesus however will inevitably address all these issues in our lives and more. He’s not afraid to get to the heart of a conversation about troubled lives, estranged relationships, and even sin and death. But far from being awkward, His initial invitation allows us to get to know Him personally and to keep in touch … for eternity. 

Pastor Ross