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

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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

Image © by Ross Cochrane

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23 KJV)

G’day!

It’s great to have you mob (crowd) here today for our Aussie (Australian) Outback Christmas.

You’ll hear a bit of Aussie Lingo here this arvo (Australian language here this afternoon).

You’ll hear a story about the Nativity as it might have happened if it took place in outback Australia.

Jesus, of course, was born in Bethlehem, not in the Never-Never (Outback Australia)

So our story is a bit of a furphy (a made up story) but only concerning the place, not the actual events. The events are all dinki-di from the Bible (The events are all true as told by the Bible).

I won’t earbash you no more (I won’t talk a lot), so lets shake a leg (Let’s get on with it).

 

AN AUSSIE OUTBACK NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

‘Twas the night before Christmas; There wasn’t a sound.

Not a possum was stirring in Bethlehem’s town.

The inn keeper’s table had tucker and beer.

But out in the stable, Mary’s baby was near;

 

If it happened in outback Australia today

On a homestead up North, and so far away

With Goannas and Emus and red dirt and dust

Where cars and machin’ry are covered in rust

Where crocodiles snap and deadly snakes hiss

I’ve got a feeling it might look like this…

 

On a hot Christmas Eve we’d be safe in our beds,

While dreams of pavlova dance round in our heads;

Mum in her nightie, and dad in his shorts,

Would have just settled down to watch TV sports,

 

As the Kangaroos gather out on the plain

And a Kookaburra laughs in the gum tree again

The red dog stops barking. The sky’s pink and blue

We can hear distant sounds of a didgeridoo

 

Then up in the night’s sky a star shines so bright;

Loud voices of praise wake us up with a fright.

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, Davo, Now Bazza, Now, Kylie and Shane!

On Maggie! On Shazza! On, Stevo 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;

They wore 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!

Born of a virgin, God’s only 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 Frankincense, a strange gift to bring

And then there was Myrrh 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 good-on-ya, mates!’

 

AUSSIE OUTBACK CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

HEAVEN – God’s Station and Homestead

I want to take a moment now with my interpreter to spruke on about God’s Station and Homestead in the sky for a while before we say Hooroo. (I want to talk about heaven before we go).

Heaven is not just a place way out beyond the black stump (Heaven is not a place which is far away).

Heaven is not bullamanka (Heaven is not an Imaginary place even beyond the back of Bourke).

It’s God’s Homestead and station for us (It’s God’s home for us)

It’s God’s Chrissie gift (It’s God’s Christmas present)

So let me ask you 2 questions

First of all – Are you sure that when you carkit that you are going to go and live in God’s Homestead? (Are you sure that when you pass away, die, you will be with God in heaven?) Tick this over! (Think about this for a moment)

Secondly – If God were to ask you, “Why should I let you onto My station?” what would you say? (If God asked Why should I let you into My Heaven, what would you say?)

AUSSIE BATTLER – Hard Yakka won’t cut it

You might say, “Well, I’ve been an Aussie Battler all my life (I’ve been a hard trier or struggler all my life). I’ve done some hard yakka (I’ve worked hard). I lived a pretty good life. That should count for something.”

The Bible says, “Getting onto God’s station (into heaven) is a gift, not something you do hard yakka for (heaven is a gift. It is not earned or deserved. No amount of personal effort, good works or religious deeds can earn a place in heaven)

It’s no use having tickets on yourself (It’s not something you can boast or brag about). It doesn’t depend upon you. It is a gift.

We don’t have to pay a brass razoo for it. (We don’t have to pay anything for it. It’s a gift... ..And you are absolutely right – Romans 6:23 in the Bible says “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” and Ephesians 2:8,9 says “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast”)

But let’s not get carried away (distracted). WHY is it that no one can earn their way to Heaven?)

SIN – Making a big Blue with God

Because . . . All of us cobbers have made a serious blue when it comes to obeying God (All of us have sinned, got it wrong, missed the mark with God)

Were all like a mob of sheep that have strayed into the back paddock.

Crickey! (This is serious!) We’ve got Buckley’s of getting ourselves out of the spot where in. (There is no way we can save ourselves – no chance at all. There’s just no way to get to heaven because we’ve blown it, big time). It’s not a matter of saying “She’ll be right mate” because we are not right with God.

However, in spite of us making a big blue with God (in spite of our sins and mistakes) God wasn’t up a gumtree about this (God wasn’t in a quandary about what must be done.)

GOD – True Blue

God doesn’t get Aggro at us, only with our sin (He doesn’t get aggressive or angry at us, only our rebellious ways).

God wants to give us a fair crack of the whip! (God wants to give us a Fair go!) He is loving but He is also just.

God is true-blue and fair-dinkum about judging our sin (God is Pure and honest and keeps His promises about judging our sin)

But He is also ridgy-didge about loving us (God genuinely loves us. Jeremiah 31;3 says “I have loved you with an everlasting love”)

God was keen as mustard to find a way to save us and Jesus was just what the doctor ordered. (God was enthusiastic about saving us and solved our problem for us by sending Jesus.)

CHRIST – God’s Chrissie gift

Without Jesus, we’ve got Buckleys (Without Christ we have no hope, no chance of being saved).

God lobbed in on the earth as an ankle biter, born of the virgin Mary (God became a child, born of a virgin). And that’s Christmas, right?

But there’s more to it than that.

He was a normal bloke except that He lived a perfect life and died for us mob in order to pay a very exe price for us making a blue (He was a normal person who lived a perfect life and died on a Cross and paid an expensive price for our sins)

And He died to purchase a station and homestead for us in Heaven (He died to purchase a place we can call home in heaven).

That’s His Chrissie present (That’s His Christmas gift to you).

Jesus died for us and now being mates with God is a goer (Jesus enables friendship with God to be a reality)

The thing about Jesus is that He will never bail you up (Jesus will never force you accept His gift of eternal life)

You have the choice to give it a burl or knockback Christ’s offer. (You have a choice to believe in Christ or refuse what He is offering you).

FAITH – Avergoyamug

But you would be a dipstick if you didn’t at least consider faith this arvo (It would be foolish not to at least consider having faith in Christ this afternoon).

Faith is like a boomerang. It will turn your life around and bring you back to God. It’s like chucking a u-ey (It’s like making a U-turn back towards God)

So take a Captain Cook and give it a burl (So have a look for yourself and give it a try).

Faith puts us in a good possie for a homestead in heaven. (Faith puts us in an advantageous position to receive eternal life).

You may think what I am saying is a bit iffy (Perhaps you’re a bit doubtful, questioning what I am saying).

But what I am trying to say is avagoyermug (What I am trying to say is “take the risk of faith” and give it a try – the Bible says “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” Acts 16:31).

So let’s have a chin wag with God (Let’s talk to God. Let’s pray)

SINNERS PRAYER – Chin Wag with God

If you have decided to give faith in Christ a go, then Bewdie, Grouse, ripper (If you respond to Christ then Very good, well done, unreal, great, fantastic).

So all that’s left to say is hooroo and have a micky mouse Christmas and good on ya mates! (So goodbye and have an excellent Christmas and God’s richest blessings on you, my friends)

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