Archive for October, 2014

Matthew 17:22-23 – THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY… 

Chains of the Enemy. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

Chains of the Enemy. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” (Arabian Proverb).

Recently (2014) the media has exposed the sinful and cowardly beheadings and crucifixions of innocent people by an extremist Muslim group called Islamic State. These barbaric acts have disgusted the world and the Islamic State has been condemned as the enemy of true freedom. Even previous enemies have formed a coalition to stop their murderous advance.

The Bible associates people who commit such violent acts in the name of any religion as those who have given themselves over to demonic influences. Satan, the Great Enemy (1 Peter 5:8) is described as the Prince of Demons (Matthew 12:24), whose followers pursue his evil ideologies; accusation and blame against others (Revelation 12:10), murder of innocent people (John 8:44), pride in their blasphemous actions (Isaiah 14:12-20), and temptation of others to join them in sin (Genesis 3:1-7). They are fierce (Luke 8:29) and powerful (Ephesians 2:2) but cowardly (James 4:7). They are shrewd and intelligent (2 Corinthians 11:3) but blind, deceived (2 Corinthians 4:4) and ensnared by evil (Genesis 3:1-7). John 8:44 (NLT) calls them the children of their father the devil, who “love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies”.

Jesus tells His disciples that “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of HIS ENEMIES. He will be killed, but on the third day He will be raised from the dead.” And the disciples are filled with grief (Matthew 17:22-23 NLT). They will remember His words at His empty tomb, when angels will draw their attention back to this conversation. In Luke 24:6-8 (NLT) they say “…Remember what He told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of SINFUL MEN and be crucified, and that He would rise again on the third day.” Enemies and Sinful people murder the Messiah.

Was it Judas who betrayed Jesus? Was Jesus really referring to the Jewish nation, the Sanhedrin and the Romans as being His enemies? Afterall their deceit and barbaric acts resemble the Islamic State atrocities.

Romans 5:9-11 (NLT) confronts us with a stark truth! It was not only Judas, Jews and Romans who killed Jesus! The list of murderers is much wider than those who directly sent Him to the Cross. It says “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. …” 

The men who Crucified Jesus were the Romans but it was OUR sin that held the hammer that nailed His hands to the Cross. Judas accepted 30 pieces of silver, but it was OUR sin that greeted Him with a betrayers kiss in the garden. The Romans beat Him and scourged him and abused him, but it was OUR sin that placed the crown of thorns on His head.

It was OUR SIN that brought Him to the Cross. WE were His enemies! WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE! Somehow retrospectively, our sin (that which identifies with Satan’s purposes) caused His death and when He died He died prospectively for that sin. Romans 5:8 (NLT) says “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS.” We were the ones for whom He died, while we were His enemies.

John 1:10-11 (NLT) says “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him. John 3:16-19 (NLT) says “…God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” In John 10:10 (NLT) Jesus says “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy…”

We are all enemies of God, in darkness, associated with evil, betrayers and accusers. All that we despise about the worst of us is exposed by the death of Jesus. Yet Jesus is the only One able to restore purpose to our lives. John 10:10 goes on to say My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 1:12-13 says “But to ALL WHO BELIEVED HIM and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.” John 3:16 (NLT) echoes these words and 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 enemy of my enemy is my friend” (Arabian Proverb). Death was my enemy because Sin was destroying my life. Jesus is the enemy of my enemy and defeated the power of sin and death.  He is the only One who has come to save me and you.

Jesus is the enemy of my enemy and if I choose His invitation to believe in Him, then I am able to see His love for me and respond to Him as friend and Saviour. His invitation is extended to anyone who places their trust in Him. Galatians 2:20 (NLT) says “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” 

Pastor Ross

Advertisements

Matthew 17:14-20 – HOW TO ADJUST YOUR FOCUS

“Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important. Develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out, take another shot.”

Focus. Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge.org, Paint.net, and MorgueFiles.com

Focus. Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge.org, Paint.net, and MorgueFiles.com

Recorded in brilliant failure, Matthew 17:16 is a digital snapshot the disciples would rather have erased from the memory card. The colours are too dark, and there are no finely focused images of a miracle, just the indistinct madness of an ill-conceived attempt. When the disciples can’t cast out a demon from a boy, Jesus tells them that they “don’t have enough FAITH” (Matthew 17:20 NLT). In Mark 9:28-29 (NLT) Jesus adds “This kind can be cast out only by PRAYER.” 

Faith and prayer, like the interplay between field of focus and the aperture, are both needed to obtain the right exposure to God’s light for a healing miracle to occur. The disciples depth of faith was far too shallow, much too close to the Scribes, focused on their arguments, accentuating their negativity and blurring the little boy’s needs into the background.

They had needed more light that day. They did not allow God to adjust the aperture of faith to even the size of a mustard seed to obtain enough light to expose this little boy to the love of Jesus. Their image was far from perfect. 

DEPTH OF FAITH

As Jesus came down from the mountain He framed a different picture of all that was happening in a deep depth of faith. Everything was in focus, the argument with the Scribes, the crowd, the failure of the disciples, the faith of the father and the boy who needed healing. He saw the scene with absolute clarity.

The paparazzi crowd zoomed in on Jesus and away from the negative image of the argument, focusing their lenses on the celebrity of Jesus. The Son is the best light source of all. Rich and warm, His light brings out the best colours in everyone, but also highlights the strong shadows of darkness in the scribes and boy; the demonic shapes, long and sinister. The contrast is striking.

Then darkness suddenly flees as the demon is fully exposed to a blinding flash of light! Abruptly the shadows vanish and the image of a bright little boy appears, alive and well for all to see. The crowd is in awe at the picture of health they see. What had looked obscure and shadowy is now a beautifully balanced image of a boy, correctly exposed to the saving power of Jesus. Miracles are all about light. They marvel in the presence of Jesus, Master of Light and Life.

THE APERTURE (Faith)

Each person is a lens with their own maximum and minimum aperture setting (faith). Jesus invites me to use the widest aperture to let in as much of the light from God’s Word as possible. Otherwise, I will experience an underexposed life. 

ISO SPEED (Inner Sensitivity Opportunity)

At its simplest level, the Faith Aperture is an opening in my perception the size of a mustard seed. When God’s illumination passes through that opening, it shines on a light-sensitive heart that absorbs the light and captures the image of the Son of God within. The ISO speed (the Inner Sensitivity Opportunity) controls the sensitivity of my heart. The higher the ISO speed, the more sensitive the heart is to the light of God’s Word and the message of Christ. As these settings are adjusted to different circumstances I can get clarity and focus for perceiving my world through the eyes of God.

FOCUS AND LENS (Perception) 

Life is all about capturing light. It is received in faith. When I manually seek to control my world some circumstances will be in focus, crisp and clear, while others will be out of focus, blurry and confusing. As I allow the light of Christ to fill my life there are many ways that God automatically allows my perception sensors, through the power of His Holy Spirit, to detect, track and adjust my faith focus in the situations that I face each day. His invitation is to bring light and life and focus to your life.

He moves in closer like a big cat, stepping lightly and with careful intent, zooming in on His subject. He wants to capture every detail, the peppered freckles, the curve of the mouth, the twist of hair in the breeze. 

The intersecting lines of the viewfinder are poised and the autofocus is locked onto His subject. Playing with the early light, the background trees splash soft, subdued nuances of colour upon the scene. And in that split second when everything is resolved, His finger instinctively finds the shutter release and presses. The sound of the shutter sings in the silence, and a split second of time digitally replicates itself, irrevocably remembered and beautiful.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:14-20, Mark 9:14-28: DOES GOD STILL HEAL PEOPLE TODAY?

Praying for Angie

Praying for Angie

She had battled with cancer and won. “No-one could help me. It was just me” she said, “No-one could go through it with me. I had to fight it all by myself. I’d like to have faith in God but I don’t have it and so I did it all alone.” Is it positive thinking that brings healing or how much I pray with faith? In Deuteronomy 32:39 (NLT) God says He is the only One who has the power over life and death and the power to wound and heal “I am the One who kills and gives life; I am the One who wounds and heals; no one can be rescued from My powerful hand” (see also 1 Samuel 2:6; 2 Kings 5:7). Does God still heal the sick today?

Jesus disciples were certainly involved in healing the sick. Back in Matthew 10:8 (NLT) Jesus “gave them AUTHORITY” to go out and Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons.” Seventy two of the wider circle of disciples including the twelve were sent out in Jesus’ Name (with healing ability and authority) and Luke 10:17 (NLT) says “When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to Him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use Your name!””

By Matthew 17:14, nine disciples have arrived at the bottom of a mountain, gather a crowd, and get involved in an argument with the religious leaders, the Scribes, and can’t cast a demon from a boy. They ask Jesus why they failed. He said “YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH” (Matthew 17:20 NLT).

When the disciples were originally sent to heal the sick and cast out demons in Matthew 10:14 (NLT) it says “If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.” Notice, it doesn’t say to STAY AND ARGUE. Negativity is faith-depleting and limits the healing possibilities through faith in Christ. Negativity is doubt-building. Prayer is faith-building.

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus said. They didn’t have enough faith themselves because they were drawn into an argument with the Scribes (Mark 9:14). Bad attitudes kill faith. By the time they tried to heal this boy, a mountain of unbelief stood in the way. It seems they were meant to search for those who would listen and respond in faith to the message of God’s grace, not have their faith dragged down to the level of the arguments of men. Faith doesn’t mix well with scepticism and negativity.

When Jesus arrived, He was faced with a mountain of unbelief. He was looking for that which pleases God in the crowd. He didn’t find it in the Scribes. He didn’t find it in His disciples. He didn’t find it in the crowd. He found it in the mustard-seed-faith of a father and moved a mountain for his son. He wanted to have the faith of the boy’s father involved too. Hebrews 11:6 (NLT) says “…it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.”

God doesn’t want lone-ranger-super-disciples trying to cast out demons. He wants a community inspired to believe for a miracle and in the only One who has come to save them from their sin. The prayer of faith that can remove demons is the kind of faith that can move a mountain of unbelief. Luke 9:43 (NLT) says “Awe gripped the people as they saw this majestic display of God’s power. Everyone was marveling at everything He was doing”. One healing left a crowd of people in awe of what God could do.

Faith is contagious. Mustard seed faith in a Dad moved a range of mountainous difficulties for his son, but also removed the mountainous influence of unbelief. The way we relate to God is by faith. God not only looked for a spark of faith in the father of the boy when He couldn’t find it in the disciples but He invites you and me to have faith in Christ today.

“Does God still heal the sick today?” Wrong question. “Am I willing to trust in Christ, come under His authority, and pray for God’s healing mercy?” Much better.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:19-20 – WHY DON’T I HAVE ENOUGH FAITH?

Mustard Seed Faith

Mustard Seed Faith

Why are some people healed and others not healed? Is it my faith that is deficient? Jesus is asked a similar question by His disciples when they had not been able to heal a little boy. In Matthew 17:19-20 (NLT) they ask “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?” They took the responsibility for it and they were willing to learn.

Jesus goes on to say “YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH. I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

Jesus is clear. YOU don’t have ENOUGH FAITH. No escaping this. They were responsible, and healing the boy was dependent on them having enough faith. They didn’t have it. How can the disciples, who travelled with Jesus and saw so many miracles, not even have mustard seed sized faith? How could their faith be lacking; so scarce, meagre and skimpy; so weak and unequal to the task? What hope do I have? What kind of faith is mustard seed faith?

Whatever kind of faith they had, it didn’t work. Was it faulty faith; flawed and defective? Faith so damaged and inadequate for the task that it couldn’t complete anything it tried; so wanting and insufficient that it did no good?

Jesus faith was overflowing and rich, strong and sufficient to heal the young boy. His was faultless faith, but their faith was band-aid faith at best, cosmetic, feeble faith, impotent to act, incapable of making a difference. Their faith was poor and undernourished, skin and bone faith; anorexic faith. Too weak to be effective? Was it the argument with the Scribes that diseased their faith with sin? Were they in need of healing themselves?

Is faith just optimism draped in impotence? Jesus faith is positive and powerful? Is their faith a bonsai faith, kept small and so stunted that it is inept; dwarfed by the enormity of circumstances that are in need of a miracle? How could this be? Midget faith is not mustard seed faith!

Is faith fatalism wrapped with acquiescence? Someone said “some mountains are moved. Others we just have to climb.” Some things can’t be changed? Jesus faith didn’t accept this. Mustard seed faith is faith that never gives up at the first obstacle. It persists in prayer and trust in God until it sees mountains moved; difficulties decimated, healing realised. Mustard Seed Faith inspires me to persist because it sees heaven’s perfect perspective, and refuses to accept earth’s imperfect problems. Jesus Faith is not dependent on circumstances but circumstances are changed by His faith. He draws on heaven’s resources to change earth’s conditions.

What made the disciples faith try to run on empty? Why was there no spiritual energy left in the tank? Why couldn’t they just gather around in Pentecostal Power and shout until the demon was removed?

For the disciples the dispute with the scribes was a massive stumbling block, the father’s request to cast the demon from his son seemed an enormous mountain. The doubt they experienced was huge. The world was a threatening experience of demons and arguments and a crowd that could be gathering to stone them if they didn’t succeed with a miracle. They were angry, fearful, doubting and helpless.

Jesus appears to be reminding His disciples of an important truth, YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH. YOU don’t have enough, but I have more than enough to go around.” Faith is faith because of Him in whom we believe. Our faith is appropriated through relationship with Christ. It is HIS faith and faithfulness that we draw upon. Even when we appropriate a mustard seed sized portion of faith from Jesus it will still move mountains. We can choose our falling-short, feeble, band-aid, bonsai, low tide, empty tank kind of faith, or choose His all-powerful faithfulness.

He calls us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Not OUR system of perception but His. Look at the world through HIS eyes. I-once-was blind-but-now-I-see faith. Lean-not-on-my-own-understanding faith (Proverbs 3:5). “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” faith (Galatians 2:20 NASB). 

Mustard seed faith perceives my world from God’s viewpoint and uses that perspective to change my world. He invites me to be an instrument of God for change through faith in Him. 

PS Just received a phonecall to visit a lady who is very sick… She was unable to speak, but I shared the message about faith in Christ and she listened as I prayed for God’s healing grace and invited her to place her trust in Him. 

Pastor Ross