Archive for May, 2016

IMG_4896© Photo by Ross Cochrane – Rothenburg City Square

Matthew 18:7-9 – SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN ROTHENBURG

IMG_8292.JPG© Photo by Julie Cochrane – Rothenburg Welcome

The yellow flowers growing in the fields heralded our entrance to a quaint, walled medieval city called Rothenburg in Germany. There we found streets untouched by the centuries, ancient doors that led us to fascinating treasures and a garden overlooking a beautiful valley.

IMG_8347.JPG© Photo by Julie Cochrane – Path to a beautiful Park and Garden

Doorway to garden.jpeg© Photo by Ross Cochrane – Doorway through Church into walled garden.

IMG_8342.JPG© Photo by Julie Cochrane – Bella Vista from the walled garden

I climbed the bell tower in the city centre with my brother-in-law, up a long narrow stone and wooden stairway, finally arriving at a small doorway which led to the upper part of the tower. I admired the door with its ancient iron tracery and latches.

Tower of Torture.jpg© Photo by Julie Cochrane – The Bell Tower

Looking forward to the view from the top, my mistake was to look down as I attempted to pass through the passage, the visor of my cap screening the top of the opening. I discovered that the stone in the tower is very unforgiving and despite the unkind remarks later about the tower rocking and the bell ringing, the only thing resounding was my head as I reeled back toward the stairs from which I had ascended.

Bruised and battered and with a bell sized lump on my forehead, I tentatively made my way, somewhat more carefully, to the top, to be confronted with the most amazing view of the township.

IMG_4891© Photo by Ross Cochrane – walkway around top of Bell Tower

© Video by Ross Cochrane – View from Bell Tower

With all its quaint beauty, my thumping headache perhaps should have reminded me of a more sinister past in this Medieval haven. Through a beautiful archway, we came across a wood and iron basket hanging from a lever, a relic from the Torture Museum. Torture was considered to be a legitimate way of extracting confessions, names of accomplices, or the details of a crime or treasonous act against the king.

Torture at Rothenburg May 2016.jpg© Image by Ross Cochrane – Torture Museum

Here in the loveliest of places, even the Church leaders, in an effort to maintain power, decided that any deviation from Church doctrines amounted to treason against the King of kings. And those who search for inconsistencies in the Christian faith are quick to point out the travesties of Biblical thinking these leaders used to justify their own use of torture to extract confessions and even to make people recant their faith in Christ.

IMG_8311.JPG© Photo by Julie Cochrane – A Quaint Village

Apparently Church leaders in Rothenburg somehow justified themselves in ignoring Jesus teaching on loving your enemy. In Matthew 5:43-47 and Luke 6:27 Jesus says, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.” 

Such torture reminds me of the gross images of torment Jesus uses in Matthew 18:7-9, not towards others but in relation to ourselves; “So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet.

And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell (Greek the Gehenna of fire).” 

Sure, Jesus is not being literal but don’t water this down! This is important! Jesus is using graphic hyperbole (obvious and intentional exaggeration). Jesus tells His disciples that humble obedience is essential when you become a follower of Christ and not to be dissuaded by others. He uses language that is forceful and overstated to get His point across.

Did the religious leaders of His time threaten to employ such torturous methods to stop people from believing in Christ? If so, Jesus turns their language around, using the very language of persecution and torture to emphasise how important it is to believe in Him without wavering.

In Matthew 18:7 (NLT) Jesus warns “What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting.” 

He goes on to say that it is better to do the torture on yourself than be tempted to enter eternity without believing in Christ. Better to be rid of actions and behaviours (hands), focus and vision (eyes) and any other course or direction (feet) that would try to tempt you away from trusting in Christ.

In context, temptation to sin is the exact opposite of being humbly obedient and responding to Christ. Anything or anybody who thwarts a person’s response to Christ in humble obedience is tempting them to sin.

Obviously, Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation to deal with temptation to sin. So what is He saying to me and you? He is saying in effect, “Deal with the cause! Focus your attention on the things that would stop you from being humbly obedient to Christ (eyes). Take whatever action is necessary (hands) so that you don’t stumble (feet) in this basic area of belief.”

Wall of Rothenburg 2016.jpg© Photo by Ross Cochrane (Walled Village of Rothenburg)

So does this mean if I am not humbly obedient to Christ then I’ll go to hell? Jesus is simply saying do whatever is necessary! Whatever or whoever tries to stop you from believing in Christ, cut it or them off from your life, because those motivations and people will not be found in eternity.

This is important because the only unforgivable sin is not believing in Christ.

2 Cor. 10:5 says “we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,”

Romans 6:11-13 (NLT) says “So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”

1 John 5:18-21 (NLT) says “… We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and He has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and He is eternal life. Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”

Ross Cochrane

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EAU DE COLOGNE – SOMETHING STINKS IN COLOGNE

The original Eau de Cologne is a spirit-citrus perfume created in Cologne in 1709 by Giovanni Maria Farina (1685–1766). In 1708, Farina wrote to his brother: “I have found a fragrance that reminds me of an Italian spring morning, of mountain daffodils and orange blossoms after the rain”. He named his fragrance Eau de Cologne, in honour of his new hometown. A single vial of this aqua mirabilis (Latin for miracle water) cost half the annual salary of a civil servant.

But something else stinks in Cologne.

The skyline is dominated by an imposing, dark, dirty, sandstone structure, one of the largest Church buildings in the world. We visited the Cathedral in the old part of the city of Cologne today (21st May 2016), begun in 1248 and finally finished in 1880, and constantly being repaired to this day. It remained standing, despite 14 hits by aerial bombs, when the city was decimated by WWII.

Accumulating the pollution of the world around it over the years, Cologne Cathedral is a tortured ugly soul, streaked black on the outside with the residue of war and industry since its medieval history. The sandstone could not withstand the pressure of the water needed to clean it, and the city could not afford the cost of the “bathwater and soap” for such an enormous enterprise.

The only alternative is to replace the offending parts, stone by stone. Some stained glass and damaged sections have been replaced by modern designs and these stand in contrast to the dirt and soot of the years.

As a whole, it stands as a testament to the sins of the world around it absorbed into its structure and it groans babel-like, a giant coal-worker unable to wash itself of the grime accumulated throughout it’s working life. Having gone through the hell of wars it now faces a world gone mad with values and lifestyles that deny the reason for its existence.

Around 20,000 visitors a day look up at her mace-like, contaminated spires. She is another story of degradation, a metaphor of a vestige of humanity standing there with bare, dirty feet, reaching out to God with sin-stained hands, mascara stained face, wanting to shake herself free of grime and collapse in a heap of rubble. But although wars have spared this creature, she is still abused by a miscreant city who continues to impregnate her with filth and use her for its own profit.

Some Cathedrals in Europe are no longer places where a Church meets but have been taken over by the city to operate as Museums, empty relics of the past (We visited a Cathedral in Bruges which had a Michelangelo statue that the city charged 20 euro’s just to look at. The altar was screened off, an unholy of unholies formed for the city’s greed. I wondered what happened to the people of faith who once met here to worship God).

1 Peter 2:4 (NLT) says that God’s Church is far from an empty relic of the past. “You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but He was chosen by God for great honour. And you are living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple.” Not a dead monumental, stained, empty tower, but a living organism responding to what God is building.

Far from the dirt and grime image of Cologne Cathedral, Titus 3:5 (NLT) says, Jesus “… washes away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” He invites us to become a living temple, pure and holy, untainted by the world’s polluting influence.

Ephesians 2:20 (NLT) says “Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself.”

Colossians 2:7 says “… let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

Romans 12:2 (NLT) says, “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” 

Eau de Cologne was believed to ward off Bubonic plague. But even Eau de Cologne cannot ward off the deep-seated stains of sin in our world.

Something stinks in Cologne that needs more than a perfume to fix. John 12:3 gives me hope as Mary pours a costly perfume over Jesus’ feet, wiping His feet with her hair in an expression of trust and hope. The room is filled with the perfume of faith in Christ. Such a fragrance is the worship of those who have become a sweet smelling incense to the Lord as they trust in Christ.

I pray for such a fragrance in Cologne and in my own life, today. Perhaps then we, like Giovanni Maria Farina of old could rephrase his sentiments, “I have found a fragrance that reminds me of worship that is new every morning, of a holy mountain climb in spring, of a stream in the desert and the lilies of the field after the rain”.

Pastor Ross

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

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

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

 

Millstone

Millstone © Ross Cochrane

 

Matthew 18:3-6 – I’VE GOT YOUR BACK! – Jesus

The organisation Open Doors says, “Christian persecution is any hostility experienced from the world as a result of one’s identification as a Christian.”

In our sophisticated and modern world today, these are the estimated statistics … Each month over 300 Christians are killed for their faith, over 200 Churches and properties are destroyed, and over 750 acts of violence are committed against Christians such as beatings, physical torture, confinement, abductions, isolation, rape, arrests and imprisonment, slavery, and child marriages. (Open Doors)

Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. But if you cause one of these little ones WHO TRUSTS IN ME to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:3-6 NLT). 

A Millstone is normally about 18 inches in diameter and 3 inches thick, but Jesus is speaking of one which is much larger, pulled by an animal. Tying a millstone around your neck and being drowned was a method of execution used by the Gentile nations around Israel, the Syrians, Greeks, and Egyptians.

The Romans reserved it only for the worst criminals and Jewish people were particularly repulsed by this. The Jews saw drowning as a symbol of utter destruction and annihilation. They feared it.

So Jesus is saying in effect, If someone becomes a follower of Christ and you cause them to fall into sin, to miss the mark, to induce them not to believe in Me, to go back to the old life, to harm, persecute or seduce them to the point of sin because of the pressure that you apply, then life for you, Jesus says, will not be worth living.

To stop someone from believing is reprehensible in Christ’s eyes. He is using the strongest picture of judgment that He can use for those who would harm new Christians or lead them astray. This shows you how precious a new believer is to Christ. He doesn’t want anything to get in the way of belief in Him.

The disciples would have been shocked by what Jesus was saying. Perhaps you are too. Jesus was saying they needed to turn around, to repent from arguing over who was the greatest when they hadn’t really trusted in Christ completely themselves. They were going in entirely the wrong direction. They were disciples of Jesus but they had things entirely wrong.

It is better to be a humbly obedient child responding to Christ’s call and positioning than to be a proud, disobedient adult dependent only on themselves and seeking after power that means nothing.

As important as it is to pray for those who have responded to Christ in humble obedient faith, it is just as important for us to pray for those who persecute those who have become followers of Christ, that they would repent and be cut free from the millstone that is around their neck and the threat of being drowned in eternal judgment.

Pastor Ross

 

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The Cost © Ross Cochrane 

 

Matthew 18:5-6 – THE COST

Jesus says in Matthew 18:4-6 (NLT) “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on My behalf (Greek: in My Name) is welcoming Me. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. 

Many people look at this verse and think it is talking about treating children well. It is not, although it goes without saying that we should do so. This is not talking about receiving little children in general, but receiving those who become like little children and who have believed and trusted in Christ.

To welcome those who humbly respond in obedience to Christ with a childlike faith as new followers of Christ is like welcoming Christ Himself. Jesus brings equality to a new level when He makes these statements. He says in effect these new Christians represent Me.

The old man could not escape it. It would be a sin not to allow Christ to direct his life.

Becoming a Christian would mean certain ostracism by his family and by his community if it became known. Even Jesus said, “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed” (Matthew 10:21, NLT). This was true in his community when someone responded to Christ.

He had seen it before. Unbelieving family members would become like a cult, applying pressure in the form of psychological and physical abuse. He knew that if he gave his life to Christ he would face the possibility of death, and the certainty of rejection.

“How can you do this?” his wife shouted at him, “What about our children? If you become a Christ-follower, we will all be in danger. I will let the authorities know. I warn you. If you love your family, please don’t do this!”

What will I do now? he thought, l love my family but I also love Christ! How awful it is to be forced to choose between them, and even worse to face being betrayed by my own family, but, deep down, I know that I must follow Christ. The love for my family will never diminish but I must ask, ‘To who do I owe my allegiance?’ And if it is Christ, then I must ask for His help to keep my family from suffering?

In the days to come he would read the words of Jesus in the book of Matthew (10:37, 40 NLT) “If you love your father or mother more than you love Me, you are not worthy of being Mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than Me, you are not worthy of being Mine.”…”Anyone who receives you receives Me, and anyone who receives Me receives the Father who sent Me.”

In Matthew 10:32-33 (NLT) he read, “Everyone who acknowledges Me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before My Father in heaven. But everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:15, 28).

He read of others who were persecuted for becoming Christians in Philippians 1:29 (NLT) “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him.”

Jesus said in Matthew 10:22 (NLT) “And all nations will hate you because you are My followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.” He still longed to have peace with God. Perhaps God would help him bear persecution and rejection!

In Matthew 16:24 (NLT) Jesus said to His disciples, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow Me.” It doesn’t sound all that rewarding, Lord, he thought, but then in John 16:33 (NLT) he read, “Take heart for I have overcome the world”. And in Romans 8:37 he read “I am more than a conqueror in Christ.”

In Matthew 10:39 (NLT) he read how Jesus says “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it.” He thought, The key to handling pressure in my life is not to compromise in terms of my allegiance. It will mean standing firm in my resolve to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and come under His authority and direction no matter what the world throws at me. It will mean finding victory over every circumstance in this life in Him.

The invitation that Christ gives to follow Him will involve a cost. The choice you make will change your life forever.

Pastor Ross