Posts Tagged ‘Beauty’

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

Advertisements

Genesis 29:21-35 – CAUGHT IN A TRAP! I CAN’T WALK OUT!

Caught in a Trap - Photo by Ross Cochrane

Caught in a Trap – Photo by Ross Cochrane

“What have you done to me?” Jacob rages at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?” 

Treating Rachel as a commodity to be worked for, a mail order bride on lay-buy for 7 years, he is surprised when he receives the wrong package. Perhaps he had celebrated with just a little too much wine at the wedding feast but “that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her” (Genesis 29:23).

How do you confuse Leah for Rachel, even in the dark. They obviously don’t talk? Or is it that in 7 years Jacob really doesn’t get to know Rachel except for her “beautiful figure and a lovely face” (Genesis 29:17).

Has her father forced Leah to say nothing? Surely Leah could talk, but to do so will lead to Laban being embarrassed by his guests and by the community. Retribution for her will be swift and perhaps brutal. Leah will never escape the life she lives with her greedy father unless she marries this man who will one day inherit a double portion of Isaac’s wealth and take her away. After 7 years she knows Jacob to be a hardworking man and it seems she has fallen in love with him. When she bears him children, she laments that he does not love her. Caught in a trap. She can’t walk out.

Jacob the deceiver is deceived. By pretending to be Rachel, Leah was inadvertently treating Jacob in the same way he had treated his father. As Jacob had pretended to be Esau to obtain his birthright and blessing, now Leah pretends to be Rachel to obtain freedom from Laban. He reaps what he sows. What he expected to be his dream life is rapidly becoming his nightmare. Caught in a trap. He can’t walk out.

Discovering he is married to the wrong woman makes him feel like an old fool, but there is nothing Jacob can do about it, … except to marry Rachel as well. It seems bigamy is an acceptable practice in Haran. He receives Rachel a week later after an agreement with Laban to work another 7 years for her.

Was Leah God’s choice for Jacob in marriage? We are not told. Jacob only sees that Rachel has a beautiful face and figure. Does God approve of this second marriage? No statement of judgment is given, but it is interesting that He gives children to Leah and not Rachel.

The Lord sees that Leah is unloved, but why does He decide to take sides in this matter? Jacob prefers Rachel. Is it that the Lord prefers Leah? Is it only because Leah is hated that He blesses her with children or is there more to it than that? (Genesis 29:31). Perhaps it is also that Leah is a woman of faith and Rachel is yet to believe in the Lord. Jesus would come through a line of believers.

Leah expresses her belief in God through the names of her children, Reuben, Simeon, Levi. She is grateful for children because she is miserable in her marriage. Each time she has a child she expresses her desire to be loved and says, in effect “The Lord has noticed my misery. I am unloved, but now my husband will love me” (Genesis 29:32-34 NLT). We all want to be loved. Many life-lessons unfold in the years to come.

When she names her fourth son Judah (“praise to Jehovah”) she seems to have come to a place where she is content to simply trust in Jehovah, God of the Covenant, to work out His purposes in her life. From Judah the Saviour will come and the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be fulfilled.

God is Leah’s marriage counsellor and she finds her strength in Him. When our heartaches collide with His purposes, soap operas are transformed into stories of salvation as we learn to trust in Christ. 

Pastor Ross

Image adapted by Ross Cochrane from MorgueFile Photo

Image adapted by Ross Cochrane from MorgueFile Photo

Spider and Trap - Photo by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Trap – Photo by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Dining Table - Photograph by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Dining Table – Photograph by Ross Cochrane

 

Genesis 24 – HOW TO FIND AND BE THE RIGHT PERSON – Part 5.

Cross = Love

Both have beautiful jewelry, except that one has a sapphire ring on her finger and the other wears a nose ring. One woman arrives to her wedding in a limousine. The other on a camel. One veils her face as she walks the aisle of a huge Church building to her husband whom she has known for 8 years. The other veils her face when she meets her husband for the first time.

Kate Middleton and Rebekah are both beautiful women but what is it that sets Rebekah apart? Perhaps it is that although Kate marries prince William, who in the future will be crowned the king of England, Rebekah marries Isaac from whom will come Jesus, who in the future will be acknowledged as the Prince of Peace and King of Kings.

Genesis 24 brings us to the outskirts of the city of Nahor. A stranger goes to one of the local wells. He knows that this is the local gathering place for the women of the city as they will come to collect water for their households in the cool of the evening. He rests the camels by the well and prays. Abraham has sent this trusted servant to find a wife for Isaac. But the question is “Who is right for Isaac?”

How is he going to find the right girl? He prays a simple, straight forward prayer for a clear sign to lead him. Matthew 21:22 (NLT) says “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” What CHARACTERISTICS would you be praying for? In the musical “Annie, Get Your Gun”, the lead sings a song called “The Girl That I Marry” and lists off a series of characteristics. What would you sing about concerning a girl for Isaac? Or perhaps for you?

The servant prays that the girl who is right for Isaac will be the girl who comes to the well and gives the servant water to drink at his request, and then shows extra consideration over and above that. She will suggest watering the rest of his camels, which is an enormous amount of work. (Apparently a thirsty camel can drink up to forty gallons of water, and there are ten camels!) This is a big ask. It will take some hours of her time. But it will solve two problems for the servant. A girl like this has to be right for Isaac, and he’ll have his “limousines” looked after in the process.

In the cool evening air she comes with no idea of how her life is to change. Rebekah must have sensed the presence of an angel as she arrives because God answers the servants prayer immediately. As far as she knows she is here to fill her clay jug with water and take it back to her household. The urgency to be first on the scene to draw water did not come from the whining commands of her mother but from the inner RESPONSIBILITY she feels to contribute to the needs of her family. Genesis 24:16 says “Rebekah was very BEAUTIFUL and OLD ENOUGH TO BE MARRIED, but she was STILL A VIRGIN. She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came up again.”

The servant makes his request for water and watches to see if this is the right girl. Her beautiful eyes glance briefly into his with curiosity and she is careful to show him courtesy and respect. “Yes, my lord,” she answers, “have a drink.” CONFIDENT, WARM, FRIENDLY.

And then, as if compelled by an angel, this young woman, who knows what it means to carry a heavy pitcher of water back and forth from the well, immediately offers to draw water for all his camels. She adds the words “until they have finished drinking.” The servant is thinking “God answers my prayers even before I have finished asking.”

There is no reluctance in the melody of her voice as she makes this man she has never met before feel valued. SERVANT HEART to servant, Rebekah recognises opportunity to invest her time to help others (and get a workout at the same time). The INITIATIVE and RESPONSIBILITY she takes is a good deal for Abraham’s servant. He just stands there and watches.

Blessing so often comes when I take initiative and work hard in the everyday things of life without the expectation of reward. I see in Rebekah that she is a person who doesn’t live just to satisfy her own needs or just the needs of her family. She goes the EXTRA MILE. When you know God personally you will CARE FOR OTHERS. You seek to go a step further. She looks beyond what people want to what they need. She is THOUGHTFUL and CONSIDERATE and looks for ways to make life better for others. SELFLESS. She sees the chance to be GENEROUS and takes it. She is so much like my wife Julie.

Although she didn’t do the work expecting to get paid for it Rebekah is given some valuable jewellery in return for her help. This is the principle of sowing and reaping. Luke 6:38 (NLT) says “Give, and you will receive.” She gives over and above what is expected and she will also receive over and above what she expects – a husband. She may not realise it but she has just stepped into the purposes of God.

The invitation today is to be willing to go the extra mile without thinking “what’s in it for me?” Jesus knew what it meant to go the extra mile for us and die for our sins to bring us the water of eternal life. May God bless you in the random-acts-of-kindness opportunities that He brings along your way today. They could answer someone’s prayer and end up changing your life forever if you are willing to step into the purposes of God. We are blessed to be a blessing.

Pastor Ross

Part 3 – Genesis 20:1-18 – LIE LIKE THE DEVIL OR…?

Lie like the devil or ….?

She is 90 years old, and BEAUTIFUL. SARAH catches your attention. The perfect Hollywood star, aging gracefully and looking years younger without the use of LIPOSUCTION, HAIR COLOURING, BREAST IMPLANTS, FACELIFTS and all the rest, Sarah doesn’t even WEAR MAKE-UP. She does do a lot of walking, however, and without the use of a WALKING FRAME

Perhaps that’s the secret – SARAH’S BEAUTY REGIME – walk for miles in a desert climate. Now there’s a good tip for those who want to preserve their beauty as they age – go to Gerar … on foot – DESERT MARATHONS (Genesis 20:1). 

Abraham and Sarah are the original GREY NOMADS. They take a caravan and travel. You’ve got to be careful about caravan parks. There are some pretty rough characters around and Abraham is afraid of lawless places. I was speaking to some people from South Africa some time ago and they say that it can be dangerous to live in parts of Johannesburg, especially if you have money. People do a lot to protect themselves. BARBED WIRE, ALARM SYSTEMS AND GUNS. 

Abraham thinks people will see he is married to a 90 year old BEAUTY QUEEN and they will kill him in order to take Sarah. The fear is real. The reasoning that results from it is a little TWISTED. But fear begets defence mechanisms and so Abraham LIES to everyone, saying that Sarah is his SISTER. I don’t know how this PROTECTS SARAH who is probably pregnant at this time! 

IS IT EVER OK TO LIE? WHAT IF YOUR LIFE IS IN DANGER? One little white lie about Sarah being his sister surely isn’t going to make a difference. It could even help God look after him. NOT! 

All Abraham was interested in was saving his own neck, it seems. It’s interesting to follow the consequences when we use the devil’s tactics. What are the CONSEQUENCES of telling this lie? 

1. The first consequence is that it ENDANGERED ABRAHAM’S RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. My sin becomes a SUBSTITUTION FOR MY TRUST in God. Abraham trusted in a lie rather than in God. 

2. HIS SIN ENDANGERS SARAH’S LIFE. My sin can endanger my FAMILY. ABIMELECH, who is the king in this territory, innocently takes Sarah into his HAREM. He’s probably not so much interested in a 90 year beauty queen. He is probably more interested in forming a BUSINESS ALLIANCE with Abraham. After all, Abraham is a rich man. Abraham thought he could control things as a brother but it all got out of hand and endangered his family. 

3. The third consequence of Abraham’s sin is that ABIMELECH’S LIFE IS ENDANGERED. My sin not only endangers my family but also others in my sphere of influence, leading them inadvertently into sin. God speaks to Abimelech in a dream and says that he is a DEAD MAN. 

4. The fourth consequence is THE FUTURE OF ABIMELECH’S FAMILY IS ENDANGERED. GOD CAUSES INFERTILITY IN ALL THE WOMEN. My sin has an affect on FUTURE GENERATIONS. Genesis 20:18 (NLT) says “For the Lord had caused all the women to be INFERTILE because of what happened with Abraham’s wife, Sarah.” 

5. The fifth consequence is that Abraham GIVES A BAD EXAMPLE OF WHAT A BELIEVER IS. My sin is a bad witness to those around me. Abraham finds himself on the end of ABIMELECH’S REBUKE and rightly so. 

While Abimelech is giving Abraham a tongue lashing, Abraham has to make A CHOICE – what do you do when you’re exposed for a fraud? LIE LIKE THE DEVIL … OR TRUST IN GOD? 

John 8:44 (NLT) says “.. the devil, … 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.” 

The consequences of this story is an invitation for you to place your TRUST in the GOD who CANNOT LIE (Titus 1:2), to TRUST IN JESUS CHRIST who is the way, the TRUTH and the life (John 14:6) and to TRUST in the HOLY SPIRIT to lead you into all TRUTH (John 16:13). God’s Word is the WORD OF TRUTH (2 Timothy 2:15). 

Pastor Ross