Posts Tagged ‘Children’

Adult and child

MATTHEW 19:13 – WHY WE BROUGHT OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST TO BE BLESSED

As Christian parents, Julie and I decided to bring our children to Christ to be blessed moments after they were born. I remember clearly in that miracle moment following the births of our children, lifting them up to Christ for His blessing. We still bring our children to be blessed in prayer.

Matthew 19:13 says, “One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so He could lay His hands on them and pray for them.”

What I love is that children were received by Jesus. He was more than willing to take time and pray for them.

At the very beginning of their lives, the spiritual prayers of righteous people are important for their lives. James 5:16 (NLT) says “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

Laying His hands on these children was a way of identifying with them in order to symbolize the bestowal of blessing from God and dedication to God (Genesis 48:14; Numbers 27:23).

As I was reading the POSB commentary recently on this passage, I was prompted to think of the reasons why we bring our children to Christ to be blessed.These six reasons express the deepest prayers I have for my own children, even though they are now adults with children of their own.

 

  1. WE BRING OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST BECAUSE WE BELIEVE THAT CHRIST IS THE ONLY SAVIOUR OF THIS WORLD, not science or technology or medicines as wonderful as they may be.We believe that their only hope in this world is through relationship with Christ. Jesus made it clear. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but through Me” (John14:6).

1 Timothy 2:5 says “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”

We bring our children to Christ because we have personally experienced what it means to become born again into the family of God ourselves and know the reality of Salvation and new life in Him. We want them to be blessed with new life in Christ.

 

  1. WE BRING OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST BECAUSE HE WANTS TO BLESS THEM, then and now. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus says, “Let the children come to Me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”

 

We refuse to allow them to grow up neglected, ignored, by-passed, and pushed aside, given no direction and left to fend for themselves. We care enough to want the best for them, too.

We want them trained up in the ways of God, not squashed by the world’s values by being left unrestrained to express whatever sinful desires they like and indulged to the point of being totally selfish.

Because they belong to God, He wants the best for them. I want so much for them to look outside themselves and acknowledge that they need the help of God for the challenges they face in life. He wants to bless them with guidance.

 

  1. WE BRING OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST SO THAT THEY WILL HAVE GOD’S PERSPECTIVE CONCERNING THEIR IDENTITY AND FUTURE. He knows them better than they know themselves. They are unique and God has a unique destiny and purpose for them. We want them to learn that they are created by God for a purpose and that they make a difference in the world for Christ.

 

  1. WE BRING OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST SO THEY LEARN TO BE PEOPLE OF FAITH IN GOD AND BELIEVE IN HIS WORD, not simply look towards the popular opinions of the media. I don’t want the world and its influences to shape their thinking.

 

The TV and social media might be useful in their lives but I don’t bring them to the TV or computer to be blessed. I believe in helping them to shape their spiritual values and beliefs on what the Bible says. And this will be a blessing.

We want them to grow up with discernment about what is sin and not simply embrace the world’s popular values. We refuse to contribute to them becoming weak spiritually and feeling as if they have to accept anything and everything the world offers. We don’t want to leave them struggling to swim and sink in the cultural assault of a valueless society.

We are not so preoccupied with life that we don’t see our responsibility and the importance of raising our children in the ways of the Lord.

 

  1. WE BRING OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST TO BE BLESSED WITH HIS LOVE: that they know God’s love and learn to love others, which incidentally, is not necessarily accepting the lifestyle choices of others.

 

  1. WE BRING OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST BECAUSE THEY BELONG TO GOD and although He entrusted them to us, we want to acknowledge that they are His, which is why we raise them according to the principles of the Bible.

 

In Isaiah 64:8 (NLT), Isaiah sees a people that have deliberately chosen to be shaped by the world’s values, and he says “Yet You, Lord, are our Father.We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.”

The invitation is that we might bring our children to Christ that they may be crafted with a distinctive identity and future, not in our image but in the design and purpose of God for their lives.May the blessing of the Master Potter uniquely shape the lives of our children with His blessing, to be all they were intended to be.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 18:11 – THE LOST THING

Animated Film by Shaun Tan

Matthew 18:11 – THE LOST THING

Sometimes we discover that not everything fits into the secure boxes in which our perspectives are housed. Our curiosity is not simply drawn to those things that are easily explained but mostly to those things that defy conformity.

The dull colour palette of our everyday existence with signs that seek to direct us away from exploring anything that doesn’t line up, go on the rails, or that challenges the design is different to the unboxed, unfettered and unexplainable world around us, waiting to be explored by those fearless enough to take a step of faith.

In a city signposted, clear and functional, all meaning is predefined and presumed. What if we know we just don’t fit into this world of predetermined answers?

The story of The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan, explores our inner world and is an invitation not to lose that which is extraordinary, creative and fun-loving, that which is beyond explanation. It is an invitation to find a place for the expression and fulfilment of our human spirit, to discover our inner journey. So here are just a few random thoughts on this brilliant story…

YOU WILL NEED THE EYES OF A CHILD TO SEE THE LOST THING

You will need the eyes of a child to see the Lost Thing; to see that part of you that does not belong, does not conform, does not feel at ease or fit in with the surroundings of a world which concerns itself with other matters of limited importance, because it is the trust of a little child that truly understands how to give full expression to your purpose. Only the eyes of a little child can see the Lost Thing.

THE LOST PART OF US NEEDS A PLACE TO BELONG

The Lost thing has tentacles and an iron shell for protection, drawers and doors that contain secrets and at the end of the day, after playful interaction and masterfully innovative projects, it is still there, asking without words, “Where do I really belong?”

THE LOST PART OF YOU CAN NOT BE EXPLAINED

Along the way we try to find people who might know something about our plight, to explain this odd nowhereness feeling we have that no-one really notices. It’s big to us and sometimes friends will try to find the exact answer from a psychological, scientific point of view, identifying the lost part of our life from empirical evidence and careful observation and experimentation, as if there is something wrong with us, but in the end the textbook doesn’t help and they encourage us not to think about it. “Some things are like that,” they say. “You just have to live with it,” and so we don’t mention it again and take our Lostness home with us.

YOU’RE LOSTNESS CAN NOT BE CONTAINED

But it gets in the way at home and so you have to hide your Lostness in the back shed where you go to be alone and feed your thoughts. It’s better when you don’t share this Lost Thing you feel with anyone else. You are kind of happier keeping it to yourself but you know you can’t keep it in the shed forever. It’s too big for the shed. This isn’t the right place for it to find it’s true potential. It really is a dilemma.

It doesn’t belong at home or in the emptiness of beurocracy or places devoid of imagination where people sit in the darkness of disinterest or in the rush of things to do.

THERE IS HOPE

Then comes a still, small voice and you are given a sign of hope. It points you to a long and narrow way through the city to a place you would never know existed unless you are actually looking for it.

You find a door, reach out in faith and turn the key and it whirs and eventually someone opens it up to a wide world that you knew somehow, even with your Lostness, must exist. There is colour. There is creativity and you are in awe. You have found the purpose of the Lost Thing and it belongs here, where you are free to express who you really are. Your life has meaning and purpose. What was lost has been found.

Oh, you can’t enter fully into that place of belonging yet, but that “Found Thing” can. That inner part of you that was lost has finally found a home, a place to express the full realisation of your potential.

And somehow I hear the voice of Jesus gently saying “Don’t ever lose the childlike humility of responding to Me and My purposes for you. I came to give you life and life to the full. The Son of Man came to save that which was lost”

Pastor Ross

Doorway Face in doorway.jpg

 

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© Wings – Image created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:10 – CALLING ALL ANGELS

He contends with constant pressure from the local neighbours to renounce his Christian faith. Yesterday he was threatened by a group of young Muslims who told him he will “regret it” if he does not forsake his belief in Christ.

“I might be expelled from my village. I could be beaten, but Jesus went through it all. If my Lord faced persecution, who am I not to expect the same treatment?” Muhammed is willing to die for his newfound beliefs. (Name changed)

To be a follower of Christ in North Korea, Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Libya and Yemen and many other countries in the world today is dangerous. Christians are abducted, arrested, enslaved, isolated, beaten, tortured, raped and murdered (Open doors).

Jesus is direct to all of us concerning new followers of Christ. “Beware that you don’t look down on (or despise) any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my Heavenly Father” (Matthew 18:10 NLT).  

Jesus: “Take care of my child.”

Angel: “But he is not a child, Lord. He has wrinkles around his eyes and he walks slowly. He has a body that is dying, like all humankind. And his human spirit … Oh, I see what you mean! He IS a child.”

Many people look at Matthew 18:10 and think it is talking about looking down on or despising little children. It is not. I have no doubt that children who have not reached an age of accountability also have angels watching over them, but in the context of Matthew 18, it is clear that this verse is about those who become like little children and who have believed and trusted in Christ.

Jesus: “Yes, he is My child. His spirit has awakened and he has received new birth, and we have all welcomed him into My family. I am assigning you to watch over him and care for his spiritual growth. His neighbours will not be as welcoming.”

“We understand Lord. He has responded to You with a childlike faith as a new follower. Don’t his neighbours realise that if they welcome him, they are welcoming You?”

“No, not yet. They don’t realise that demeaning him and looking down on him is like demeaning and looking down on God Himself. Their consciences have been seared and scar tissue has formed over their hearts” (1 Timothy 4:2). The angels looked horrified. It was incredulous to them that anyone would choose to do this.

Hebrews 1:14 (NLT) makes an amazing statement. “Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.”

Angel: “If someone looks down on and despises this new follower of Yours who has become humbly obedient to Your message, Lord, we will destroy them with the sword of justice!” The angels looked serious but a little unsure.

Jesus: “No. He will be despised and demeaned during his time on earth but he will have an opportunity to be my witness to his persecutors and others will respond to My message. He has My favour and love. You are to guard what is happening to his human spirit. Leave his human will intact and provide opportunities for him to grow as my follower. Use everything he goes through to make him stronger in his faith.”

Angel: “We will care for him, Lord, throughout his life, and witness what it is that You want to do through him.”

In Matthew 18:10, Jesus is saying in effect that God doesn’t look down on or despise new followers of Christ. He invites us strongly to respond to what He is saying. This has implications for those who would persecute, despise or demean those who respond to others who respond to the message of Christ.

Jesus makes it clear that to cause a new follower of Christ to stumble in their faith and lead them to sin by tempting them or despising them is to go against God Himself. Yet He leaves a way open for even the vilest of persecutors to repent and to follow Him.

The Bible indicates that if you have responded to Christ’s invitation and have been humbly obedient in trusting Him, you will be in the presence of God also one day, “… Absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 KJV). You are valued by God. You will one day have free access into His presence and who knows, perhaps meet personally the angelic beings who have guarded your journey.

Pastor Ross

 

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Matthew 18:3-4 – THE BIRTHDAY INVITATION

We were invited to a birthday party recently of a friend who turned 40 (I know, so young). It was wonderful to see all our old (young) friends again and celebrate together.

A Birthday: an anniversary when a person celebrates the miracle of their birth, and for a moment we all have permission to act like children, wearing a party hat and blowing out candles on a cake, with birthday wishes and well wishes, singing the ritual song, giving gifts and celebrating another milestone. So encouraging.

Certain birthdays are milestones conferring particular rights and responsibilities; to be able to marry without parental consent, to vote, to run for elected office, to legally purchase and consume alcohol and tobacco products, to purchase lottery tickets, or to obtain a driver’s license.

The decades are particularly celebrated. 30, 40, 50. Where I work, in the aged Care Facility in Sydney, I think you have to reach 90 or 100 before you come of age. But isn’t it strange that although birthdays are important rites of passage into adulthood, we still revert back to all the childlike rituals to celebrate those rites?

In Matthew 18:3-4 (NLT) 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.”

So, the little child represents someone who humbly responds in obedience to Christ with childlike trust. What would it have been like to follow Christ…

The choice was clear, though difficult. It would go against everything he had been taught to believe. In order to become a follower of Christ I need to reason, think critically, and pray for God’s help, and then be willing to step out in faith like a little child, but when it all comes down to it, there is no sitting on the fence. I must choose, he thought, but already his heart had chosen. The only course for me is to live for Christ each day without compromise, no matter what the circumstances.

The old man walked to the top of the hill and looked out over the mountainous terrain of Israel. There in a secluded place between some large rocks, he felt as vulnerable as a little child. He began to weep and he prayed for the first time to Jesus.

“Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me, for I have sinned against You!” he cried out and in that barren place a deep sense of the presence of God enveloped him and he found himself lying prostrate, crying out that God would spare him. For hours, he remained there interceding until the dark secret places of his heart were completely laid bare before God.

“Oh, God,” he groaned “Release me from the power of my pride and let me serve You. Have mercy upon me and forgive me for I can no longer follow the old ways of living.”

Then it seemed like something broke deep inside with an almost audible ring as the shackles of his heart fell away. For the first time in his life, he felt free of the burdens of his own sin. It all seemed to make sense to him as he raised his hands and his heart towards the heavens that night.

The invitation Christ gives is to become like a little child, no matter what age, and humbly respond in obedience to the call of Christ with childlike trust.

1 John 5 (NLT) says “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God.”

1 Peter 1:24 (NLT) says “For you have been born again, …”

The invitation He gives is a birthday invitation … to your own birthday. You are invited…

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:14-18 – IN THE QUIET MOMENTS WHEN ARGUMENTS NO LONGER MATTER

IN THE QUIET MOMENTS WHEN ARGUMENTS NO LONGER MATTER - Image created by Ross Cochrane.

IN THE QUIET MOMENTS WHEN ARGUMENTS NO LONGER MATTER – Image created by Ross Cochrane.

It is in the silence of the moment when there are no more discordant arguments; where there is a pause in the perpetual warring of words and the clamour of severe speeches. That is the peaceful habitation where trust is born. It is there in the shadow of a simple question where there are no answers or words left to explain away a spark of faith, that a man kneels with great respect and finds his opportunity to believe.

He and his son had gathered with the crowd in anticipation, waiting for the four men to return from the mountain. His purpose is to find answers for his son. But there are some opinions of protest in the crowd, disturbing the mob, a verdict of voices representing themselves with their forbidding arguments and ridicule. They are not interested in the boy but want to find a platform to spread their malicious media; toxic teachers. They have “…an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth” (1 Timothy 6:3-6 NLT).

Every Sunday crowds of people still gather to hear the Word of God over the noise of the week, and still there are the Transcribers of terror in our world who forge their tongues in hell and bring an atmosphere of argument seeking to quench faith. Those who fear them hear them. Their form of truth is upheld by controlling others, and anything to do with Jesus is a threat.

So it happens that a time of incredible worship and miraculous encounters; glorious meetings on the mountain, is followed by a valley of corrupt and godless people arguing over a demonised boy. That will bring you down to earth every time.

But then the crowd becomes aware of Jesus. He speaks and once you hear the voice of Jesus, you are “overwhelmed with awe” (Mark 9:15 NLT). What is it about Jesus that inspires this response? The crowd leaves the arguments with the religious teachers behind and runs to Him (Mark 9:15). He has that kind of influence. “What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asks (Mark 9:16 NLT). The Scribes don’t have an answer.

That’s the moment when the father of the demonised boy broke the embarrassing silence, and kneels before Jesus with just a mustard seed of faith (Luke 9:37-43, Mark 9:14-29, Matthew 17:14). In the quietness of the moment when there is no arguing; in the shadow of Jesus question where there are no answers to interrupt, this father kneels, and prays,

“Lord, have mercy and heal my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I beg You to look at him. He is my only child. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk” (see Luke 9:37-43, Mark 9:14-29 and Matthew 17:15).

Children need parents to bring them to Christ, but how did this child end up with an evil spirit? He suffered greatly. He appears to have Epilepsy. He is plagued physically with an illness but spiritually by a demon. Prone to self-harm and suicide, He tries to burn himself or drown himself. What happens in a little boy’s life to leave him demonised? What was he exposed to? What happened? What kind of experiences and evil indoctrination allowed a demon to have such a foothold?

Jesus seems quite rude as he turns towards the Scribes in the crowd. The Scribes had probably started the argument over healing the boy. They are corrupt, with twisted minds who have distorted the truth with their perverse religious control. Easily impressionable, the boy is probably demonised because of the inculcation during his earliest years of their evil influence. The child stands in their midst and Jesus says, “Bring the boy to me.” So they bring the boy. The further from the Scribes he gets the better.

Jesus said to them, “You faithless and corrupt people, how long must I be with you and put up with you?” (Luke 9:37-43 and Mark 9:14-29 NLT). Jesus doesn’t suffer fools easily. He attracts those with a teachable spirit. He supports those who express a need for God but calls these wicked men for what they are. He could easily have called them crooked serpents; people who have opened themselves up to corruption, instruments of the devil who pave the way for people to be demonised rather than be opened to the miracle of a transformed life of faith in Christ.

Jesus wasn’t impressed with their sinful, arrogant rebellion. The boy was merely a pawn in their midst to stir up a religious dispute, an opportunity to find targets for their threats. Unbelief swaps the blessing of God for an argument. Because it stems from warped thinking, it expresses no mercy to others and is stubborn and unjust. Crosseyed and twisted in their thinking, they pervert the truth. They are wicked in their behaviour and attitudes. They cause irreparable damage in the lives of people and it seems they have wreaked havoc in the life of this little boy.

Jesus rebukes the Scribes just as He rebukes the demon in this little boy. Does justice demand such a rebuke? Yes. Jesus is the only one truly able to deliver such a rebuke. This perverse, malicious group of religious miscreants don’t deserve the favour of God yet instead of fire from heaven they get to witness a miracle. The demon is probably released back into their midst.

Come to think of it, as angry as I get about corrupt and evil people in the world, the Bible says not one of us deserves God’s favour. Only the grace of God can save us. Romans 3:23 (NLT) says “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 6:23 (NLT) says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The invitation is to come to Jesus with a speck of faith in the quiet space when arguments no longer matter and receive the miracle of grace which will transform your life. 

Pastor Ross

Part 6 – Matthew 11:15-19 – WHY DON’T YOU DANCE TO MY TUNE!

Dance To My Tune!

Rome, who is only 1 year old, picked up a plastic spade and began playing it, pretending it was a guitar. It has the right shape. Anything can become a guitar in his hands. He has seen guitars at Church and as he danced he made sounds like he was playing one of the upbeat worship songs. We danced and sang with him. 

Two of my grandsons had come to our house. It was a great time. Super heroes, wrestling matches and Rachel, their Mum and my daughter, reading them stories. 

Sometimes, of course, there can be tears and complaints when the brothers don’t co-operate or participate with their games and they can be very stubborn and insistent, but mostly we laughed and played the afternoon away. 

Sometimes, when the game becomes too demanding, I revert to being an ADULT and Rachel says, “Zion, don’t bother Pa. He doesn’t want to play right now.”  

So when Jesus compares His generation with children playing games I am right there with Him. I know the joys and occasionally the hassles of children and their games. What I notice is that JESUS DOESN’T DANCE TO THE TUNE OF THE RELIGIOUS EXPECTATIONS AROUND HIM.  

Jesus says, “To what can I compare this generation? It is like CHILDREN PLAYING A GAME …. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and YOU DIDN’T DANCE, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’ … But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.” (Matthew 11:16-19 NLT)  

What is Jesus getting at here? In the whole context of the passage, if I was to translate it into our culture I think Jesus is saying something like this… “You want Me to dance to the music you are playing, but you don’t realise that it is WAY OUT OF TUNE. I am waiting for you to ASK ME TO PLAY the music of eternity that was written for you by God Himself. I am waiting for you to dance and sing and live in harmony with Me.” 

I was speaking with a man recently who had been in a near fatal car accident and he said that God didn’t seem to care about His injuries. I asked him if he blamed God and He said something to the effect of “Yes, GOD IS TO BLAME. Why didn’t He intervene when I had that car accident, or when my friend died of cancer? How could He let something like that happen?”  

It’s kind of like this – “JESUS, I PLAYED MY OWN MUSIC. WHY DIDN’T YOU DANCE TO MY TUNE.”  

Some time ago I spoke to a man who intended to divorce his wife and marry another woman he had been seeing. When I pointed out what the Bible says about marriage and divorce he said, “I know what the Bible says but God wouldn’t want me to be unhappy!” What he’s saying is “Jesus, LET ME PLAY THE MUSIC and You dance to it.” When Jesus doesn’t dance to the tune, we get ANGRY. “Why didn’t you save my relationship? Why did you let my friend die? Why do I have to pay the CONSEQUENCES of my own actions and my own sin?”  

THERE’S SOMETHING WAY OUT OF TUNE WITH TELLING THE CREATOR WHAT TO DO WITH HIS WORLD. Maybe I need to dance to His tune instead.  

There’s a hymn that we used to sing that I never really liked. I always thought it was a bit strange, but in this context it makes sense. It is a hymn where Jesus says “I am the LORD OF THE DANCE”“I’ll lead YOU all in the dance…” and that was long before MICHAEL FLATLEY touched the floor with his Irish music and dance production. 

WORSHIP on Sunday was awesome at Hillsong Church. Tears were running down my face as we sang and danced together. Jesus simply says, “I am the LORD OF THE DANCE. Trust Me to know how to play the music of eternity in your life. DANCE TO MY TUNE.” 

God bless you Church as you acknowledge Jesus as LORD OF THE DANCE, today.

Pastor Ross