Posts Tagged ‘Church’

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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 Some stained glass and damaged sections have been replaced by modern designs and these stand in contrast to the dirt and soot of the years.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

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Matthew 16:16-18 – WHEN RUINS COME TO LIFE

Cornerstone - Image by Ross Cochrane

Cornerstone – Image by Ross Cochrane

I regret not taking one of the bricks that day. My overwhelming sense of loss wanted to restore the scattered remnants of lost history. Somewhere deep inside was a sob for a dog and butterflies in spring, scented bushes and silkworms, an old copper full of hot water for the bath, a clothesline and a rusting corrugated iron toolshed, but most of all for the old cottage that held such memories in context. They were all cleared away the next time I came, as if it had all meant nothing, and an apartment block stood in the place of my childhood home. It was time for my life to be built on surer things, for my identity to be found upon a more stable foundation. Time for dreams to mature into destiny.

It is as if my life was one of the lost stones, scattered across the earth, not knowing my purpose in the scheme of things, until Christ began looking through the rubble.

It is the declaration Peter makes about who Jesus is (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”) upon which Christ begins to construct His Church. But it is also the declaration Jesus makes of who Peter is (“…you are Peter, which means ‘rock’”), upon which He will build. Peter found his own identity that day in words that have reverberated from the pages of the Bible ever since. “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” (Matthew 16:16-18).

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NLT) says “Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself. We are carefully joined together in Him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through Him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by His Spirit.” 

Peter the Apostle, squaring his life to Christ, was a stone in the foundations of the Church at Pentecost. Peter’s teaching and preaching of the Truth of God’s Word and the miraculous signs and wonders that followed his ministry were building blocks. In Acts 2:42-43 (NLT) it says “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.” Peter was an instrument through whom Christ was revealing His truth, and building His Church.

Years passed and somewhere in the scattered ruins of a world gone wrong Christ reached down to touch a peculiar shaped stone from some forgotten, bulldozed cottage. That day He chose me and I found my identity in Him. All followers of Christ are picked from the broken bricks of abandoned sites and mosaic-like arranged to fit; chosen in Christ to reflect something of the architectural beauty of His life; a magnificent expression of faith. Peter himself declares this in 1 Peter 2:5-8 (NLT) when he says “… you are living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple …” 

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:9-17 (NLT) echoes these thoughts “… You are God’s building.   Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful.   For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ … Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?   God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

The invitation is for our lives to be built on surer things; for our identity to be found upon a more stable foundation; for dreams to mature into destiny; for scattered ruins to be restored in Christ, touched with eternity, infused with His life and divine intention, a magnificent expression of faith. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:13-20 – THE ROCK WITH A HEARTBEAT

ROCK WITH A HEARTBEAT - Image created by Ross Cochrane

ROCK WITH A HEARTBEAT – Image created by Ross Cochrane

My Dad’s nickname for me was Rock. I don’t know why. Rocky Balboa? Rocks in my head? Rock-n-Roll? Rock of Gibraltar? Alcatraz? Just a term of affection? Perhaps it was because I collected interesting looking rocks, old keys and other objects of interest and put them in my desk drawer? It weighed a ton. I didn’t like the name Rock much, but it was his name for me and I had to live with it. 

If Jesus had said to me, like once He said to Peter, “You are Peter (which means Rock) and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven” I would have been more interested and my curiosity for old keys might have taken on a new dimension (Matthew 16:18-19).

What did Jesus mean that His Church would be built on this rock, set up in a hostile environment to prevail against the gates of hell?

Jesus is normally spoken of as the cornerstone, the rock of ages, the stone that the builders rejected, but not in Matthew 16:18. Here, He is the BUILDER. Jesus, son of a carpenter, still wants to build something incredibly creative and innovative but now from people’s lives. Peter calls Him the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Life is found in His Name. Reliable, strong, dependable, solid, yet with the heartbeat of God. Living stones.

Peter is the GATEKEEPER and he is given the KEYS of the Kingdom of Heaven. He is able to lock or open the door in terms of heaven’s authority on earth. Keys are a symbol of that authority. Peter will go on to release heaven’s authority on earth through his teaching about who Christ is, especially on the day of Pentecost. He is also used to write some of the divinely inspired scriptures called the New Testament and exercise the authority of heaven through his gift of healing. Jesus says his name means stone (Petros) but the structure upon which Christ will build is a large solid shelf of rock (Petra). A stone is only a tiny reflection of such a rock.

Peter has just made the strong confession; “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Our words about who Christ is are the foundational superstructure of solid rock on which the organic architecture and landscape of the Church are built. For those who know Christ, such words are our motto; our rallying cry; our declaration of faith, our foundation rock shelf. Peter’s name reflects his confession of Christ. I’m warming up to Dad’s nickname.

Many today still make the same definitive, unequivocal declaration of who Christ is that Peter made so long ago. The Church refers to followers of Christ; explorers of the extraordinary; adventurers into mysteries. Literally it means “Called out ones” (Ekklesia). Called out for the greatest purpose on earth.

The declaration of Christ is that the gates of hell (Hades, death) that have held you back from giving your life to Christ will be battered down as you acknowledge Christ as the Son of the Living God and allow Him to breathe life into your soul. Like Peter, you become a living stone, a stepping stone of life, called out to be placed upon the foundation of the life-giving Christ and used to build the masterpiece of God, His prevailing Church. 

This organic, sculptural, architectural creation called His Church is Christ’s magnum opus, and somewhere among the millions of living stones that He has collected to form such a masterwork as this is me! How amazing is that! Perhaps my Dad was right, afterall. 

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 16:13-19 – S.W.A.T – PARABLE

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail! - Picture created by Ross Cochrane

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail! – Picture created by Ross Cochrane

Standing on a precipitous rock, at least a thousand feet above the valley, He could see the smouldering fires of the fortress, the towering spires rising above the early morning mist and warning of the malice within it’s walls. Captain Joshua Davidson could almost smell the evil stench emanating from this edifice built in the pit of hell and from this vantage point He could just make out the top of the massive gates. Somewhere, beyond those walls, inside the wandering corridors and immense chambers they would be waiting. Nothing would delay Him or distract Him from this high risk operation. He had everything necessary; specialised equipment, tactics and utmost precision but most of all the sure expectation of success.

Joshua Davidson was born to lead a team such as this. Known as the Builder He had first conceived the idea of forming a specially trained and equipped unit when the need arose to manage critical situations involving hostages. The commander in chief, His Father, had approved the idea, and He formed a small select group of volunteer officers. His SWAT unit (Spiritual Warfare Assault Team) initially consisted of 12 men. Their mandate: “To set the captives free!” (Luke 4:18). They were given special status and benefits, and attended specialist training sessions. Blessed with highly-developed resources (Ephesians 1:3) and totally committed to their Leader, these men were willing to obey without question and risk their lives in this rescue mission. Their motto and catch cry; the Rock solid foundational statement by which they lived: “We serve Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Their code-name was Ekklesia”; the Church; called out ones (Matthew 16:18).

Once prisoners themselves and now trained for hostage rescue, His team secured the ropes and rapelled down the rock face in silence towards their target. They were exposed at first but moved fast and avoided coming under fire from the heavily armed forces on the parapets. Soon the mist and darkness below provided them with the cover they needed to arrange their equipment with practised precision.

Within seconds and in unison the SWAT team moved relentlessly and silently towards the armoured and barred gates. To breach the doors quickly, Peter, a specialist Gatekeeper, used an explosive charge and a small hand held battering ram with percussive shocks called the Key. The lock and hinges were totally demolished and the gates fell inwards. They could not prevail against such force (Matthew 16:18).

The rest of the team moved in quickly as the alarms screamed their warnings. They used their ballistic shields in the dark corridors to provide cover and deflect possible terrorist gunfire. Each one wore body armour and night vision optics. Using a motion detector Captain Davidson was able to determine the exact position of hostages and although some of them refused to come, those who were willing to trust their rescuer were extracted to safety where a helicopter winched them to the cover and refuge of the Rock.

The rescue has resounded off the walls of history’s pages ever since; “… upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:17-18 NLT).

Romans 8:1-2 says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.   And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has set you free from the power of sin that leads to death.” 

Pastor Ross

SWAT team prepared

SWAT team prepared (Photo credit: OregonDOT)

 

These are the hands of Alf Bourne, a 97 year old volunteer Chaplain. Photo by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

These are the hands of Alf Bourne, a 97 year old volunteer Chaplain. Photo by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

In the quietness of the morning, I hear a gentle knock on my office door and I am greeted by the smile of an old man in his late 90’s standing there with a walking stick, excited to tell me about the people he has visited through the week. A volunteer Chaplain of Chaplains, Alf Bourne has a quiet confidence and infectious enthusiasm that is disarming and charming, a gentleman who is both sensitive and engaging in his visits. We speak about Margo (not her real name), a woman in palliative care, who normally will have nothing to do with Chaplains or anything “religious”. She immediately warms to Alf’s visits, however. He has built up a friendship over the last 8 years sharing his faith only when invited. She had a dream of hell some years ago and called Alf to tell her about belief in Jesus. She prayed with Alf, inviting Christ into her life for the first time. Now she confides that all she wants to do is go up (she looks toward heaven) and as Alf holds her hand he speaks about that time when there will be no more pain, or crying, or tears and she will meet Jesus with a smile. He makes her smile despite her physical distress and he prays with her.

It is now Sunday. Alf has been playing the organ for the Church service in Dorothy Henderson Lodge and after it is finished we attend the service in the Shalom Centre. He greets each person after the services, smiling and laughing with them. We decide it would be good to visit Margo again but when we arrive the curtain is drawn. Margo has already stepped into eternity with Christ earlier that morning. There are tears in Alf’s eyes as we pray for the grieving family and a deep-seated joy in his heart at having played an important role in Margo’s life. He will miss her. He tells me that if he was not involved in Chaplaincy work, then his life would have been shortened long ago.

Alf tells me that he will go to renew his driving license in another year or so, when he is 99. His driving instructor told him last time that he was an excellent driver. He uses his car mainly to visit people in Ryde hospital. Two residents recently appreciated his visit and time of prayer with them.

He needs a little more help now, so he moved up from Wilandra village and now resides in Dorothy Henderson Lodge. As people enter Dorothy Henderson Lodge Alf makes them feel welcome. He says grace at meal times, visiting people on site regularly. What would I do without this extraordinary man on my team of volunteers? I am grateful to God for however long I have the privilege of his friendship and blessed by the wealth of experience he brings to my life and the lives of countless others whom he has touched with the respect, care and faith he shares.

Additional Note. On the 25th October 2015 Alf turned 100 years old. He has been looking forward to this celebration. He is my assistant Chaplain and insists on introducing me his senior Chaplain. He is my mentor, much-loved friend and outstanding colleague. I have drawn his picture below using a lead pencil and watercolour pencils. When he saw it, he thought he was looking old. I had to remind him that he is.

Alf Bourne

Matthew 7:15-20 – FERAL OR FRUITFUL?

Feral or Fruitful?

A few days ago, I saw various bikie club members, police detectives, prosecutors, and victims of bikie gang crime interviewed on a TV programme called “INSIGHT”. Detective Superintendent Arthur Katsogiannis, NSW Gangs Squad spoke about the FALSE FRONT of outlaw motorcycle gangs. He said “Look it’s a nice marketing ploy … as if they are a bunch of social club motor cycle riders who get together on weekends, ride around and contribute to charity. My experience as the head of the gang squad shows – that’s NOT the case.” He spoke of organised crime, arrests for serious assaults (and murder), thousands of charges laid, hundreds of firearms and a whole host of drugs from heroin to anabolic steroids seized recently.

Can a Church operate like a gang of thugs on the fringe of society? Are there Church business meetings that bring out the vicious and selfish nature of it’s members, the loudest autocratic voices being raised against eachother in disharmony, a pack mentality towards other Churches and sometimes their Pastor, members hoarding money and property as if it belonged to them individually, displays of unforgiveness, fault-finding, gossiping and negative attitudes? Not to mention condoning twisted sexual practises, pride and arrogance. Do leaders boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage? Do they divide others rather than unite? Jesus warns against false prophets in Matthew 7:16 NLT. He says “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from THORNBUSHES, or figs from THISTLES?”

INTRODUCED PESTS like CANE TOADS in Australia kill native animals with their deadly toxins. Recently scientists found that CANE TOAD tadpoles are attracted to venom collected from adult cane toads. They think it is a foodsource. They are destroyed by the very poison that they would have grown to produce. Jude 1:10-19 (NIV) says that FALSE TEACHERS “… speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals – these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! …”

Foxes, rabbits, camels, brumbys, feral goats, cats, pigs, donkeys, and water buffalo. Plague proportions, running wild, feral animals that cause tremendous damage and generally cost the Australian nation millions of dollars every year in eradication programmes that don’t work. Recently in NSW the Premier granted licenses to hunt feral animals in the National Parks. The only way to deal with feral animals is trap them, bait them, shoot them, and place bounties on them. 2 Peter 2:12 (NLT) describes false teachers as feral animals. “These false teachers are LIKE UNTHINKING ANIMALS, CREATURES OF INSTINCT, BORN TO BE CAUGHT AND DESTROYED.” These words are severe. He is saying they are LIKE animals, FERAL BUT NOT FRUITFUL, destructive to others and to themselves.

How do I recognise a false teacher? Luke 6:43-45 (NLT) “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree CAN’T PRODUCE GOOD FRUIT. A tree is IDENTIFIED BY ITS FRUIT. Figs never grow on THORNBUSHES, nor grapes on BRAMBLE BUSHES. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the TREASURY OF AN EVIL HEART. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Matthew 3:8 (NLT) says “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” That’s how I will know.

We were not created to be like FERAL ANIMALS, but like a FRUITFUL VINE. In John 15:4-5 (NLT) Jesus says “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.”

The invitation Christ gives to me today is to come under His authority and rulership over my life. He died for my sins and will enable my life to line up with God’s Word, to bear good fruit from the treasury of good heart, to love God and love others, to know Christ and make Him known, to make a difference for Him in my actions, words and fruitfulness. FERAL OR FRUITFUL?

Pastor Ross


Genesis 24 – THINGS THAT DON’T GO TOGETHER – Part 3

Just Married!

The engine of a Fiesta in a Ferrari! Pickles and icecream. There are certain things that definitely DON’T go together. Aluminium foil and microwaves (Julie rediscovered this recently). Children and cancer. Wouldn’t it change the world if honesty and politics went together.

It was dark when I dressed and when I arrived at the Church building we sat around in a small circle of dedicated students learning and reciting Greek declensions with our Pastor. It was about halfway through one of these early morning classes that I noticed my shoes. I was wearing TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF SHOES! Very embarrassing. I wonder if anybody else noticed? Certain things should not be worn together.

Deuteronomy 22:10 (NLT) says “You must not plough with an ox and a donkey harnessed together.” The idea here is that there are certain things that are totally INCOMPATIBLE. They were never meant to be placed in the same yoke, never meant to be together in the same equation. Just won’t fit! Won’t make sense! Doesn’t work well!

Abraham wants his son to marry a woman from among his own relatives and insists that he must not marry a Canaanite girl. It almost seems RACIST! Wouldn’t it be better to form an alliance through marriage with the people who are there in the land promised to Abraham? What an easy way of claiming the promised land. You would think that it would HELP THE PROMISE along a little. So far Abraham only owns a burial plot that he bought for Sarah. Why not also form a covenant through a marriage to a Canaanite girl with his son? It was clear that he DOES NOT WANT THIS TO HAPPEN. Why? Are we to be DISCRIMINATORY when we choose a marriage partner? No, but we are to be DISCRIMINATING.

The Bible speaks of our relationship with God as being the most important relationship we will ever have, even more important than our marriage relationship. When we marry we form a COVENANT. That covenant is used as a picture of our relationship with God. Ephesians 5:25 (NASB) says “Husbands, love your wives, just AS CHRIST ALSO LOVED THE CHURCH and gave Himself up for her,…”   The Canaanites were idol worshipers and REJECTED THE GOD OF ABRAHAM.

There are certain things that DEFINITELY DON’T GO TOGETHER. Ur and Abraham. Sodom and Lot. Idols and the temple. Christ and the devil. Light and darkness. Righteousness and wickedness. A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST MARRYING AN UNBELIEVER. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NLT) says “DON’T TEAM UP WITH (be UNEQUALLY YOKED with) those who are unbelievers.” It’s like harnessing an ox and an ass together.

Abraham is confident that the Lord will send an ANGEL ahead of the servant to help him find the right girl for Isaac among his relatives. Angels have already played an important part in Abraham’s life (Genesis 18, 19, 22). By the way, he is not talking about A CUPID-LIKE ANGEL, so let’s not go there. It was probably Gabriel or Michael, the fiercest of all angels, sent to protect the promises of God to Abraham.

A GREAT NATION was coming through Abraham. JESUS would one day be born through this family line and it seems God didn’t want anybody or anything, demonic or otherwise, to interfere with the process of finding Rebekah. Abraham’s faith had been tested and he had learned some valuable lessons. He is doing everything he can to make sure that he doesn’t get in the way of God again.

Perhaps it was the archangel Gabriel who was sent. Afterall Gabriel turns up at the birth of Christ to Mary (Luke 1:26) and angels throughout the Bible have a way of protecting people (and I might add of scaring them to death in the process. It seems they always have to reassure people by saying “Do not fear!” so they obviously aren’t the cute, fat baby-like cupid angels that we see on wedding invitations).

In a world where Satan wants to destroy Godly marriages because they are a picture of our relationship with Christ, is this your opportunity to pray that God would SEND AN ANGEL to protect you and that God would lead you to the right person to marry? Some people are just meant to be together.

Pastor Ross