Posts Tagged ‘Death’

Matthew 20:17-19 – JESUS, WHAT WAS THE POINT OF DYING FOR ME? 

Matthew 20:17-19 (NLT) says As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to Him. “Listen,” He said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence Him to die. Then they will hand Him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. … 

Cross

Reflecting on the Crucifixion – © Photo by Ross Cochrane

Jesus knew that He would be betrayed by friends, Romans and countrymen. Condemned unjustly, He would die a cruel death.   

Isaiah 53:3-12 (NLT) gives an incredible prophecy. It mirrors the words Jesus shared with His disciples about His death. It says, He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. … He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. He was pierced … crushed … beaten … whipped … He exposed Himself to death … He was buried like a criminal; He was put in a rich man’s grave. 

I am left with important questions which need to be answered because Isaiah also says that He died for me. 

Jesus, why did You choose to die for me? What did it achieve? What was the point? 

For me, those questions have been answered clearly and consistently throughout the BibleJesus has already responded to me through His Word. He says… 

  1. BECAUSE LOVED YOU AND WANT YOU TO SHARE MY LOVE  

 

Key of Life

Cross = Love. Key of Life – © Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Ephesians 5:2 (NLT2) says, He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. 

Romans 5:8 (NLT) says, “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” 

2. I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD SAVE YOU 

one-way3

One Way © by Ross Cochrane

In John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” 

Hebrews 2:10 (NLT) says, “… And it was only right that He should make Jesus, through His suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.”  

Luke 19:10 (NLT) says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” 

1 Peter 1:18-19 (NLT) says, For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.” 

Romans 10:9-10 (NLT) says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” 

1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” 

3. TO BREAK THE POWER OF THE DEVIL, SIN AND DEATH  

Wrecking Ball 1

Breaking down the walls © by Ross Cochrane

Hebrews 2:14 (NLT2) … For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death …”  

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 freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 

4. TO SET US FREE FROM THE FEAR OF DYING 

 

Hereafter

Hereafter © by Ross Cochrane

 Hebrews 2:15 (NLT) says, “… Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.  

5. TO FORGIVE YOU AND TAKE AWAY YOUR SINS AND THE PENALTY OF YOUR SIN

 

Do we live in a Just World?

JUSTICE AND GRACE © by Ross Cochrane

Hebrews 2:17 (NLT) continues, “Then He could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.…”  

Romans 3:23-24 (NLT) says, For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins.” 

Isaiah 53:3-5 (NLT) says, He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. …  

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all …  

1 Peter 2:24 (NLT) says, He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed.” 

Ephesians 1:7 (NLT) says, He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.” 

6. TO HELP YOU IN TIMES OF SUFFERING AND TESTING  

What happens when my world falls apart

What Happens When my World falls apart? © Ross Cochrane

Hebrews 2:18 (NLT)says, “…Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.”  

7. TO UNITE YOU AND BRING YOU INTO RELATIONSHIP WITH ME 

Cross = Love. Jesus Loves Us

Cross = Love. Jesus Loves Us and Wants a Relationship with Us. © by Ross Cochrane

Ephesians 2:13-18 (NLT2) says, But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ. For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He brought this Good News of peace to you ..Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” 

Isaiah 53:11-12 (NLT) says, “… And because of His experience, My righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for He will bear all their sins. I will give Him the honours of a victorious soldier, because He exposed Himself to death.  

He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.” 

8. TO GIVE YOU THE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE 

Jesus Loves Me!

Golden Thread on the Gift of Eternal Life © by Ross Cochrane

John 17:1-3 (NLT2) says,  He (God the Father) gives eternal life to each one You have given Him (God the Son)And this is the way to have eternal life—to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the One You sent to earth …”  

9. TO COMPLETE THE PURPOSES GOD GAVE ME TO DO 

Hand of Jesus4

Completing the Work of the Cross © Image by Ross Cochrane

John 17:4-5 (NLT) says, “… (Jesus) brought glory to You (God the Father) here on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. Now, Father, bring Me into the glory We shared before the world began.  

10. TO MODEL THE PRINCIPLES OF SERVANTHOOD 

Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership © by Ross Cochrane

Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT2) says, You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” 

Pastor Ross 

Advertisements

Matthew 16:21-24 – THE COST OF SAYING GOODBYE

The Cost of Saying Goodbye

The Cost of Saying Goodbye

I move close to his right ear. “Gidday Dad. It’s Ross. I know you are going through a tough time. We love you. You have had a stroke and we are here to pray for you.” My father-in-law breathes out a rasping “Thanks”. … then, all too soon, at 84, he is gone.

The numbing shock of his funeral is now over and his memory leaves ineffaceable marks, raw but beautiful on our hearts. So soon, and now the morning saps strength from my lovely wife as she is confronted with her loss afresh in the waking moments.

This morning I read Matthew 16:21 (NLT) “From then on Jesus began to tell His disciples plainly that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, and that He would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day He would be raised from the dead.”  

I am reminded that God is intimately acquainted with our grief; the gravity of death and sorrow. Jesus has spoken of his death before. Now in the light of Peter’s confession; “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”, He says it more plainly. No more parables, pictures and symbols, just simple, direct words that cut to the core and whisper grief into the air. Peter’s confession of faith marks a tipping point in history that now inexorably hurtles Jesus towards the horror of the Cross. Everything within us opposes such utterances of loss. The cost of commitment on our hearts is too deep, even in the light of the resurrection.

So it is not surprising in Matthew 16:22 (NLT) when “Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to reprimand Him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,”He says. “This will never happen to You!” 

It is not an unusual response of the human heart, but it is not accurate and not at all helpful. Rebellion and denial rise up in us when faced with the death of those we love. Peter has just been commended by Jesus for hearing from God. He is given the Keys to the Kingdom but in a wave of grief he now seeks to lock the doors of heaven’s will from the earth. The rock becomes a stumbling stone.

“Jesus turns to Peter and says, “Get away from Me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to Me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23 NLT). No longer is he blessed as one who has heard from God, but rebuked as one who he has spoken blasphemy in denying the reality and inevitability of the Cross.

Peter is desperately urging Jesus to bypass the Cross. How tempting for Christ to compromise rather than be committed. Jesus had heard such temptation in a wilderness 3 years earlier and recognised the voice of Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan it seems also sees things from a human perspective. God’s perspective was for Jesus to suffer and die for our sins, not avoid the Cross for a crown? To be an adversary to the Cross is to be an adversary to God. The way to God is through surrender not through selfish presumption. To war against Satan is to take up the Cross, not refuse it. “… Jesus says to His disciples, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24 NLT). 

In a hospital room Jesus is not distant even though we don’t want to think about suffering or death. He insists that things must flow from heavens point of view not ours. We may not always understand the “Why’s” but we are called to hear God’s voice and trust in Him.

When death is thrust upon us there is no choice but to accept it, but when death is planned and deliberate and willed by God Himself through all eternity, we stand in awefilled disbelief. Yet 1 Peter 3:18 (NLT) says “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the Spirit. “

Jesus does not burden us with more than we can endure or with anything that He has not borne Himself. The joy and hope of spending eternity with Christ encourages us to bear the barren heartache of seeing someone we love die. We prefer another way but there is no other door but death to lead those with faith in Christ to the Father’s throne. There is no other invitation so important as the one Christ gives to turn from our selfish ways, take up the Cross and follow Him.

Reluctantly at the service we release into the hands of God Colin Malcolm Shedden, Dad, Pa, Great Pa, a man after God’s own heart. David Brainwood plays so beautifully the hymns of faith as we recoil at the cost of grief. His father Rev. Ernest Brainwood the evangelist, long ago, led Colin to the Cross. Now the music of the Son echoes in the corridors of heaven to accompany Colin safely home.

Pastor Ross

COMMITTAL AND TRIBUTE TO COLIN MALCOLM SHEDDEN

Created by Ross Cochrane for the funeral of Colin Malcolm Shedden using Animato, Imovie and Paint.net

Just before Christmas, on the 23rd December, my Father-in-law died, the man I most respected in the world. On new years Eve we gathered in a Church with close to 300 people to say goodbye to a man we all loved and cherished. In the middle of holidays, still they came to say goodbye and pay their respects.

Colin Malcolm Shedden; Dad; Pa; Great Pa was a Christian accountant. Everyone knew he was a man who lived out his personal faith in Christ. He even kept a Bible on his desk, and was not ashamed to lead people to a personal faith in Christ, if the opportunity presented itself. His identity was characterised by Faith, Family and Fun. In the past we have laughed and celebrated together as a family until we cried, and yesterday we cried together in grief at his loss as we celebrated his life.

Accountancy relates well to being a Christian. Since maths was such an important part of his life, let me count out the ways.

1. ABSOLUTES

An accountant is one of those practitioners, who work according to a given set of rules of maths and measurements. Clients disclose information to him and he helps people manage finances and tax so that they can make wise decisions for the future.

He took his Bible even more seriously than his calculator. The Bible gave him absolute laws with which he could assess his life. Aligning his life and character with God’s Word he was able to make wise decisions for his marriage, business, family and Church. His life was centred around Christ and the serving Christ through the Church.

2. TRUST AND INTEGRITY

You have to trust your accountant. Colin was a man we knew we could trust implicitly. He was an honest man who took his Christian ethics seriously in his business and his business prospered because he was a man of integrity. David carries on that legacy.

3. PLANNING

He planned for the future, even planning out his own funeral service. He always lived with the expectancy that Christ may return this year. Bible prophecy was very important to him and he would share every article and book he read on the end times with me and others. The Herald of Hope was always offered. He planned ahead for life and eternity.

He wanted 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 read at his funeral.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words. 

4. PROFIT AND LOSS 

The two main reports in accountancy are the Profit and Loss account and the Balance Sheet. Dad would say “what would it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul.”

He was always so excited to hear when one of the family had responded to Christ. I loved his conservative values and he not only balanced the books but balanced fun with faith, and love with integrity. He regarded the greatest asset of his life to be knowing Christ and serving Him.

5. INVESTMENT 

His investment into the life of this family is his legacy of Faith, Family and Fun.

He continues to invest in our lives. He has been to me the finest example of a Christian husband, father, grandfather that I have ever seen. His consistency, his love, his character, his faith.

We placed tributes on the casket and took time to say our goodbyes to Colin, Dad, to Pa, to Great Pa in our own way we all gave thanks to God for his life.

Someone said If you want an accounting of your worth, count your friends. I am richer for having known and loved my Father in law. We all are.

“Lord we commit our Colin into Your hands. We thank You for his life and the privilege of knowing him and loving him”

 Pastor Ross

Matthew 2:1-23 – COLLATERAL DAMAGE AT CHRISTMAS

Collateral Damage at Christmas

Collateral Damage at Christmas

TWO YOUNG RADIO JOURNALISTS in Australia make a prank call to the King Edward VII Hospital where Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, was being treated for acute morning sickness. They pretend to be Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth. A young nurse, Saldanha, takes the call and unknowingly passes the phone to another employee who provides personal information about Kate to the pranksters. Some days later Saldanha is found dead, having taken her own life due to the furor caused by this event. An aftermath of devastating proportion. Never intended!

A bomb explodes in Syria. The term “COLLATERAL DAMAGE” is used on the TV. It is a cold term and seems to seek to insulate those involved from any feelings of moral responsibility. The military authorities speak of wanting to minimize collateral damage of innocent civilians and speak of it in terms of PERCENTAGES, not lives lost. “UNINTENTIONAL” is a keyword. Collateral damage is damage that was NOT INTENDED but somehow expected as necessary to get the job done. One person’s collateral damage is another person’s son. A mother suffers the unbearable grief over the loss of her children. We see her on the news weeping and wailing.

When the wise men see King Herod they never intend to cause harm to innocent children. They couldn’t have foreseen that he would react to the birth of Jesus in such a violent, unpredictable way. After finding Christ, God warns them in a dream not to return to Herod and they return to their own country using another route.

An intelligence report from the Lord in a dream alerts Joseph of Herod’s intentions to kill Jesus. Joseph and Mary have to get their boy out of harm’s way, and the Lord gives them a contingency plan on the run. It is as if Jesus was trapped behind enemy lines, so God conducts a “rescue at any cost” operation for Jesus by getting Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt. He needs a quick recovery extraction by friendly elements.

On that first Christmas, we tend to skip over the collateral damage inflicted on Bethlehem by King Herod’s rage when Christ was born. He slaughtered all the male babies 2 years and under of Bethlehem in an effort to eliminate Christ’s birth causing a problem to his reign. Herod saw it as collateral damage! Necessary to achieve his objective! Necessary to get the job done! And Matthew 2:18 (NLT) speaks of “A cry heard in Ramah— weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead”

But Herod’s rage was the fruit of the ongoing collateral damage inflicted on the human race when Adam sinned by disobeying God way back in Genesis 3. But listen to Romans 5:8-10 (NLT). It says “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from (the direct strike of) God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son.”

Herod’s sin reaped its consequences. Our sin always reaps a harvest of unexpected, unintentional, collateral suffering and pain. 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.” Spiritual death. No peace with God.

The innocent Son of God came into the world. 33 years later He died for the collateral damage produced by our sin. All of us have the opportunity to have peace with God and live under His promises and He is giving you that invitation today. All of us have the opportunity today to receive forgiveness, peace with God and the gift of eternal life this Christmas by believing in Christ. The Saviour was sent into enemy territory to extract us from the firestorm. The message of Christmas, endorsed by an army of angels to certain poor shepherds, is that the Saviour of the world has come, King of kings, Lord of Lords and Prince of peace. Collateral Healing and Hope!

Pastor Ross

See also this excellent article https://theriverwalk.org/2017/12/14/25-songs-of-christmas-14-o-little-town/

SWAN LAKE REQUIEM

Posted: July 4, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

TRIBUTE TO THOSE WHO HAVE PASSED AWAY RECENTLY

Swarn Lake Requiem

Rebecca Warren writes beautifully. One phrase that stood out as I sat reading her article made me think about a funeral I have conducted recently. “In the exhausted depression that too much grief can bring”. 

 http://beckslovelyblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/resurrection-in-dark.html

So let me begin with those words. “In the exhausted depression that too much grief can bring”, there where sorrow tries to hum its requiem, I still can picture the faces of those who have recently passed away, and I hear the joyful music of their influence, dancing its way around my heart.

What song can you sing when there are two different melodies, one sad and one joyful melody, competing with each other? What can you sing when eternity envelops our existence and draws the life of someone away, someone you have loved?

Not even the most experienced of musicians can adequately capture on a manuscript the musical score of what plays inside our heart when someone dies. The crescendo of an old and well-lived life seems to falter until all voices are silenced, and we are left feeling hollow and empty.

A few days ago, there I was once again, as the Chaplain of Shalom, with an empty manuscript, feeling that I was unskilled, but ready to create a tribute for someone who had recently passed away, hoping that it would be like an orchestral piece for a ballet or a beautiful song to honour a life well lived.

At those times, I need God’s help. He has created the original score for all our lives. He is the Master Musician. We all need His help when He comes to compose the finale of our time on here earth. 

Psalm 139:16 says that “all the days ordained for me were written in God’s book before one of them came to be.”

As a Chaplain working in an overtly Christian organisation, I always try to encourage people to put their faith in Jesus Christ, who has died for our sins and offers us the gift of eternal life to those who have faith in Him. I have found that faith in Him is a great strength to those who face the final stage of their lives. I think we all need His help and strength, but especially then. 

All we can do is say goodbye when someone dies, but faith in Christ gives me hope for the future for my own life. Psalm 30:11 says…“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:36-43 – WILL I SEE MY MUM IN HEAVEN? – Part 12

Will I see my mum in heaven?

I watched the news in the last few weeks as a nation reels in the horror of the aftermath of an earthquake. The devastation of a category 6 earthquake brings everything to it’s knees, buildings awkwardly buckle and crumble as if submitting to a warlord. Darkness falls like a smothering blanket over the city as the electricity grid fails. Debris falls, the dusty malformed tears of a city, the victim of a stroke. She looks contorted and twisted as she struggles in vain, convulsing with each aftershock, trying to stay alive but unable to move, her eyes wide and blinded in the dirt.

A woman is plucked from the wreckage of a collapsed building but nothing can save the twisted misshapen, struggling city from the crushing reality of over 160 deaths. Hell walks the darkened streets of Christchurch, New Zealand and faces are haunted with fear, shock and grief. Their eyes look for someone to tell them that this is not happening, but somehow they know that life will never be the same.

There was no warning. Sudden, unexpected. No-one can tell when death knocks menacingly at the door. She dies, not in the streets of Christchurch but a sea away, in Australia. There is no front page news of this devastating event. Only a lonely ad somewhere in the funeral notices of the local paper. My mum dies of a massive stroke (cerebral haemorrhage) in the early hours of the morning as Christchurch is still reeling from the aftershocks. As I hear this news I cannot believe that this has happened until my sisters and I go to view her body, and I see that she is not there. Just an empty shell. She has departed into eternity. We conduct her funeral a week later.

And all of us are left with unvoiced questions about eternity, questions we don’t really want to think about but which linger in the shadows of the mind. WHAT HAPPENS TO PEOPLE WHEN THEY DIE?

Jesus speaks of HEAVEN as a place where “…the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom” and HELL as “…the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:42-43 NLT).

IS MY MUM IN HEAVEN? If I am honest, I can’t answer that question. I have to leave it in the hands of God. I trust Him to make the decisions of eternity. Did my mum come into a personal relationship with Christ as her Lord and Saviour? I know that I shared with her about how Jesus died for our sins on a number of occasions. Did she ever decide inwardly to trust in Christ? I know that she would pray at night, but was she saved out of the wreckage, plucked from the roof before her life collapsed, before all that was left was shock reverberating in the emptiness of our hearts?

The world didn’t know it but it was experiencing an earthquake of unbelievable magnitude when Christ died. He was reaching out to save us from our precarious condition. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins there was an appropriate blackout that covered the earth which in the physical environment described what was happening spiritually as He was judged for my sin (Mark 15:33).

The only light that not only dispels the darkness but also causes no shadows is one that comes from within, an inner light. God is described as light and some would unkindly say of Christians that the lights are on but nobody’s home, but that’s cruel and patently untrue. No matter how odd Christians are, foolish to many, CHRIST DWELLS WITHIN. 1 John 1:5-7 (NLT) says “…God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” John 8:12 (NLT) Jesus says “I am the light of the world. If you follow Me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” The invitation is right there.

When the Bible describes those who go to heaven, it says “we will be like Him (Christ), for we will see Him as He really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). The only way Jesus can describe to me what heaven is like is to say “…the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom.” (Matthew 13:43 NLT). Although I can’t quite imagine shining like a celestial lightbulb, the contrast and choice is clear – DARKNESS, shell shocked and stubbornly unbelieving among the rubble of a collapsing world, or LIGHT; reaching out to a loving hand, and to salvation from the ruins of the devastating effects of my sin.

I choose LIGHT. Will I see my mum in heaven? Will I see you there?

Pastor Ross

THE CANVAS OF HER LIFE – ELSIE COCHRANE (1931-2011) 

My Beautiful Mum, Elsie CochranePete, my brother in law organises for her paintings to be in the Chapel half an hour before the time when we would celebrate the life of Elsie Cochrane, my Mum, and he hung them on the walls. Beautiful, large expressions of her life. 

Susan Boyle sings “How Great Thou Art” as people were still filling the chapel to overflowing. 

“Welcome to this ART GALLERY of our Mum’s works. We wanted to pay tribute to Elsie Cochrane’s CREATIVITY as a PROMINENT ARTIST as well as a loving Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother, and faithful friend to many of you here today.

It seems a bit strange that as a CHAPLAIN in an Aged Care Facility that I find myself leading the funeral of my own Mum. That seemed inconceivable a week ago. Still does. 

All of us are here because we have a connection with Elsie. She has touched our lives in various ways, and the COLOURS of her influence will remain with us. 

What can you say when your Mum dies? Death is a one way street into eternity.

Not even the most experienced of artists can adequately create with paint on canvas or poet can express in words on paper what we feel inside. The TUBES OF PAINT are squeezed dry. The words seem somehow hollow and empty. And yet we are here, with EMPTY CANVAS and unskilled hands ready to paint a portrait of our Mum, in bright and beautiful colours like the canvases around you. 

In order to do that we will need a bit of help, so we are going to ask the MASTER ARTIST to give us a hand. After all GOD painted the original portrait of Mum in eternity past and He knows her better than any of us. 

The Bible says in Psalms 46:1 (NLT) God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Psalms 103:13-14 (NLT) says, “The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.” 

Elsie and her children, Ross, Toni and Lauren

This day is a time to CELEBRATE THE LIFE OF ELSIE COCHRANE. 

Don’t MISUNDERSTAND me. The last few days for my sisters and I has been a PALETTE filled with the DEEPER, SOMBER EARTH TONES OF GRIEF, …and WATERCOLOURS at that. So this is also a time to be impacted by the reality of eternity and realize that God is SENSITIVE to those of us who areHURTING. 

Psalms 34:18 (NLT) says that “The Lord is close to the BROKENHEARTED; He rescues those whose spirits are CRUSHED.” 

Psalms 90:1-12 (NIV) says “We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”The length of our days is seventy years– or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” 

My son Ben, comes to the front and reads from Psalm 139:13 

“For You (God) created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written inYour book before one of them came to be.” 

Elsie, her children and some of her grandchildren, Rachel, Ben and Hope.

We sing Amazing Grace and TONI and LAUREN, my sisters, take up a PAINTBRUSH, and paint a picture of our Mum, Elsie Cochrane.

First Toni picks up her palette and paints her part of the portrait.

FOR MY MUM

“Its 8am.  I sit down at the computer and call Mum on Skype.  “Hi Tone darling, I knew it would be you,” she’d say.  “How did you know that?”  “Because I’m psychic and who else would ring me at this ungodly hour of the morning!”  “Spot on,  me,  I’d say”.   

This is how we would open one of our marathon talkathons.  We could TALK  the pants off a kangaroo,  sometimes two and a half hours of intense ramblings would find us still in our P Jays coming up to lunch time.  “Well I guess we’d better get off this phone”, she’d say.   I’m going down town, I haven’t had a shower and Ken will be here to pick me up soon.   Just before you go though, did I tell you about”………..and a half hour later, Ken is asleep on the couch. 

My Mum was my true friend.  She loved me unconditionally and she gave me her time.  She made allowances for me.  She was understanding but would always tell me in no uncertain terms if she thought I was being ridiculous. 

We were Shopaholics whenever she came to Sydney.  We loved anything unusual and beautiful.  We’d drive up the mountains, park the car and Do Leura.  Zany little café’s were our forte.  We’d get “wired” on our decafe cappuccinos.  I will miss that. 

She was always encouraging and intensely proud of my achievements.  She strived for excellence in all that she did and was passionate for her art, her garden, music and her family.  She was my Rock in my darkest moments and I know I was her Rock likewise.  She is always my Mum and I will miss her terribly.”

Lauren my sister shares

My mum accepted all things that came before her and always made the best of every situation thinking not of herself but of her family. 

 I remember when i was 14 years old and wagga at the time was experiencing a shocking heat wave. After sweltering all day in a classroom at school, I was dreading the long miserable hot walk home from Mt Austin high school to Hunter Street. Back in the early 70’s we didn’t have luxuries of refrigerated cooling like we do today. Just the old stand alone water cooler on wheels, but back then it was a luxury and I planned on gluing myself in front of it when I got home.

 As I walked out of the front gate of school, to my surprise, I saw mum across the road sitting in her little grey two door Morris miner waiting for me with a bucket to full of cold water and wash cloth to cool me down. ” Don’t think I will be doing this for you every day Lauren”. It’s too bloody hot to be sitting here! But she did, she was there the next day and the day after that!

My mum had a wonderful sense of humour with an effervescent laugh. She could always make me laugh, even when I was in one of my horrid teenage moods.

When I was recovering from a burst appendix in hospital, she made me laugh so hard; I burst a few of my stitches. The doctor was not happy, either was I!

Mum was with me through the birth of my daughter Hope and played a huge roll in her up bringing. Being a single mum at times was difficult for me. My mum was always there for Hope and I. I could always rely on my mum particularly when it concerned Hope. She had a very special bond with her and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for being such a loving thortful caring generous nana to hope.

My mum was a very stylish woman right up to the end. She always looked beautiful and modern she always looked younger than she was. I was very proud of her and how she looked when I met up with her in the market place. I remember being so proud when ever I introduced her to my friends or work colleagues always hear them commenting afterwards “oh your mother is beautiful” or “Is  that your mum wow she is so pretty”.

I take comfort in the fact that my very last words I said to mum was “ I love you mumma” and waved her good bye.

I pray she is in heaven with god and she has been given her energetic artistic spirit back again. I’m going to look forward to magnificent sunsets from now on  ‘cos I know my mum will be painting them just for us. Love you mumma.xx

Hope, Lauren’s daughter, sings a beautiful song.

In my hand, a legacy of memories
I can hear you say my name
I can almost see your smile
Feel the warmth of your embrace

But there is nothing but silence now
Around the one I loved
Is this our farewell?

Sweet darling you worry too much
My child, see’s sadness in your eyes
You are not alone in life
Although you might think that you are

Never thought this day would come so soon
We had no time to say goodbye
How can the world just carry on?
I feel so lost when your not at my side

But there is nothing but silence now
Around the one I loved
Is this our farewell?

Sweet darling you worry too much
My child, see’s sadness in your eyes
You are not alone in life
Although you might think that you are

So sorry your world is tumbling down
I will watch you through these nights
Rest your head and go to sleep
Coz my child this is not our farewell
This is not our farewell

Another grandson, David, Toni’s son, shares.

“Hello everyone, I am David Macarthur-King second grandson of 4 to Elsie Cochrane. Most of my adult life l have been away however I’m sure Nan understands.

And that’s probably the greatest gift my Nan gave to me, was her unwavering understanding. Drawing picture’s and painting art as a boy, in between climbing the highest tree whenever l would visit, she understood that l didn’t understand any boundaries and that was okay. Nan was all about trusting that I could be more than what I was and that my limits were expandable. Nan knew that I would learn to be understanding of boundaries, one day.

I always felt loved and cared for in her presence and her home. Nan nurtured my mind and fed my heart, and always made the best scones because aside from Art, she understood that the way to my young heart was through an exceptional scone. She was very thoughtful — indeed she allowed me to wash the dishes quite a lot when l was little. We will all have special memories of Nan, or Mum, or Elsie, but for me Nan taught me the love of appreciation for all things in life and to never settle for anything but the very best scone.

These are the gifts Nan gave to me — to share time simply and with love. To appreciate that I can just be me, and that‘s good enough, and to accept that sometimes life may serve you bad art without understanding, but somewhere, someone is enjoying Nan’s. That comfort is lessened for us today, but Nan‘s passion, and love, lives on in us. lt’s up to us to love each other as she loved us, with quiet acceptance and understanding.

Thank you Nan, I love you and goodbye.”

My son Ben shares. 

A reflection in the form of a video slideshow of Mum’s life is shown. I originally went to have this professionally produced but the guy came back with something which fell far short of what I wanted to depict my Mum’s life. I made my own, just impressions painted on a screen of Mum’s life. 

I have been extremely busy for the last few weeks and I had thought “I must ring Mum” but I didn’t make the effort until Monday night, at about 9.15 pm, when Julie, my wife, handed me the phone and said “Why don’t you ring your Mum” So I did. 

We spoke for about 50 minutes that night and she seemed happy to talk about what was happening in her life, about her granddaughter Hope and Hope’s new boyfriend, about my sisters and about her health. 

She asked me about my work as a Chaplain and I told her about how I had conducted 3 funerals within 2 days recently and how difficult it was to make each one personal. 

I said that I wasn’t afraid to speak to people about ETERNITY and how many people are MORE than willing to talk about dying when they come to an AGED CARE FACILITY. As a Chaplain I always TRY to encourage people to PUT THEIR FAITH in Jesus Christ personally. I have found that faith in Him to be a great strength to me during this time. I think we all need His help today. 

Mum spoke about how good she was feeling of late. Her health was good and she was enjoying life. She asked me, as she often does, if I will ever take up painting again. I told her that I was writing and illustrating a book on the computer of late and that she would get a copy as a Christmas present this year. I guess I will dedicate it to her. 

When I asked her if SHE would ever paint again, she told me that she hadn’t given up painting. She just lacked motivation to get something started again. 

My Mum and Me, Ross

I didn’t realise that this would be the last conversation that I would ever have with my Mum. At the end of those 50 minutes I cut the conversation short because I was tired. The last thing I said to her was “I love you Mum”. I am so thankful that Julie, my wife, handed me the phone that night and suggested I ring my Mum. I think God arranged for me to have that conversation. 

Our Mum was a fine ARTIST, and it is my task to paint you a picture of her life. 

ELSIE SWAN was born in “Windooree” private hospital, 53 Gurwood Street on the 19th June 1931, one of 7 children. 

Some of you may know that Wagga was experiencing a huge flood in 1931. My grandfather Dave Swan had to drive his very pregnant wife Alice into town. He had to get out of the Sulky at Lake Albert to check the depth of the water to see if they could get through. Mum could have been born in that sulky.  

Of course Australia has just been through some more incredible flooding and there has been a terrible earthquake in New Zealand recently. It seems Mum’s entrance into and exit from the world was surrounded by CATACLYSMIC EVENTS. Perhaps that’s why Mum always liked to paint in such DRAMATIC colours. 

Let me first paint some BROAD BRUSHSTROKES of her life. 

Elsie lived on a dairy farm with her parents at Gregado. She rode a horse with her sister, Letty, to the Gregado School, that’s if Tommey, her horse, would let them stay on. He had a habit of shaking them off at the gate and they would have to catch him all over again. 

Mum used to laugh about Tommey. She was not the best horse rider and one day when she was supposed to round up some cows, one cow just refused to co-operate. Tommey just bucked her off and rounded up the cow for her. He figured he could do the job better himself. 

After finishing the Black Friars CORRESPONDENCE course Mum completed her INTERMEDIATE in Wagga. She loved the dances at Gregado and playing tennis and she worked as a telephonist in Gregado. 

On the 23rd of July 1949 in the Methodist Church, she married our Dad, Roy Cochrane. 

Our Mum was a wonderful cook and I remember most Sundays we would have a roast Chicken feast. Toni, my sister, says that Dad made the mistake of saying one Sunday that part of the chicken was still frozen. This didn’t go down well Mum and he received a roasting himself, and the next time she served chicken she placed a frozen chicken on his plate and said “Here, eat this!” 

We’ve been reading Mum’s diaries of those early years, filled with hard work, and good friends, tennis and camping and eventually 3 children, Toni, myself, Ross, and Lauren, arguably her most creative work.  

In the early years of her marriage she lived in a little lane called LAMPE AVENUE in what amounted to a 2 room house and kitchen area, with a lean-to out the back and a copper for hot water and bath. We had only one powerpoint in the house. I loved growing up there and missed it greatly when we moved to a housing commission home at 27 Hunter St in Wagga. Since then someone has had the hide to pull that little house down and build an apartment. Pat Davey, Mum’s lifelong friend, who is here today would remember many stories from those days. 

For many years Mum was a professional dressmaker. She also worked in the Plaza theatre for a time. 

Mum and I studied fine Arts together at the Riverina College of Advanced Education and she went on to get her degree. She taught fine art at the University and Tafe College. She also taught DISABLED STUDENTS as well as teaching numerous PRIVATE STUDENTS through the years, some of whom have gone on to be prominent artists themselves. Over the years Mum has exhibited her work in many places including a combined exhibition which she did with me here in Wagga. 

This is perhaps her FINAL EXHIBITION and she would be pleased to think that you have come to see her work. AND NO, THEY ARE NOT FOR SALE.  

In 1981 Mum and Dad divorced and she moved to Ashmont. She remained friends, however with Dad until his death. She has lived in Ashmont Avenue for 25 years. Her landlord loved driving by and seeing her beautiful garden, splashes of colour from roses and numerous other plants decorating the premises and inviting your eyes to pause and enjoy them. She loved her garden. 

She also loved a variety of music ranging from Neil Diamond, John Farnham, Susan Boyle, Andrei Reau TO PINK. Her granddaughter Hope introduced her to Pink, I’m sure. She loved listening to Hope sing the songs of today. 

Mum actually attended Hope’s birth. She has loved being a grandmother and great grandmother. She recently came to Sydney and we all got together for a great day where she got to meet Rachel and Ben’s children. She also loved being a DAUGHTER HERSELF to her own Mum who lived to 108. Mum, Letty, Nana, Ken and others loved spending time at the Wagga Market Place where they all became well known and loved by the shopkeepers. 

During her time in Ashmont she met Ken and he has been a faithful friend to Mum for many years. His friendship enriched her life. Thankyou Ken. 

Our Mum has been able to travel to a number of countries and these trips have been inspiration for many of her artworks. She traveled with Pat Davey to Europe. She traveled to America, and Lord Howe Island, and to Tasmania with Letty in a Holden Barina. Letty remembers that they laughed a lot. Many other places fill photo albums. Although we have numerous photographs of these trips there are very few of them with her in them. She was more interested in TEXTURES AND COLOURS AND SHAPES for series of paintings which followed. 

I came across some notes Mum wrote for an interview with RVN, the local TV station, she was going to have for an exhibition. She wrote “Comments for RVN interview (I guess I won’t say any of this)…. The longer one paints or the more experience one has, the more difficult painting becomes. Rather than whipping up a painting as the result of “inspiration”, it is more a battle of wits – painter versus paint, brush and canvas.

The most frequent comment I have (from people) is “so long as you enjoy what you’re doing.” Well yes at times I do but often I loathe the piece I’m working on to the extent that I would like to tear it to shreds. Only later when I’ve taken the work to its limits, when I’ve resolved the painting and put it away for a time, am I likely to grow to like it. The ones that cause the most trouble – those I’d like to hack to pieces, are often my better pieces when resolved. 

I very rarely feel so attached to a piece of work that I can’t part with it, canvases are ripped off frames or repainted if they remain in my workshop after an exhibition.  

I work very long hours. I live alone so I can work into the early hours of the morning in my workshop if I want to and often do. I sleep very soundly but should I wake in the night with an idea I keep my note book handy and I jot things down. Inserted later – I said none of this but the interview was the best I’ve had. It was shown at the exhibition several times.” 

Another time she wrote, “Broke my hand 30th Sept 1986. Chirp (my budgee) died during operation 4th Oct 1986. Hand in plaster from 16th October – 27th November. Completed 3 mixed media paintings while my hand was in plaster (with great difficulty). Unable to stretch canvas and begin work in earnest until after Christmas 86. 19th January. Completed 7 paintings, six floor pieces. Work flowing, enjoying freedom from other commitments. Money short for materials as I’m unemployed during holiday period.”  

Elsie had a heart condition called HYPERTROPIC CARDIO MYOPATHY and on Tuesday morning 22nd February, 2011, at the age of 79, God painted the last brushstroke of her life here on earth.  

I walked into her workshop a few days ago and was suddenly overwhelmed with grief for her loss and thankfulness for life. The canvases still stood against the wall ready to be painted. The tubes of paint, paintbrushes, pottery, and numerous tools of her trade silently stood as if saying “What do we do now?” and I cried for their loss and mine. 

Her garden and the quality of her works and all those who have felt the touch of her influence say “Well done.” We love you Mum. 

 

Elsie and some of the great grandchildren - Levi, Arielle, Zion and Rome.

Elsie Cochrane was a sister to John, Nell, Kath, Chick Letty, and Lilly. She leaves behind 3 children, Toni, Ross and Lauren. 6 grandchildren, Jeremy, David and Matthew, Hope, Ben and Rachel, and 8 great grandchildren. And of course all of YOU who have come to her exhibition today.

We would like to give you a memento of her work. We found some canvases which had been water damaged at the bottom, so we have cut them up in the size of a large bookmark to give to each of you. There is a picture of Mum on the back and Julie has written “In recognition of the colour and texture you have added to Elsie’s wonderful life, we would like you to have, as a keepsake, this portion of her artwork. This memento will also serve as a reminder of the beauty with which Elsie has touched all our lives, with love, Toni, Ross and Lauren and their families.”

Would you stand with me as I pray. “Lord we commit Elsie into Your hands. We thankyou for who she was and what she meant to us, and the privilege of knowing her and loving her.  

May the Lord bless you indeed abundantly beyond all you ask or think. May the Lord extend the sphere of your influence in positive ways as you grow to know Him more and more. May the Lords Hand be with you guiding your hand as you reach out to others. May He protect and keep you from evil that you may live a life that pleases Him.  May you honour Him more and more in your life. May you know His peace and forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen. 

Neil Diamond sings “Yesterdays Songs”

The casket is carried to the gravesite by Peter, David, Jeremy and Matthew, Ben and Jim.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says “There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die, He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
 

We’re here today to LAY TO REST Elsie’s body and to say our final goodbyes. The Bible says that OUR BODIES are made of the DUST OF THE GROUND and to the dust of the ground we will all return. But we are MORE THAN DUST. God breathed life into these temporary bodies, and as I just read GOD HAS SET ETERNITY in the hearts of men. These bodies serve us only as the TEMPORARY DWELLING PLACE. It is all together fitting and right that we miss Elsie but now is the time to let her go, to give her into God’s hands. 

We take time to place some flowers on Elsie’s casket. Mum always said she wanted plenty of flowers.

Earth to earth, ashes to ashes and dust to dust,
knowing full well that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

I sing the Benediction. 

The Lord Bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Genesis 23 – WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITHOUT YOU?

Staking a Claim in a Promise

When dementia had taken it’s course, Bess (not her real name) was left with just a couple of words, but one word which she used to respond to almost any situation was the word “AMAZING!” After a lifetime of words, what a great word to have on your lips at the end of your life. Matthew 12:34 (NLT) says “whatever is in your HEART determines what you SAY.” By declaring life to be AMAZING Bess was not defeated by NEGATIVITY. Of course we sang AMAZING GRACE at her funeral.

In Genesis 23 Sarah’s life could also be summed up by the word “AMAZING” yet there were times when she was defeated by negativity and doubt. “Amazing!” describes the hope given to Sarah of having a son when she was 90 years old. It describes the laughter she felt welling up within her as she was overwhelmed by the joy of such a miracle when Isaac was finally born. She WAS AN AMAZING PERSON. In 1 Peter 3:5-6 she is used as an illustration of what it means to be someone who is truly beautiful. In Hebrews 11:11 she is listed as one who leaves behind an AMAZING LEGACY of faith and confident hope in the promises of God.

I wonder how Sarah responded when Abraham told her that God had told him to sacrifice their only son. Some suggest that the traumatic events of Genesis 22 shocked Sarah so much that she died before her time? I don’t think so. My grandmother died at 108 years old. Sarah dies at 127. She dies of old age, don’t you think? Abraham is even older at 137 years of age. For Isaac it must have been like living with his great grandparents. Imagine Parents Day at school? “No, this is my Mum.”

What am I supposed to do without you? How will I cope with the death of the one I love? I thought about this fleetingly when my wife, Julie, went into hospital recently for an operation. It’s not a thought anyone wants to dwell on. It is predictably heartbreaking for Abraham when Sarah dies. Many years, many adventures together. Now she is gone. “Abraham mourned and wept” (Genesis 23:2 NLT).

When we were living in the Whitsundays a Pastor told me that you will always feel like a stranger and a foreigner in a place until you buy a house and a burial plot. There’s something to that, taking ownership over a given area by saying “I intend to live and die here!”

After expressing his initial grief, in the midst of his pain, Abraham takes responsibility and makes an important decision in terms of appropriating what was his inheritance. He BUYS A PLOT OF LAND. Sarah is the first to die in the promised land. Buying her burial plot is STAKING A CLAIM in the promises of God.

This is the first and only land Abraham owned in his lifetime in Israel, a burial plot. Interesting. I could make some analogies about dying to self before you enter into the promises of God but the analogy would be pushing it.

When Abraham purchases this land from the Hittites, it is also interesting how he describes himself. In Genesis 23:4 (NLT) he says to the Hittite elders “Here I am, a stranger and a foreigner among you. Please sell me a piece of land so I can give my wife a proper burial.”

Abraham is financially well off. He is well respected. He is called a PRINCE (Genesis 23:6), so perhaps he is already a leader among them. They also recognize him as a FRIEND (Genesis 23:15) and offer him the very best land for free, but he sees himself as a STRANGER, and refuses to accept land that will cost him nothing. In Genesis 23:13 he pays 400 pieces of silver and in Genesis 23:18 “it was transferred to Abraham as his permanent possession in the presence of the Hittite elders at the city gate.” God sees him as owning the whole country!

Perhaps the invitation for me is that when I am facing the grief of loss and I find myself asking “What am I supposed to do now?” that’s when I have an opportunity to stake a claim in the promises of God as found in His Word, the Bible. They are my permanent possession. Yes it will involve a cost to make such a decision but it will also shape my destiny and life will continue to be painted with the colours of what can only be described as “AMAZING!”

Pastor Ross

Part 2 – Genesis 22:1-11 – LORD, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Sacrifice

There’s plenty of evidence of blatant disregard for human life today. Terrorism and suicide bombers? Capital punishment? Human trafficking. Abortion?

So what is God thinking when He asks Abraham to take his only son, the son he loves, and to sacrifice him as a burnt offering. I know that He stops him at the last second but what is going on here? If He is making a point of some kind then it seems to be a pretty extreme and cruel way to get the message across, and what is the message anyway?

Perhaps God is attempting to show me in a dramatic way that HUMAN SACRIFICE of any kind is wrong? Is that the point He is trying to drive home? If His point is to say that HUMAN LIFE IS VALUABLE, then what about those miners who died recently or the soldiers in Afghanistan? Weren’t they valuable? We prayed for them, some people around the clock. If God is trying to stress the VALUE of human life then it seems to me that asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is a kind of gruesome way to drive this point home.

The question is not “Why did God allow those miners to die or those soldiers in Afghanistan to sacrifice their lives?” but perhaps, “Why does He allow us to live, when we have messed His world up so much by our sin?” We are the ones who continue to allow bad things to happen to good people? We don’t seem to appreciate the far-reaching implications of our sin. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says “For the wages of sin is death, …” Why doesn’t God wipe out the human race and start again? It’s been done before (see Genesis 6:7, Genesis 7).

I can only go back to Ezekiel 18:23 (NLT) where God asks “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.” The Bible says that judgment is real and it will come to everyone. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

Sacrificing a human life is not the point here, as horrific as it is, and as abhorrent to the Lord as it is. I can think of only two or three other valid reasons why God would ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son whom he loved as a burnt offering, only to stop him at the last second.

Burnt offerings were sacrifices for SIN. It seems that God is showing me that ISAAC WASN’T WORTHY. Even the most precious and loved of sacrifices is NOT ENOUGH to pay for the penalty of our sinfulness.

Romans 5:12 (NLT) says “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” God is showing me that there is NO-ONE WORTHY in the whole of the human race to die for sinners, except of course Jesus. Isaac deserves to die because of his own sin and cannot die as an innocent victim for the sin of others. God’s Son was the ONLY ONE. As abhorrent as human sacrifice is to God, the only way to pay for the penalty of sin was through the death of His only Son, the One whom He loved. Hebrews 10:11-12 (NLT) says Jesus offered Himself as a “single SACRIFICE for sins, good for ALL TIME.”

Romans 5:15 (NLT) says “… For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful GRACE and His gift of FORGIVENESS to many through this Other Man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 6:23 (NLT) “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

God bless you as you begin to make some sense of this. Sometimes I need to be shocked to the max before I truly begin to understand what God has accomplished in sending His only Son to die for me.

Pastor Ross

Part 14 – Matthew 12:38-41 – THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL!

3 Days and Nights

A few days ago, my good friend Joe (not his real name) was taken to hospital after the antibiotics that he was taking didn’t appear to be making a discernable difference. He deteriorated quickly and after a few days, he was just a skeleton lying in bed, fighting for each breath.

I drove to work on Thursday still pleading to the Lord for a MIRACLE of healing but Joe had died around 2 am that morning, Thursday 5 November 2010 at only 91 years of age. I know that seems OLD to you, but he wasn’t. Good mates are AGELESS. He was someone I loved, a man with a deep faith, a good friend. Heaven rejoices and I am happy for him too but there is an empty space inside which tugs at my heart because I will miss him. Where was my miracle?

When the Pharisees challenge Jesus to show them a sign in Matthew 12:39-40 (NLT) it is NOT in order to see someone they LOVE HEALED, or to see people they CARE ABOUT RESTORED. They want theatrics, a circus show, for Jesus to jump through a hoop at their bidding. They have NO COMPASSION for the healing of a demonised blind man who has been unable to speak and NO CONCERN for the man with a deformed hand who was totally restored. They want DEATH to their enemies – a bolt of lightning to DESTROY the Roman oppressors or at the very least someone to lead an UPRISING. Where was their miracle?

Jesus sees right through them. He says “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet JONAH.”

What on earth has JONAH got to do with the Pharisees asking for a sign, or for that matter Joe? Well, Jesus goes on to explain, “For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” His powerful words in Matthew 12:41(NLT) still ring in my ears – “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they REPENTED of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone GREATER than Jonah is here – but you refuse to repent.”

The Pharisees want a SIGN, a miracle, to prove that Jesus is from God. Jesus seems to be saying “You have all the signs you need in the Old Testament Scriptures already and they all lead to Me!” He doesn’t mess around with their bad attitudes or get DISTRACTED from the essentials. He leads them to the GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL.

When I think of the story of Jonah I think of the miracle of him being SWALLOWED by a fish and surviving for 3 days and nights. And since that is a picture of the RESURRECTION of Jesus, I want to get into working out the details of how these 3 days and nights fit in with when Jesus’ died. How was it 3 days AND 3 nights?

But it seems to me I can miss the forest for the trees if I’m not careful. The MATHEMATICS of the resurrection is not the REAL EMPHASIS of this passage. Jonah’s resurrection from the fish was a great sign, but the GREATEST MIRACLE, however, according to Jesus, is the MIRACLE OF REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS! A whole generation of Ninevites REPENTED because of Jonah’s message. That’s the intention of God. To see people FORGIVEN AND RESTORED to Him! Jesus, on the other hand, is faced with people who “REFUSE to repent” (Matthew 12:41).

My friend Joe knew THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL. He knew the forgiveness that comes from believing in Christ as Lord and Saviour. He leaves a LEGACY OF FAITH. His legacy is a family who has come to love and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jonah says “I knew that you are a MERCIFUL AND COMPASSIONATE GOD, SLOW TO GET ANGRY AND FILLED WITH UNFAILING LOVE. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.”

God hasn’t changed. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “The Lord …does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” He loves us as we are but loves us too much to leave us that way. He wants us to respond to Him, to trust in Christ, to experience THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL – FORGIVENESS and a life changed forever. The invitation He gives is to us; to participate in the MIRACLE OF REPENTANCE.

Pastor Ross