Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

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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 Some stained glass and damaged sections have been replaced by modern designs and these stand in contrast to the dirt and soot of the years.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 15:21-28 – HOW GREAT FAITH IS AWAKENED

WOMAN OF GREAT FAITH Photo by Ross Cochrane

They don’t want anything to do with her, but she walks into their midst to seek for Him anyway. She pleads with Him above the calls to send her away. He embodies the answers she needs to the prayers that have reached heaven’s corridors. Deuteronomy 4:29 (NLT) says “But from there you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for Him with all your heart and soul, you will find Him.”Prayer is a window of hope and He has responded by His presence in this far away place. Accessible. Approachable.

If only her husband would believe? There’s something about a Mother’s love that is willing to find a path to God. But Jesus does not respond.

In the silence of Jesus somehow persistent faith is awakened. Anyone can see that she is faced with total rejection. Yet she stays and persists in asking for help with a heart that is breaking and a faith that lingers. Would mine?

She comes to Him again. She worships Him. Somehow she knows that He is God. She pleads with Him for help. Her persistence is not thwarted by His silence but all the more insistent.

Her daughter is possessed by a demon. Jesus does not ask her how this happened? Canaanites worshiped all kinds of other gods; god’s that defiled and penetrated the mind with their poison.

She calls Him “Lord” and “Son of David”. Surely this descendent of king David will help her? She cries for mercy for her daughter.

And then comes that famous exchange. Jesus finally speaks, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replies, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their Master’s table” “Dear woman,” Jesus says to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter is instantly healed. (Matthew 15:26-28 NLT).

He said her faith was great. Her daughter was healed instantly. When my faith collides with His favour a miracle takes place. She didn’t have to wait. He didn’t have to go with her. Her master had spoken. She had come under the authority of the Lord of heaven and earth and her daughter was healed.

What does great faith look like? At times, it looks like a desperate cry for help (Matthew 15:22). It looks like an unstoppable persistence that refuses to give up when faced with an impossible situation (Matthew 15:23-24). It looks like worship (Matthew 15:25). It looks like humble surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 15:26-27). It looks bigger than the circumstance. Jesus said it was great faith. It is faith that waits for a miracle (Matthew 15:28).

Matthew 21:22 (NLT) says “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” John 14:13-14 (NLT) says “You can ask for anything in My name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it!”

Jesus awakens that kind of faith as we worship Him. Faith that forces its way through rejection and seeming silence until it can appropriate a miracle. Jesus invites me and you to have such desperate and humble faith as this. 

Pastor Ross

WOMAN OF GREAT FAITH - Picture created by Ross Cochrane with Paint.net

Letter to my wife on Mother’s Day

Dear Julie,

Happy Mother’s day,

I have been reading about the Gentile mother who came to Jesus for help for her daughter. Like you, she is a mother who comes to Jesus in humble surrender and worship on behalf of her children.

Like her, you are a Mother who wants to know and worship Jesus. Long before situations arise in our children’s lives you have been seeking the Lord on their behalf. You see prayer is a window of hope and you use it as a woman of faith to speak into impossible circumstances. Spiritual warfare for our children.

Like her, you take action as you come to Jesus for help. And you don’t give up. I admire that about you. Your persistence, despite not seeing answers straight away, despite the sacrifices you have to make and where you seem to hear silence for your efforts. You are not thwarted. You find the way.

Like her, you see the favour of God. When faith collides with His favour a miracle takes place. So often your faithfulness sees it’s way through to a miracle.

What does great faith look like in a Mother? At times, it looks like a desperate cry for help for your children. It looks like an unstoppable persistence that refuses to give up when faced with an impossible situation. It looks like worship. It looks like humble surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. It looks bigger than the circumstance. Jesus says to this mother it was great faith; faith that waits for a miracle (Matthew 15:28).

You are a mother such as this. I am inspired by your faith, by your persistence, by your love for your children, your grandchildren and your respect for your own mother. God bless you on this Mother’s Day, woman of great faith.

Love you,

Ross

 

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Millstone © Ross Cochrane

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

 

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Matthew 18:3-4 – THE BIRTHDAY INVITATION

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

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

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

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

In Matthew 18:3-4 (NLT) Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 18:1-4 – “THE GREATEST” QUALITIES

Matthew 18:1-4 is an invitation to find your true identity but it will mean some rewiring of assumptions about what is great. Greatness is not a wall designed to keep people out. It is not a pyramid to keep people in. The qualities of “the greatest” will include…

SERVANTHOOD

Jesus doesn’t deny authority in the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is coming under authority that is important. Luke 22:26-30 (NLT) Jesus says “But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as One who serves. “You have stayed with  Me in My time of trial. And just as My Father has granted Me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  

It is not a sense of entitlement but seeking out the best in others that is powerful. No-one can exercise authority without coming under authority. Servanthood is true greatness. He invites us into another person’s world.

HUMILITY AND OBEDIENCE

“Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them. Then He said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4 NLT).

Humble enough to turn aside, come and obey when Jesus calls. Greatness involves humble obedience. Humility admits our dependence on Christ and enables us to realise our potential in Him. To enter into Christ’s kingdom realm demands that we become like a child for it is only in doing so that we can become a child of the king.

RECEPTIVE AND TRUSTING

The child responded to the call of Christ. “Turn…” Turn like the child turning to listen to Him and come to Him. Become like a little child. Compliant to the things of God in our lives, it will involve being vulnerable enough to trust.

RISK TAKING AND FAITH

With faith, there will always be an element of risk. Children are not conscious of inherent dangers and a child may like showing off, but to come into a group of adults at the request of Jesus shows courage, risk-taking, and faith.

FOCUS ON CHRIST

Focus demands not being distracted by a false sense of entitlement but fixing our attention on what Christ is asking of us. It means a deliberate disassociation with self-centredness. The child made Jesus the centre of his or her attention and in doing so came under His authority.

And the invitation is to come as a Child comes, at the sound of Jesus’ voice, with all our gifts, motivations, abilities, potential, personality, and limited experience, to Jesus. Position depends on responding to His calling. God’s purposes replacing worldly ambition is a powerful influence.

SUBMISSION AND FAITH

Position, power, prestige, fame, wealth and ambition come into perspective under the authority of Christ. Am I motivated by pride or by a desire to submit myself to Christ? The motivation is all important.

Was it pride and covetousness that made them ask this question about who is the greatest? Self-importance and envy get in the way of our calling and position in Christ. It seems they were being contentious about who would lead them, who would be greatest and have the most authority.

Perhaps they were jealous of Peter or John or James. Perhaps it is just political wrangling over the best candidate. Whatever motivated the question, it was not indicative of a childlike faith.

The invitation is clear for those who would find their true identity and purpose.

“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.(Matthew 18:4 NLT)

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Matthew 18 – TOO ADULT

GRAHAM (an entrepreneur and 2IC of a company): “I know they learn quickly, they’re creative and they are curious and interested in life. They remember things easily and are fun loving people who have retained an imagination. I think it is wonderful that they don’t believe in limits.

I know that they find a way into your hearts so that you end up loving them, excusing them, defending them, laughing and playing with them and you can’t do without them. But what’s the deal with relating them to people in authority, people who are great? You have got to be kidding? 

They are distracted so easily from a task, loud most of the time, demand attention and interrupt all the time. When they get tired, they get cranky. They want to eat all the time, and want others to get it for them.”

JESUS: “I called a little child to Me.” 

GRAHAM: “But Lord, how is a child related to greatness. I would understand if you said you have to be less self-serving and less self-centred, or listen more. But how is the calling of a child related to greatness?

In fact, why call a child at all. Children throw tantrums in shopping centres and are uncooperative when you want them to do something. They hit their brothers and sisters, disrupt a good conversation, and are bored easily. They are careless with their toys, changeable in their moods, and cling to their mothers.”

JESUS: “I called this child and the child came to Me, and I placed them in the midst of My disciples to teach them about greatness.”

GRAHAM: “So let me get this straight. This is a picture, right? You CALL the child then PLACE the child. There is a CHOICE made by the child to come. So, at least, this child is OBEDIENT. Are you saying that Your calling looks for a response of OBEDIENCE? But isn’t it the person who gives the direction the one who is great. You are the One who has the authority, especially since You managed to get a child to obey You?

And by the way, what about stranger danger? What were the mum and dad thinking? Were the parents around? Did the child know You?” 

JESUS: “I called the child and the child came.”

GRAHAM: “I guess the parents must have known You. Everybody knew You and, come to think of it, I seem to remember parents bringing their children to You so You could lay Your hands on them and pray for them. 

Didn’t that bother You? Having parents forcing their kids on You?”

JESUS: “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Matthew 19:13-14 NLT)

GRAHAM: “Oh, please, You can’t be serious. Children lie if it suits them, they are impatient with getting somewhere in the car, lack manners at the table, are irresponsible with tasks unless paid, covetous of their friends toys, possessive of their own, untidy and lazy about cleaning up, and so obstinate about knowing things they have got wrong.” 

JESUS: “When I called, the child came and I placed the child among My disciples.”

GRAHAM: “You said that before but what are You saying, Lord? Are You saying that You PLACED this child where you wanted him or her to be because OBEDIENCE comes before someone can be POSITIONED? But it’s still You giving the direction. Are you saying that greatness is being in the position You place us, the place where we can be used for Your purposes? Is this what you mean by greatness?

I still can’t accept it that a child can be great. Children in Your time on earth had no rights. They can’t be great. Children are so dependent on adults and yet insist on being independent. They are always asking questions, never want to go to bed early, embarrassingly make fun of others, hate homework and structured learning. When they are small they demand to be picked up. When they are big they refuse to give you a hug. How is that great?”

JESUS: “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

GRAHAM: “But Lord, children have no responsibilities, stand in front of the TV, invade your personal space, cough without covering their mouths, pick their noses, play in the dirt, pass on colds and flu and nits and ringworm and worse diseases. They have high pitched screams, have no idea of danger, and have far too much energy to keep up with. They break toys, and if they can’t get what they want, they ‘cry’.”

JESUS: “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming Me.” 

GRAHAM: “OK, Lord. Let me try to get my head around this. The Child was called, so she or he was old enough to understand, turn to You, exercise trust and obey. He or she makes a choice, a positive choice towards You.

I think You are trying to tell me that I need to think of greatness in the simplest of terms. It’s not the flaws of children that you want to emphasise but the simplicity of faith. This child, in this situation, is a picture of what it means to have dependence on You and trust in You.

I guess you are not saying that I am to be childish, but childlike, and have a simple openness in being directed in my life by You. To be great is to find my purpose and position in life lining up with Your purposes and where You want me to be. OK, I get it. Save me from being too adult.”

Pastor Ross

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THE HANDS OF GRACE

The world is changed by the HANDS of the Lord,

Which reach out from the handbook of ages,

Where Hands of His grace have planned and penned the stages

For undeserving hands in need of life restored,

The hand-wrought work of God; unearned reward,

Handpicked, and free at last from sins cruel wages.

Yet mishandled grace has smudged most its pages.

 

THE HANDS OF MAN 

So God’s pure hands now hold a two-edged sword,

While sinful, errant hands hold nought but shame,

In need of His abiding, guiding hand.

With things so out of hand, we must share blame.

We take the law into our hands and stand

Doomed, death’s wages play our hand a losing game,

As hands rebel against His Holy Name

 

THE HANDS OF GOD

Did God throw up His hands at my offence?

Or wash His hands of me until I die?

Or did He force His hand upon me to comply?

In Satan’s hands, my life will not make sense,

God acts with heavy hand and moral sense.

On one hand, He condemns with just resolve.

On the other hand, His love wants to absolve

 

THE HANDS OF SALVATION

I forced God’s hand to judge me. No defence.

The hands of Jesus have for me made room.

Those hands that flung the stars and worlds in space

Became the tiny hands in Mary’s womb.

Hands-on hands, rough and calloused found their place.

Soon nail pierced hands would rise up from the tomb

Those Hands which long to craft my life in grace.

 

His gentle hands restore sight with one touch,

Hands that heal the wounds and scars we bear,

Hands that soften hardened hearts heal with loving care,  

Those hands that feed five thousand offer much,

Servant hands that wash disciple’s feet. Such

Loving hands bless children with a prayer.

His hands broke bread and gave us wine to share,

Hands that wrenched the victory from the devils clutch.

 

Yet Judas would such blameless hands betray

And hand Him up to hands of sinful men,

His hands abandoned, as we turned away.

Pilot would such faultless hands condemn.

He tried to wash his hands of guilt that day,

And blood is also on our hands as it was then.

 

The crowd forced Pilot’s hand to crucify.

The hands of Jesus bore His Cross and our travails.

And into open hands, we drove those cruel nails.

He knew firsthand that He would have to die,

Sin handled, “It is finished” was His cry.

Into His Father’s hands, His spirit sails,

And though His hands are still, His love prevails.  

 

Salvation, paid in full, His hands supply,

He won hands down the victory over death,

And on the day I handed Him my sin,

He handed me forgiveness, peace within.

My hands received new life from Spirit breath.

 

So touch His nail scarred hands, be born again,

Those hands that offer love of unplumbed depth.

He takes your hand, the journey can begin.

 

THE HANDS OF FAITH

The hands of faith are my hands reaching out,

And Jesus is on hand to hear my prayer.

He wants all hands on board, He’s just and fair.

He waits for hands of faith that will not doubt,

Clean hands and hearts of those who are devout.

For faith is not a ‘hand-me-down’ we wear,

Not second hand but born from choice and prayer.

We take hands off, He turns our life about,

 

The clock hands say the day is almost spent.

Salvation is at hand, the time is near.

Faith takes the hand of God with full intent,

Surrendered hands and hearts and ears to hear.

So with clean hands and heart make the ascent

In His eternal hands, there is no fear.

 

THE HANDS OF JESUS

Fingers that flung worlds and stars in space

Became the tiny fingers formed in Mary’s womb,

Then craftsman’s hands, all calloused, shaping wood and stone,

Hands to feed five thousand, and defy the storm,

Hands that seek God’s will to make our hearts His throne.

Hands betrayed, abandoned, lashed and bound,

Forsaken hands, abused and battered, have borne

The sinners price in full. Yes, He alone

Reached out His hands to us, and we are found

And known

So today, as we pray, could you open your hands in front of you and open your heart to Him.

Dear Lord Jesus, I admit to You that I have sin on my hands, and I ask for Your forgiveness, for clean hands and a new start. I believe that when Your hands were nailed to the Cross You died for my sins and rose from the dead.

I hand over my life to You and invite You to come into my heart and life.

Take my hand of faith because I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Saviour.

I accept the gift of eternal life that you hand to me,

I pray this prayer knowing that now I am in Your hands. Thankyou for welcoming me into Your family.   

In Jesus Name,

Amen.

If you prayed that prayer and meant it, then Jesus will give You a hand in living life to the full, as God intended. And please e-mail me if I can help you live your life for Him.

Pastor Ross

 

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

Chapter 14

The man who was thrown at Obed-edom’s feet was tied by the hands and had obviously been beaten. His swollen and bruised face gave evidence that he had resisted capture. Obed-edom knew the man. He was a sentry from one of the Philistine fortresses near his own village and he wondered why he had not been killed.

“Take care of this man. I may need him later,” said Joab to Obed-edom roughly and then turning to his own men he said, “Don’t let him out of your sight or you will answer to me.”

Obed-edom took the man back to the house, lay him on a mat on the floor and cleaned the man’s wounded face with clean water. While he did this he sought to find out from him what was happening in Philistia. The man was unable to speak coherently for some time.

“Why didn’t they kill you?” asked Obed-edom when the man was suitably recovered.

“Because they wanted information from me about the movements of our army.”

“Did you tell them anything?”

“I had no choice,” said the soldier. Obed-edom was disgusted and the soldier sought to justify his actions. “They would have killed me if I had remained silent. It won’t make any difference anyway.”

“What do you mean?”

“As long as we remain alive, we will be free in the next few days. Already the whole of the Philistine army is gathering together at the valley of Rephaim against Israel. Molech will have his vengeance.”

Obed-edom shuddered. He had not expected that his freedom would come in such a way as this, and after so many years of captivity he was surprised that he did not feel any sense of relief. As he looked at Barzillai giving instructions to his sons, he wondered what lay ahead, not with a sense of hope but with dread. He knew how cruel his Philistine overlords would be as they swept through Israel, raping the women and killing or torturing the men and children.

Apart from being circumcised, Obed-edom and his sons had been treated well by Joab and Barzillai, and although it had taken some years for him to learn the language of the people of Israel, in time he had been able to communicate some of his more advanced methods of smithing. He had proved himself to be a faithful servant, eventually earning the right to have slaves under his authority.

Trustworthy slaves were given a great deal of freedom and he was eventually able to conduct business of his own under his master’s control. He had watched carefully for opportunities to escape, but Joab was a careful administrator of his slaves and the only real chances Obed-edom had been while Joab was away at war. Somehow Obed-edom had always waited for better opportunities. He had told himself that he did not want to endanger the lives of his sons, but in truth he had come to respect the king and people of this nation and life was somehow fulfilling.

Now it seemed that soon he and his sons would once again to be involved in making Philistia a great nation, free from the invading influences of king David and his God. Once again he would serve Molech the terrible and a host of other gods. He tried not to think of his misgivings but they overwhelmed him and he felt extremely depressed.

As David and Joab went to war from Jerusalem Obed-edom found himself desperately empty inside. He was not able to concentrate on even the simplest of duties that day and Barzillai had been frustrated with him. The two of them had worked closely together for some years and Obed-edom had always been reliable.

“I cannot do my work if you do not do yours,” Barzillai said.

“I am sorry, my friend,” said Obed-edom “I have been pre-occupied with thoughts about king David’s war with my people and I can’t help but wonder at the outcome of the next few days. Perhaps it would be better if both of us had escaped some years ago.”

“I could never go back to serving the demon gods of my fathers,” said Barzillai, “I have come to know the one true God and Him only will I serve and if I must die then I am in His hands. Besides, God will protect king David. Before Joab left, he told me that God has promised David deliverance. You should be more concerned about your own people.” Obed-edom could not continue the conversation. Despair seemed to seep through into his very soul. David was vastly outnumbered and the Philistines had superior weapons.

That night as he returned home he decided to walk along the track that led to the mine. The guards let him pass. He had long been given the freedom to come and go as he needed to in this area. He walked to the top of the hill and looked out over the mountainous terrain. There in a secluded place between some large rocks he began to weep and pray for the first time to the God of Israel.

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

“Oh, God,” he groaned “You once took slaves from Egypt and brought them to this land. Now take this slave and release me from the captivity I have felt within. Release me from the power of Molech and let me serve You. Have mercy upon me and forgive me for I can no longer follow the ways of my people or my gods.” Then it seemed like something broke deep inside with an almost audible ring as the shackles of his heart seemed to fall away.

That night a smelting furnace was lit within his soul and all the dross came to the surface to be skimmed away by God Himself. God was forming something beautiful within him. He was becoming an instrument fashioned by the master craftsman’s hands and he knew that he would never be the same. Still the fire burned, until his spirit awakened in the flame and he reached his hands upward in praise to his maker. He had attended the sacrifices made for Barzillai’s family. Now he desperately wanted to make an offering himself for his own sins and the sins of his own family. For the first time in his life, he felt free of the burdens of his own sin. It all seemed to make sense to him as he raised his hands and his heart towards the heavens that night.

The next day he rose early and prayed. It was a Sabbath day and his sons were astonished, but out of respect they did not question his strange behaviour. Then as soon as Barzillai was awake, Obed-edom began directing a series of questions at him.

“Is it possible for me to serve and worship the God of Israel like you do?”

“Of course it is possible.” said Barzillai.

“Then what must I do? I must act immediately. God has met with me last night and I must know how I can serve Him before we are defeated by my people the Philistines.” said Obed-edom with a desperate look of concern in his eyes. Barzillai laughed.

“This sounds serious. We will talk with one of the priests, but I suggest you don’t mention being overrun by the Philistines. They may object. In the meantime, relax.” Barzillai and Obed-edom looked at each other. These two old men already had a mutual respect which had developed over the years and the seeds of friendship had also grown. Barzillai hugged his old companion who began to weep. Many tears would come in the days ahead which would purge the years of desolation he had lived without God.

TRIBUTE TO MY FRIEND

Posted: December 10, 2014 in Old Age
Tags: , , ,

TRIBUTE TO MY FRIEND

When words just aren't enough

When words just aren’t enough.

Dear Grace*,

you were my prayer warrior, my mood changer, and inspiration. Your optimistic outlook even when a stroke left you with Dysphasia amazed and motivated me. Your beautiful voice and fluent speech became muddled, though you understood and communicated through your eyes and scattered words. And on those rare moments when we saw you crying, seeking to deal with the complexities of communication, our hearts cried with you.

You lived a day at a time with the photo of your husband not far away. Your genuine love for him and your family as you shared their sorrows and joys were the basis of your prayers. Your love for them and us was always reciprocated.

In the end you were so much a part of my own family that we can’t imagine you not being there. I will always remember your warm smiles at my devotions. And I will miss you trying to sing the hymns as best you could. I will miss your infectious laughter as you accepted us and guided us in our attempts to communicate with you.

You loved music and flowers and your room was so warm and welcoming. You were a faithful friend and we’ll miss you.

You loved the Lord and lived out that relationship by your love for others and we thank God that you are in a place with no more tears or pain where you can finally articulate clearly the faith you lived. Thankyou.

I told you I was going on holidays and that I would see you when I returned. It may take a little longer than I thought.

I wrote this poem for you yesterday

Glory be to God for muddled words,

For eyes that took rainbows captive with joy to share.

Your roses and music to us have been bequeathed.

Faith’s final race is run, undeterred,

The lure of heaven has called you from our care,

And all tears, all pain and trials have ceased

All words spoken, no longer slurred or strange,

Whatever is sung, ascends the heights of prayer

With soft, sweet, syllables of praise increased

She is to Him who is beyond all change,

Released. 

By Pastor Ross Cochrane

*not her real name

Matthew 17:14-20 – HOW TO ADJUST YOUR FOCUS

“Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important. Develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out, take another shot.”

Focus. Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge.org, Paint.net, and MorgueFiles.com

Focus. Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge.org, Paint.net, and MorgueFiles.com

Recorded in brilliant failure, Matthew 17:16 is a digital snapshot the disciples would rather have erased from the memory card. The colours are too dark, and there are no finely focused images of a miracle, just the indistinct madness of an ill-conceived attempt. When the disciples can’t cast out a demon from a boy, Jesus tells them that they “don’t have enough FAITH” (Matthew 17:20 NLT). In Mark 9:28-29 (NLT) Jesus adds “This kind can be cast out only by PRAYER.” 

Faith and prayer, like the interplay between field of focus and the aperture, are both needed to obtain the right exposure to God’s light for a healing miracle to occur. The disciples depth of faith was far too shallow, much too close to the Scribes, focused on their arguments, accentuating their negativity and blurring the little boy’s needs into the background.

They had needed more light that day. They did not allow God to adjust the aperture of faith to even the size of a mustard seed to obtain enough light to expose this little boy to the love of Jesus. Their image was far from perfect. 

DEPTH OF FAITH

As Jesus came down from the mountain He framed a different picture of all that was happening in a deep depth of faith. Everything was in focus, the argument with the Scribes, the crowd, the failure of the disciples, the faith of the father and the boy who needed healing. He saw the scene with absolute clarity.

The paparazzi crowd zoomed in on Jesus and away from the negative image of the argument, focusing their lenses on the celebrity of Jesus. The Son is the best light source of all. Rich and warm, His light brings out the best colours in everyone, but also highlights the strong shadows of darkness in the scribes and boy; the demonic shapes, long and sinister. The contrast is striking.

Then darkness suddenly flees as the demon is fully exposed to a blinding flash of light! Abruptly the shadows vanish and the image of a bright little boy appears, alive and well for all to see. The crowd is in awe at the picture of health they see. What had looked obscure and shadowy is now a beautifully balanced image of a boy, correctly exposed to the saving power of Jesus. Miracles are all about light. They marvel in the presence of Jesus, Master of Light and Life.

THE APERTURE (Faith)

Each person is a lens with their own maximum and minimum aperture setting (faith). Jesus invites me to use the widest aperture to let in as much of the light from God’s Word as possible. Otherwise, I will experience an underexposed life. 

ISO SPEED (Inner Sensitivity Opportunity)

At its simplest level, the Faith Aperture is an opening in my perception the size of a mustard seed. When God’s illumination passes through that opening, it shines on a light-sensitive heart that absorbs the light and captures the image of the Son of God within. The ISO speed (the Inner Sensitivity Opportunity) controls the sensitivity of my heart. The higher the ISO speed, the more sensitive the heart is to the light of God’s Word and the message of Christ. As these settings are adjusted to different circumstances I can get clarity and focus for perceiving my world through the eyes of God.

FOCUS AND LENS (Perception) 

Life is all about capturing light. It is received in faith. When I manually seek to control my world some circumstances will be in focus, crisp and clear, while others will be out of focus, blurry and confusing. As I allow the light of Christ to fill my life there are many ways that God automatically allows my perception sensors, through the power of His Holy Spirit, to detect, track and adjust my faith focus in the situations that I face each day. His invitation is to bring light and life and focus to your life.

He moves in closer like a big cat, stepping lightly and with careful intent, zooming in on His subject. He wants to capture every detail, the peppered freckles, the curve of the mouth, the twist of hair in the breeze. 

The intersecting lines of the viewfinder are poised and the autofocus is locked onto His subject. Playing with the early light, the background trees splash soft, subdued nuances of colour upon the scene. And in that split second when everything is resolved, His finger instinctively finds the shutter release and presses. The sound of the shutter sings in the silence, and a split second of time digitally replicates itself, irrevocably remembered and beautiful.

Pastor Ross