Posts Tagged ‘Grace’

Wrecking Ball 2

Breaking and Smashing © by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 2:10 – BREAKING AND SMASHING AT EASTER – Part 2

THERE IS NO OTHER KING

Philippians 2:5-11 (NLT) speaks of Christ, humbled by dying on the Cross, but then it goes on to say “… Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

So when have we ever seen this happen? Every knee bowing down? Not yet. There have always been those who don’t believe in Christ and refuse to come under His authority. Through the centuries there have always been those who opposed Christ and His followers. Has the book of Philippians in the Bible got it all wrong? No!

GOD IS PATIENT, BUT …

The Bible describes our present time as a time of God’s grace. 2 Peter 3:9-10 (NLT) explains “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. BUT THE DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.” 

So the Bible is clear that this prophetic time of judgment hasn’t yet taken place. God is giving the nations time to repent, but one day Christ will return with swift judgment as a victorious ruler.

Jesus is not King of one nation only, but every nation. The rebellion of empires or our individual sin against him in no way diminishes His authority and power. His humble servanthood in no way diminishes His dominion and intention to return as the conquering King.

TO WHOM DO I OWE MY ALLEGIANCE?

“Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth!” (Psalm 2:10 NLT).

So these words are the culmination of an angry promise and warning. Surprisingly, it is a plea from a heart of grace. David says, “Don’t be fools. Act wisely. Be warned.” How are they to act wisely? They have a choice. Submit or be annihilated. Not much of a choice? If they only realized that it’s the choice of a drowning man. Grab the rope and be saved or die. Judgment will come whether you do or not. Fall from a plane without taking the parachute you’ve been offered will have inevitable consequences.

As an ancient king, David could have simply gathered his army and gone against these rebellious kings and brought them to justice, but he doesn’t. He gives them time to consider their future. Before the storm comes, a moment of grace.

In the same way, the Bible uses this Psalm to say that God’s purpose is not to take pleasure in judging us, but to save us from inevitable judgment. Judgment was never intended for us according to the Bible. It is intended for the final judgment of the devil and his angels. Our mutiny leaves us out in the storm but there is shelter in Christ.

Before Jesus came, John the Baptist prepared the way by saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus continued to say exactly the same thing (Matthew 4:17).

The voice of love still invites us to respond in love and repentance to the King of kings.

Pastor Ross

Codebreaker.jpg

Code Breaker created © by Ross Cochrane

CODEBREAKER

I found it fascinating when I discovered he was a Codebreaker in the war. He looked somehow smaller now and curled up. I prayed for him, sang to him as light filtered through the window onto his old wrinkled brow.

The movie “The Imitation Game” talked about Codebreaking in the war and the once relatively unknown place called Bletchley Park located in northern England became famous.

Who knew that one of the magnificent old houses in Brisbane’s sophisticated inner northern suburb of Ascot, 21 Henry St, housed the top-secret organization called the Central Bureau of Intelligence, Australia’s equivalent to Britain’s Bletchley Park.

But of course, now we also know of the contribution of Australians like Jim (not his real name) which shortened the length of the war. Within those walls, the great unsung heroes of that war made their unique contribution to victory. It would be over 30 years before Jim spoke about it and only then was he able to receive his medals.

The bible is difficult to interpret at times. it’s a codebook, which if used well, can help us decipher the enigmas of life, fight the right battles, know the real enemy and bring us peace with God.

  1. CODEWORD – “WATER”

In John 4:13-14 (NLT) Jesus is speaking to a woman at a well and He says, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the WATER I GIVE will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them ETERNAL LIFE.” 

He speaks of the Water Of Life. What does He mean?

Well, the woman, like Jim, was a codebreaker. She deciphered the code easily. She knew he was speaking about Heaven.

The bible says heaven is a gift. You can’t earn it or work for it or deserve it. It’s as free as water from a well and it quenches our thirst for spiritual answers.

Jim deciphered that message also when he expressed his belief in Christ. He is now spending his first 10,000 years in eternity with God, Revelation 21:4 (NLT) says God will “…wipe every tear from his eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” 

The only thing that stands in the way of all of us having that gift relates to the second Bible…

  1. CODEWORD – “DARKNESS”

The Japanese used difficult ciphers and complex codes which required intense and concentrated intellectual efforts to break. The Codebreakers were often left in the dark.

In code-breaking and life, we all go through times of darkness.

Isaiah 59:1-21 (NLT) says “… We look for light but find only darkness. We look for bright skies but walk in gloom. We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark.”

War itself is a time of darkness, and so is grief, but it’s fairly easy to decode the darkness the Bible refers to here as meaning our sin.

The Bible says we cannot save ourselves from our sin. We all need God’s forgiveness. Jim found that forgiveness. How did that happen?

The next bible code-word explains more of the puzzle.

  1. CODEWORD – “LIGHT”

1 John 1:5-7 (NLT) says, “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.”

This code-word Light tells us that God is sinless, pure and holy.

2 Corinthians 4:4-7 (NLT) says “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.”

Jim came to know the love and light of God in his life. Since the God of light and purity can’t have anything to do with the darkness of our sin, how did that happen? That is an indecipherable problem for us, but not to God.

To solve that indecipherable problem, God sent the ultimate code-breaker into the world to deal with the darkness of our sin.

John 1 explains that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. … The One who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him. But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”  So

Jesus is that ultimate code breaker.

At the Aged Care center where Jim lived the last part of his life, there was a door code to get in. It is free entrance for those who know it. Which is appropriate because the next bible code-word is

  1. CODEWORD – “DOOR” OR “GATE”

In John 10:2-10 (NLT) Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, I am THE GATE (or THE DOOR) for the sheep … Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

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.”

So what do we do with these codes – Water of Life, Darkness of Sin, Light of the World, and the Door of Salvation? The answer is found in the final bible codewords which are the

  1. CODEWORDS – “EARS TO HEAR”

Jesus puts it this way in Matthew 13:9 (NIV) “He who has ears, let him hear.” Jesus spoke in Codes Himself or parables. Those who deciphered them became His disciples; His Codebreakers; those with Ears To Hear”.

Jesus spoke in parables. He gathered a group of His own codebreakers, His disciples, who were always intrigued by the coded stories Jesus told about heaven. They deliberately asked for Jesus to decipher His parables for them. He did, but there were a whole lot of people in the crowd who didn’t understand and did not want to understand what He was trying to say, so the disciples asked him why He used parables.

What Jesus said was astounding!

In Matthew 13:11 He says “You are PERMITTED to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are NOT.” The parables were foolishness to them because they refused to put time into deciphering the truth, listening to the signals, discerning the patterns.

Jim knew that the consequences of not being able to decode enemy strategies mean that lives are lost.

The consequences of not decoding the messages of Jesus means that our purpose for life is lost. We are refused the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. God won’t force us to listen, and equally when I refuse to listen, then He won’t permit me to understand. I’m either receptive or left ignorant. He allows me the consequences of my choices.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT) 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.” It’s a code that needs to be deciphered to save us spiritually.

Having Ears To Hear refers to faith and faith is the key to deciphering the Door-code of the gospel. Without the Door-code of faith, there is no entrance to heaven’s door.

Romans 10:17 (NIV) says, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”

Today we celebrate Jim’s incredible talent for solving puzzles, his imagination and the sheer determination to prevail in the face of incredible technical challenges. He was awarded some long-awaited medals.

Jim deciphered codes in the war but he also deciphered what God was trying to say to him through the message of the gospel. He placed His faith in Christ. The warfare for his soul was spiritual.

In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT) Paul talks about the spiritual battle. He says “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God.”

The WATER OF LIFE – heaven is a free gift. THE DARKNESS – the Sin that gets in our way of knowing God. THE LIGHT – a Holy God who loves us but must judge our sin. THE DOOR – relationship with God open to all because Christ died for our sins and finally EARS TO HEAR – FAITH to Hear the message of the Gospel and place our trust in Christ for Eternal life.

Jim kept this secret for many years. He was warned “Do not talk at meals. Do not talk traveling. Do not talk at home.” I’m glad He didn’t keep his faith in God a secret.

At around 12:10 pm on Friday 27th January 2017, Jim deciphered the last part of the puzzle and was awarded the gift of heaven. He was 91 years old. Psalm 139:16 says that “all the days ordained for me were written in God’s book before one of them came to be.”

And the next time you are playing Chess or working on a Crossword puzzle, or placing your code into a computer or typing your password, or simply puzzling over the quandaries of life, remember to thank God that the code is broken. Death and sin have been defeated. Now the invitation remains for us to trust in the Ultimate Codebreaker – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Lord, for Water of Life, the Light of the Gospel, Door of heaven, for Your love and forgiveness in Christ, for ears to hear Your voice concerning how to live life to the full. Help us to have ears to hear You for direction and correction in the challenges and blessings of life, in Jesus Name, Amen

nWindow with earth4.jpg

THE 7 WINDOWS OF CHRISTMAS

The Bible speaks about the Window of Heaven being opened to allow the blessings of God to come to earth for those who love God and honour His Name. That got me thinking about windows, windows of the soul, shop windows, car windows, computer windows, all kinds of windows.

And it all reminded me of the Window of Christmas, that small window of time that we celebrate the birth of Christ each year.

So this year my Christmas gift to you is a story based on 7 windows. It tells the Christmas story from the perspective of an opening in heaven.

First of all, …

  1. THE WINDOW OF HEAVEN

Our story begins many years ago when God first created an aperture in heaven called the Window of Heaven, an opening or passageway between heaven and earth, and through which flowed the blessings of God.

It opened to reveal a beautiful view of the Garden of Eden. In that garden, Adam and Eve would walk with God in the cool of the evening and He inspired them to always stay close to the Window of Heaven so that they could hear His voice and receive on earth the blessings of God from heaven.

Standing in the middle of the garden were two trees, clearly visible from the window. One was the Tree of Life, beautiful to behold and laden with fruit. But God pointed to another tree and said NOT to eat from it. Eating from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would close the Window of Heaven and the blessings of God could no longer fall to earth, His will would not be done on earth as it is in heaven.

One day, you guessed it, the first man and woman decided not to look to Heaven’s window for direction. So, unfortunately, my story also tells of…

  1. THE CLOSED WINDOW

Instead, Adam and Eve deliberately ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and suddenly the Window of Heaven was closed from the inside. God would not look on their sinfulness.

They saw the light go from the window as the curtains were closed and the garden was suddenly somber, subdued, muted and drab. They were afraid and hid themselves far from the window.

When God found them in the garden, they refused to take responsibility for their disobedience. Sin had well and truly entered their world.

As the years and centuries went by, God realized that the hearts of men and women had moved so far away from the Window of Heaven that they could no longer see His light or receive His blessings or hear His purposes.

He longed to bring them close again, to call men and women back and once again open the Window of Heaven. But their sinfulness would always shut them off from Heaven’s blessings. The situation seemed hopeless and men and women seemed helpless, lost and with no purpose. They could not open heavens window by their own efforts. But of course, nothing is impossible with God and let’s be clear, God had taken the sinfulness of humanity into account. Which leads me to our third window called …

  1. THE WINDOW OF GRACE

One day, with a touch of His hand, God lit up the screen of heaven’s holographic computer and brought up a file from one of the windows. It was the Key Planning Document for a Space Launch. Its file name was Good News. The plan described The Window of Grace.

Long before man planned to launch a man into space and have him land on the moon, God planned to launch a man from heaven and have Him land on earth. And not just any man. A man the prophets had spoken about in ages past. It was the Window of Grace that would send Jesus, the Messiah, to be born in Bethlehem. It involved opening the Window of Heaven once more.

The day came when it began to happen. The window began to open but only for a brief moment. It was at that time, nine months before the first Christmas day that a young woman responded to the purposes of God in her life.

When Mary looked up there was an angel who appeared at Heaven’s window and told her she would bear a child, the Son of the Most High, and even though she was still a virgin, she responded to His words. She said, “May everything you have said about me come true.”

Something the size of a mustard seed fell from the window into Mary’s heart, and the angel Gabriel recognized it as faith. Before the window closed again, he said to Himself, “Truly God is a God of Grace.”

Gabriel and all the other angels knew that the Window of Heaven would one day be opened fully again. And this is why our Christmas story speaks about the fourth Window, …

  1. THE WINDOW OF TIME

It must happen at just the right time. It would be a relatively short window of opportunity when the light from the portal window would be in just the right position. They would have to wait for the fullness of time.

They could not miss this opportunity because it would only come once. God was never late or early with His promises but patient and the opportunity of a lifetime must be seized during the lifetime of the opportunity. Each one knew that the window was the passageway between heaven and earth. They waited, anticipation building in their hearts.

On earth, on the other side of the portal called Heaven’s Window, Joseph knew that he must find a place quickly, but Bethlehem was full and there was no place for them to go. All that was offered to Joseph that night, was a stable. This was indeed a small and humble place for Mary, nine months pregnant, but he had no other choice. The Baby could come at any moment. No other place was available. Yet somehow he knew that God was

No other place was available. Yet somehow Joseph knew that God was launching His purposes at just the right time and in just the right place. He could not fully comprehend that the Magnificence of heaven would shine through the Window of Heaven into a humble stable.

But all this was in the plan of God which leads us to our fifth window, …

  1. THE WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

First of all, God drew back the curtains and He looked down on the earth to see if anyone was looking toward heaven. The window was crystal clear. The light that shone from His majesty was glorious.

He saw that some wise men had noticed the light. The brightness of the window, like a star in the sky, seen from afar, was used by God to guide them on that first Christmas.

And then it happened. God opened the Window of Heaven and the angelic host saw their window of opportunity, and anxious to fulfill their mission, swooped through the portal, light flashing in rippling waves from their wings.

On that first Christmas night, some Shepherds saw the open window streaming with angels flooding the fields with light. The Angels reassured them and told them of the Saviour, born in Bethlehem, the Light of the World. When the angels returned through the portal window, they noticed that God intended to leave it open. It would only be shut for one more brief time in history, because of the…

6. THE WINDOW OF LOVE

The light of the Window of Heaven is framed with a cross. You see, when God opened the window of heaven, He did so with a trembling voice and there were tears in His eyes.

Light that shone from the window to the Manger was a prelude to the darkness of the Cross when the window would be closed and the curtains drawn once more for 3 days.

God knew from the very beginning that before Jesus could die for our sins, He had to be born into the world as a perfect human being, the light from the Window of Love. But as Jesus died for our sin, darkness descended on the earth. The voice of God was heard through a WINDOW OF JUDGMENT as He cried out, “It is finished”. 

But during all this the most amazing thing happened. The curtains that had closed heaven’s windows were torn from top to bottom and the light of eternity was offered to all those who believe in His Son. The Window of Heaven would remain open, once and for all. God so loved the world; you and me.

When the Apostle Paul saw this, he wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT), “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” 

John 1:1-5 (NLT) “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”  

John 1:9-14 (NLT) “The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.  They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” 

The last window of our story is the most important window of all. The 6th window is …

7. THE WINDOW OF FAITH

That night in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to her baby. God’s light from the window reached down that first Christmas and fell in a splendid array of grace upon the stable in Bethlehem, filling it with peace and joy which danced in the eyes of the Christ-child.

In that moment, God’s voice was heard from the window and echoed throughout eternity. God said, “This is My Son and He will remind men and women that He has come as a light to shine in this dark world so that all who put their trust in Him will no longer remain in the dark.” The light from the window of heaven had ushered in the Light of the world.

Its light was so pure and sweet that the Shepherds and Wise Men, Mary and Joseph and we too, are drawn into His presence. The presence of Jesus.

The angel proclaimed to Joseph and to us that “He will save His people from their sins.”

Through the centuries that followed, many have seen the light from the window of heaven calling them to repent of their sins and to follow the light, just as on that first Christmas.

But perhaps up to now you have been a window shopper when it comes to faith in Christ. Never really committing yourself to Him.

The Faith Window is also a window of opportunity. This opportunity has only a limited timespan. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NASB) Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”

Christmas is an opportunity to be transparent with God. Our life is already an OPEN WINDOW to Him. Since the dawn of history, every time a person responds to Christ that window of heaven is opened and through it flows the blessings and purposes of God.

The key to Christmas is Jesus. He gives us all a Window of Faith to prompt you and me to trust in Him and find peace with God.

So if this story has made sense to you, then would you pray this prayer with me? It’s a prayer to receive Christ as your personal Saviour this Christmas. In fact, why don’t we all say this prayer together? Will you repeat these words?

Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to save me.  My sin has closed me off from a relationship with You but  I am now opening up my heart to You because I realise that You died for my sins. Thankyou for the window of Grace to accept You as my personal Lord and Saviour. I am taking this window of opportunity to trust in You, alone, Lord Jesus. Thankyou for loving me and making me the person You designed me to be; to live my life in peace with You. Thankyou for saving me.

If you prayed that prayer for the first time, I’d love to from you. Let me know and I will endeavour to help you in this blog with your new journey of faith.

Pastor Ross

Hand of Jesus4

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

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 40

“You shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child that is born to you shall surely die.”

As the day came for Bathsheba to deliver her second child, the words of Nathan the prophet returned to taunt David repeatedly. He did not share his concerns with her. She looks so radiant. Will the Lord let this child live?

When David knew that Bathsheba had given birth to a son, his concerns only deepened. He spent much time in prayer. How can I ever hope to understand your mercy and judgments, Lord? My past weighs heavily upon my conscience. All I can ask is, in Your love and forgiveness, You might see fit to extend this little one’s life?

Then it seemed that his worst fears might be realised! A message came from Nathan! David froze as he anticipated what God might say through the prophet. The mercy of God’s Love or the justice I deserve? Will this son also be taken from me?

“The child that is born to you,” said the messenger. David winced noticeably, closing his eyes, “… is loved by the Lord, as a ewe lamb is loved by a poor shepherd.” Nathan’s message came with words of hope and destiny.

In that moment, David understood. Every life is a gift and precious in Your sight, Oh God. Only You can give life and only You can take it away. Your justice is hard to bear but Your mercy is born from it.

Bathsheba heard an exhilarated shout and then release of laughter. She walked through the open door and curiously looked for its source. David was standing by the window as the bewildered messenger took his leave. As she came to him, David was still laughing, but there was something strange about his laughter and when he turned to her touch she realised that his eyes were glistening with tears. He held her close as relief flowed over him like spring rain and the peace of the Lord descended upon him.

He knew then that he would call his son “Solomon,” because the name “Solomon” means “Peace”. It gives testimony to the peace that comes from God’s total and absolute forgiveness. Nathan would give him a prophetic name as well – “Jedidiah”, which meant “Loved by the Lord”. The prophet Nathan would also become Solomon’s personal tutor in the years ahead.

Absalom was quiet that day. He held the baby, and said all the right words, but felt uneasy by the presence of this little one, even threatened in some way. A twinge of jealousy rose up within him. No word from the prophet had come at his birth to say that he was loved by the Lord. Perhaps he perceived in the Spirit that this baby would one day… He handed the baby back to Bathsheba.

40 YEARS OF MARRIAGE – RUBY WEDDING ANNIVERSARY

Dear Julie, 

Ruby - 40 Years of Marriage © Ross Cochrane

Ruby – 40 Years of Marriage © Ross Cochrane

I have been reading Job and thinking how much my ignorance gets in the way of my relationship with God. I want to know things that are not relevant to the passage of scripture I am studying or I want to know answers I don’t need to know about. God teaches me more and more to trust in Him each day despite the things I don’t know. 

I have been married 40 years to you and I am still astounded of how ignorant I am about marriage, except that I have come to know and love you. Much of our marriage works simply because you are the best person I know and I keep noticing more about you as the years go by that makes me appreciate and love you more. 

I cannot imagine life without my beautiful wife and family. We have grandchildren who reflect a lot of your character because of the time you invest into them. They will look back and cherish times when they have laughed and cried and shared with you about everything (including difficult questions about Jesus). Most of all they will recall a woman who lived out her faith and the example that you gave them. 

God makes Himself known in all kinds of ways through His creation but I am so privileged that our paths crossed because I constantly see God’s character reflected in you. 

Why did he link you up with me? I can only see God’s grace in allowing me to be your husband. I thought from the first time I saw you that you were out of my league. So when we began to go out together, I was humbled and wanted from the outset to treat you with as much love and respect that I could. I didn’t want to hurt you, but inevitably we went through all kinds of hurts and blessing and the things that can either tear people apart or bring them together. We stayed together because of God’s grace. 

You certainly gave me incentive to trust God in order to become a good husband and father to our children. I still don’t know how we have managed to end up with such wonderful people as those in our immediate family. Some things I am so grateful for but will never fully understand. 

I am pleased to be on a journey with you that started 40 years ago and has led us to this point. I am looking forward to the future. It has been quite a journey and who knows where it will lead.

I love you,

Ross

THAT WHICH GRACE RESTORES 

Our world is filled with the beauty of grace

It’s touch sweeps out, a soft cloud on a beach;

It beckons us to seek what is beyond our reach,

To shout and sing and worship face to Face.

Generations to come will take our place

And they in time will take their turn to teach.

For now we share our hearts and love to each

With footsteps in the sand they can retrace,

For timeless truths can never be removed

By waves that crash upon eternal shores,

But last to lead them to a life approved.

Now morning dawns and destiny explores

The path ahead, all obstacles removed.

Our world awakes to all that grace restores.

© Ross Cochrane

A RUBY – THE SYMBOL OF 40 YEARS OF MARRIAGE

A ruby is blood-red, speaking of the blood of Jesus shed for us and His grace in our marriage.

In Job 28:18 and Proverbs 3:15, wisdom is more valuable than rubies. In Proverbs 31:10, a wife of noble character is worth more than rubies. Certainly this is true of you. You are valued highly.

Some place rubies beneath the foundations of a building to symbolise a good foundation. Our marriage is based on a good foundation in Christ.

All natural rubies have imperfections in them, including color impurities. We may have our imperfections but we serve a perfect God and we share the colour of His perfect character.

Some rubies reflect a three-point or six-point “star”. This shows our connection to God who is 3 in one and to the Star of Bethlehem that led wise men to Jesus. We have always looked for Him in our marriage.

Imitation rubies exist but those with all their flaws are still considered the most valuable. We don’t look for the flaws but the value in our marriage. Despite our flaws we share a genuine love for eachother.

Improvements to rubies include heat which improves transparency by healing of fractures (cracks) or even completely filling them. Our marriage has been tested and approved for 40 years.

I praise God for the honor of being your husband. I love you.

Ross

Matthew 17:24-27 – FISHING FOR A MIRACLE

Coin Fish. Created by Ross Cochrane.

Coin Fish. © Created by Ross Cochrane.

There will always be those who confront you with their questioning cynicism to test your faith. They will cast a baited hook of guilt into the lake of obligation. They will seek to get a bite by putting a tariff on your beliefs and haul you in to support their cause, taxing the sacred parts of your soul with their questions and political manipulation.

Somehow Jesus always anticipates them. He knows ahead of time what they are thinking and asks questions that give perspective to the real matters of the heart.

The Tax Collectors come to the door and ask Peter if Jesus intends to pay His Temple tax. They are testing Him.

Peter says spontaneously “Yes, of course” but he wonders if God is taxed! Peter goes into the house to speak to Jesus about this but before he has a chance, Jesus asks him a question which takes him by surprise. Had Jesus somehow heard the conversation at the door? Are the Tax Collectors still there, listening to His response… ?

“What do you think, Simon?” He asks. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes – from their own sons or from others?” (Matthew 17:25 NIV). What has this got to do with Kings? Why did Jesus ask this question? 

“They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replies. 

“Well, then,” Jesus says, “the sons are free!”  

Applying this argument to the Temple tax goes something like this: God is the King of the Temple. God as King doesn’t charge His Son Temple Tax? Jesus, as God’s Son, is exempt from the tax (Matthew 17:26).

That makes sense. There is no obligation for Jesus to give us anything. But Jesus wants to go an extra mile. Surprisingly, despite being the Son of the King, in grace, He offers to pay, for us. It is not because of obligation that He offers to pay, but from a place of freedom that God provides. This is the principle of grace.

“But so that we may not offend them, …” He says. Not yet anyway. Soon offence would come but not now. Romans 9:33 (NASB) says that Jesus would become “a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 

“… so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.” (Matthew 17:27 NIV). 

Is Jesus simply exaggerating a point and asking Peter to go fishing for a couple of days and pay the tax from the proceeds of the catch? I don’t think so. In an act of faith, the Temple tax was paid for the forgiveness of sins (Exodus 30:13-20), so that Israelis could enter the Temple pardoned and accepted by God; a new, fresh start. But here God pays the price for our sins.

This is a miracle from a fishing expedition that speaks of God’s grace in paying the price for our purification? The coin is a picture of what Jesus would do in dying for our sins.

Jesus tells Peter to go fishing. Strange fishing expedition. Is He serious? Go fishing? I wonder if Peter invited the tax collectors to go fishing with him. They don’t seem to be standing at the door waiting. Why go to all this trouble to get tax from a fish? A large silver coin in a fish.

Jesus said He would make them fishermen of men, not of coins to pay their tax, yet this story for Matthew, the ex-tax collector is bursting with significance. He knew the power of grace and provision from Jesus as Saviour and Lord. This story pictured once again his own journey in finding God’s grace.

Peter baits the hook, and the line is cast. With unusual patience, Peter waits. A group of tax collectors, who have curiously followed at a distance are confused and amazed, because, when the line is suddenly taut and he hauls in a fish, they can see the silver coin as the fish gasps for air.

The fish is prepared for eating, the coin is given to the astonished tax collectors and a lesson in grace is forever imprinted on Matthew’s heart as the story is recounted. Jesus pays Peter’s debt in full. He would soon pay Peter’s eternal debt on a cross.

The other disciples go fishing that day. Any excuse to go fishing. Is this an offshore tax haven? They decide to take a net. But not one coin is retrieved from any fish for a net return on the tax they had paid.  But they eat well that day and reflect on the marvelous provision and forgiveness of God. God invites you to go fishing for such a miracle as this.  

Pastor Ross

MATTHEW 17:24 – JESUS AND TAXES

Fish Coin by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Fish Coin by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Because of His nomadic lifestyle, the request is made after He arrives at Capernaum. Strange that He should be asked to give. But then every male over twenty is expected to contribute about two days pay per year (half a shekel, a Greek slater, a Roman denarius). Only once, in the days of Nehemiah the Builder, when the people were poor, has it been one third of a shekel (Nehemiah 10:32).

Perhaps it is because Matthew’s background was as a tax collector that this story stays in his mind. By the time he writes his gospel the emperor Vespasian had destroyed the Temple (AD 70) and defiled this sacred offering by using it to rebuild the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus.

But on this day you can still hear the religious leaders, Pharisees and Sadducees, arguing in the streets as to whether the payment of this silver coin was voluntary or compulsory. It didn’t matter much because as the announcement is made in all the towns of Israel; tax collectors asking for the payment, it is with a sense of nationalistic duty that each man gives to support the running of the Sanctuary.

Like a subscription or a membership fee that enables them to appropriate the use of the Great Temple, it pays for animals, incense, wine, flour and oil and priests. It pays for the sacrifices made each night and morning and is given freely, salted with that sense of historical obligation. Exodus 30:13-20 (NLT) says it is to be given in silver “… as a sacred offering to the Lord. … to purify your lives, making you right with Him, … ransom money … for the care of the Tabernacle.” 

It is not unusual that “the collectors of the Temple tax” make enquiries as to Jesus paying. That is their responsibility after all (Matthew 17:24). It brings into the temple treasury a lot of money. But why are they reluctant to go directly to Jesus? Instead they come to Peter and ask him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?” Are they trying to accuse Jesus of being a Temple-tax-evader?

In an act of faith the tax was paid for the forgiveness of sins, so that they could enter the Temple forgiven and accepted by God; a new, fresh start.

Why would Jesus need to pay? Jesus had no sin for which He needed forgiveness. The Temple tax payment is a picture of what He would do for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) says “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”   

As the treasurer of the group (John 13:29), it is expected that Judas be responsible for paying the tax for all of them. This year Jesus chooses a different approach.

Soon Judas would throw 30 pieces of silver down in the Temple (Matthew 27:5) trying to retract his treachery, enough to pay for a lifetime of Temple Taxes, but he would hang himself before being purified by the sacrifice of Jesus.

This time the tax is given miraculously as an act of grace, a picture of Forgiveness. Jesus is the price; not earned or worked for and totally undeserved. He gives voluntarily in every way to pay for our sins. Jesus will pay the full price and He is the once and for all sacrifice. He will contribute His life for them. And for you. Grace unearned. 

Pastor Ross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:22-24 – HOW TO OVERCOME THE REGRETS OF YOUR PAST

HOW TO OVERCOME THE REGRETS OF YOUR PAST

HOW TO OVERCOME THE REGRETS OF YOUR PAST

Regret, like an old injury, seeks to restrict your present and to destroy or control your future.

Confronting regret is like doing battle with a street fighter. He wants to dominate and cut you with a switchblade so that you bleed before you even have the chance to pray. He’ll badger you into doing yet another round and you’ll see the faces of those you have disappointed and hurt in the crowd that gathers. There’s no place to go.

You’ve done battle with regret before but this time you know you must think differently in order to overcome him. You may need to refuse to fight, apologise and seek forgiveness. You may need to spend some time admitting the harm that you have caused until the crowd makes room for you to move on. Rachel comes humbly before God with sin in her hand and places it, with her wounded heart, at God’s feet.

Something changed that day. A breakthrough of faith and the response of God’s mercy. God remembered Rachel’s plight and answered her prayers by enabling her to have children (Genesis 30:24 NLT). At long last, Rachel conceives and gives birth to a son; Joseph (and later Benjamin is added to her family). The mandrakes (love apples) she acquired from Leah had nothing to do with this pregnancy (Genesis 30:5); God hears Rachel’s prayer and gives her a son (Genesis 30:23-24).

She names him Joseph, which means either “to take away” or “to add” (POSB commentary). “God has removed my disgrace …” (Genesis 30:23 NLT). Rachel declares that God has taken away her reproach and added richly to her life. He has turned cursing to blessing. Some read this as referring to the disgrace of not being able to bear children, but no such disgrace exists except in the eyes of her culture. Rachel had much more in her life that was barren. This is a confession of a desolate existence lived without asking for God’s help, not only an account of her neighbours attitudes to her not being able to have children.

What do you do when your life is a trainwreck of regrets; jealousy and abuse and unfulfilled hope.

  • She agreed to marry an old man already married to her older sister.
  • She lived in a bitter jealous power play with her sister
  • She forced her maid servant to be a surrogate mother with Jacob so she could look good in the eyes of others
  • She trusted in superstitious love potions in order to bear children herself 

These choices only served to increase the barrenness between her and God. Our frantic search for happiness without God attracts the dry, famine producing winds that blow ever stronger with the power of regret. But now, as she submits to and is humbled before God, in the midst of her dysfunctional life, God answers her prayer and gives her a child. 

Joseph, her firstborn son, will remind her of the new life that issues like a newbirth as she trusts in God as her Saviour. Joseph will save his family from a terrible famine through the POWER OF FORGIVENESS. He will foreshadow a coming Saviour who will do the same for us. 

I may have to live with the consequences of my choices but I am reminded that there is no twisted dysfunction in my past that is too great for God to forgive, no damaged goods that cannot be redeemed and restored, no distorted perspectives that cannot be cleansed and re-viewed from heaven’s eyes, no regrets that can restrict my present or rule my future. 

Like Rachel “God has removed my disgrace” when Christ bore my sin upon the Cross. I can choose to live a life of grace and beauty as I trust in Him, today. 

Pastor Ross