Posts Tagged ‘Heaven’

THE CHOCOLATE EASTER STORY

Happy easter everyone!

I was talking to my friend Bob (84 years old) the other day and he said that Easter reminded him of chocolate so that got me thinking about chocolate and Easter eggs.

Chocolate Easter eggs. Why?

The earliest Cadbury chocolate eggs were made of ‘dark’ chocolate with a plain smooth surface and were filled with sugared almonds. The earliest ‘decorated eggs’ were plain shells enhanced by chocolate piping and marzipan flowers. Like this…

So I thought we could go on a bit of an EGG HUNT to discover the meaning of Easter for us, by telling the EASTER STORY WITH CHOCOLATE AND EASTER EGGS.

Hidden in the scriptures for all to discover is the first egg.

 

 

 

 

  1. THE EGG OF HEAVEN

Egg of Heaven

Here is a chocolate egg called “HEAVEN”. It’s described as a Creamy swiss milk chocolate coating with a gorgeously soft dark hazelnut truffle center. Someone said “if there’s no chocolate in heaven then I’m not going”

But over 2000 years ago Jesus brought a message of hope and love to the world at easter. He talked about the Kingdom of Heaven.

So the first egg on our egg hunt is heaven. Since we are on an egg hunt, let me ask you a question. Are you “as sure as eggs” that you are going to be with God in heaven?

If God were to ask you, “why should I let you into my heaven?” What would you say?

If you are not as sure as eggs what the answer is to that question, then the good news of Easter is worth finding. And this Easter egg hunt will be worthwhile.

Did you know that the bible tells you that you can be as sure as eggs that you will go to be with God in heaven?

1 John 5:13 in the bible says “these things I have written to you . . . That you may know that you have eternal life . . .” 

The egg has always been a symbol of the gift of new life,

The bible says, “. . . The gift of God is eternal life…” (Romans 6:23).

If I gave you a gift of an Easter egg today I wouldn’t expect you to pay for it or try to earn it. It’s free, and heaven is also a gift, and like any other genuine gift, it is not earned or deserved.

You probably thought that getting to heaven involved you living a good life and doing good deeds. 

Actually, no amount of personal effort, good works, or religious deeds can earn a place in heaven for you.

Ephesians 2:8,9 in the bible makes it very clear. It says “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

Since heaven is a gift, what stops us from getting into heaven?

To find some clues for the answer, you will need to find the next Easter egg on this Easter egg hunt.

 

A true Easter hunt has to include talking about

  1. THE BAD EGGS

Bad Egg.jpg

Bad Egg © Ross Cochrane

The TRUE EASTER STORY has some BAD EGGS.

So who are these bad eggs?

 

 

 

 

JUDAS

Judas the Bad Egg.jpg

Judas was a Bad Egg. He made a deal with the Jewish leaders. He wanted to have a Nest Egg for his retirement. They gave him 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus and he led a crowd armed with swords and carrying torches. The mob included soldiers to arrest Jesus. Judas arranged a signal for them and he betrayed Jesus with a kiss, the traditional greeting of the day.

We think of Judas now as the Rotten Egg of the dozen disciples, disliked now by everyone because of his sin, his betrayal of Jesus and his bad Egg-sample.

 

 

 

 

 

PETER

Peter.jpg

But even Peter was a sinner. Peter claimed he would follow Jesus to his death, but when people started asking if he knew the man who was arrested, he must have had scrambled eggs for brains because he denied he knew Christ three times before the rooster crowed twice.

 

PONTIUS PILATE

Pontius Pilate

The Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate tried to walk on eggshells and please the people but he couldn’t wash his hands of the sin of crucifying Jesus.

 

THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND THE MOB

Sinful Mob

The sinful mob, egged on by the religious leaders ensured that Jesus was handed over to be crucified. They all had hearts like hard boiled eggs.

 

US

Us

But the bible says it was not only Judas and Peter and Pilate and the Jewish leaders and the mob who were sinners.

The Bible says we are ALL SINNERS. Romans 3:23 in the Bible says “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” We are all Bad Eggs when it comes to our sin.

Sin can include things like betrayal, and lying or evil thoughts, but mostly it means not being willing to obey God’s purposes for our lives.

None of us are Good eggs, no not one. None of us can get to heaven by ourselves because of our sin. We cannot save ourselves. None of us are perfect enough for heaven. Our sin is egg-sposed and the question is – is there any egg-scape.

The good news is that the whole point of Easter is hope. In spite of our sin, the next egg on our egg hunt tells us a little bit more about the real hope of the Easter Story.

 

  1. OUR EGG-STRAORDINARY GOD

God.jpg

 

GOD IS LOVE

God is merciful, and therefore doesn’t want to punish us for our sin.

This is because  “ . . . God is love (1 John 4:8). And He says, “ . . . I have loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

 

 

 

GOD IS JUST

But the same bible which tells us that God loves us, also tells us that God is just and therefore must punish sin. He says in Exodus 34:7 (NLT) “but I do not excuse the guilty.”   

And Ezekiel 18:4 (NLT) “for all people are Mine to judge—… and this is My rule: the person who sins is the one who will die.”  

God loves us but doesn’t love our sin and must judge us.

So, is there any egg-scape?

The problem of our sin is “a hard egg to crack,” something we can’t solve, or deal with.

But our eggs-tremity is God’s opportunity

God solved this problem for us by the next egg in our egg hunt. The most important egg of all, that tells us the egg-ceptional message of Easter. 

So where is our next Egg? Or more accurately WHO is the next egg?

 

  1. JESUS – THE ONLY TRULY GOOD EGG

Jesus

Who is He? The Bible tells us clearly that He is the infinite GOD-MAN.

“In the beginning was the Word (Jesus). . . and the Word (Jesus) was God. And the Word (Jesus) was made flesh, and dwelt among us . . .” (John 1:1,14).

Jesus refused to walk on eggshells with people. He told it like it was. When He came to the temple in Jerusalem and found it had become a marketplace, He chased away the money changers and overturned their tables.

Jesus Christ came to earth and lived a sinless life. He was the only really Good Egg, but while He was on earth, What did He do?

 

HOT CROSS BUN = DEATH OF JESUS

The Hot Cross Bun at Easter reminds us that Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins.

He was crucified between two thieves. The Jewish rulers and the Roman soldiers mocked Him.

Jesus died and was buried in a borrowed tomb.  

That’s what we remember on GOOD FRIDAY.

 

EASTER EGG = RESURRECTION

But the Easter egg for Christians is a symbol of the tomb and when we crack open the egg like this one, it represents the empty tomb of Jesus.

Jesus rose from the dead. Early on Sunday, the women went to the tomb and found the stone rolled away and the tomb was empty. Angels told them that He had risen from the dead. Mary saw Him face to face and thought he was the gardener.

They ran and told the disciples. Later, Thomas, who was a bit of an egghead, said he wouldn’t believe unless he had scientific evidence. But he ended up with egg on his face when Jesus appeared to him and asked him to touch the wounds in His hands and side.

What’s all this got to do with the price of eggs?

Easter eggs are a symbol of hope and new life. Today billions of people all over the world believe that by dying and coming back to life Jesus gave people the chance to know God in a personal way.

What does Easter mean for our lives? 

Jesus Christ bore our sin in His body on the cross and now He offers you eternal life (Heaven) as a free gift.

There’s only one way to receive this gift.

And this gift is received by Faith.

 

5. FAITH – PUTTING ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET

Faith

Easter tells us about the only time when it is absolutely safe to “to put all your eggs in one basket”, and that’s when we trust, rely on and cling to one person, Jesus, for our eternal security.

Saving faith is putting all your eggs in the one basket. Trusting in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life. It means resting on what he has done rather than in what you or I have done to get us into Heaven.

Acts 16:31 says “. . . Believe (trust) on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved . . .”

The question that God is asking you now at this Easter Service is would you like to receive the gift of eternal life?

THE COMMITMENT EGG

So here’s what we are going to do.

If you would like to put your faith in Christ alone this Easter, you can go to God in prayer right now. You can receive His gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ right now.

“For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, … For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:10,13).

If you want to receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, then I encourage you to pray this beautiful Easter prayer right now. In fact, why don’t you all repeat these words after me?

“Lord Jesus, thank You for Your gift of eternal life. I know I’m a sinner, and do not deserve eternal life. But You loved me so much, that You died and rose from the grave, to purchase a place in Heaven for me. I now trust in You alone, for eternal life, and I repent of my sin. Please take control of my life, as Lord of my life. Thank you so much!”

If this prayer is the sincere desire of your heart, look at what Jesus promises to those who believe in HimI tell you the truth, anyone who believes in Me HAS ETERNAL LIFE. (John 6:47).

THE FAMILY SIZE EGG

“But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on His name”(John 1:12).

EASTER IS YOUR SPIRITUAL BIRTHDAY—a day you will always want to remember! A day when new life was hatched in you. The Bible speaks of those who receive eternal life in these words:

They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. (John 1:13).

The Good News of Easter is that GOD SOLVED THE PROBLEM OF OUR SIN. 

This is EGG-CELLENT, EGG-CITING AND EGG-STAORDINARY news! It is EGGSTRA-SPECIAL for us! Easter is not just another EGG-CUSE for CHOCOLATE!

Easter is more than a beautiful story, it’s the promise of life and eternal glory

Easter is the only time when it’s perfectly safe to PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET by Trusting in Jesus alone for our eternal salvation.

So GET CRACKING. Have a SPEGG-TACULAR, EGG-CEPTIONAL and Happy Easter.

HE IS RISEN! 

Pastor Ross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alf Bourne

THE LORD’S REMEMBRANCE DAY PRAYER – POEM

 © By Ross Cochrane

REMEMRANCE DAY AT SHALOM AGED CARE

 “Our Father…” In war many people lose their fathers in distress,

And yet you say You are a Father to the fatherless.

“Our Father, who art in heaven,…”

It is to heaven many servicemen and women send their prayers,

And there they grapple for answers that earth cannot provide

For cares in the midst of battle.

It is for heaven’s victories they lay claim.

“…hallowed be Thy Name…”

Hallowed means “Worthy of honour” or “Set apart”,

We commemorate today those on our heart,

Those who have not returned.

Set apart for war they earned our freedom.

Yet in this prayer we honour God in how we live,

To give respect for His Word and Ways,

To give Him praise that we are free to live our faith,

Without shame, unhindered by the shackles of oppression,

Yes, hallowed be Thy Name.

“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Wars are about kingdoms – worth the taking or defending.

Oh to understand God’s kingdom view

And pray for what is right and true,

Contending for God’s rulership,

His Kingdom, and within His grip we find our worth,

Heaven’s perspective here on earth,

Only then we fear no dread.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

The ravages of war leaves those who live as refugees

To have no food,

Subdued into submission, many go without,

Yet I cry out for just enough for me and mine,

When I should ask for bread enough for thee and thine

For those whose needs cry out above my own

And fight unknown battles just to live

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Once driven by our sin and by regret,

Yet we are now forgiven as we trust in Christ,

And though atrocities have taken place in times of war,

We must forgive and open up the door to live again,

And only then will we remember the past and not be defeated,

To learn from the past so it is not repeated,

To remember those who died and not be hardened by our loss,

To forgive as Christ did on the Cross.

“Deliver us from evil…”

Lest we forget the debt of gratitude we owe

And the debt You paid for sin.

Deliver us from the evils of war,

Let us begin to live free from the things that bring oppression.

Let our confession be to live life free of turmoil and regret,

And as we pray this prayer we need His help,

LEST WE FORGET.

Pastor Ross

Ephesians 2:10 – THE AUSSIE BLOKES SHED

Old shed, still in use after all these years

At home, Jack was a hoarder and he loved his shed. Like the footy game and the meat pie with sauce, the AUSSIE BLOKES SHED has an important place in Australian culture. Someone said a man’s shed “stands as a symbol of the Aussie male′s ingenuity, a testimony to his ability to fix anything with a length of fencing wire, a hammer and a piece of 4″ x 2″”

It’s a place to wear old clothes and be yourself. There’s pride in the corrugated iron, the tools, the shelves overflowing with all kinds of imaginative, half-finished projects and interesting bits and pieces that might be used one day to fix something.

It’s really the LAST refuge in a world dominated by oestrogen. Every Aussie male dreams to own a shed. It’s part of who we are. It’s in our heritage left over from when we lived on the land.

Going into a man’s shed is a little like going into a time-warp for an era gone by. Jack’s shed is like this. It is well-organized to the discerning eye but has a chaotic charm to the uninitiated. It is for fixing things and for having fun and is definitely hands-on.

Someone described it as “The Institute for Backyard Studies” where you keep ancient treasures that have been passed down from generation to generation which tell a story of your birthright.

There’s something easy-going and undisturbed about a BLOKES SHED. It’s a place to just be. Someone said a blokes shed “… is almost a spiritual thing for some people. A place where you develop your own identity… a calm spot, isolated from the rest of the world.” A place to go to listen to the footy or the cricket or spend time with your son on bike projects and broken toys. My grandchildren think that Pa can fix anything.

I’m sure HEAVEN is a little like a blokes shed. It’s a place where you spend time with your heavenly Father working on new projects, a place of peace, a refuge where you feel complete. Jesus once said “I came that you might have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). He could easily have been talking about a blokes shed.

Jesus speaks about a MANSION in heaven. I’m sure He’ll include a shed made of CORRUGATED GOLD out on the back lawn, because He said “I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-3 NIV).

The Bible says Heaven is offered as a free gift. A place to go to be with our heavenly father. “Absent from the Body and Face to face with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

A blokes shed is strewn with projects that didn’t quite get there. Ever had one of those shed projects where things just don’t go as you expected. And there’s nothing you can do to change it. I have. Some projects just don’t go right.

Life is a little like that. Not everything goes as expected. Jack didn’t get to know his dad because he died when he was young. He went through a WORLD WAR and the DEPRESSION. He knew some TOUGH TIMES when life didn’t work out as expected. He had his share of difficulties in his old age with his health. Life, like a man’s shed has the evidence of all kinds of memories and cluttered regrets of things that go wrong.

Our SPIRITUAL LIVES are also like a project that has gone wrong too. The Bible says we have all MISSED THE MARK. Romans 3:23 says “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” No one gets it right. The shed speaks of how we have chosen to do things our own way and our sins have caused a separation between us and our heavenly Father. Something inside us has died and lies broken on the floor, sins and regrets, guilt and unrealised dreams and it could have remained like a broken project if Jesus hadn’t stepped in. God the Father sent His Son to get things right again, to get the project back on track, to get things done, to fix it.

A blokes shed is where things get fixed. If my grandson asks me to fix something, I can come out of my shed within minutes with something that will get the job done. OUR SPIRITUAL LIVES ARE NO DIFFERENT. Jesus was a CARPENTER in the early days so I’m sure He had a SHED. The Bible speaks of Him building our lives on a FIRM FOUNDATION. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) says “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” He has the RIGHT TOOLS to get the job done. DIY. He Died In Your place, for your sins. He offers forgiveness to those who entrust their lives to Him.

As a Chaplain working in an overtly Christian organisation, I always encourage people to PUT THEIR FAITH in Jesus Christ personally. I shared this message with Jack once again as I prayed with Him for the last time before he died.

Jesus is the only One who can get the job done perfectly. He said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me”

I conducted Jack’s funeral. I will miss his quiet, reserved character. It was as if he invited us into the sanctity of his shed as we gathered in the Chapel where we celebrated His life. The blokes shed that day was cluttered with the collective memories of his life, ready to be used when needed in our own lives. His legacy remains like tools passed down to the next generation, ancient treasures, tested and true, from an Aussie blokes shed.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:22-23 – HOW TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE AND STILL GO TO HELL!

Judgment. Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Filter Forge and MorgueFile.org

“I think he’ll go to heaven. He lived a pretty good life. He deserves it.” I speak to a relative after the funeral service and suddenly I am aware that nothing I said was understood. My assistant Chaplain tries to redeem the opportunity, but the relatives eyes show confusion and the moment is lost among other guests.

“But officer, I am an excellent driver most of the time”. As the police officer writes me a ticket he looks at me as if I just don’t understand (I never drive over the speed limit … Hardly ever … OK, probably too often).

Living a good life was not the reason for Graham (not his real name) going to heaven. On judgment day he will not stand before the Lord and say “Lord, I lived a pretty good life.” How lame would it be to stand accused before any judge and say “Well judge, I’ve lived a pretty good life” and expect the real problem for you being there to be pardoned. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says “For the wages of sin is death,…” Time off for good behaviour doesn’t count when it’s a death sentence.

Matthew 7:22-23 (NLT) says it hasn’t changed. Same false assumptions! But Jesus says “On judgment day many will say to Me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your Name and cast out demons in Your Name and performed many miracles in Your Name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you who break God’s laws.’” Will He look at them as if they JUST DON’T GET IT? 

The Bible mentions various forms of JUDGMENTS. This judgment refers to the last judgment, sometimes referred to as the judgment of the GREAT WHITE THRONE. It pictures a COURTROOM where a VERDICT is pronounced on those who have made a choice not to include Christ in their lives.

Romans 8:1 (NLT) says that “… there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” It’s like the law of DOUBLE JEOPARDY. Christ paid the price for my sin so it’s been dealt with once and for all (Romans 6:10). Those who don’t know Christ, however, will be judged according to their WORKS. It will be THEIR WORKS versus THE WORK OF CHRIST on the Cross (Revelation 20:12). The judgment will verify what the Bible has said all along – that HUMAN WORKS, no matter how good, CANNOT satisfy the justice of God concerning our sin (Matthew 7:22-23, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6:23).

Since God is totally fair then He can only be satisfied by the work of Christ on the Cross for our sins. When we trust in what Christ has done, then, and only then, can He offer us a place in heaven. Romans 6:23 (NLT) goes on to say “… but the free gift of God is eternal life THROUGH CHRIST JESUS our Lord.”

OUR GOOD WORKS DON’T ERASE OUR SIN, any more than eating lettuce will somehow counterbalance the calories you have just consumed in eating an extra large pizza. Those who insist on their OWN GOOD WORKS rather than accept the WORK OF CHRIST in paying the price for those sins will be CONDEMNED. Jesus says that even those who cast out demons and perform miracles in His Name will not be accepted for doing so if they don’t know Him personally and …

… OBEY HIM. OBEY WHAT? 2 Thessalonians 1:8 (NLT) speaks about God’s judgment “… on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to OBEY THE GOOD NEWS OF OUR LORD JESUS.” Obey the good news about Christ! The good news about Christ is found in John 3:16-18 (NLT). It says “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. “There is no judgment against anyone who BELIEVES in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has ALREADY BEEN JUDGED for not believing in God’s One and only Son.” He’s the only One who has come to save us! We can’t save ourselves. No-one but Christ can. What are you trusting in – yourself or Christ?

The invitation is always to know and trust in Jesus Christ. In John 10:27-29 (NLT) Jesus says “My sheep LISTEN to My voice; I KNOW THEM, and they FOLLOW ME. I give them eternal life, and they will NEVER PERISH. No one can snatch them away from Me, for My Father has given them to Me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.” 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:20-23 – HOW TO BECOME WELL-KNOWN

Deceptively Fruitful

It is winter in Australia and the only tree we have in our backyard has miraculously borne fruit. This is remarkable since it is not a fruit tree. At first glance you would never know. It has hundreds of ripe mandarins in it’s branches. On closer inspection, the branches of a flourishing fruit tree from my neighbours side of the fence has made my tree deceptively fruitful. My tree is actually quite bare, not even a leaf. I don’t want my life to look genuine, yet in reality find that I am as bare of good fruit as my tree in winter.

Matthew 7:20-23 (NLT) in the Bible says “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven … only those who actually do the will of My Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to Me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your name and cast out demons in Your Name and performed many miracles in Your Name.’ But I will reply, ‘I NEVER KNEW YOU. Get away from Me, you who break God’s laws.’”

Who are these fruitless people who call Jesus Lord, yet perform miracles and prophesy in His Name? Somehow they do these things and still aren’t KNOWN by Christ? On one hand Jesus says you will know a person by the good fruit of their ACTIONS. On the other hand there are those who cast out demons in His Name and perform miracles in His Name who appear to bear good fruit but who are NOT recognised by Him as His followers! Are you well-known?

According to Barna research 64% believe they will go to heaven when they die. Jesus says that there will be FEW who find their way to heaven because few have KNOWN Him on earth or are known by Him (Matthew 7:13-14). Few have come under His authority. Too many have a superficial faith. Big words, no character. Duty but no depth. Flowery prayers and floury lives. Dancing like David outwardly but disabled like Mephibosheth inwardly (2 Samuel 4, 16). Ritual without righteousness. Religion but no relationship. Sanctimonious but not saved. Bowing but not obedient. Deceptively fruitful, but inwardly bare.

In the end, it’s not going to be what I have done for Christ that counts, but what HE has done for me. It is not MY words about Him, but HIS Word applied to my life that will enable me to obey His will. 1 John 4:19 says that I love because HE first loved me. So it is not MY profession of Him that matters but HIS profession of me. It is not how much I try to do things for Him to gain points, but what HE has freely done for me by sending His Son to die for my sins.

The invitation is to know Christ as Lord, not simply mouth that He is Lord. The word “LORD” (Kurios) in the Bible signifies sovereign power and absolute authority. The kingdom of heaven IS coming under HIS authority. 1 Corinthians 8:2-3 (NLT) says that the person who loves God is KNOWN and recognised by God. In John 14:15 (NIV) Jesus says “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” Loving God opens up a genuine pathway of communication and relationship with God. This relationship with God through faith in Christ informs my life and enables me to live and be fruitful in the way God intends. ARE YOU WELL-KNOWN BY GOD?

Pastor Ross

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

Will I see my mum in heaven?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:24 – I DON’T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE! – Part 8

Dethroned!

He has ruled Egypt for 29 years and has no intention of resigning. Mubarak and his family are incredibly rich. Apparently they have $70 billion due to corruption, kickbacks and some legitimate business activities. His kingdom is vast. Money, prestige, power, an army.

Huge numbers of demonstrators gather in Cairo and throughout the country demanding his resignation. 18 long days of protests, millions of people, chaos in Cairo, bloodshed in the streets.

Mubarak has survived six assassination attempts, but his dictatorship has brought the wrath of Egypts masses against him. They are shouting “We don’t want to live like this, anymore!” For many days Mubarak refuses to step down. Finally on the 11th February, 2011, Hosni Mubarak resigns. Afterall, what use is a kingdom without the authority to rule over your people?

In Matthew 13:24 Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven. What has heaven got to do with this discussion? A true kingdom is where the king has the authority to rule over his people. The kingdom of heaven stands in stark contrast to the kingdoms we try to build for ourselves on earth.

That term, the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, comes up a lot in the Bible, especially in the gospels. What is the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God? And what on earth does it have to do with Mubarak?

My freedom depends on which kingdom I seek and no, by seeking the kingdom of heaven I am not speaking about suicide, euthanasia or death. Seeking the Kingdom of Heaven has nothing to do with dying (except perhaps dying to selfish ambition) and much to do with experiencing life to the full, HERE AND NOW. In John 10:10 Jesus says (NIV) “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”      

Sure, heaven, the Kingdom of God, is a LITERAL place, but Jesus said something interesting. He said “The Kingdom of Heaven has come” (Matthew 4:17). In fact we pray that way whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray that the will and authority of the Kingdom of Heaven will be translated into the everyday things of earth, here and now.

What makes it heaven is the fact that God is RULING AND REIGNING. His kingdom is His SPHERE OF AUTHORITY, so in reality, if I come under His authority, I can receive heaven or ETERNAL LIFE here and NOW as well as in eternity. The kingdom has come! It begins now!

But it doesn’t just happen! It demands protest. It demands me declaring “I don’t want to live the way I am living anymore!” It demands a resignation of the present ruler over my life. Hang on a minute – that would be me!

When God’s Kingdom, His rule and reign, is a reality in my life, then things change on the INSIDE. The UNSEEN aspects of my life are now directed by the Lord. My life becomes His throne. He calls the shots so that the kingdom functions as it should. I am no longer bound up with my outward circumstances but with serving Him.

What good to gain the whole world and build my own kingdom on the outward trappings of this world, like Mubarak, only to lose my own soul (Luke 9:25).

Matthew 6:33 says I am to “…Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and His righteousness, and He will give you everything you need.” Romans 14:17 tells me that “…the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

The invitation is to be dethroned from the throne of my own making and from building my own kingdom. It is saying honestly to God, “I DON’T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE!” and accepting Christ as my Saviour and King. God bless you as you come under His authority as the Ruler of your life today.

Pastor Ross