Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

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

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

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Bad Egg © Ross Cochrane

The TRUE EASTER STORY has some BAD EGGS.

So who are these bad eggs?

 

 

 

 

JUDAS

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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

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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

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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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Matthew 18:18-20 – FORGIVENESS AND A TORN $10 NOTE

It was at Mt Austin Primary School before I was a teenager that I discovered that I was skilled in drawing and painting. It was 1966 and I decided to make a copy of the new decimal currency, a $10 note. What can say? I was young. I didn’t know it was illegal and I had no intention of using it as currency, only as an Artwork.

Meticulously, I worked for hours on my $10 note until I was fairly sure that I had a respectable representation and took it to School the next day.

One of the better artists in the class happened to see it and was impressed. He wanted to show some of his friends and so foolishly, I let him take it away. He promised to return it, which he did … in two pieces; torn down the centre. Hours of hard work. He apologised sincerely. He said it was an accident. I forgave him and took my torn emotions and artwork home. Sticky-tape just didn’t work for me. It had been destroyed, but it had been an accident. What can you do? Move on.

Not to be deterred I decided to make an even better representation of the $10 note using all the newly discovered techniques I had mastered from the last one. Once again it took me hours to make and I hesitated on taking it to school but eventually decided I could make my artist friend feel a little better in the light of my replica.

On showing it around at School, once again my artist rival wanted to show it around to his friends and I said I would rather he didn’t, but he said he would keep it safe. Surely he would be careful this time, and my trusting nature gave way.

Lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice but my artwork came back torn in half once again and once again my friend was apologetic. I was heartbroken about my artwork and less concerned about my careless friend. I forgave him once again. To this day, I don’t know if it was his jealousy that caused the ruined artworks or his carelessness. How many times do you forgive?

Forgiving a torn artwork is trivial. What happens when the sin sears its way into your soul and brings devastation to your heart? All I know is that I have been forgiven more than I could hope for in my life and have been tested with offenses where only God’s help enabled me to forgive.

Peter once came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone (Greek my brother) who sins against me? Seven times?” (Matthew 18:21 NLT).

Good question. Is forgiveness limited? Are there circumstances when I can’t or should not forgive? Do I only forgive the small things?

Adam Clarke says “It was a maxim among the Jews never to forgive more than thrice (three times) Peter raises that by more than a half, but Jesus multiplies forgiveness into an eternal value. Perhaps nothing is more difficult than to forgive.

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replies, “but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:22 NLT). Jesus says, in effect, that forgiveness is uncountable, unlimited.

Trying to count how many times I have forgiven someone in itself shows an unforgiving spirit. Forgiveness has an eternal quality and gives us a picture of the spirit of Christ. It defies counting because it comes from the heart. It’s not some scientific calculation, and it will demand grace, not reciprocity.

Can you measure how much a person has been loved or forgiven? Impossible. We can count offenses easily, but forgiveness involves leaving the offence behind, so we cannot count mercy.

To understand what Christ has accomplished in forgiving us for sins beyond count is to appreciate how much we need to forgive others without counting.

Colossians 3:13 (NLT) says “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” The invitation is to forgive and not carry around the burden of bitterness. Do everything you can to restore the relationship.

And no, I have never drawn a $10 note again, but the skills I gained from the experience were invaluable. A torn $10 note is not worth a torn relationship. Forgiveness in a relationship transcends an enumeration of our faults?

WHO KICKED JESUS OUT OF POLITICS? Theocracy and Democracy.

DEMOCRACY

We get what we ask for, but for Australia it seems we don’t really know what that is. Australia voted and it seems no-one really likes any particular party.

The common definition of democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” That means free and fair elections, the people get to vote, human rights are respected and we live with the consequences equally. It is not the freedom to elect our own dictators.

It’s been around since at least the 5th century BC.

THEOCRACY

The simple definition of Theocracy is “Government by God through His Word”. For example God’s Word is the GPS by which followers of Christ navigate a pathway in this world. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT) says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.”

God is recognised as the Supreme Leader and the government system is run according to the guidance of God through His Word.

Today Theocracy is not a desired form of government by most Western countries. In historical terms we remember those who tried to impose their form of Theocracy on others such as Oliver Cromwell or Bloody Mary in England and more recently Isis and the many countries where exercising free speech is suppressed by the religious political leaders.

Yet Jesus spoke of a Theocracy; a new kind of Theocracy. In John 18:36 (NLT) Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep Me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

Today, His politics are too dangerous; His Theocracy too risky. We don’t vote for Him because His rulership is not based on the wishes of a majority, but on individuals making a life-changing choice to serve Him no matter what party you vote for. It is not established by passing policies through parliament, but by followers of Christ choosing to love God wholeheartedly and seeking to make the love of Christ known to others no matter who governs. The Kingdom of God is extended as Christians live as God intends. Not policies but purpose in life.

Today the neglect of the Bible and of God in society is evident. The separation of Church and state was originally designed to protect both Church and state, but is now used to subjugate any influence of God in politics?

To many in society, to share the love of Christ is outrageously dangerous. We must no longer say the Lords prayer in Schools, swear on the Bible in a court of law, use the name of Jesus, Christmas, or espouse the values and standards of the Bible in public for fear of … well, for fear of … I don’t know. Apparently Biblical principles of loving your neighbour, and loving God are intolerable for many who consider a more secularist and popularist saviour in a particular political party.

Aligned with Democracy are those who are involved in socially engineering their own agendas. Politically correct secularists systematically impose their far from neutral morality system on society and seek to presume it to be enforced. It is promoted with autocratic zeal incessantly. Anyone who disagrees is labelled and belittled. But Colossians 2:8 (NLT) says, “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.”

In a Theocracy only God is able to judge right and wrong with absolute justice. If we are sinful people as the Bible indicates, then we are not able to implement Biblical laws in a just way? No-one is. Romans 3:23 (NLT) says For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” So for a follower of Christ, their heart-change will always be more important than a policy change. A genuinely changed life is the greatest influence of all in family, a community, a city, a nation.

Therefore, a follower of Christ can exist under any kind of government system because they are ultimately under the authority of God. Christ followers seek to apply Biblical principles rather than simply politically popularist and secularist views. They pray for their national leaders so that laws will not prevent followers of Christ from living as God intends. 1 Timothy 2:2 (NLT) says “Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”

In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus teaches us to pray like this: “Our Father in heaven, may Your name be kept holy. MAY YOUR KINGDOM COME SOON. MAY YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. The Message Bible says, “Our Father in heaven, Reveal who You are. SET THE WORLD RIGHT; DO WHAT’S BEST— AS ABOVE, SO BELOW.”  

Followers of Christ speak of Jesus as Lord, meaning the Lord, above all other rulers. He is the King of kings. Jesus makes it clear by saying in John 14:6 (NLT) “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” Universities with the motto “the truth shall make you free” apply this quote to secularist teachings but John 8:31-32 (NLT) gives the context “Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly My disciples if you remain faithful to My teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

But His is a very different Theocracy. If you want to come under the authority of Christ as King of kings, then Jesus says “… you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24 NLT). Matthew 23:11-36 (NLT) says, “The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.”

Those who disagreed with Jesus, violently tried to impose their kind of Theocratic dictatorship upon Him by crucifying Him. Similarly, Western thought rejects the Theocracy of the Servant Leadership of Christ, handing over their authority to scientism and democracy to rule. Unfortunately there are ever increasing restrictions on those who follow Christ.

Those who want to impose their form of Theocracy, Jesus calls “Hypocrites!” … “Blind guides!” … “Blind fools!” … “For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness” … “Snakes! Sons of vipers!” Politically incorrect hate speech or an accurate assessment of many religious leaders in our world today?

The walk of faith is a life under the authority of Christ and directed towards influencing, not imposing our views upon, the people of the world around us to respond to His love, so they can repent of their sin and believe the message of Christ. Unlike the Crusaders of past history and Isis in modern history, Jesus does not impose His rulership on anyone. He is a Servant King.

1 Peter 2:9 (NLT) says “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.”

Every man and woman has become a priest (spiritually sensitive to God) and royal (part of God’s family) when they believe in Christ. His authority is not coercive but very influential. A Biblical Theocracy incorporates individuals from every nation of the world responding to Christ and living free within the boundaries of Christ’s love. Bishop Tom Wright says, “We with the gospels have… a story, but it is a love story, not a power story.”

We are people with a message of great influence. The invitation of God’s Word is to believe in Christ. As we do, Jesus says “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.  “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:13-16 (NLT). Shine on.

Pastor Ross

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

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

SERVANTHOOD

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

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

HUMILITY AND OBEDIENCE

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

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

RECEPTIVE AND TRUSTING

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

RISK TAKING AND FAITH

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

FOCUS ON CHRIST

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

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

SUBMISSION AND FAITH

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

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

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

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

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

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Matthew 18:1-4 – A FALSE SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT

“Then His disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest.” (Luke 9:46, see also Matthew 18:1 and Mark 9:34)

Perhaps they never grew up. Perhaps as children, they demanded their way and threw tantrums if they didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted it. Now they are still in constant competition and expect “special treatment” because they think they deserve it.

They have tasted that sense of being unique and have been involved in the amazing miracles of Jesus, after all. But their narcissistic sense of entitlement begins to shorten their focus to a few centimetres as they stumble over one another with arrogant disregard. It’s all about me! I am the greatest!

Lord, You decide. They don’t realise that their question to Jesus is selfish and demanding. Somehow the world revolves around them and others must meet their needs.

They try to impose their unrealistic expectations upon Jesus with overdramatic flair, willing to bully their way into the kingdom with their manipulative and egotistical mindset. “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” they ask Him, vying for His attention and approval at the expense of each other (Matthew 18:1 NLT).

Their voices are raised, and their question is aggressive and demands self-serving endorsement. They will go to any lengths to prove which one is better than the rest. Surely Jesus will pick me and take away the threat of competition.

Each of them expects it will be them, especially Judas, James and John and none of them really expects to have to negotiate or compromise. They each have priority and will be very upset if Jesus doesn’t recognise their greatness. They crave his admiration and want to assert their dominance over the others.

Jesus helps them become less self-absorbed and more self-aware. He challenges their false beliefs in themselves and their false sense of entitlement. He gets them to take their eyes off themselves and include others in their world. He gives them a whole new paradigm by getting them to be open to new ways of thinking.

They have been excessively preoccupied with personal power and prestige and their pride is in danger of destructive mindsets and behaviour. They have a grandiose fantasy of their own success, brilliance and ability. Jesus gives them back their true identity.

Perhaps the disciples and I need to repent of a false sense of entitlement in our thinking. There are lots of nuances to repentance, but this kind of Kingdom demands that we turn around and trust in Christ (Matthew 4:17) because a spiritual kingdom involves coming under the authority of Christ. Our greatness is derived from our response to Him, and not based on our misguided sense of being deserving.

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

Judas obviously didn’t take Christ’s teaching on board (John 12:4-6). He did not repent and become a child of God but became one whose thinking aligned more with the devil (John 6:70-71).

I am not entitled to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t deserve it. The invitation Jesus gives me is not about entitlement but about being converted from distorted ways of thinking about greatness, and also to be converted to a new way of life in Christ. The principles for entering the Christian life are the same as those for living it. Repent from your sins and become like little children.

Pastor Ross

Fist Grunge.jpg

Matthew 18:1 – I AM THE GREATEST

“About this time, after they arrive at Capernaum, the disciples come to Jesus and ask, ‘Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?’” (Matthew 18:1 and Mark 9:33-35)

Strange, because about this time in Rome they are deciding who is the greatest in a circle crudely marked in a very earthly kingdom.

Some wrap hard leather thongs around their fists and determine to swing with wild abandon until none are left. One smaller man, Archeus adds metal studs to the thongs. As they are led into the Amphitheatre, he is determined to weave and duck the frantic throws and wait to deliver his cutting body blows, scratching and elbowing his way to the finish.

The spectators roar their approval as they enter. Who will be the greatest in this fight to the death, the greatest slave, the greatest trained performer, the most valuable commodity of the day, the one left standing? The marked circle on the floor of the arena will soon be spattered with blood, a brutal ring of death.

There are no rules, other than to stay in the ring. No referee, no rounds, no throwing in the towel. Just a punishing and chaotic series of punching, headbutting, eye-gouging, chokes, and brutally hard throws. If a man goes down or is unconscious for a moment, he will not be shown mercy. There will be no fighters left alive but one, the greatest of all.

After the observances, the fight begins. Archeus does his best to block an opponent’s blows. He desperately wants to run from the ring but the armed gladiators are waiting for such a foolish move. I must be more strategic, slipping, bobbing, countering and angling, finding my targets on the body, weakening my opponents by degrees.

Few are in any way sophisticated with their approach. Their only objective; assaulting their assailants to do serious and permanent bodily harm. Whoever will be greatest will be damaged, but still standing.

Time is embodied in the frenzied Melee of bodies until now only three remain standing. Briefly, they are aware of each other before the two larger men fight. As they struggle with each other, Archeus takes his opportunity to weaken each man with forceful blows to their backs, trying to trip them up, pushing, biting and butting, hitting them with his elbows, and ramming them with his shoulder, striking wildly at times, but he avoids them trying to knee him, kick him or knock him down.

One man succumbs to a massive blow to his head and sinks to the ground. Surprised that he is still alive, Archeus turns to face his final challenge, Gallus, a giant of a man, and he feels the burden of his survival beginning to shift, heavy with fear and sweat. Gallus begins to circle around Archeus, catching his breath. The man he knocked to the ground is regaining consciousness, staggering to his feet and moving unnoticed behind Archeus. Charging towards Archeus, Gallus is screaming as he comes with the anticipation of victory.

Deftly sinking down between his legs, Archeus avoids his blow and hoists the man’s legs with all his strength. The momentum spears Gallus in a high arc towards the ground, but before he does, he crashes heavily into the barely revived man, head to head, with such a violent crunch that it leaves both men unconscious.

There is no prize but a garland, just promoters badgering his owner, and bets on the outcome being finalised. Spectators lose a lot of money gambling over who will be the best fighter of all. None expected it would be Archeus, and he doesn’t recall the acclaim.

Neither does Archeus remember being carried back and laid on a table. A young servant boy is saying “You are the greatest!” as he pours ointment on his wounds, bandages his bleeding hands and washes his face.

“I am not the greatest” he contradicts in an agonising whisper and is greeted with a momentary silence.

“What do you mean you’re not the greatest? You have “Style”. You jabbed your way around the outside, you slugged away at their defences until they were too tired to go on. You are the greatest fighter I have ever seen.”

“I am not the greatest….”

His comment is ignored. “You used strategy and control and method and skill. You were so fast out there.”

“I was only fighting to stay alive.”

“And you did! You got up close and kicked them. You had power and ability out there and waited for the advantage. You were quick and you avoided Dagri’s headlocks. You looked for their mistakes and used it against them.

I couldn’t believe it when you blocked Ansgar and got him off guard and landed that scorching blow to him with your elbow. He didn’t know what happened. Perfect timing. You predicted their punches with the precision of a true gladiator. You are the greatest!”

“You don’t understand…”

“What’s to understand? I saw you out there. You wore them down. They thought you were too small to worry about so they thought they could ignore you. You won without even getting hit. You outmaneuvered them all.”

“I did get hit. I think I have a few broken ribs and ….”

“Did you see Gallus? He had a powerful punch but you weren’t intimidated by his size at all.”

“I was intimidated. I was desperate. I couldn’t get away.”

“But you are fast. I wish I was like you. You are the greatest!”

“I’m not the greatest!” Archeus shouted, “Don’t you see. Brutality doesn’t determine greatness. Being great is not fighting each other to the death. It is letting someone live life to the full. Being the greatest is not some dictatorial tyrant ruling over us. You want to be like me. I want to be like you, boy. If only we could all be like you. The only way to be truly great is to serve others. You are the greatest of all.”

Miles away in Capernaum, Jesus sits down, calls the twelve disciples over to Him, and brings a child into their midst “Whoever wants to be greatest must take the least place and be the servant of everyone else” (Mark 9:35 NLT).

WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS – and Jesus isn’t being Politically Correct

Jesus Wept.jpg

Intro

Political correctness describes language, policies, or measures which are intended not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society.

Words have changed to accommodate political correctness. We now have a Chair instead of a Chairman, a Sanitation Engineer instead of a Garbage Man, Physically Challenged people instead of the Handicapped. A Secretary is now an Administrative Assistant, and Failure is now Deferred Success. A small person is Vertically Challenged and Bald People are Follicularly Challenged

Old people must be Chronologically Advantaged. Someone suggested that we talk of the Dead as people who are metabolically challenged.

We can’t say “Merry Christmas” because of it’s Christian connotations, so we say “Happy Holidays” but run into trouble because “Holidays” originated from “Holy Days”. Apparently saying, “You are in my thoughts” is now better than “in my prayers.”

It’s Wrong or should I say Differently Logical.

I wondered how Jesus would find it if He had been born into and lived in our time.

I wonder what would happen,…

So I’ve written this poem

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS – And Jesus Isn’t Politically Correct

© by Ross Cochrane

 

Twas the night before Christmas, and I’m wondering how

Jesus would live if he’d come to us now

How would He cope, because as I reflect,

Jesus was never politically correct

 

His disciples would answer as Servants” no longer

“Messianic Assistants” is a term so much stronger.

He must watch what He says; and not cause them disgrace,

And say “Spiritually challenged,” not “ye of little faith”,

 

Calling Pharisees “vipers” and talking of hell,

Is now labelled “Hate talk” and won’t go down well.

And equal rights advocates are really annoyed

Since women disciples have not been employed

And Zaccheus refuses to be labelled as short

He’s “Vertically Challenged” or he’ll take You to court

 

It all started the moment He came to the earth,

There was so much contention about Jesus’ birth;

Animal Liberationists want hay from the manger

To feed animals in the stable they say are in danger!

Mary’s ride on the donkey was just too much strain,

On the donkey, not Mary! It’s so inhumane!

When Jesus is titled the Lamb that was slain,

You wouldn’t believe – that offends them again!

 

“Did Jesus have a licence to run a café

When the bread and the fish were given away?”

The disciples, with no gloves, distributed food

Which leaves it wide open for them to be sued.

The Food Safety authorities are just not impressed

So twelve baskets left over have been repossessed.

 

And what of the people whom Jesus has healed

With no known credentials in the Medical field.

The Board of Physicians were so horrified

So they all tried to stop Him before someone died.

“We will take You to court for Malpractice,” they said

But that’s before Lazarus was raised from the dead

 

In an age where our words must be viewed as correct

What can He say if He wants to connect

He can’t speak of sacrifice, nor speak of the blood,

He can’t speak of Servanthood, evil or good,

Nor say He’s the Way, the Truth and the Life;

That would be too exclusive and only cause strife.

 

He can’t speak of heaven or say the Lord’s prayer,

And as for repentance, He must not go there.

Nothing of hell or belief in God’s Son,

Nor of the vict’ry o’er death He had won.

 

Nothing of God that is gender specific,

Nothing of faith, ’cause that’s unscientific,

Nothing of judgment or salvation in Christ,

No absolute truth, death, or sins payment price.

 

And as for the Bible, while not strictly forbidden,

Like “light under a bushel”, it’s better off hidden.

Why raise the ire of those psychological,

Who claim that salvation is all ecological.

 

Jesus wept and was empty. He wrote on the ground;

What fully acceptable thing could be found?

Something was needed, a gift that He might

Give to all and not anger the left or the right.

 

His gift was for all, but demands a decision,

From all groups of people and every religion;

Ev’ry ethnicity, ev’ry colour and hue,

Everyone, everywhere…and that includes you.

And it goes way beyond being naughty or nice,

For no-one but He could afford such a price.

 

And this is His gift, it’s price beyond worth…

The reason that Jesus was sent to the earth;

He loved us so much, He would not turn away;

He knew then and now of the problem today;

We look on the outside, but He looks within,

And died on a Cross to pay for our sin.

 

The reason for the season beyond Jesus’ birth,

Is His gift of forgiveness, Peace with God here on earth.

 

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