Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 16’

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

The Cost of Saying Goodbye

The Cost of Saying Goodbye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:19 – Part 1 – HOW TO UN-IMMOBILIZE THE IGNITION OF YOUR FAITH 

Key of Life - Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Key of Life – Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Such a small and frustrating device! How can my day be determined by something so insignificant? Yet when it has no life, I am stranded! I discovered this yesterday, and also that the shop over the road does not stock the tiny battery that would give power to UN-isolate the ignition of my car and get me to work on time.

The idea is that this device I am holding, by isolating the ignition, will protect my car from being stolen. No-one has stolen my car so far, so it must work. But not even my key can start my own car when this immobilizing monster holds me to ransom!

Theoretically, in my hands I have the power I need to engage the engine, but of course, theoretical power won’t start my car any more than a flat battery will – not today – not ever! The authority of my keys are useless without a battery tinier than my little fingernail. Mustard seed batteries.

In Matthew 16:19 Jesus has a set of KEYS and He says He will hand them over to Peter. Jesus has all the power of God at His disposal to give the bearer of these keys the authority of highest heaven to unlock and lock, open or close, bind or loose, forbid or permit heaven’s power to change earth.

Matthew 16:19 (NLT) says “And I will give you (Peter) the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” 

What is Jesus talking about here when He speaks of the Keys of the Kingdom? Why would He give them to Peter? Acts 2:14-41 partly answers these questions.

1. KEYS TO OPEN THE DOORS OF FAITH

Peter opens “the door of faith” at Pentecost and the life of eternity rushes through the veins of the Church. Shocking, shameless freedom surges like a tidal flow into its soul. For a while it is left drowning in the wake only to come up from the depths with a sudden intake of breath and every fibre of its being responding with surprise and delight. The Church is born.

Keys of the kingdom of Heaven, activated by the power of the Spirit, give us the opportunity to respond in faith to Christ and what He has done for us. In this way Peter opens the gates of heaven to 3000 people on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). 

The key slides into the deadbolt across the corrugations of metal and is turned. I can hear the soft click of metal as it aligns itself with perfect precision and feel the bolt slide smoothly until the door is released. These gates, says Warren Wiersbe, “have been opened to those who believe ever since.” 

The doors of heaven are unlocked! Correspondingly, the gates of hell have not been able to withstand the onslaught of God’s kingdom advancing and setting prisoners free. Those who are condemned already can now be pardoned. Escape from hell and entrance to heaven doesn’t occur at the pearly gates when I die, but at faith’s gates when I believe in Christ.

I had been BOUND in my sin, battery flat and no authority or power to do anything about it. Condemned! When I trusted in Christ I was LOOSED from my sin and ran through the open door toward freedom in Him. What incredible opportunities and possibilities have been unlocked in my life by the power and authority of these keys! 

There is nothing like an open door to stir your curiosity as to what adventures may lie beyond it’s threshold. Before you stands such a door. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:16-18 – WHEN RUINS COME TO LIFE

Cornerstone - Image by Ross Cochrane

Cornerstone – Image by Ross Cochrane

I regret not taking one of the bricks that day. My overwhelming sense of loss wanted to restore the scattered remnants of lost history. Somewhere deep inside was a sob for a dog and butterflies in spring, scented bushes and silkworms, an old copper full of hot water for the bath, a clothesline and a rusting corrugated iron toolshed, but most of all for the old cottage that held such memories in context. They were all cleared away the next time I came, as if it had all meant nothing, and an apartment block stood in the place of my childhood home. It was time for my life to be built on surer things, for my identity to be found upon a more stable foundation. Time for dreams to mature into destiny.

It is as if my life was one of the lost stones, scattered across the earth, not knowing my purpose in the scheme of things, until Christ began looking through the rubble.

It is the declaration Peter makes about who Jesus is (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”) upon which Christ begins to construct His Church. But it is also the declaration Jesus makes of who Peter is (“…you are Peter, which means ‘rock’”), upon which He will build. Peter found his own identity that day in words that have reverberated from the pages of the Bible ever since. “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” (Matthew 16:16-18).

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NLT) says “Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself. We are carefully joined together in Him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through Him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by His Spirit.” 

Peter the Apostle, squaring his life to Christ, was a stone in the foundations of the Church at Pentecost. Peter’s teaching and preaching of the Truth of God’s Word and the miraculous signs and wonders that followed his ministry were building blocks. In Acts 2:42-43 (NLT) it says “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.” Peter was an instrument through whom Christ was revealing His truth, and building His Church.

Years passed and somewhere in the scattered ruins of a world gone wrong Christ reached down to touch a peculiar shaped stone from some forgotten, bulldozed cottage. That day He chose me and I found my identity in Him. All followers of Christ are picked from the broken bricks of abandoned sites and mosaic-like arranged to fit; chosen in Christ to reflect something of the architectural beauty of His life; a magnificent expression of faith. Peter himself declares this in 1 Peter 2:5-8 (NLT) when he says “… you are living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple …” 

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:9-17 (NLT) echoes these thoughts “… You are God’s building.   Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful.   For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ … Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?   God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

The invitation is for our lives to be built on surer things; for our identity to be found upon a more stable foundation; for dreams to mature into destiny; for scattered ruins to be restored in Christ, touched with eternity, infused with His life and divine intention, a magnificent expression of faith. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:13-20 – THE ROCK WITH A HEARTBEAT

ROCK WITH A HEARTBEAT - Image created by Ross Cochrane

ROCK WITH A HEARTBEAT – Image created by Ross Cochrane

My Dad’s nickname for me was Rock. I don’t know why. Rocky Balboa? Rocks in my head? Rock-n-Roll? Rock of Gibraltar? Alcatraz? Just a term of affection? Perhaps it was because I collected interesting looking rocks, old keys and other objects of interest and put them in my desk drawer? It weighed a ton. I didn’t like the name Rock much, but it was his name for me and I had to live with it. 

If Jesus had said to me, like once He said to Peter, “You are Peter (which means Rock) and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven” I would have been more interested and my curiosity for old keys might have taken on a new dimension (Matthew 16:18-19).

What did Jesus mean that His Church would be built on this rock, set up in a hostile environment to prevail against the gates of hell?

Jesus is normally spoken of as the cornerstone, the rock of ages, the stone that the builders rejected, but not in Matthew 16:18. Here, He is the BUILDER. Jesus, son of a carpenter, still wants to build something incredibly creative and innovative but now from people’s lives. Peter calls Him the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Life is found in His Name. Reliable, strong, dependable, solid, yet with the heartbeat of God. Living stones.

Peter is the GATEKEEPER and he is given the KEYS of the Kingdom of Heaven. He is able to lock or open the door in terms of heaven’s authority on earth. Keys are a symbol of that authority. Peter will go on to release heaven’s authority on earth through his teaching about who Christ is, especially on the day of Pentecost. He is also used to write some of the divinely inspired scriptures called the New Testament and exercise the authority of heaven through his gift of healing. Jesus says his name means stone (Petros) but the structure upon which Christ will build is a large solid shelf of rock (Petra). A stone is only a tiny reflection of such a rock.

Peter has just made the strong confession; “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Our words about who Christ is are the foundational superstructure of solid rock on which the organic architecture and landscape of the Church are built. For those who know Christ, such words are our motto; our rallying cry; our declaration of faith, our foundation rock shelf. Peter’s name reflects his confession of Christ. I’m warming up to Dad’s nickname.

Many today still make the same definitive, unequivocal declaration of who Christ is that Peter made so long ago. The Church refers to followers of Christ; explorers of the extraordinary; adventurers into mysteries. Literally it means “Called out ones” (Ekklesia). Called out for the greatest purpose on earth.

The declaration of Christ is that the gates of hell (Hades, death) that have held you back from giving your life to Christ will be battered down as you acknowledge Christ as the Son of the Living God and allow Him to breathe life into your soul. Like Peter, you become a living stone, a stepping stone of life, called out to be placed upon the foundation of the life-giving Christ and used to build the masterpiece of God, His prevailing Church. 

This organic, sculptural, architectural creation called His Church is Christ’s magnum opus, and somewhere among the millions of living stones that He has collected to form such a masterwork as this is me! How amazing is that! Perhaps my Dad was right, afterall. 

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 16:13-19 – S.W.A.T – PARABLE

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail! - Picture created by Ross Cochrane

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail! – Picture created by Ross Cochrane

Standing on a precipitous rock, at least a thousand feet above the valley, He could see the smouldering fires of the fortress, the towering spires rising above the early morning mist and warning of the malice within it’s walls. Captain Joshua Davidson could almost smell the evil stench emanating from this edifice built in the pit of hell and from this vantage point He could just make out the top of the massive gates. Somewhere, beyond those walls, inside the wandering corridors and immense chambers they would be waiting. Nothing would delay Him or distract Him from this high risk operation. He had everything necessary; specialised equipment, tactics and utmost precision but most of all the sure expectation of success.

Joshua Davidson was born to lead a team such as this. Known as the Builder He had first conceived the idea of forming a specially trained and equipped unit when the need arose to manage critical situations involving hostages. The commander in chief, His Father, had approved the idea, and He formed a small select group of volunteer officers. His SWAT unit (Spiritual Warfare Assault Team) initially consisted of 12 men. Their mandate: “To set the captives free!” (Luke 4:18). They were given special status and benefits, and attended specialist training sessions. Blessed with highly-developed resources (Ephesians 1:3) and totally committed to their Leader, these men were willing to obey without question and risk their lives in this rescue mission. Their motto and catch cry; the Rock solid foundational statement by which they lived: “We serve Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Their code-name was Ekklesia”; the Church; called out ones (Matthew 16:18).

Once prisoners themselves and now trained for hostage rescue, His team secured the ropes and rapelled down the rock face in silence towards their target. They were exposed at first but moved fast and avoided coming under fire from the heavily armed forces on the parapets. Soon the mist and darkness below provided them with the cover they needed to arrange their equipment with practised precision.

Within seconds and in unison the SWAT team moved relentlessly and silently towards the armoured and barred gates. To breach the doors quickly, Peter, a specialist Gatekeeper, used an explosive charge and a small hand held battering ram with percussive shocks called the Key. The lock and hinges were totally demolished and the gates fell inwards. They could not prevail against such force (Matthew 16:18).

The rest of the team moved in quickly as the alarms screamed their warnings. They used their ballistic shields in the dark corridors to provide cover and deflect possible terrorist gunfire. Each one wore body armour and night vision optics. Using a motion detector Captain Davidson was able to determine the exact position of hostages and although some of them refused to come, those who were willing to trust their rescuer were extracted to safety where a helicopter winched them to the cover and refuge of the Rock.

The rescue has resounded off the walls of history’s pages ever since; “… upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:17-18 NLT).

Romans 8:1-2 says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.   And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has set you free from the power of sin that leads to death.” 

Pastor Ross

SWAT team prepared

SWAT team prepared (Photo credit: OregonDOT)

 

Matthew 16:13-20 – THE DNA PROFILE OF JESUS 

The DNA OF JESUS - Image Created by Ross Cochrane

The DNA OF JESUS – Image Created by Ross Cochrane

A work colleague I was speaking with yesterday is an African-American. She has been trying to trace her family history to see if her ancestors were slaves? DNA confirms that her lineage extends back to West Africa where many Africans were taken. Somewhere down the line she has been given a European name. When she discovers the roots of her family tree she will change her name to more accurately reflect who she is.

DNA PROFILING is a scientific “genetic fingerprinting” technique used to help identify people by their DNA. Human DNA sequences distinguish one person from another, but are very similar if you are related to someone.

Peter gives us the DNA profiling results of Jesus. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”; the Anointed One; the promised Messiah; Prophet, Priest, and King, who is of the same essence and nature with God Himself. It is the DNA profile of Jesus that led to His arrest and conviction. It is His DNA that ultimately led to a death sentence on the Cross. All over the world those related to Jesus bear His DNA because His Church bears His identity.

A BIRTHDAY CARD TO MY DAUGHTER

“Dear Rachel, 

… So who are you? What is your identity. To have Jesus reveal to us who we are in Him is often a quest for life. We see it come together – a daughter, a wife, a mother, artist, photographer, graphic designer, entrepreneur, but Jesus sees you as one who has responded personally to who He is and what He has done for you and through you. 

We love what we see God doing in your life. Your creativity, your willingness to try anything, no matter how impossible or overwhelming it may be, and most of all we love who you are in Christ, the person you are, the one who listens to His voice and gains her identity from Him as she stands in that still place, there in that place from which His Church is built, that stable place of rest where all our senses are alert to what He says and does. 

And we pray this birthday will be another one of those defining moments where you have opportunity to spend time in Gods’ presence and let Him speak more to you about who you are, who you were uniquely created to be. We love you. We are so proud of you. 

Love Mum and Dad XXXOOO”

The invitation He gives is to trust Jesus as the Christ, Son of the Living God. As I do this I see who God intends me to be. I can only “do all things through Christ who strengthens me” when I have identified Him as the Christ, Son of the living God. It is in Him that I find my being. It is who He is that determines who I am in Him. John 20:31 (NLT) says of the Bible “…these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you will have life by the power of His name.” As I trust Him to be who He says He is, I am entrusted by Him to be all that He intends me to be. My DNA shows that I am related. I was once a slave but I have a new name that reflects that I belong to a new family entirely. 1 John 5:1 (NLT) says “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God.”

Pastor Ross

IDENTITY THEFT - Photo  by Rachel Bennett and adjusted by Ross Cochrane

IDENTITY THEFT – Photo by Rachel Bennett and adjusted by Ross Cochrane

Is He worried about identity theft when He tells His friends not to let anyone know who He really is? (Matthew 16:20). If so, He’s wise. He should be concerned. Phishing is a problem today. We all get pop-up advertisements and spam emails trying to get our personal information. Is He just playing it safe; watching for Shoulder Surfers trying to steal His pin codes? Is it that He doesn’t want others Skimming His personally identifying information, His full name or credit card number, without His permission? Is He afraid they might try to use His identity to commit a crime against Him? In the light of the crucifixion that makes sense.

It’s obvious that Jesus is a good target for identity theft. He has unlimited resources at His disposal, but unless I get to know Him personally my database will not give me enough information to use practically. I will still not know Him. An identity thief must have accurate information. Lately, I’ve been searching through His mail to source His ID info; His statements, offers, distinguishing bits of information, etc. It’s there for all to see. After reading what He posts, I am able to get His personal data. It’s quite a revelation.

I remember that time in my own life when I first came to a knowledge of who Jesus was. I didn’t have to search through His trash. He had none, but I did have to search through mine. In doing so I found out about my own shortcomings and longed to change my identity. It happened on a Christmas day. It was an “Ah Ha!” moment. I discovered identifying evidence of who Jesus is. That revelation changed my life forever. Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT) says “If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.”

An exchange took place that day as I surrendered my old life to Him. I was born again and I took on a new identity. I exchanged my sin for His righteousness. I didn’t work for it, earn it or deserve it in any way. But it was credited to my account. I was living on His credit card. My malicious software (sin) stole His life and grace gave me mine. He paid the price for me. He picked up the tab at the Cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) says “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Galatians 2:20 (NLT) says “… It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” “… the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17 NLT).

When Jesus asks His disciples “Who do others say that I am?” He thinks it is important for them to know what people like me say about Him? Not so they can judge me, and force their beliefs on me. Their task is to recognise false beliefs about Christ and share God’s Word so that faith could be stirred; give His perspective, enabling me the opportunity to respond to what God is saying; to come to my own conclusions based upon what God is revealing to me. God’s Holy Spirit leads me into His Truth and brings me from an inadequate understanding of Christ to that exciting discovery of my new identity in Him.

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) says “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has CREATED US ANEW in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” 1 Peter 1:23 (NLT) says “For you have been BORN AGAIN, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.” 1 John 5:11 (NLT) says “… this life is in His Son.” 2 Corinthians 5:13-15 (NLT) says “…He died for everyone so that those who receive HIS NEW LIFE will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.”  

The invitation Jesus gives you today is to come to a knowledge of Him, not by His followers hammering away at you, but by revelation from God Himself and His Truth as you respond personally to Christ in faith. You can only come to this point as the Holy Spirit opens up your understanding to the truth of who He is (John 16:13). When Peter gave voice to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus said “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because My Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being” (Matthew 16:17 NLT).

Barabbas wasn’t the only one who was exchanged for Jesus on the day of His crucifixion. I was too! Jesus paid the punishment for my sin. The innocent Son of God was indicted on my behalf. Jesus died but the exciting thing is that He invites us to exchange His righteousness for our sin. He has given us freely His identity and we have the resources of heaven at our disposal. Ephesians 1:3-5 (NLT) says that God “…has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are UNITED WITH CHRIST.” Philippians 1:20-21 (NIV) says “… For to me, TO LIVE IS CHRIST and to die is gain.” IDENTITY THEFT? Not really. Identity exchange. He freely offers us the identity for which we are created. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:13 – A MORE MANAGEABLE MESSIAH

Making Jesus in our own image

A MORE MANAGEABLE MESSIAH - Image created by Ross Cochrane

A MORE MANAGEABLE MESSIAH – Image created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Jesus,

As Your marketing manager I am glad You finally asked the question “Who do others say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13). Finally You are concerned about Your consumer base. Afterall, without people like me, where would You be? Consumer Loyalty is important. You need to control the perception that we have about You if you want to go to the next level? A few points…

GLOBAL SUCCESS

Do You want to accelerate Your success globally; set the pace in a highly competitive world? Do You want to be more powerful and more highly effective? You can only go so far with the things You are saying and doing and I am here to give You some wins on the board.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Firstly, You will need to lose the “I came to do the Father’s will” line. No-one is interested in pleasing their Father in this generation. Half of them don’t have fathers. Leave Your Father out of it. It will only alienate the fans. If You are going to build a fan club, You will need to relate to their way of life. By the way, this “Take up your cross and follow Me” line won’t go down well either. Make it easy for us to follow You. Offer a free lunch instead. You do that well. Customer service.

PERSONAL APPEARANCE, PROFILE AND POPULARITY (The 3 P’s)

I will help You to reinvent Your social image, Your website, revitalise some of Your more popular sayings on Twitter. I’m here to build Your image; give You some style; tweak Your profile page, find the right opportunities, put You out there, pursue fame a little more intentionally. Heal someone famous and watch it go viral on YouTube. I can follow it up by arranging some TV interviews on the morning show, FM radio. We’ll give You, an audition for Australia has Talent or the X-Factor highlighting Your miracles. Do You have the X-Factor? To be honest, no one really cares about Your message unless it is actually entertaining or they are your close friends.

THE BOOK

By the way, You need to consolidate Your popularity by re-editing Your book. It will take a while but, for a fee, I will edit out the things that people don’t like; a smaller, leaner Bible.

THE MOVIE

I’m thinking something like a superhero movie promoting You as someone who intervenes in our human situations and automatically saves us from tragedies, hurts, trials and wrinkles. Bypass the trials and cross straight to the blessings. I’ve got a few good scripts.

Maybe a fishing show on TV. You’ve got a gift. We could sell some merchandise; plastic bank in the shape of a fish etc. And the way You calmed the sea that time we could do a great video on answers to Global Climate change.

You already inspire a lot of people with Your communication gifts. You deserve fame, so please, lose the Servanthood thing. Don’t think so small because You will only encourage others to think small. New mantra – “Assertiveness, not Servanthood.” Maybe a few high-powered “How-to” seminars and hypnosis sessions will fix this.

MESSIAH STATUS

By the way, You are doing the right things by telling us not to tell people who You really are (Matthew 16:20). Telling people You’re the Messiah is not exactly the best way to go viral. Best to withhold a significant amount of the truth until You get a larger profile. And You’ll need to drop the “first shall be last” line. Start using the “Genie in a bottle of blessing” kind of thinking. It’s a lot more popular. Oh, and avoid Nazareth. We don’t want bad press.

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

Jesus, You really need to tone down what You say about the Pharisees. Just filter Your comments a little more. It doesn’t hurt to tiptoe a little when it comes to political correctness issues, especially when You disagree with what is popular. What I’m saying is be a little more tolerant ie don’t express Your differences against culturally acceptable sins.

POLITICAL ACTIVISM

You’ve got royalty in Your blood since you come from King David’s lineage and he was quite popular, so make the most of it. What is it with Your desire to mix with the social outcasts. We want to get the bad people off the streets; the muggers, the gangs, the drug addicts, not encourage them! That won’t get You any votes, especially with the Pharisees. You have to mix with the right crowd.

John the Baptist was willing to die for what He believed in. Somewhere down the line You could organise a political march against the Romans. If you didn’t talk of Peace all the time You would probably already be a great militant leader. Don’t get me wrong but people are more interested in victory over the Roman terrorists than loving our enemies. World Peace is for Miss Universe campaigns. What’s the use of having absolute power if you can’t use it once in a while to get rid of those we consider to be undesirables.

EXPRESSING YOURSELF

Just follow my basic ideas on how to behave and wait for me to give You the go-ahead. Follow my script and You’ll get there. I’ll save You a lot of trouble in the end. Salvation is at hand if You are willing to factor in what Your consumers want You to be.

Your Faithful Agent

Judas

NOOO! If I allow my human wants and wishes to define my view of Jesus; manipulate the Messiah to be made in my image, then He becomes a product of my imagination rather than who He really is and I will inevitably water down the message of the gospel. I am created in His image, not He in mine. It is me that needs managing by Him, not Him by me. The invitation He gives comes by way of a choice “Who do You say that I am?” If I respond to Him as God then I can surrender to the very purpose for which I was created, in Him. (Romans 8:28-39)

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:13-16 – THE KEY VANTAGE POINT

THE KEY VANTAGE POINT - Collage by Ross Cochrane and photos from MorgueFile

THE KEY VANTAGE POINT – Collage by Ross Cochrane and photos from MorgueFile

Eight strangers. Eight points of view. One truth. In the movie “Vantage Point” a violent and desperate scenario unfolds from eight different perspectives. Each view from different eyes gives us greater understanding about what is actually happening; the cable news crew, an American tourist with a handheld camcorder, a Secret Service agent ensuring the president’s safety and even our own viewpoints. Each vantage point leads us on a path of deception, or betrayal, or violent struggle as we try to save the president. Unwittingly we find ourselves involved in desperate powerplays as the truth is unfolded.

This is called Disambiguation or the Rashomon effect; a method of storytelling using multiple perspectives to explore what is really happening. It provides a setting, characters and plot, but various characters give an account of alternative versions of the same incident. The stories are mutually contradictory and we are caught in a search for the truth, which sometimes, as in Vantage Point, becomes clearer with each revelation.

There are many Vantage Points in the gospel accounts but only one truth. If we looked at Jesus through the lens of a TV Camera and saw the events leading up to the Crucifixion we would want to rewind and replay the scene again and again from different vantage points in order to find the truth. Who is this man? Matthew 16:13-16 would look something like this…

CAESAREA PHILIPPI – AD 28

A BANK OF MONITORS shows various vantage points of Jesus surrounded by His disciples. CAMERA ZOOMS IN ON YOUR IPHONE SCREEN. In your viewfinder, you are scanning a group of men talking. FOCUS ON JESUS. You press Video Feed. His team is listening, waiting.

Jesus has been shown the full story board by His Father of His coming abduction, interrogation, His condemnation before His accusers, His crucifixion and resurrection. His gaze now scans across His disciples. We get a glimpse of some sadness in His eyes. He takes a deep breath and asks “Who do others say that I am?”

Your camera feed pans across to Judas. He is distracted. You turn the video around, trying to see what Judas is looking at. You capture a curtain fluttering in an upper window of a nearby building. Back to the group. You almost miss what Matthew is saying. “Well, some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” There is general agreement.

THEN UNEXPECTEDLY JESUS WALKS TOWARDS YOU. Uncomfortably close. The iPhone is still recording but now somehow it is in Jesus’ hands. The image shudders and is turned upside down but then FOCUSES BACK ON YOU. You feel confronted and a little awkward. (All cameras pan to you and you see yourself on monitor 6) as Jesus focuses in on your heart you begin to hear His question. “Who do you say that I am?” You find yourself asking “Why am I avoiding this question? Are my alliances curtainlike flutterings in the window? Am I here, taking all this in, recording the scene but not really responding? Distracted? Who do I say that Jesus is? Is He a MARTYR FOR HIS FAITH like John the Baptist, A MIRACLE WORKER like Elijah, A MESSENGER from God like Jeremiah or one of the prophets? His question rings in your head; “Who do YOU say that I am?”

CUT TO PETER. PETER gives voice to his perspective of Jesus. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

That would be a fitting end to your video but with that revelation of truth all the action begins rather than finds closure. Jesus once again zooms in on you and although Jesus is no longer visible on the monitors, His voice reverberates with the FADE OUT. And somehow you know that unless you respond to the question Jesus is asking, you will never find the truth, not just of who Jesus is, but also of who you are and the destiny God intends for you.

THE KEY VANTAGE POINT is not your video feed of Jesus but His focus on you. All of us have seen the story board of Jesus life, death and resurrection, but when the full picture is replayed again and again, how will you respond when all the love of God is focused on you and Jesus asks “Who do YOU say that I am?”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:8-12 – ENLARGING MY FAITH

WHEN FAITH IS ENLARGED - Photo by Ross Cochrane with FX

WHEN FAITH IS ENLARGED – Photo by Ross Cochrane with FX

What if we could run with immunity, childlike in the midst of such awesome power, between the huge stuttering shocks roaring challenges that need to be heeded; the intense glimpses of cityscape; the jagged shards of light slicing the sky. What if we could dance with defiance to the frantic rhythm of drum crescendos on the rooves and driveways, sing to the sweeping chorus of wind and play with innocent abandon in the rushing waters and the rain. What if we with faith unyielding on the sea could slip over the barriers of dread and walk where others fear to tread.

(by Ross Cochrane).

Philippians 4:13 (NLT) says “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

It intrigues me that Jesus commends a Gentile woman for her “great faith” in Matthew 15:28 but of His own disciples He remarks “YOU HAVE SO LITTLE FAITH” in the very next chapter (Matthew 16:8). Not good for self-esteem! Jesus calls it like it is, but doesn’t leave me there.

1. WHEN I LACK THE NECESSITIES OF LIFE Jesus says “… if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. WHY DO YOU HAVE SO LITTLE FAITH?” (Matthew 6:30 NLT). When I have seen Him feed the 5000 and then find that I am lacking provision Jesus knows my thoughts and says “YOU HAVE SO LITTLE FAITH! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread?” (Matthew 16:8).

2. WHEN I FACE STORMS and the horizon seems suddenly ravenous and growls out a thunderous warning from it’s billowing clouds; when the storm appears on the horizon as a snarling, rabid dog, hungry to fight, it’s nostrils flared as it lunges and bites; when the devil is in the storm and he is already reaching back with his whip ready to lunge at me again and sink the boat; when I look to Jesus but He is asleep, peaceful and undisturbed! (Can’t He at least tarry with me until the storm overtakes me?) In the midst of the storm, that’s when my frantic cries wake Him, and He is positively puzzled as He looks up at my face. He says, “Why are you afraid? YOU HAVE SO LITTLE FAITH!” As if it is up to me!

He hardly notices the wave that is about to swamp us coming up from behind Him … but the sky seemed to gasp as He turns and I hear a sudden guttural roar; the sound of a lion recoiling from a spear; astonished as it penetrates it’s heart. The blood begins to drain from my face as I see for a moment the assurance of Jesus gaze and then the stern censure of His voice as He rebukes the wind and waves, …

… and suddenly all is calm. A chill runs up and down my spine. I am astonished. “Who is this man? Even the winds and waves obey Him!” And that’s when my faith is enlarged.

3. IN THE MIDDLE OF MY DOUBTS AND PRESUMPTIONS (Mt. 14:31); when faith is flickering but I feel the breath of Jesus blowing on the embers; when Jesus is not asleep in the boat but walking on the storm and about to pass me by, that’s when, like Peter, I blurt out “Lord, if it’s really You, tell me to come to You, walking on the water.” And in a moment of worship, split from time, fear of the storm recedes, and I stand in awe of God’s presence. It’s a question of “Where is the safest place to be. In the boat or with Jesus.” That’s when my faith grows.

“Yes, come,” Jesus says. So I step into the unknown, over the side of the boat and walk on the water toward Jesus (Matthew 14:29). At first there is a mixture of doubt and impulsive presumption, but doubt transformed into faith allows me to accomplish the impossible. Impulsive presumption transformed into trust allowed me to be a part of the miracle. I am no longer frantically rowing in circles in the midst of an unresolved storm. “Yes, come”, He says and although it involves a miracle, He gives me the power I need to step out in faith (Matthew 14:29).

That’s when I realise that I am walking on a storm and once again I hear the whistling wind and falter on the waves; I am terrified and begin to sink. “Save me, Lord!” I shout. “YOU HAVE SO LITTLE FAITH,” He says as He takes my hand. “Why did you doubt Me?” In the aftermath of the storm, as I walk with Him through a wondrous array of wildflowers, He reminds me that when I trust more, I sink less, and that’s when my faith is enlarged.

Pastor Ross