Posts Tagged ‘Messiah’

Genesis 35:16-28 – LETTERS TO JACOB – Part 5  

Letters to Jacob © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Ross, 

I have devastating news. Rachel, my beloved wife, has died in childbirth. I am grief-stricken 

On leaving Bethel, the clan and I moved on toward Ephraththe region around Bethlehem. But Rachel went into labor while we were still some distance away. Her labor pains were intense. (Genesis 35:16 NLT) 

As you know, after so many years of not being able to conceive, Rachel gave birth to Joseph before we left Laban. She asked that God would give her another son. That was 15 years ago, but she continued to pray and now finally God has answered her prayer but sent such grief to my soul.  

My twelfth son was premature. The birth was incredibly difficult. After a very hard delivery, the midwife finally exclaimed, “Don’t be afraid—you have another son!”  

Rachel was about to die, but with her last breath she named the baby Ben-oni (which means “son of my sorrow”). Such a name would have been an unbearable burden for him and all of us to bear, so I called him Benjamin instead (which means “son of my right hand”).   

His name replaces the sorrow I feel at losing Rachel. No longer will he be associated with grief but with honour in our family. He is a blessing that issued forth from sadness.  

I buried Rachel on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). I set up a stone monument over her grave, a lasting tribute to her memory. (Genesis 35:17-20 NLT).  

Yours in grief once again, 

Jacob 

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Dear Jacob, 

 Rachel has shared with you the destiny God has woven into your life. Fruit from hard ground, my friend. I am so sorry for your loss and yet amazed by the promises of God which will be fulfilled through your sons. 

For you, Bethlehem is a place of loss. A memory of someone gone. An acknowledgement of a life of sorrow and joy.  Your monument leaves a legacy for future generations to wonder.  

You renamed your son from Benoni (Son of my sorrow) to Benjamin (Son of my right hand). Perhaps you will find some consolation in that your monument will also mark the place where the Messiah will be born who will also be known as both a man of sorrows and One who sits at the Right Hand of God in heaven.  

The love of your life was buried in the place where the Savior will be born. When He will be born, angels will announce “Good news of great Joy”. Your descendants will be the ancestors of the Son of God. 

The prophet Micah in Micah 5:2 says, “But you, O Bethlehem, Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.”  

I pray, Jacob, for you and for me, that with our last breath, let us not see the sorrow, but the grace of what the Lord has accomplished in our lives and the legacy He gives us to leave behind. 

Isaiah 41:10 (NLT) says, Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand. 

God’s strength, 

Ross. 

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Dear Ross, 

Thankyou for your words of encouragement and prophetic insight. At the moment however I am faced with yet a new challenge and great disappointment. 

After Rachel died, I travelled on to see my father. We camped beyond Migdal-eder, the watchtower of the shepherds near Jerusalem. While I was living there, I heard some disturbing reports. My eldest son, Reuben, had intercourse with Bilhah, Rachel’s maid (Genesis 35:21-22 NLT).  

You may not understand the significance of this in your culture, but in Canaan, this is seen as a way of showing disrespect for the leader of the tribe or family, a challenge to say that he is unfit. It is described as “making yourself strong”. I know I have not been there when my sons and daughter needed me the most, but I thought we had all made a new start. 

I deserve the scorn of my sons for my lack of leadership. I don’t really know what I will do, but Reuben will not be excused. He is my firstborn but he will never have the leadership of our family 

I have experienced more fear, grief, disappointment and heartache with my sons than ever before in my life. These ongoing attacks, however, have only served to strengthen my resolve to obey God.  

At present, I am taking no action against Reuben. I have twelve sons and God has promised that from my family will come the blessing given originally to Abraham, that through them all the nations of the world will be blessed. How He can use us to do that I really don’t know, but I trust Him. 

God alone can fulfil His promises to me. In the meantime, I am returning to my father, Isaac, in MamreIt is a place of rich historyIt is near Kiriath-arba (now called Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac both lived. Abraham and Isaac lived there as foreigners but this land was promised to them and to us as their family forever.  

My father is blind but meeting his grandsons may give him some pleasure in seeing God’s promises being unfolded before he dies. 

Still trusting in God’s promises, 

Jacob 

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Dear Jacob, 

Your letter reminds me that neither sin nor death can frustrate God’s purposes for His people. By faith, you have been blessed concerning things to come. 

Isaac must be well over 150 years old by now. He has lived an incredibly long life. (Genesis 35:28 NLT). I don’t want to live that long, but I do want my life to count for something. 

You have gone through so much of late, and you have overcome by your trust in God. You remind me that none of us are exempt from the trials of life; including the deaths of those we love, and the disappointments and stresses of family life.  

When the time comes for your father to die, you will be the great patriarch of the faith, the mantle of responsibility will be placed upon your shoulders to carry to the next generation. 

 Isaac will die in the faith, not having received the promises directlybut having seen it all from a distance and welcomed it. Abraham and Isaac were foreigners and nomads here on earth, looking forward to a country they could call their own. Like you, they have trusted in promises of God being fulfilled in generations to come. God is not ashamed to be called your God, and He has prepared you for a great purpose and blessing on the earth. You too, Jacob have received it by faith (Hebrews 11:13-20 NLT).  

In days to come at Migdal-eder, where you now reside, I prophesy that shepherds will hear of the Saviour who will come directly through your line.  

Thanks for being a friend, Jacob. I have to admit, there have been times when I have not particularly liked you or the way you have done things, but who I am to judge. I have equally not liked myself or my actions at times in my life. Nevertheless, you have always given me an example, especially of late, of someone who holds onto the promises of God in certain hope of seeing His purposes fulfilled. Only the gracious purposes of God will ensure the survival of our families during the perilous times in which we live. 

I will catch up with you again soon, my friend, 

Inspired to trust in the promises of God and His Word, 

Ross 

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Dear Ross, 

Much has happened since last I wrote to you and one day I will tell you about my son Joseph, but for now I am writing to let you know that my father, Isaac, breathed his last and died at a ripe old age, joining his ancestors in death. Esau and I buried him (Genesis 35:29 NLT). 

Once again Esau and I were reconciled, only this time in our grief. My grandfather, Abraham, bought the cave of Machpelah, near Mamrefrom Ephron the Hittite as a permanent burial site. Abraham buried his wife Sarah there and he was buried thereNow my father joins them. My mother, Rebekah, is also buried there. One day Leah and I will be buried there as well (Genesis 49:29-32 NLT). 

As you said in your last letter, I am now the patriarch of the family, heir of the promises and blessings of God, not only Isaac’s wealth. May the Lord help me to honour the heritage He has given me.  

May God be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

Jacob 

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Pastor Ross

Genesis 35:11-16 – LETTERS TO JACOB – Part 4

Letters to Jacob
© Image created by Ross Cochrane

From Last letter,… 

Dear Jacob, 

… How incredible that God appeared to you personally! I have all sorts of questions however. How did God appear to you? In a dream? As a person? What other promises? This is so fascinating, but you left out all the details in your letter…. 

Ross 

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Dear Ross 

I am still getting my head around all that God said to me. Sorry if I didn’t tell you the full story. Let me fill in some details. 

I didn’t tell you that God said to me, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants! (Genesis 35:11 NLT).   

I can’t help but think that I am a blessed man beyond what deserve. Not only has God assured me through my new name that He fights for mebut through His Name, He reveals more of Himself to meEl-Shaddai is a name that speaks His great provision and sufficiency.  

Apparently, kings will come from my descendants. How amazing is that? The Lord is omnipotent. Nothing is impossible for Him. He can turn someone like me into someone who is great, simply because He is great.  

My prayer is that He blesses my children and their children with the kind of greatness that comes from acknowledging that He is God Almighty in their lives. 

But God didn’t stop there. He spoke about the promises He made to my ancestors. He said, “I will give you the land I once gave to Abraham and Isaac. Yes, I will give it to you and your descendants after you” (Genesis 35:12 NLT). 

I trust Him to fulfil in me all that I am created for and that many people in the future will be blessed and that my descendants will be blessed. 

And that’s the full story. After that God went up from the place where He had spoken to me (Genesis 35:13 NLT). 

Your utterly amazed friend, 

Jacob 

P.S. Loved the quote you gave from Ephesians? (Sounds like a good book). 

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Dear Jacob, 

I am as utterly amazed as you are by your encounter with God. How incredible and awesome! 

2 Peter 1:4 (NLT2) says, “And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”  

You may not fully understand what I am going to say to you next, Jacob, but God has spoken to other servants also through His Word about you.  

Not only will kings come from your descendants but also the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords.  

1 Timothy 6:15 says, “For, at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.”  

Thankyou for sharing your amazing story, but Jacob, you are the master of understatement! … 

I am still dumbfounded that you wrapped up your last letter with the words that God “went up” from the place He had spoken to you. What does that mean?  Jacob, where you speaking to God in the form of a person? Was this a bodily presence? A visible person? Face to face with God? Was this a vision? A dream? Did you see Jesus, Himself, a Theophany of the Christ? Or was it just an impression? Please be more specific!  

Ross 

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Dear Ross, 

My apologies for not being specific. Let me tell you specifically. I saw God face to face, in bodily form. It was not a vision or a dream and He ascended into heaven after He spoke with me. This may well be a manifestation of the One you speak about in your letter as the King of kings and Lord of lords. 

The experience stirred my heart so much that I set up a stone pillar to mark the place where God had spoken to me. Then I poured wine over it as an offering to God and anointed the pillar with olive oil.  

This was the only way I knew to show my respect for the place where I had met with God, face to face.  This place will always be a very special place of worship to me. 

As you know I originally named the place Bethel (which means “house of God”), because God spoke to me there. (Genesis 35:14 NLT) 

Strange, when He met with me, I somehow felt that He was like the purest of lambs sacrificed for sin on the altar, and He was the drink offering I poured out before Him in worship. Bethel, the house of God cannot contain Him and although He went up from that place, He still remains with me. I am His house and I am overcome with worship within. I am filled with His presence even now. 

Tomorrow we are leaving Bethel and moving toward Ephrath (Genesis 35:16 NLT). From there we will travel to meet up with my Father. Where ever I tread, this land is my inheritance, promised from time immemorial to my ancestors, and now to me.  

Heir of promise, 

Jacob 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Pastor Ross

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

Chapter 15

Hearing that David was now king of the united tribes of Israel, the Philistines had become troubled. They knew him to be a man skilled in battle strategies and, therefore, David was an immediate threat. They expressed their opposition by gathering their armies. As David learned of this approaching threat, he went to enquire of the Lord.

In prayer, David saw the realities of his anointing. The presence of God enveloped him as he prayed and he saw a picture of his hand crushing the Philistine army. God spoke clearly to him. “Go against them for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” This would be a battle borne from contempt of his leadership and he would fight it in a way that honoured God.

Somehow, as he prayed, David sensed that even more was at stake. Although he could not see God’s plan outstretched across the centuries, he felt that someone waited beyond the realms of time, watching for the battle to be completed. He could not have known that another king would one day come directly through his line to claim an even wider kingdom. He could not know that it was really His kingdom, the kingdom of the coming Messiah, which was being attacked by the powers of darkness.

As God’s presence seemed to increase, David voiced his thoughts.

“Why do people conspire and devise schemes against me, Your anointed one for no reason, Lord? Kings continually want to defy me and gather together against You.”

In David’s seriousness and anxiety, all of a sudden God was laughing. He was sure of it. He felt the untapped delight rise up and it startled him. But the laughter continued and soon it seemed as if all of heaven was exploding with its contagious joy. He could not help but laugh too. It seemed that the One true king, the Lord, enthroned in heaven, laughs and shows His contempt for the foolishness of men, but he was also aware that God also rebukes them in His anger, terrifying them by His wrath. God spoke clearly to David in words that gave him such hope and inspiration. He said, “I have established My King on Zion, My holy hill. You are My son, and today I have become Your Father. Ask Me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession. You will rule them with an iron sceptre, dashing them to pieces like pottery. Let kings be wise and be warned. Serve Me with fear and tremble as you rejoice. Blessed are all those who take refuge in Me.”

As the vision continued David saw a huge battleground, filled with enemy forces, jeering and threatening him. The enemy were not human but creatures, rulers and authorities of other realms, powers of the dark. Somehow he recognised the evil smell that wafted from their ranks.

The Lord spoke to the kings of the earth in this vision. He said, “Who will fight for Me?” Only David stepped forward. Other kings seemed not even to have heard the voice of God. He was afraid, but he said, “I will, my Lord! If You are with me.”

Immediately he was equipped for battle against these spiritual forces of evil, and as he knelt before the Lord he was anointed with a fragrant oil. The fragrance was familiar. It had been mixed up in a certain way which no-one could imitate and even the enemy knew, as God poured it on David’s head, that he was being consecrated, dedicated to God’s service as a king, and set apart for God’s service as holy. Only prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil in this way. And as the oil flowed over him David knew that God was pouring out His Spirit upon him, so that he could fulfil his responsibility as king and be all that God intended him to be. The fragrance infiltrated the enemy ranks and they began to stir uneasily as God said,

“I am pouring My protection over you. It will surround you, for the Lord saves His anointed. and just as you honoured the anointing upon Saul, though he was evil, so too I have anointed you with honour for righteousness. You are My servant. I will sustain you and strengthen you. I will answer you as you pray. The enemy you see before you will not bring you under subjection or make you pay tribute, for I will crush them before you, as you strike them down.”

The Lord’s voice once more rang clearly, “My faithful love will be with you, forever and through My name you will be exalted. My covenant with you will never fail. I will establish your family line forever, and your throne as long as the heavens endure.”

David was overcome with an aching gratitude and love for the Lord and cried out with words which seemed so inadequate, “You are my Father, My God, the Rock on which I stand, and My Saviour!”

Again David sensed the importance of this battle. Somehow it would be a war that would take place in the heavens, beyond his ability to comprehend. It would be an important battle and the issue, it seemed, had something to do with his family line – his sons and his son’s sons, because somehow God would extend his kingdom forever. On the day that this battle would take place, all eternity would be hanging in the balance.

The anointing was a refreshing and purifying anointing. It’s expensive perfume brought great joy to David and he could feel it healing him of all sorrow and pain. It took away the stench of the enemy spread out before him.

The Lord said, “I have anointed you for battle. Break-through the enemy lines! Run in such a way as to have victory!” As He spoke it seemed that the very words were spoken into his being.

David could see the nations of the earth behind the enemy lines, bound with chains and blindfolded, struggling to break free. He began to walk and then run forward, sword in hand towards the enemy, shouting words of victory in the Name of the Lord.

The picture of one man running against such insurmountable odds seemed ridiculous. The enemy began to laugh as he came and soon thousands of the evil host were jeering at him. The roar of callous taunts tumbled across the plain and sounded like a raucous mob milling around the stoning of a common criminal.

As David moved closer he could see that the enemy was armed with every weapon imaginable, round shields, long broadswords, lances, and triangular daggers. They looked very warlike. Each of the leaders wore what looked like feathered headdresses. David ran closer with the sword that God had given him clutched in his hand. And as he ran, he knew that he would not become another prisoner of war, trapped in the snares of the enemy. God was with him and as he ran forward, he would overcome the enemy and free the captive nations. He would not be caught off guard or be wounded. He cried out from the depths of his heart, “Lord, I am ready!”

The hordes of darkness seemed also to be ready. They gathered in the valley of Rephaim and spread themselves out across the plain. David could see their leader now urging them towards him. He was commanding his full forces against David. They wanted David specifically. He could hear their curses clearly now.

The Lord said, “Behold, your adversary! Beware of his deceit.”

Thousands of the enemy seemed to roll across the plain like a huge river, pounding the earth and shouting as they came. David felt the surge of adrenaline race through his veins but the presence of God obliterated the last traces of fear as he charged towards them.

In a rush, he was face to face with their mighty leader, and the evil hordes, like horns on the head of a huge charging bull, were beginning to enfold him on either side. He was now well within striking distance. This giant of a creature lifted its gigantic sword. It’s eyes were the eyes of a lion as it clutches for it’s prey, intense, focused, determined and full of malevolent fury. It seemed as if David’s weapons would be useless against such overpowering strength and he lifted his sword in defence as the creature’s blade came whistling through the air towards him.

Galatians 3:28-29 – FREEDOM FROM THE ENEMY WITHIN

The Prison Within. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFiles.com, FilterForge.organd Paint.net.

The Prison Within. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFiles.com, FilterForge.organd Paint.net.

He is a little man with an enormous smile and such wise, almond shaped, sad eyes. His unkempt hair makes him Einstein-like in appearance. His beard troubles his face, defining his features making this fragile soul appear more secure.

As a cadet in 1939 Raoul was subjected to anti-semitism in Poland. His discouragement and hurt went deep and he made a decision never to call himself Polish again. He joined a youth Zionist organization.

John 1:10-11 (NLT) says Jesus was familiar with discrimination and rejection. “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him.” In Luke 22:37 (NLT) says that prophetically “He was counted among the rebels.” 

As World War 2 loomed, Jews were placed in an internment camp. But Raoul escaped. Many of his friends who remained would die during the holocaust as the German army advanced. Thinking he was safe after liberation on 22 January 1945, and still refusing to call himself Polish, Raoul was again imprisoned for saying he was a Jew, this time by the Russians.

Now Raoul, at the age of 91, resides in an Aged Care Facility. He has dementia. Once again there are locked doors which remind him of the internment camps during WW2 and he dreams of escaping, just as he escaped the holocaust. He says that in the internment camps at least he had hope of freedom and now he refuses to resign himself to a life behind locked doors.

In our conversation always seems to revolve around his imprisonment. I try to help Raoul accept his accommodation as his home. One day as we were talking about being imprisoned, I told Raoul that it appeared to me that he was truly imprisoned, but not because of the locked doors. When he inquired as to how this could be, I said that he was not free on the inside. He had real difficulty with the concept of inner freedom.

Jesus spoke of imprisonment and freedom on the inside to a Jewish audience in John 8:32-47 (NLT). He said “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. … So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” Romans 8:2 (NLT) says “And because you belong to Him (Jesus), the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” 

Knowing the power of forgiveness and inward freedom from the tyranny of sin, when Paul spent time in a Roman prison he was able to say, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NASB). In Philippians 4:11-13 (NASB) he says “… for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

True freedom is not freedom from authority. It comes when we change allegiances to the One who has designed us. 1 Peter 2:16 (NLT) says “For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.” Romans 6:17-18 (NLT) says “Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.”

Raoul and I often talk about the differences between Jews and Gentiles, but for followers of Christ “there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you” Galatians 3:28-29 (NLT). Colossians 3:11 (NLT) says “In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us.” 

In Acts 26:22-23 (NLT) it is clear that this message of the Messiah is extended to all who will receive Him. “I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen — that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to JEWS AND GENTILES alike.” 

In Acts 3:12-26 (NLT) at Pentecost Peter addressed a crowd of people who have gathered in Jerusalem from all over the ancient world, “… Repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. … For God said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants ALL the families on earth will be blessed….’” Acts 4:11-12 (NLT) goes on to say “For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:20 – COUNTING IN A NEW YEAR

Counting in a New Year

Counting in a New Year

In Luke 2:10-11 (NLT) an angel appears to shepherds and says “Don’t be afraid … “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The SAVIOUR—yes, the MESSIAH, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, …!”

These men are the Shepherds who look after the unblemished sheep sacrificed at the Temple in Jerusalem morning and evening. They are aware of what the angel is talking about – the Messiah is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The angel is declaring in effect that Jesus is the culmination of over one hundred prophetic expectations written ages before His birth, all very clear, referring to the Messiah; the Anointed One, the Deliverer, Prophet, Priest, Ruler and Judge. Jesus fulfils these predictions entirely. Uncanny! Unsettling! … especially to the Romans and the Religious leaders.

To the High Priests the message of Jesus as the Messiah (the antidote to certain judgment; the only vessel of salvation), is a toxic prescription. Before His influence goes viral, they decide to kill Him. They’ll ridicule, abuse and bring Jesus to trial as One who blasphemed God. A contaminating message demands extreme countermeasures. Too many countries are still applying such methods. But although Jesus accepts a borrowed manger, He refuses a borrowed grave and rises from the dead.

In Western countries Christianity is quashed in more acceptable ways; the news covers a story about some weirdo with a placards about the end of the world and creepy people with low IQ’s on the extreme fringe of a religious cult or with a mental illness. Jesus is not linked with my scientist friend who has a strong faith in Christ, or a business person or even a Prime Minister, and certainly not with the average person. The message is too toxic.

The message the angels brought has been a little distorted in today’s world. I wonder what they think of us as we react to John Lennon saying he is more popular than Christ but neglect to mention Jesus at Christmas to celebrate His birth (“Have a happy holiday” but not a “merry Christmas”). What do they think of a world where “In God we trust” is written on money, but not in people’s hearts? God bless America but not on His terms. In Australia – prayers in Parliament but not Christ in the classroom. Swear on the Bible in the courtroom but use Christ’s Name as a swearword in the street. Prayerword becomes swearword. Too toxic!

Is Jesus now the silent guest at every table because He makes conversation awkward? Is He the skeleton in the human closet; the One we never mention? Unpalatable to the general public. If only He would remain quiet and not rise from the dead. To a religious atheist; one of the High Priests of humanism, He is still public enemy number one. Judas wasn’t all that impressed with Jesus as the Messiah, either.

The great commission is a shock to our sensibilities. Suddenly Jesus gives us permission to “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” The Good News is that Jesus is the only One who saves us from sin and judgment. The Messiah has come. 

The prophecies are super accurate as each historical event becomes a reckoning and we count off the seconds towards another celebration of a new year. The Messiah is to be a descendent of David; TICK! Born in Bethlehem; TICK! Born of a virgin; He is God with us. TICK! He is a teacher with great authority who will be rejected. TICK! He is to open the eyes of the blind, heal the sick, and raise the dead. TICK! He is to be despised and rejected by His own people, charged falsely, denied justice, and condemned to a violent death. TICK! He is to rise from the dead, ascend to the right hand of God, and be given power and authority. TICK! The predictions line up at a minute to midnight on history’s clock as the seconds count down to when His enemies will be judged and He establishes His own spiritual kingdom, which shall never end … TICK, TICK, TICK

Christmas says that the truth about Jesus makes sense and it is a message that relentlessly refuses to be quashed; “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Acts 16:31 (NLT). Good news that will bring great joy …” Wonderful message for a world where there is still no room in the Inn! The invitation is to make room. Let the back stable, complete with animal trough to which He has been relegated, be transformed; let your heart become His throne room. The Saviour was born that you would find new birth in Him! TICK! “Happy New Year!”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:20 – HOW TO START A CONVERSATION WITH JESUS

Conversation - Photo and Image by Ross Cochrane

Conversation – Photo and Image by Ross Cochrane

Walking into the building that morning (some years ago) a couple we did not know greeted us, engaging with us in conversation easily. How pleasing to go away on holidays and return to be welcomed warmly as guests by perfect strangers. They were quite surprised when I spoke to the crowd that morning. They had no idea that I was the Pastor of the Church they had attended for the last month. It was probably better that way. Sometimes a title can be an impediment.

ICEBREAKERS AND INTRODUCTIONS

Imagine what it must have been like for Jesus! How do you start a conversation with Jesus? If you were Jesus what would you say? The normal icebreakers are not going to work ….

“Hello, I’m Mark and I’m a mechanic?” 

“Hi, I’m Jesus, I’m the Messiah, Saviour of the world, the Way, Truth and Life, Deliverer, King of kings and Lord of lords, Son of God, and Light of the world.” 

(Awkward silence) “I see… well, nice meeting You.” 

Perhaps it’s better to let Jesus initiate the conversation. How does Jesus make a memorable first impression? Where do you begin when you are the Saviour of the world and Your purpose for coming is to form genuine trust relationships with others? How can you hope for initial rapport to be created? At least Jesus knows one thing to avoid in starting a conversation…

TITLES AND LABELS

I have read all kinds of reasons why Jesus “sternly warns the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah” (Matthew 16:20 NLT). It’s not that He is unsure of Himself. He’s not shy or embarrassed about who He is. Some say His disciples have a false understanding and He needs more time to teach them what the word Messiah really means. Others say He wants them to wait until the Holy Spirit comes to empower them before sharing who He is. Still others say that it would cause a riot to tell people that He is the Messiah and Jesus wants to avoid confrontation or an uprising. These reasons seem complicated and unnecessary.

The simplest explanation is that Jesus is not interested in titles but in genuine interactions; in starting up a conversation with us where we can get to know Him without any frills. He wants us to come to a knowledge of the truth by meeting us where we are and allowing us to be open with Him. Jesus doesn’t have to try to impress us and He’s not trying to impose Himself on us.

INTEREST AND HUMILITY

Philippians 2:3-5 (NLT) gives great advice in starting a conversation. It says “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. … take an interest in others, too. … have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had … Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God…” (Philippians 2:3-5 NLT) Christmas and the Cross remind us about the humility of Christ as He relates to us.

OPENNESS AND TRUST

So when Jesus “sternly warns the disciples not to tell anyone that He is the Messiah” (Matthew 16:20 NLT) it seems to me that He invites us to come to understand who He is, as Peter did (Matthew 16:13-19), through personal relationship and openness to God, not simply because of a label giving Him status.

Normally you can’t expect miracles to take place in your first interactions with someone new … except when you start a conversation with Jesus.

“So Jesus, I’ve heard a little bit about You. Some people say You are the prophetic voice of our time?” 

“But who do you say that I am?”

Great way to begin! But be warned – starting a conversation with Jesus could end up being a life-changing encounter. I know the traditional rule is that you never start a conversation with people you don’t know well with talk about religion, politics, money, relationships, family problems, health problems, or sex. The risk of offensiveness is way too high. Jesus however will inevitably address all these issues in our lives and more. He’s not afraid to get to the heart of a conversation about troubled lives, estranged relationships, and even sin and death. But far from being awkward, His initial invitation allows us to get to know Him personally and to keep in touch … for eternity. 

Pastor Ross

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

Matthew 14:13-21 – THE JESUS DIET

Cross = Love

18 days of demonstrations during 2011 leads to a PEOPLE POWER COUP in Egypt and PRESIDENT MUBARAK resigns. Widespread allegations of corruption, abuse of power including murder are made. Mubarak is put on trial and his role in the assassination of his predecessor Anwar Sadat is investigated.

It had been a turbulent time. John had stirred the crowds to repent and prepare the way for the Messiah. With John’s murder they flock to Jesus, perhaps to see what He will do. If He is the promised Messiah, will He stage a coup, overthrow Herod and usher in a new Government? Instead of people power, He shows them the power of God.

Herod’s banquet ended with a MURDER (Matthew 14:1-12). Jesus’ banquet begins with a MIRACLE. Instead of feeding their vengeance, He feeds them physically and spiritually. Instead of BLOODSHED there is HEALING. He WELCOMES them and TEACHES them about the Kingdom of God, and He HEALS those who are sick” (Luke 9:11 NLT). He HAS COMPASSION on them because they are like sheep without a shepherd. (Mark 6:34 NLT). Herod’s banquet pales into insignificance when Jesus provides a picnic.

He waits until I am well and truly hungry, late in the afternoon. When my resources are not enough. When my humanity is inadequate when faced with the enormity of the need. When I am empty, drained of solutions and concern, and feeling lost. That’s when I want to leave work, go home, forget about those in need and be with my family. Let those in need learn to find a way to meet their own needs (Matthew 14:15)! Ever feel this way? That’s when Jesus says, “That isn’t necessary—YOU FEED THEM” (Matthew 14:16 NLT).

There are times when I am so “NOT moved” to compassion as Jesus is (Matthew 14:14). Pity maybe, but not compassion. Compassion is different. Compassion is committed to lean in and to DO something when pity has been overwhelmed.

Andrew says “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:9 NLT). Who is this kid, anyway? Are his parents around? If my grandsons had been there, I’m sure it would have been one of them. I like this little guy who gives his lunch to Jesus. He is the only one to come up with the beginnings of a solution to the problem.

5000 men. Some of the women and children would have stayed at home but many were there. 10,000 people? 20,000? “You can have my fish and barley loaves”. It’s absurd to seat ten to twenty thousand people with the view to feeding them 2 fish and 5 loaves. Surely! “Unsatisfactory, insignificant, insufficient, inadequate, deficient, lacking, not enough, a child’s portion!”

Jesus simply says “BRING THEM HERE,” Bring your limited human resources to Me. The blessing is given and Jesus breaks the bread.

Jesus invites the disciples to distribute the bread. It seems that it multiplies in their hands as they go. He takes it, blesses it, breaks it, gives it away. One loaf to every thousand men. The more they distribute the more there is that remains. 12 disciples. 12 baskets left over, untouched.

Healthy too. Omega 3 fish oil, barley bread. Why isn’t there a FISH AND BARLEY LOAF DIET? THE JESUS DIET? (Saw a book once called “What would Jesus eat?”) “Could I have mine battered and with some chips?”

What would the world look like if we brought what was in our hands to Jesus. Compassion and responsibility would accomplish the extraordinary (Matthew 14:15-21). More than enough.

Jesus, using bread as a symbol of relationship says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever COMES to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever BELIEVES in Me will never be thirsty” John 6:35 (NLT). THE JESUS DIET.

Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) says “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Jesus says “… pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38 NLT) More than enough.

It seems Jesus is deliberately inviting His disciples to look beyond the simple awareness of a need. By the way, these people could go home and have their own food, so this is NOT speaking about feeding the poor.

Jesus is inviting us NOT TO MISS AN OPPORTUNITY to accomplish the EXTRAORDINARY in ANY situation of need. He invites you to be responsive to what God can do through you, to use what you have in your hand. To show COMPASSION and not just pity. To rely on Him to get you through. So take what resources you have to God right now and allow Him to use them for His purposes. God’s EXTRAVAGANCE, your CO-OPERATION. Remain in a place where God wants you to be to see His purposes accomplished despite your reservations and your limitations. Be open to a MIRACLE! Never be hungry! Never be thirsty! Taste and see that the Lord is good. Bread of Life. Cool diet.

Pastor Ross

Part 8 – Matthew 12:22-28 – I’M AN ATHEIST AND I INTEND TO STAY THAT WAY!

I’m an Atheist!

He was wide-eyed but unable to speak properly. The nurses told me that he did not have long to live. Brian (not his real name) was experiencing spasms of pain and shortness of breath. He was groaning and looked weak, drawn and afraid. I offered to pray for him. I prayed for healing and encouraged him to reach out to Christ and seek to have a relationship with Him. I told him that Christ would be able to help him get through this situation.

The next day I came in to see Brian again. I asked the nurses how he was and they told me he was much better. I was surprised that he was able to speak again. His recovery was amazing. An answer to prayer! I introduced myself. He looked at me, recognized who I was immediately, and said vehemently, “I’m an ATHEIST and I intend to stay that way!” His response to Christ as he had faced the possibility of death was to REJECT Him. I said that this was his choice but that I hoped he would come to know the Lord.

It’s not unusual that the crowd is amazed as Jesus heals a demon-possessed, blind and dumb man in Matthew 12:22, but it’s that TOTAL REJECTION of Jesus by the Pharisees (and Brian) that surprises me the most.

The Pharisees response to Jesus is vehement and MALICIOUS. Not only do they REJECT Jesus but they proceed to SLANDER His name before the people. They say in Matthew 12:24 (NLT) “No wonder He can cast out demons. He gets His power from Satan, the prince of demons.”

Why are they saying this? Why aren’t they willing to examine things further? Is it that they are afraid of losing their REPUTATION? Is it because they want to hold onto their POWER and already feel that it is slipping away? Perhaps.

The Pharisees are the TALIBAN of Jesus day (If you can’t get people to think your way, bomb them). They behave like RELIGIOUS THUGS! The intensity of their unbelief is incredible. It has already expressed itself as they plotted to kill Jesus (Matthew 12:14)! They are obstinate, pig-headed, determined, inflexible, unmoved, stubborn and persistent leaders. The kind of political leaders we still revere today.

The Pharisees did not actually see first hand Jesus heal the demon possessed, blind and dumb man. That’s not surprising. When I DISTANCE myself from Jesus I will rarely see His miracles, even when I hear about what God is doing in the lives of others who have had a personal experience of Christ. Like the Pharisees, I will not be satisfied or happy for the man who has been healed, even though his life has been CHANGED FOREVER. It is only as I am willing to place myself in PROXIMITY to Jesus and see Him for who He is that I begin to acknowledge, like the crowd, the possibility of Him being the MESSIAH, more than a man, the One sent by God to save me from my sin.

In psychology, PROJECTION is a defense mechanism where a person denies what is happening in their own lives, attitudes, thoughts, and emotions, and then ascribes them to other people. Perhaps the Pharisees are demon possessed themselves and being BLIND to this, they PROJECT what is happening to themselves onto Jesus. John the Baptist calls them a BROOD OF VIPERS in Matthew 3:7 who are resistant to REPENTANCE.

In Matthew 5:20 (NLT) Jesus says “But I warn you-unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”

The man who was healed was BLIND AND DEAF. The Pharisees are BLIND AND DEAF themselves to the things of God and need healing. John 12:38-40 (NIV) says “…For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has BLINDED their eyes and DEADENED their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.” Like Brian, they say, “I am blind to what Jesus has done for me and I intend to stay that way!” My Dad used to say “There are none so blind as those who will not see!”

The invitation is to allow the Lord to open your eyes to His truth and intentionally remain open to Christ and what He wants to do in your life today.

Pastor Ross

 

Part 1 – Matthew 11:2-6 – JESUS-IN-A-BOX!

Jack-in-the-box Jesus

I get the privilege and opportunity to speak to many old people in the course of my day. Being a chaplain and Pastor in an aged care facility (fancy name for old people’s nursing home) I am fascinated by the amazing lives that they have led.

Last week I spoke to a woman in her 90’s who said she felt like she was in a PRISON. She has dementia and so there are locked doors and people she does not know. “Why has my family put me here? What is wrong with me? Who are you? Will you help me?” What can I say when I am asked these things? I’m not the one who has come to give them deliverance! I’m just visiting their prison, (I mean home). All I can do is to assure them that they can trust in Jesus and wonder if I will be the one asking those same questions one day?

In Matthew 11:2 John the Baptist is LANGUISHING IN PRISON (don’t you just love that word “languishing”). He does not have dementia. Far from it! Nevertheless he is confused and asking similar questions. He sends some of his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Behind this question, he is probably asking “Why am I here …LANGUISHING… in prison? What is wrong with me? What have I done to deserve this? Why doesn’t the Messiah, if He is the Messiah help me? I need deliverance?”

My grandchildren sometimes play with a Jack-in-a-box. Sometimes we want a JESUS-IN-A-BOX too. We want Him to fit into our pre-conceived ideas of who He should be and how He should act. One woman said to me on Friday “If there is a God then why does He allow all the bad things to happen in this world?”

John is confused about Jesus? Why? I think He expected that Jesus would come to overthrow the Romans and deal then and there with all the bad things in the world. When Jesus said “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34 NLT), John would have loved that! He thought the Messiah would come to judge the world and reign as king immediately! Instead John was thrown into prison! He still believes the Messiah is coming but he doesn’t want to mess around in a prison cell so he asks, “Are you Him or do we look for someone else?”

There’s absolutely no harm in asking God questions when I feel confused. After all James 1:5 (NLT) says “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” It’s the A.S.K. principle – Ask, Seek, Knock.

John prepared the way for Jesus to come and if John lacks understanding of Jesus then I sure can. I mean he grew up with Him! Cousins! Family!

I am not going to understand everything about Jesus. Besides, He keeps taking me by surprise. He takes John by surprise. Things aren’t going to get any better for John. When I experience great difficulties in my life as I serve God, that’s a great time to come to Jesus with my questions.

John says “Are you the Messiah or do we look for another?” I love this question for another reason. HE IS IN PRISON BUT THE PRISON ISN’T IN HIM, and knows that he is here to prepare the way for the Messiah to come. Even in prison, the call on his life has not diminished.

“Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen- the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.'” (Matthew 11:4 NLT)

Jesus didn’t say, “Yes, I am the Messiah!” He seems to want John and me to come to our own conclusions by the works He does. The testimony that these guys give John is a first hand witness of miracles and good news being preached. Jesus says in effect “You want proof that I’m the Messiah. You saw Me raise that guy from the dead. Go and have a talk with him and tell John about him. See what he thinks about me then.”

John would have understood exactly what Jesus was getting at. He was fulfilling an ancient prophecy about the Messiah. Isaiah 35:4-6 (NLT) says, “Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” And when He comes, He will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!”

Despite the many questions about Jesus I may have, I have totally committed my life to Him and look back to a myriad of miracles He has done in my life so far.

God bless you Church as you commit yourself totally to the Lord Jesus Christ today, despite your questions. God blesses those who do not turn away because Jesus doesn’t quite fit into their box.

Pastor Ross