Posts Tagged ‘Sin’

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The Magain (small round shield to absorb the blows of the sword) © by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 3:1-3 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE? – Part 4

Some of his friends had joined a terrorist organization and were intent on punishing him because their religion told them that God had abandoned him as an infidel and he didn’t deserve to live. What has changed in our world?

At the time of the writing of Psalm 3, King David is running from his ruthless son Absalom who has gathered an army to defeat him. David writes in his journal,

“O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude” (Psalm 3:1-2 NLT).

Many people in Israel justified their own betrayal by saying, “God has left King David because he has sinned so badly.” Your friends and your enemies become obvious in times adversity.

David doesn’t try to defend himself. Firstly, David is honest with God about the pressures he faces and about the ridicule from those he once trusted.

But David finds peace in the midst of turmoil. In the light of his past regrets and present adversity, where does he find the resources for peace?

When others abandon you and question your faith or God’s willingness to help you, what is your response? Like David, you can…

  1. REMIND YOURSELF OF WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT GOD

What do you know of God? David’s images are those with which he relates strongly.

a. God Is My Shield

Psalm 3:3 says, “But You, O Lord, are a shield around me; You are my glory, the One who holds my head high.” 

Nathan prophesied that in 2 Samuel 12:10 (NLT) “From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised Me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.” David is under no delusions. God says that he will always have enemies who will be out to destroy him.

The sword may come against him as a consequence of his moral failure but the Lord will be his shield. God is your shield (Psalm 3:3) when all other shields are inadequate.

Apparently, there are two kinds of shields used by Hebrew warriors. According to the POSB commentary, one was a large rectangular shield which the soldier could hide behind and be covered. The other was a small, hand-held shield which was used to fend off arrows and absorb sword strikes. It is the small, hand-held shield that David is speaking of in Psalm 3.

That means that in Psalm 3, David is saying in effect,“The sword will come against me. That is inevitable. But the Lord is my shield. The Lord will not just protect me from being struck by the sword, but will also personally take the blows intended for me. He will personally absorb the impact.” David knows that this is a spiritual battle that he fights and however inadequate his small round sword may be in the midst of open warfare, God has absorbed the blows of his sins and will shield him from the blows of the evil one. He will face this situation he has brought on himself but will not be robbed of forgiveness.

Isaiah 53 reminds us that the Jesus Christ is our shield. Jesus personally absorbed the blows of sin for us when He died on the Cross.

Isaiah 53:3-12 (NLT) says, “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief … Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed … the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all.

David was face to face with a situation he had brought on himself and Nathan warned him that he would have to live by the sword as a consequence, yet God was intercepting each blow of the spiritual battle and he was at peace.

Like a shield, Christ absorbed the painful blows of my sin. He is my shield in the midst of the spiritual battles I face. What about you? (More about this later).

Pastor Ross

THE CHOCOLATE EASTER STORY

Happy easter everyone!

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

Chocolate Easter eggs. Why?

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

  1. THE EGG OF HEAVEN

Egg of Heaven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A true Easter hunt has to include talking about

  1. THE BAD EGGS

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Bad Egg © Ross Cochrane

The TRUE EASTER STORY has some BAD EGGS.

So who are these bad eggs?

 

 

 

 

JUDAS

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

PETER

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

 

PONTIUS PILATE

Pontius Pilate

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

 

THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND THE MOB

Sinful Mob

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

 

US

Us

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

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

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

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

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

 

  1. OUR EGG-STRAORDINARY GOD

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GOD IS LOVE

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

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

 

 

 

GOD IS JUST

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

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

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

So, is there any egg-scape?

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

But our eggs-tremity is God’s opportunity

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

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

 

  1. JESUS – THE ONLY TRULY GOOD EGG

Jesus

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

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

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

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

 

HOT CROSS BUN = DEATH OF JESUS

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

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

Jesus died and was buried in a borrowed tomb.  

That’s what we remember on GOOD FRIDAY.

 

EASTER EGG = RESURRECTION

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

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

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

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

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

What does Easter mean for our lives? 

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

There’s only one way to receive this gift.

And this gift is received by Faith.

 

5. FAITH – PUTTING ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET

Faith

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

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

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

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

THE COMMITMENT EGG

So here’s what we are going to do.

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

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

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

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

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

THE FAMILY SIZE EGG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HE IS RISEN! 

Pastor Ross

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THE 7 WINDOWS OF CHRISTMAS

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

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

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

First of all, …

  1. THE WINDOW OF HEAVEN

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

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

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

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

  1. THE CLOSED WINDOW

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

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

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

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

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

  1. THE WINDOW OF GRACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. THE WINDOW OF TIME

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

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

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

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

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

  1. THE WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

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

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

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

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

6. THE WINDOW OF LOVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. THE WINDOW OF FAITH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

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© Don’t Cross Me – created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:15-20 – CROSS ME AND YOU’LL REGRET IT?

She came to me, tears streaming down her face and in obvious distress. It was Sunday and I was walking across from our house to our small Church building to take the service. The morning was beautiful, her confession was not.

For around three years she had been the bursar of the Christian School that our Church had started and that morning she blurted out that she had stolen money on a number of occasions and was not able to pay it back. She knew that eventually it would be discovered.

Thanking her for her courage in telling me, I encouraged her to wait until I was able to speak to our leaders and I went to the Sunday Service with my mind spinning and a heavy heart.

Jesus speaks about the importance of keeping Church relationships healthy in Matthew 18:15. He says “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.  

If our bursar had sinned against me the matter would have been easy to solve but the criminal act she had committed affected the whole Church. Matthew 18:15 encourages us to limit the interaction with only those involved in the offense.

But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses(Matthew 18:16 NLT).  

Our leader’s meeting that week was awash with prayer and a genuine desire to deal with the situation well. Could this matter that affected our whole Church be kept in-house and dealt with by the leaders alone? Would the whole Church in some way need to be involved? Did we need to let the police know? She would be charged and have a police record for the rest of her life. There are times when this is totally appropriate. Was this one of those times? What did the Bible say? …

Luke 17:3-4 (NLT) says “So watch yourselves! “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”

Galatians 6:1 (NLT) says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.”  

It seems that the Bible regards repairing a relationship with a person who has wronged you as being even more important than their sinful actions. Confront the person without malice with the view to repentance, forgiveness and a new start. There may be restitution and other consequences but restoring the broken relationship is the most important. It’s not “Cross me and you’ll regret it! That’s a barbed wire threat that damages relationships. It’s The Cross allows room for me to forgive!” Jesus with hands reached out said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NLT).

If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector(Matthew 18:17 NLT).  

This sounds so prescriptive and legalistic at first. But to treat a person as someone who is not a follower of Christ is still an opportunity to show them the love of Christ. Fortunately for us, the person hadn’t refused to listen. Just the opposite. She had admitted to me privately of a public sin. If it had just been against the leaders we could have dealt with the matter in-house, but we needed to deal with this as a Church.

As I remember it, the Church service the next week gave followers of Christ a reminder of the guts of forgiveness. We began our service with worship and praise but I informed our Church that we had a difficult situation to work through.

I had previously encouraged the lady to come and share with the Church, with my help, what had happened. I was amazed at her bravery.

That day we had an opportunity to show hard-hearted malice and unforgiveness, but as I remember it, each member came forward personally and putting their arms around her said, “I forgive you.” Each person expressed their love for her. There were many tears that day as we prayed for her and we knew the presence and approval of God. Followers of Christ have a responsibility to reconcile but it’s nice to see it in action. It doesn’t always happen that way.

Many could have withdrawn from this lady who stole money from us, gossipped to others about the wrong things she had done, or even tried to get revenge. Instead, because of her genuine admission and contrition for the wrong she had done against us as a Church, we took up an offering that morning for her. She had lost her job because of her theft and needed all the help she could get to re-establish herself.

The Church paid for her debt. Justice had been accomplished through forgiveness. I was humbled and grateful to God. The invitation of this passage is to restore lost relationships. Not “Don’t Cross me or you’ll regret it!” but “Because of the Cross, there is room for me to forgive.”

Pastor Ross

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© Lost/Found – Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:11-14 – SAVE ME!

Matthew 18:12-14 (NLT) “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

God lost the human race. God lost their love, worship and friendship. Romans 3:10-12 (NLT) says “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” All we like sheep have gone astray.

He hasn’t stopped loving us or seeking after us. He sent His Son to save us. But what does that mean? The Bible unfolds that message of being saved …

1. CHRIST CAME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE ME

Matthew 18:14 (NLT) says, “In the same way, it is not My heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

Romans 10:13 (NLT) says “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 

2. CHRIST IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAME TO SAVE ME

In John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me”. No-one else came to save us.

3. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE SINNERS

Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT), “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE SINNERS’—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of His great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.”

God loves to forgive. God does not approve of or condone the sin, but He loves the sinner and extends His grace to anyone who becomes positive to the message of Christ.

4. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE ME FROM MY SINS

In Matthew 1:21 (NLT) an angel spoke to Joseph about the birth of Jesus, “And she (Mary) will have a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.” 

5. CHRIST CAME TO FORGIVE ME

Acts 10:43 (NLT) says “…everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) will have their SINS FORGIVEN through His Name.”

6. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE ME FROM JUDGEMENT AND ETERNAL SEPARATION FROM GOD

John 3:17-18 (NLT) “… God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to SAVE the world through Him. “There is NO JUDGMENT AGAINST ANYONE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

In John 12:46-48 (NLT) Jesus said again “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in Me will no longer remain in the dark. I will not judge those who hear Me but don’t obey Me, for I have come to SAVE THE WORLD AND NOT TO JUDGE IT. But all who reject Me and My message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.” 

Being positive to the message of Christ leaves tracks for God to follow. The Shepherd searches for them and finds us.

Why does God seek us? Because He does not want us to be lost, devastated. This is an example we can all follow concerning anyone who is positive towards the things of God. This is a prime reason for not looking down on or despising these new followers of Christ. They are loved by God and they have become positive towards Christ, and they have come into relationship with God. They are part of His flock.

Followers of Christ share with God in seeking and protecting people who are positive towards the things of God, not looking down on them or despising them because of their past. The world is full of those who are lost and need to be found. We pursue them because this is the example of God Himself. 1 John 5:1 (NLT) says “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves His children, too.”

John Calvin said, “It is in the highest degree unreasonable that we should disdainfully reject those whom the Son of God has so highly esteemed.” John 3:16 (NLT) agrees. It says, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” The invitation is to believe in Him who came to save us.

Pastor Ross

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EAU DE COLOGNE – SOMETHING STINKS IN COLOGNE

The original Eau de Cologne is a spirit-citrus perfume created in Cologne in 1709 by Giovanni Maria Farina (1685–1766). In 1708, Farina wrote to his brother: “I have found a fragrance that reminds me of an Italian spring morning, of mountain daffodils and orange blossoms after the rain”. He named his fragrance Eau de Cologne, in honour of his new hometown. A single vial of this aqua mirabilis (Latin for miracle water) cost half the annual salary of a civil servant.

But something else stinks in Cologne.

The skyline is dominated by an imposing, dark, dirty, sandstone structure, one of the largest Church buildings in the world. We visited the Cathedral in the old part of the city of Cologne today (21st May 2016), begun in 1248 and finally finished in 1880, and constantly being repaired to this day. It remained standing, despite 14 hits by aerial bombs, when the city was decimated by WWII.

Accumulating the pollution of the world around it over the years, Cologne Cathedral is a tortured ugly soul, streaked black on the outside with the residue of war and industry since its medieval history. The sandstone could not withstand the pressure of the water needed to clean it, and the city could not afford the cost of the “bathwater and soap” for such an enormous enterprise.

The only alternative is to replace the offending parts, stone by stone. Some stained glass and damaged sections have been replaced by modern designs and these stand in contrast to the dirt and soot of the years.

As a whole, it stands as a testament to the sins of the world around it absorbed into its structure and it groans babel-like, a giant coal-worker unable to wash itself of the grime accumulated throughout it’s working life. Having gone through the hell of wars it now faces a world gone mad with values and lifestyles that deny the reason for its existence.

Around 20,000 visitors a day look up at her mace-like, contaminated spires. She is another story of degradation, a metaphor of a vestige of humanity standing there with bare, dirty feet, reaching out to God with sin-stained hands, mascara stained face, wanting to shake herself free of grime and collapse in a heap of rubble. But although wars have spared this creature, she is still abused by a miscreant city who continues to impregnate her with filth and use her for its own profit.

Some Cathedrals in Europe are no longer places where a Church meets but have been taken over by the city to operate as Museums, empty relics of the past (We visited a Cathedral in Bruges which had a Michelangelo statue that the city charged 20 euro’s just to look at. The altar was screened off, an unholy of unholies formed for the city’s greed. I wondered what happened to the people of faith who once met here to worship God).

1 Peter 2:4 (NLT) says that God’s Church is far from an empty relic of the past. “You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but He was chosen by God for great honour. And you are living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple.” Not a dead monumental, stained, empty tower, but a living organism responding to what God is building.

Far from the dirt and grime image of Cologne Cathedral, Titus 3:5 (NLT) says, Jesus “… washes away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” He invites us to become a living temple, pure and holy, untainted by the world’s polluting influence.

Ephesians 2:20 (NLT) says “Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself.”

Colossians 2:7 says “… let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

Romans 12:2 (NLT) says, “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” 

Eau de Cologne was believed to ward off Bubonic plague. But even Eau de Cologne cannot ward off the deep-seated stains of sin in our world.

Something stinks in Cologne that needs more than a perfume to fix. John 12:3 gives me hope as Mary pours a costly perfume over Jesus’ feet, wiping His feet with her hair in an expression of trust and hope. The room is filled with the perfume of faith in Christ. Such a fragrance is the worship of those who have become a sweet smelling incense to the Lord as they trust in Christ.

I pray for such a fragrance in Cologne and in my own life, today. Perhaps then we, like Giovanni Maria Farina of old could rephrase his sentiments, “I have found a fragrance that reminds me of worship that is new every morning, of a holy mountain climb in spring, of a stream in the desert and the lilies of the field after the rain”.

Pastor Ross

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 39

Those in court seem to instinctively and collectively step back towards the door to distance themselves from the presence of God as Nathan speaks. The courtroom empties as David slumps forward from his throne with nowhere to escape but to his knees, tears streaming down his face, the full weight of months gone, now pressing upon his shoulders. Only Absalom and the amanuensis remain, but they are in the shadows. The spotlight of God’s presence rests heavily upon David’s conscience. He speaks, but the words are no more than a groan that comes from somewhere deep within,

“I have sinned against the Lord.”

Silence envelopes the room and it seems that God reaches down and touches David, for his body trembles as Nathan says, “The Lord also has taken away your sin. You shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child that is born to you shall surely die.” Absalom slips from the room unnoticed. Nathan is gone almost as quickly as he had come and David lies prostrate before the Lord for some time.

As predicted, the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David became very sick.

Grief-stricken, David retreated in prayer for his child; He fasted and lay prostrate before the Lord all that night on the ground. Friends and counsellors in his palace encouraged him to eat but he was unwilling. As kings advisor, Absalom came to David and said “Your people are waiting for you to judge their cases. Why won’t you listen to them?” David remained silent, prostrate before the Lord. He had lost the power to act at all on behalf of his people. Then he murmured with a voice of deep anguish, “How can I seek justice for my people when the judgement of God still rests heavily upon me and upon my innocent son? You don’t seem to understand that he is dying in my place. Now leave me.” Absalom left and pondered this situation to see if he could gain any advantage.

It seemed that David lost his interest in hearing the cases of his people in court from that time on. Absalom’s interest, however, increased. As one of the kings sons and advisors, he determined to judge their cases. It will be good practise for when I am king. For now, I cannot do it from the throne of course, but in time…

Each night the others who sat at the king’s table were quiet, waiting to see what would happen. David, absent from the table, continued his fasting and praying day after day while the child lingered. Then, on the seventh day, the circumstances of the child changed.

The servants were afraid to tell David at first. They were afraid that he might do something to harm himself. But David noticed his servants whispering together and understood that the child was dead.

When he knew for sure, he got up, washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes; and went into the Tabernacle to worship the Lord. He accepted fully the consequences of his sin and thanked the Lord for His justice mixed with His mercy. His life had been spared yet forgiveness had come with so great a price. Then he went back to his own house, and requested food. When Absalom saw the change in David, he was confused. He asked the servants what had happened to bring the king back to his right mind. They related David’s words to him,

“While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; because I thought, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, and the child may live.’ But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?”

For a while he had thought that his father may have lost his sanity. Certainly, he thought, he had completely lost his ability to rule. In David’s absence, it had been he who had been hearing the cases of the people. He felt that he was the only one aware of what was needed in the kingdom. In conceding that his father was well again, he said simply to David,

“Despite your absence, you will find your kingdom is still intact. We have not lost the war with the Ammonites and your people’s needs are still being cared for”.

David said “Thankyou, my son. I knew that I could rely on you.” The comment was fleeting as David left the room to be with Bathsheba in her time of need.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 24

Both David and Absalom were furious when Uzzah was struck dead after touching the Ark. David, because God had struck down his nephew and Absalom because he regarded his father as responsible.

He was my cousin, advisor and best friend! Grief expressed itself in anger and in questions about the fairness of God. A root of bitterness had already begun to entangle fingers around his heart and grow; bitterness not only towards God but to those who represented God; to his father who was anointed of God to be king of Israel.

Absalom went over and over it all in his mind. First of all, it was, “Why did God allow this to happen?” Then it became, “It’s all my father’s fault!” This is all his doing and it has ended in the death of my closest friend, my cousin of cousins. If he didn’t move the Ark in the first place this whole thing would not have happened. It was a crazy/stupid idea in the first place wanting the Ark to come to Jerusalem! How could he do this!

Absalom thought of Zadok. When his anger was under control he made his way to Zadok to find some comfort and perhaps some answers to why his cousin had been slain. His heart was still breaking and he was near to tears at what he saw as God’s injustice. As he rounded the corner he could hear voices and knew that Zadok was speaking with someone. He could overhear the old priest saying,

“We can’t try to accomplish the things of God by ignoring the principles of His holy writings, and trying to deal with grief in inappropriate ways can soon become sin.”

“You’re right, Zadok,” said David, “I have come to confess that I have sinned. You tried to warn me and now my nephew is dead.” His voice was almost breaking with emotion. David was asking in his shock and grief, “Why did He strike down Uzzah?”

“My son, you know why. God’s justice was exercised on Uzzah,” said Zadok.

Justice and Righteousness! thought Absalom, It was those angels that killed Uzzah!

“But how can I bring the Ark to me now?” said David, “It would have been better if it had stayed with the Philistines!” David declared in a moment of rage and heartache.

Absalom was sickened. Your only concern is for the Ark. You still want to bring that curse-giving cause of all my grief to Jerusalem. He left unseen with anger unspoken but burning deep within his chest. Though he spoke with no-one, his grief and bitterness against his father and God remained for many years to come.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 19

The lesson the next day held particular fascination for Absalom and Uzzah.

“Why are the angels on the top of the Ark?” said Uzzah before anyone had a chance to ask any other questions.

“The angels on the top of the Ark of the Covenant carry God’s righteousness and justice to us,” said Zadok, “Although we can’t see them, I am sure that God has designated real angels to be at His side as He makes His presence known to us on top of the Ark of the Covenant. These two angels have a special name. They are known as Cherubim. They sit on top of the Ark of the Covenant with their wings outstretched and look down at the Mercy Seat. Cherubim are God’s warrior angels. Do you remember me telling you how God placed Cherubim with a flaming sword east of the Garden of Eden to stop Adam and Eve from eating from the Tree of Life after they had sinned?”

“Yes, Rabbi, but why would God want His warrior angels on top of the place where He wants us to know His presence? He doesn’t want to make war with us, with these …” Uzzah repeated the new word that described them, “… Cherubim, does He?” The other children laughed, but it was a nervous laugh.

“God’s warrior angels are not to be trifled with.” said Zadok, his deep voice cutting across their laughter. “They represent two of the most magnificent creatures ever created from the hand of God. They defend the justice and righteousness of God and that’s why they are depicted on the Ark of the Covenant.”

“What would happen if you touched the Ark? asked Absalom.

“The angels would draw their swords and kill you!” said Ahio. Uzzah and Absalom laughed but it was laughter peppered with apprehension. It’s ridiculous that two golden angels could draw their swords and kill us. They were both aware of the serious look on Zadok’s face and equally surprised and disturbed by his answer. It seemed that he agreed with Ahio.

“Yes!” said Zadok, “The only way you can approach the Ark is with blood from a sacrifice. If you touch the Ark of the Covenant without the blood of a sacrifice then you become the sacrifice, yourself.” Absalom and Uzzah looked at each other. It all seemed to have become a little far-fetched but they were still not quite sure.

“Is there anything inside the Ark?” Uzzah said suddenly to change the subject.

“Ah, It seems that I have missed out a very important part of my story. Yes, there is something inside the Ark. In fact it is what is inside that is important to our people because it contains objects from our history.” Absalom and Uzzah were once again fascinated. “Inside the box are three objects that all have a special meaning.” said Zadok, “These three objects represent the sin of our people, yours and mine included.”

“But what are these objects, Rabbi?” asked Uzzah.

“The first objects deep inside this box are broken. Originally they were the stone tablets containing the 10 commands that God gave to Moses. Why were they broken?” asked Zadok. Uzzah knew this well.

“They were broken because our people began to worship an idol.” he said.

“Yes, and when Moses saw them worshipping a golden calf, he smashed the tablets of the law on the ground. The pieces were collected and eventually put into the Ark of the Covenant as a picture of their sin against the Law of God. These broken tablets speak of our sin against the law of God.”

“Will they show us these tablets of the law that Moses tomorrow?” Absalom asked.

“The Ark hasn’t been opened since the days of Moses.” said Zadok. Uzzah and Absalom were obviously curious.

“What was the second object in the Ark?” Absalom was fascinated with what Zadok was teaching him. He loved to hear about the history of his people. Why do I feel afraid of Zadok? Sometimes he makes me feels so uneasy? He commands such authority, but he’s just a priest. One day, people will listen to me. Absalom wanted to learn how to wield such authority himself. He felt the same way in the presence of his father. Zadok answered him,

“The second object that was placed into the Ark was Aaron’s rod that budded. This spoke of how our people rebelled against God’s appointed leaders. You know this story. Our people had rebelled against Moses and Aaron, and God told them to choose rods for each of the twelve leaders of Israel and write their names on the rods. They were then to be placed in the Tent of Meeting in front of the Ark of the Testimony. The rod that sprouted would indicate to the people God’s appointed priest. What happened? Do you remember?”

“Only Aaron’s rod had sprouted by the following day.” said Absalom.

“Yes.” said Zadok, looking directly into Absalom’s eyes, “Unfortunately many of our people in Israel have rejected the priests and prophets of God and they have even rebelled against king David.”

“Yes”, said Absalom. Again he felt uncomfortable.

“Now let me tell you about the third object. The third object that was placed in the Ark was a pot of Manna. This pot of manna speaks of how our people complained and sinned against the provision of God. During the time of their wandering through the desert, God provided them with manna from heaven to eat each morning, but once again they complained, and God had to deal with them.

These three objects speak together about our people’s sin. But let me see if you have been listening. What are the three ways in which our people have sinned against God?”

Ahimaaz answered. “We have sinned against the Law of God, against his appointed leaders and against his provision for us.” He had listened carefully. He could always recite the correct answers.

“Very good! You have been listening well, my son.” Zadok was delighted with his son’s progress spiritually. One day he would be a fine priest. Absalom returned to the subject of his real interest.

“But why can’t we look at these holy objects that our father Moses once held?” he said.

“The angels who guard the throne on top of the Ark are the only ones who look down upon Israel’s sin and they don’t need to have the box opened to see how badly we have offended the holiness of God. God has made it very clear that the Ark of the Covenant is to be touched and carried only by the Priests.”

“You’re a priest. Would you be able to open it up for us to see Aaron’s rod?” asked Absalom.

“No! The Ark is only to be touched when it is carried. Two poles are to be placed through rings in the side of the ark and the Priests are then able to carry it around.” Absalom thought he might find a way one day to open the Ark.

Zadok’s voice became lower and, with shining eyes that expressed his love for these children, in almost a whisper he said, “The Lord of hosts is there with the Ark of the Covenant. Once a year, on the day of Atonement the priest brings the blood from the sacrifice and sprinkles it over the mercy seat and instead of seeing Israel’s sin, the angel’s see that a sacrifice has been made. The angels that carry God’s righteousness and justice are satisfied.

That’s why your father has decided to bring up the ark to Jerusalem, that it might be near him, and that it might focus attention upon God’s presence and His rulership in Israel. It has remained in the house of Abinadab, your uncle for some time now, but finally we are to see it come to it’s rightful place. Can you see now why your father wants to have it near us?”

“Yes,” said Absalom. “Yes, I think I do. Thankyou Rabbi.” The Ark is a great symbol of power. That’s the main reason why my father wants it with him. He would love to see the objects inside, but for now, he would be content to watch it come into Jerusalem tomorrow.