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All Posts By

Sam Reeve

Am I my brother’s keeper?

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This is an ancient question. After the first recorded murder (Genesis 4), God asks Cain where his brother Abel is. Cain’s answer betrays his deep-seated self centredness and lack of love for his brother.

We live in a culture that is fanatically committed to individualism – the idea that what I do, or believe, or think has nothing to do with anyone else. It’s none of their business. But our media is full of reports of instances where the actions of individuals have seriously impacted the lives of others (For example, the recent Flinders St incident). And we know from those close to us that we impact each other’s lives all the time (for better or worse!).

God is much more realistic than our prevailing culture. He’s set up His world so that we need one another, and have the potential to deeply impact each other’s lives for good. In the body of Christ it is even more so, as God’s Spirit works in and through us to empower all of us to contribute to God’s great plan to present each other mature in Christ.

As we launch into this year of helping one another to grow in Christ, let’s use every opportunity to love and care for those around us in a way that really helps us all grow more like Jesus.

Yes, we are our bother and sister’s keeper, and what a privilege it is to be instruments in God’s hands to help each other to become more like our great Saviour.

 

Christmas Angels

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It’s interesting to track the appearance of angels in the Bible. The first time we see one is when Adam and Eve are excluded from the Garden of Eden after deciding that they didn’t want to live God’s way. God places and angel with a flaming sword at the entry to paradise – a ‘keep out’ sign clearly posted.

Other appearances of angels throughout Scripture are mostly just one angel, usually designated ‘the angel of the Lord’. They are sent at key times to warn, or to guide and encourage,  or to bring the Lord’s message.

When it comes to opening up the way back into the garden, into God’s loving presence, the largest gathering of angels ever recorded is mustered. The announcement is heralded by myriads of angels giving glory to God. How many is a ‘myriad’? Too many to count! It’s by far the biggest announcement in the Bible. And it’s to humble shepherds, people on the margins of society.

So important is this turn of events that God gets together the most spectacular heavenly choir ever to accompany the announcement. Throughout the life of Jesus, God’s rescuer, angles appear over and over again (mentioned more than 50 times in the gospels), particularly around his birth, death, resurrection and ascension. There is no doubt that God is putting a big signpost here that Jesus is the focus of history. Who He is and what He does matters – more than anything else. He opens up the way back to God, the way to a joyous and blessed eternity.

Joy to the world!

The leadership and staff teams and families join me in wishing you a very happy Christmas. We trust you are blessed refreshed in every way over this Christmas period.

 

 

When God doesn’t do what we want

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Jonah’s big frustration was that God didn’t do things his way. If Jonah had had his way, the people of Nineveh would never have heard God’s message, and certainly wouldn’t have believed it. Nor would they have changed their ways. And God certainly wouldn’t have forgiven them. He wanted God to destroy them, not save them.  But God has other plans.

A lot of our frustrations come from the fact that deep down we want to create a god after our own image. An all-powerful pet, who will always be at our beck and call, and always do what we want. The trouble is, God, by definition, revelation and experience is not like that. By definition God is infinitely powerful, holy, knowledgeable, loving. We are limited in all these characteristics. God has revealed himself as our sovereign creator and ruler. And our experience tells us that his ways are not our ways (at least a lot of the time). That’s what produces the frustration.

We do well to remember that we aren’t the potter and He’s not the clay. It’s the other way around, and He is fashioning us into the perfect image of Jesus. That process, in his loving hands, will necessarily involve some breaking down, some kneading, re-shaping, some time in the furnace, before the final product is ready. Let’s cooperate with him as we move toward that day when we will be presented without spot or blemish.

Revival – Proclaim and Pray!

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What happens in Jonah Chapter 3 is what most Christians long to see. Widespread heartfelt turning away from evil and turning to God. The people of Nineveh, on hearing God’s message, repented as one – from the king down. The whole population. How we long to see such things happen in our time – for people to be transformed by God’s gracious intervention.

Two things came together in Nineveh. Firstly, God’s message was proclaimed. The reluctant prophet finally did his job. And when God’s explosive message was released it impacted the whole city. There have been times when the message of the good news of Jesus has been widely proclaimed in our city. In 1959 719,000 people attended meetings to hear Billy Graham proclaim the good news (about 40% of the population at the time). Secondly, They realised their need of forgiveness, and God answered their cry for mercy. In Ninevah, there was national repentance. Similarly in Melbourne in 1959, more than 26,000 people responded to the call to follow Jesus.

In the end, this is a sovereign work of our merciful God. It flows from who He is – the God of mercy and love. We are dependent on him to revive us, our city, nation, world. Let’s keep crying out to him to have mercy and empower people to believe the good news and turn from going their own way to going God’s way. It’s the great need of our time. It’s the only hope. Or rather, He’s the only hope. Let’s proclaim his message of repentance and faith, and pray for his powerful work in our city.

 

 

Calling on God

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How’s your prayer life? What does it look like? Is God like the fire brigade to you – you make a panic call whenever something goes “wrong”, or is He more like a trusted friend and mentor that you want to connect with regularly and hang out with often?

So far in Jonah, he’s been totally avoiding talking with God, even though everyone around him is, including pagan sailors. But God brings him to a place where his only option is to cry out for his help. It’s when he’s staring death in the face that he finally calls out in desperation.

There’s nothing wrong with crying out to God in our distress, in fact there’s everything right with it. He’s all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing so it makes total sense to do throw ourselves on him. The tragedy is that if that’s the only time we call on Him, we miss out on so much. God wants to guide and direct and help us in all circumstances. His plan is that every part of our lives reflect his glory and point people to him, not just our disasters.

That’s what it means to have Jesus as our Lord and Saviour – accepting and joyfully living out his rule and rescue in every circumstance.

 

 

He’s a Jonah!

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We sometimes hear this expression for someone who seems to attract trouble. Every time they’re in the car, the boat, on the team, something goes wrong. It’s as if they bring bad luck with them (and that’s often what is meant when the expression is used). The saying comes from our passage today (Jonah 1). Whilever Jonah is on board the ship, the storm rages harder and stronger. Toss him overboard, and all is calm, all is bright!

But it’s not a case of bad luck, it’s a case of bad living. The storm comes not because Jonah is unlucky, it’s because he’s wilfully running from God’s good plan and purpose – for him and the people of Nineveh. The storm is not punishment, but part of God’s loving plan to rescue Jonah, the sailors and many others. Sometimes God takes pretty drastic action to get our attention and bring us back into line with his good plan for us and his world. Is God trying to get your attention now? Are you ready to listen, and follow his good direction for your life? It could be the difference between life and death, eternal life and death, for you and many others.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, you’ve been given a message to bring to a lost world, just like Jonah.  It’s easy to dodge that task, or just not do it, or pretend it’s someone else’s job, or even actively avoid it, as Jonah tried to do. But God is relentless in pursuing people, even his enemies. That’s why Jesus came to earth – to die, so that we could live and take this life-giving message to the nations. Let’s do it!

 

 

 

Open House, Open Heart, Open Heaven

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Welcome to CrossCulture Open House! We’re so glad you could come today and hope that you find your time with us inspiring and encouraging. Please take advantage of the many things that are on today to get to know us and the church better. There are tours that will give you some idea of what goes on here and why we’ve been here for the last 152 years. We’d love you to stay around to enjoy some food and friendship too.

We try to be open-hearted to everyone who comes, not just on Sundays but throughout the week as many people come through our Open Chapel and other programs. We hope you will find open-hearted friendship here today and whenever you choose to come.

The reason we want to be open in these ways is because God is like that. He’s keen for us all to get to know him – so much so that he came to visit planet earth, in the person of Jesus. Jesus ‘went about doing good’ the record says, and finally did the ultimate good of opening the door of heaven and relationship with God forever. That’s worth celebrating!

Enjoy our 152nd birthday party!

 

Where to CrossCulture?

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152 years ago today our forebears in the faith formed this gathering of God’s people now called CrossCulture. By the grace of God, the witness has continued and grown. The light of the good news has gone out, thousands of lives have been changed, hundreds have gone out to other parts of the world to live and to proclaim the message of Jesus. To God be the glory!

What about the future? Our context has changed a lot. (Former pastor Alan Webb recalls that in the 1970s Swanston St was deserted on Sundays – there was nowhere open to even buy a coffee, and Christians probably wouldn’t have done it anyway, even if there was!) Today is very different. Tens of thousands of people go past our church daily. Many are indifferent or even hostile to God. But many are open to hearing the good news of Jesus. All need to hear it, as do the people in the communities where we live and work.

God’s vision of his church is people shining like stars in a dark world, holding out the word of life, as we humbly and sacrificially follow our Master. It’s not an easy life (Jesus never promised that it would be), but the good news is the only hope for lost and broken people. More than ever we need to be praying and living so that people will see and hear the wonderful and powerful message of Jesus – God’s only remedy to the darkness. Let’s shine like lights!

 

The green-eyed monster

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One of the strongest drivers of human behaviour is envy or jealousy – the green-eyed monster (apparently the expression originates with Shakespeare). Wanting to have a better car, kitchen, phone, career, relationship, body, education, family, hairstyle, etc, etc – the list is endless. Of course wanting these things is not necessarily wrong. It’s what drives the desire that’s the problem. If it’s to be bigger and better than others that’s driving it, then of course ultimately it’s self-directed and wrong. Envy is a dangerous thing. It’s a pernicious form of self-promotion – evidence that our self-interest has been frustrated.

Jesus tells us not to worry about getting ahead of the rest (Matthew 6:25-33). God knows what we need, and doesn’t hold back in providing it (Check out he birds or the flowers, he says). What He wants us to have at the top of our priority list is to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness. In other words his loving rule over our lives and the lives of others, and to seek to reflect his goodness and purity in our lives – to be like Him. This frees us up to be like Him in other ways. To really seek the good of those around us. With envy on the back burner (or switched off altogether!), love and generosity can flourish and grow on the front burner. This is God’s great plan for his people. Let’s not get sidetracked on lesser things.

 

The grace of generosity

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One of the first things we learn is to try to get what we can. Anyone who has had a toddler knows that the word ‘mine’ gets used regularly and loudly, pretty much as soon as it’s learned. We learn fairly early on in our lives that we can (often relatively easily) get what is not ours, sometimes without anyone knowing. Someone has said that a thief is someone who regularly confuses ‘mine’ and ‘thine’. God’s instructions to us are very simple. Don’t steal (Exodus 20:15). In contrast to the vast volume of our ownership laws, God is very brief. Just 2 words!

Wanting what’s not ours is a pernicious and prevalent disease. What is the antidote? God has given us the lead in this. The context of the giving of the 10 commandments is one of grace. The grace of God, who rescues his people. They have already been rescued from slavery, and now He’s telling them how to respond to his rescuing love. His generosity is vividly apparent. Even more so to us, who have had God’s grace lavished on us through the sacrifice of Jesus. Imitating this generosity of our Lord and Saviour not only benefits and lifts up those in need, but it turns our eyes off ourselves and helps us experience the joy of the Lord, the One who for the joy set before him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

Let’s excel in the grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:7).