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Sam Reeve

The Unknown God

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Recently I met someone on Swanston St and we got chatting (he was sitting on the bench opposite the church door – a good place to meet people and chat!). Easter was coming up so we got to talking about what we were going to do over the holiday period. I asked him if he knew what Easter was all about – why we had this 4-day holiday. He scratched his head and ummed and aahed, and finally said that he used to know, but couldn’t recall just now. That led to a good conversation about the death and resurrection of Jesus, and what it means for us. He knew about God (he had lived his whole life within striking distance of churches) but had never heard or understood how he could come to know God personally.

This retired man’s experience is not unique. The majority of people in Australia believe in God or some supreme being. And yet for most it’s not something that impacts their daily lives. Melbourne in the 21st century is not much different to Athens in the first century, where Paul introduced the citizens to the unknown God. The idols that people give their lives to are less conspicuous, and probably more familiar, but the ignorance of who God is and his plans and purposes for the people He created is the same. This is a great challenge for us who have come to know God through Christ. It’s a huge opportunity. If we don’t introduce them to Him, they probably will never know.

May God help and empower us to reach out and show by our lives and our words how they can really know God, whom to know is eternal (John 17:3).

Speak and do not be silent about Jesus

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The 2016 Census results are out and creating quite a stir. The percentage of people calling themselves Christian has fallen again. There are obviously many factors in this: The advertising campaign by militant atheists to encourage people to put down ‘no religion’ on the census form, following their successful pressure on the Bureau of Statistics to put the ‘no religion’ option first in the list; people who don’t have a personal faith being more honest about their lives; the damage of the horrific child abuse perpetrated in some churches, etc. Probably the major factor though is our reluctance as followers of Jesus to speak up and tell people the good news.

In spite of the unpopularity of ‘church’ and institutional religion in many minds, Jesus still rates highly in people’s estimation. According to a Bible Society survey, 54% of Australians believe him to be the most influential person in history. 83% believe that he is a real historical person.  34% believe he is the Son of God and Saviour of the world. These are encouraging statistics for us. They tell us that people are likely to be open to thinking about and talking about Jesus. If you haven’t yet broken the silence and spoken up for Jesus, why not start by asking someone “What do you think of Jesus?”, or “Do you know much about Jesus?”, or “Have you ever read the biography of Jesus?” or a similar question appropriate for your friend that might open up a conversation that points them to the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Oh yes, and don’t forget to think about how you are going to respond to whatever answer they give to your question!

Give it a go and see where God takes you and them.

 

Waiting for our man from Macedonia

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How does God guide us?

In our passage today the Lord gives Paul a vision of a man from Macedonia begging for help. This account has led some Christians to adopt a strategy of not going out to share the good news until they get a clear revelation of the specifics (country, people, place, etc). It points up the danger of using historical narrative to determine theology and mission practice. Whilst we must never discount the possibility that God might appear to us and give very specific instructions, He has made it pretty clear what we need to be doing with the good news he has entrusted to us. “Go therefore and disciple the nations….” (Matthew 28:19-20).  Do we need to wait for further instructions, when there are so many people groups and individuals who haven’t heard yet? Do we need to wait for our man from Macedonia (or Mongolia, Tasmania, Melbourne, next door or wherever) to appear in a vision and call for help? Someone has rightly said, “when you have a command, you don’t need a call”.

The details of the where, who and when may come to us as a matter of clear direction from God, or more likely by being realistic about our gifting, background, interests and passions, along with the advice of mature believers, all bathed in prayer and reading God’s word.

Disciple the nations is a pretty clear straightforward instruction. Why wait for your man from Macedonia (or anywhere else!) when the Man from heaven has already spoken? The nations are all around us, among us, especially here in Melbourne. What a privilege it is to point them to Jesus!

Fight or flight

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When we’re faced with danger, what causes us to either face it or to run? According to Wikipedia (that well-known medical source!) the fight or flight response is largely under the control of the autonomic nervous system, rather than conscious choice. People are often surprised by their own bravery (or lack of it!). They just ‘do what they have to do’.

How did the early messengers of the good news work out how to respond in the face of the many dangers they faced? It seems fairly clear from the accounts in the book of Acts that what drove their actions and decisions wasn’t instinct, but what was good for the gospel. Would the spread of the gospel be helped or hindered by staying or fleeing? We see this in action in the passage today (14:1-7). Their first response to opposition was to stay even longer, preaching boldly. But then when they got word of a plot to kill them, they moved on (fled is the word used). They had in mind a plan that was much bigger. Getting the gospel out even further to the ends of the earth, and that’s what they fled to. This was God’s plan too, of course.

What drives us in what we do to share the gospel? It’s worth thinking about. Passion for the glory of God and love for those who need the grace of God in the gospel have motivated his people down through the centuries. The treasure of the good news is now in our hands, to pass on. Let’s keep doing it, without fear for our ourselves!

God’s power to rescue

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Generally we give our energy and time to things and people we have confidence in. Family, friends, colleagues, projects that capture our imagination or we think will succeed. For the early Christians, their confidence was in the good news of Jesus. They recognised that this message was what the world desperately needed and had the power to turn condemned sinners into saved saints. As Paul introduces his great treatise on God’s rescue mission (The Letter to the Romans), he lays bare the focus of his great confidence – the gospel. He unashamedly proclaims it to all. From Jews to Greeks, pagans to Pharisees, slaves to sovereigns, his belief was that no-one is beyond the reach of God’s powerful good news. All can come into God’s forever family through repenting of their sins and believing this message of rescue for broken and lost people. And he risked his life over and over again so that people could hear this message and have the opportunity to believe.

How are we going in getting this message out? If we’re tiring of doing it, or maybe not even started doing it yet, perhaps it’s time to do a reality check on how confident we are in the gospel. Do we really believe that Jesus is the only way for people to be made right with God? Do we really believe that God will do his work of convicting and saving people as we proclaim the message? Is it really God’s power to salvation for everyone who believes?

These are serious questions of eternal consequence. The eternal future of those who are yet to hear the good news is at stake. Let’s not let them down.

Christ the Lord is risen today!

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When the apostle Peter was writing to some Christians who were being severely persecuted for their faith in the first century, he made a lot of the fact that they had a “living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). Christianity is not a dead, musty religion – it is well and truly alive, because its founder is alive.

The reality for those believers who were going through fiery trials was that they had new life – they had been born again to a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Even though they were under extreme pressure, their faith and trust in Jesus was being purified and strengthened. Many of them ended up being killed for their faith. In many ways this is one of the strongest evidences for the reality of the resurrection. If Jesus hadn’t been raised, why would they be prepared to give their lives? This is especially so since, before the resurrection, they were frightened and on the verge of giving up. Peter himself went from denying that he even knew Jesus, to someone who was willing to put his life on the line for Him over and over again, and finally died for his faith.

The early Christians rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus because  they knew that the hope they had in him was real and living. The bible says that the temporary sufferings of this life are not worth comparing to the glory of the eternal future with our risen living Saviour.

What a great and certain hope we have in Him! Let’s live it out.

 

The building project

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Our Open Up, Reach Out building project is getting close to kick-off on the site. Soon we hope to have things under way to make our Lt Lonsdale St entry into a safe, attractive space for welcoming visitors and helping one another to better achieve our aim of helping people to know Christ, grow in Him and proclaim Him. We’re really thankful for our Facilities and CCDF teams for all they are doing to progress this. Please pray for the final approvals to come through soon.

Our facilities are a great blessing from God that help us to gather together to do the greater eternal building project. If there is anything that comes through loud and clear from our digging into 1 Corinthians 12-15, it’s that the purpose of Christian gatherings is to build one another up to become like our Lord and Saviour – Jesus. That’s the reason God has gifted each of us and energises us by his Spirit – so that we can all put our shoulder to the wheel in this wonderful project of growing and building His body – the church. It’s a project that was approved by the highest authority way back in eternity past, and its significance will be all eternity future. And God will bring it to perfect completion in the new creation that we eagerly look forward to.

We trust you enjoy your shift on the site today, as we seek to encourage and strengthen one another in our resolve to live like Jesus. Let’s pray that during this week there will be real progress in all our lives – that this great project will be one step nearer completion. To Him be the glory!

All you need is lurv!

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50 years ago, in the world’s first live round-the-world television broadcast, The Beatles sang this song to an audience of 400 million people in 25 countries. It hit the top of the charts in many places, and sold more than a million records in the US alone. The subject hits a nerve!

What John Lennon had in mind when he wrote the song was probably a long way from what Paul (the apostle, not McCartney!) wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 when he was encouraging the conflicted believers in Corinth to live a life of love. Certainly what Paul says is a lot more practical and coherent! When people speak of love in popular culture today, they’re usually referring to a feeling, or sex (a recent survey of top 10 songs showed that 92% of them had sexual themes or references). But what God has to say about love is much more intensely practical and life-changing. It’s about our actions, and what drives them. Like the love between God the Father, Son and Spirit, and the act of supreme love of Jesus on the cross, it’s always to be other-centred.

For us in the church, the body of Christ, it’s about actions that focus on the common good, building one another up, helping one another to be who we are meant to be – Christ-like. That’s what is to drive our use of our gifts (whatever they are) – love for our sisters and brothers in Christ, and a deep desire to help them know Christ, grow in him and proclaim him. To him alone be the glory!

We Need You!

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Why come to church? Why come to church early? Why stay on for lunch or dinner? Why go to Life Group? Why get involved in reaching out to others? Why spend time with Christian brothers and sisters?

We tend to make these kinds of decisions based on how we’re feeling, or some possible benefit to us, or how time-pressured we are, or even how good/bad the food is!

But in our reading today God has a very clear and compelling reason. Jesus needs you! He needs you to make your special contribution to the lives of his people. He has gifted you to help build up his body in a unique way. To not take your part is to somehow detract from the common good, to slow down the progress of us all growing more like Jesus. None of us can say or think that it won’t make any difference if I don’t come or contribute. Every believer is a vital part of the whole. Every one of us is needed to bring about the common good. That’s the way God has set things up, and when we take our part, we work with him in building up and transforming his people. It’s an enormous privilege and it has eternal significance. Most of us spend a fair bit of our time building homes, businesses, careers, investment portfolios, reputations, etc. All these things will pass away, but God’s kingdom lasts forever.

Let’s all encourage one another as we work together on this great building project that is the body of Christ.

 

You’re Welcome!

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If you’re new here, we want you to know how much we appreciate it that you’ve chosen to come today. It’s not easy to come into a community where it seems like a lot of people have known each other for ages. We hope it doesn’t feel too hard to get past that feeling of ‘strangeness’. It’s our aim that it won’t happen at all.

This gathering of people called CrossCulture gets it’s name from the reality that we wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for what Jesus did on the cross 2000 years ago. It’s there that the way was opened up for us to be in God’s family, as Jesus died in our place, paying the price for our sins, the thing that keeps us out of God’s family. We’re so grateful for him doing that that we want to get together to say how thankful we are, and to help each other to grow in living for him and proclaiming him to others who need to hear.

We’d love it if you were to become part of this. Our aim is to help people know Jesus, grow in him and proclaim him. So wherever you are in relation to God, we’d love to connect and help you take the next step. The people around you and the information desk (iHub) are here to help in whatever way we can. It’s our prayer that God will bless your time with us, and that what happens here today will make a real, eternal difference in your life.