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Sam Reeve

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.

Why don’t You end all the pain?

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How often have you felt this way? How many times have you asked the Lord to take away some illness, confusion, suffering, loneliness, frustration,  shortcoming, whether it’s your own, or someone else’s? My guess is, most of us ask this fairly frequently.

Suffering is universal. In the book of Job, which is about extreme suffering, we find these words: “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). As the ancients sat around the campfire and saw that the sparks from the fire always went up with the heat of the fire, so their observation of life taught them that anyone born will inevitably experience the heat of human suffering sooner or later.

It raises a question: where did we get this idea that suffering is not good? Where does the longing to be free from it come from? Is it just that our nerve endings tell us it’s painful (as they certainly do), or our brain circuits overload? The bible’s answer is that we were made in the image of God, with a longing for perfection and rightness. We were designed to live in perfect relationship with God and each other. Because we chose to go it alone, and live with ourselves as our own final reference point, the whole created order was disrupted. But that’s not the end of the story. God is inevitably moving everything towards the day when evil, suffering, and the creation’s disjointedness will finally be dealt with, and the new heaven and the new earth will be forever established.

The answer to the question “how long?’ is that we’re not told. But the fact that the person asking this question (David, in Psalm 13) addresses it to God tells us who does know, and who we can trust in the meantime to keep us and prepare us for the new heaven and the new earth. David ends up saying: But I have trusted in your steadfast love, my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. (Psalm 13:5)

CHRISTmas is Coming!

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Only 2 weeks til Christmas! Does that strike terror into your heart (as you think of the impossible list of things that need to be done), or fill you with joyful anticipation? Maybe it’s a bit of both.

One of the things that James is absolutely certain about, as he concludes his letter to troubled Christians, is that Jesus is coming back. Just as surely as He came the first time, He’s returning for his people. He’s near, standing at the door even, and He will put everything right. Those who persecute and oppress his people will be called to account and punished. He won’t just put others right, but us too! So James encourages us to keep short accounts with God and with each other. Confess our sins. It’s one of the things on the path to receiving God’s healing and salvation.

I once heard of a new Christian who said “I want to live as if Jesus died yesterday, rose from the dead this morning and is coming back tomorrow”. That’s what James calls us to – whether we’re in trouble, happy, sick or struggling spiritually – to live with our eyes firmly fixed on Christ, our hope and strength. In whatever state we find ourselves, let’s live in the sure knowledge that our Rescuer and Lord is on the way. The whole creation is moving inevitably to the time when all things will be united under Jesus, every knee will bow, every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Since this is where everything is heading, let’s work with God towards that end. Maybe, in the light of that, some of the things on our Christmas to-do list aren’t so vital after all.

Come Lord Jesus!

Saving Faith

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499 years ago, on 31st October, 1517, the reformer Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. He had come to know the freedom of the gospel of grace, and called the church to declare and live this message. His actions inflamed the protestant reformation. As inheritors of this movement that re-discovered justification by faith alone, we owe a great deal to his courage and determination.

Martin Luther, though, didn’t like the letter of James. He called it an “epistle of straw”. He thought that it undermined the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Like all of us, he lived in a context. The context was the Roman Catholic Church selling salvation, in the form of indulgence certificates, which they said would guarantee your place in heaven. Part of their justification for doing this came from our passage today – a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:24). Both the Roman Catholics and Luther misunderstood what God says through James. James clearly says that our salvation is a gift from God (1:17-18). And the kind of actions that are the hallmark of saving faith are showing love for God and your neighbour (he doesn’t mention giving money to the church!).

What James is teaching is that saving faith, a gift from God, is not something static and dead. It changes your life. Being overwhelmed by God’s free grace toward us inevitably means living a grace-filled life of loyalty to our Saviour and Lord that spills over into all our relationships. The person with real saving faith cannot and does not remain unchanged. As the later reformer, John Calvin wrote “It is faith alone that justifies, but the faith that justifies can never be alone.”

How good is your God?

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Everyone has times in their life when they wonder how good God is. Usually it’s in times when we’re really hurting, and there doesn’t seem to be any sense to it, or even an end in sight. It’s in these times that our trust in the goodness of God is really tested, and stretched. For Jesus, the biggest one was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was in extreme pain and agony, crushing sorrow, as He faced his own immanent torture and death. Everything in him was saying “It’s too hard!”. He cried to God for another way, an easier way. But there was no answer. Ultimately He had to trust himself to the Father, uttering those immortal words “Not my will, but yours be done”. He overcame the temptation to give up and believed the goodness of God over his own feelings and fears.

The wonderful thing about this is that Jesus’ staking his life on God’s goodness brought about our salvation (and the salvation of billions). If Jesus had given in to his fears and feelings and not “committed himself to him who judges justly”, where would we be? Still in our sins and under condemnation, facing the awful prospect of paying for our own wrongs and failures.

Jesus calls us as his redeemed people to follow in his footsteps. Not in saving the world (that’s his job!) but in trusting in God’s goodness no matter what, thus showing ourselves and the world that He really is a trustworthy Saviour. James reminds us that this is the difficult (but saving) path of humble obedience, being a doer of the Word, not just a hearer.

May God give us his strength to keep believing his goodness and faithfulness through all our trials and temptations.

Open Up, Reach Out!

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Happy Anniversary! 151 years is a long time in terms of Australian history (at least the European settlement part of it). Today we give thanks for the people who have faithfully proclaimed and lived the gospel here for almost 2/3 of the time since the First Fleet arrived on these shores. We have a rich and godly heritage, and we rightly celebrate and give thanks to God!

And yet we know from Scripture, church history and from the many empty church buildings in our city that the future of the church depends on the continuing clear and bold proclamation of our founder, the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who died for us, and for the whole world. True, Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church, but He has also ordained that the establishing and building of his kingdom is through the faithful passing on of the good news. That’s why He commissioned his followers to go into all the world and disciple the nations. This message must be proclaimed to every people group.

We are so fortunate that God has not only raised up many Global Partners here to take the good news to the nations, but also brought the nations to us. Melbourne is the most ethnically diverse city in Australia, with people from over 200 different nations. Those who walk into our services and Open Chapel reflect this. Many of them come from gospel-starved backgrounds. God has given us huge opportunities, not just here in the CBD, but also in our communities, workplaces, Uni and college campuses.

Let’s Open Up and Reach Out more and more as we step out into the future, trusting our Lord to be with us as he promises, and to grow his kingdom as we proclaim him.

Enjoy the celebrations!