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Sam Reeve

Open up, reach out!

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We’re almost 151! I’m really looking forward to the celebrations next week. We have a great day lined up with anniversary speaker Rev David Cook, special combined service in Mandarin and English at 10am, followed by a barbecue lunch and celebrations in the chapel and then the 6pm celebration in the Chapel. The creative team, choir and orchestra have been working hard on special songs (some from the EP that was released last night). It’s a good opportunity for us to invite friends and family to celebrate with us.

Whilst we have a long history of seeing and knowing God’s blessing and faithfulness, there are many challenges before us. It is increasingly difficult to stand up as Christians in our culture. If we are to see more people come to Know Christ, Grow in Him and Proclaim him, we will need to open up and reach out more and more. Not just from our buildings here, but personally as we daily meet people who need to know Christ. We are living in a time of increased opportunity and openness, as the majority of people in our city know little or nothing of what is in the Bible or the good news of Jesus. It’s great that our chapel is now open 4 days a week (including Sunday), and there are more opportunities to invite people in to our services and programs. Let’s make the most of them, as we Open Up and Reach Out. Our aim through the Open Up Reach Out 151st project is to make our facilities more accessible and attractive for people to come to, and also to train people better for gospel ministry. An envelope is enclosed today for you to make your contribution.

Most of all, let’s all live lives that are open, so that people can see Christ in us, and let’s reach out at every opportunity. May God cause us to overflow with thanksgiving that spills into the lives of others.

Loving Wisdom

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Our passage today has a tussle in it. The battle for the future of the young person being addressed (‘son’) is between wisdom and lust, sanity and stupidity. The wise teacher urges him to resist the temptations to wrongful use of the sex-gift that God has given and to love wisdom. The two go together – it’s through the wise living out of God’s wisdom that we are able to withstand the temptation to abandon God’s way and mess up our lives. As Christians we have the powerful Spirit of God working in us to bring about His purposes. Paul urges us to walk by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit so we keep going God’s way (Galatians 5:16, 25)

The overwhelming message of Proverbs and the Bible is: Choose God’s way every time! The first creed of the church, Jesus is Lord, is a 3-word expression of this. Rather than being led and driven by self-centred and self-destructive impulses, the believer lives under the wise and loving rule of the Master, the One who gave his all so that we might live. He is both the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). When we fall, He picks us up, forgives us and empowers us to live for him.

What a privilege, and what a challenge, as we live out our lives in a culture that entices and pulls us to live for ourselves only. Let’s support and encourage one another to keep loving wisdom and living it out in our daily walk with Jesus our Saviour and Lord.

The Lord Knows

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One of the affirmations of Proverbs 5 is that the Lord knows and sees our paths (v21). Past, present and future. He alone can see what’s up ahead, the true outcomes of the decisions we make (or tempted to make). That’s why He’s so committed to revealing himself to us, so that we can know him, and his direction for our lives, and the good purposes He has for us. He also faithfully and lovingly warns us of the disastrous consequences of not living his way. That’s why “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (1:7)

When it comes to our sexuality, He knows how complex and driven we are. So He gives lots of wisdom on how to live out that part of our lives. The big message of this chapter-full of wisdom is that sexual purity in singleness, and faithfulness in marriage are the best way to go. The fact that He says this back in 900BC means that the sexual experimentation and promiscuity that are so common today are not recent phenomena.

It’s no surprise that the findings of modern research back up what God says. It has long been established that living together before marriage (the ‘try before you buy’ ethic) increases the chances of marriage breakdown. Recent research concludes that the best number of sexual partners for sexual happiness is 1. (Shpancer, N How many sex partners does it take to be happy?).

We do well to heed the wisdom of these findings. We do even better to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and not lean on your own understanding.” He does get it right all the time, and He knows what’s best for us.

Why get Wise?

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What use is God’s wisdom? The prevailing worldview around us says “do whatever pleases you”. And mostly that’s what people do. To live by God’s wisdom seems foolish to most, and downright wrong to some.

So what’s the use of living by God’s wisdom? One of the things that Solomon tells us is that God’s wisdom is a protection – it guards us from all kinds of foolishness. Making bad choices in who we get our advice from, who influences our decision-making and thus how we live our lives. Knowing God’s word helps us to see and know when we are being encouraged down a path that will lead us away from Him.

God’s wisdom also protects us from wrong and harmful relationships. So many people’s lives have been ruined badly and permanently by bad relationship choices. Who or what we give our affections to has a huge impact on our lives.

Wisdom keeps us from going down the many paths of evil, which ultimately lead to darkness and death. The result of listening to, understanding, and living out God’s wisdom is: You will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of righteousness. (Proverbs 2:20)

In the end, this is God’s world and the way of wisdom and joy is to live in it according to his wise words. It’s the best path now and for eternity!

Passing Wisdom On

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One of the big themes of Proverbs is passing wisdom on to the next generation. 23 times the writer directly addresses his son. Parents are exhorted to instruct and guide their children. The wise child is the one takes to heart the wise guidance of their parents and puts it into practice. The whole book exudes a passion to see the next generation avoid the errors of the previous one and make wise, prudent and godly decisions. It reflects a universal yearning of the human race – that the next generation be better than us, will make the world a better place. Often it translates into wanting our kids to be better off than we are. Again, this seems to be a universal longing, no matter how much we have. I remember sitting with an old man in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, and him telling me that his life’s ambition was for each of his 3 sons to be the proud owners of a ($3) bush knife before he died. Unfortunately when the focus is on material advancement, it often has the reverse effect on them getting godly wisdom. Kids have an uncanny knack of copying our priorities.

For us who live this side of the cross, the greatest wisdom we have been given is the word of God in the gospel. Paul urges Timothy to pass on what he has learned from his mother and grandmother (and Paul himself) to faithful people who will be able to pass it on to others (2 Timothy 2:2). What a great privilege and weighty responsibility we have to pass this wonderful news on in our families, communities, church, wherever God places us. It’s the wisest thing we can do!

The Getting of Wisdom

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Today we start our new series – Wisdom for Living. Everyone wants to know how to live well. Philosophers debate the idea, ethicists propose new ways of promoting human flourishing, politicians try to legislate for it, ordinary citizens struggle with it regularly as we try to make wise decisions. It’s amazing that amongst all the pantheons of gods of ancient cultures, there is always a god of wisdom, often more than one. It reflects this very human quest for wisdom.

The Bible calls the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ “the only wise God and Saviour” (Jude 1:25). In his infinite wisdom He created the universe and us to live on earth in relationship with him. It follows that if we are to be wise, to get wisdom, then we must know God. Not just know about him, but have a close relationship with him. Solomon describes this relationship as ‘the fear of the Lord’ (Proverbs 1:7). The starting point for the wisely-lived life is a healthy, deep, awe and reverence for God. The kind of respect that makes it a bad idea to do anything stupid or ungodly. And it makes it a very smart and wise idea to do all that He commands and encourages us to do and to be. Jesus, the wisdom and power of God, has made it possible for us to relate to God in this way. By removing the barrier of our sin and sinfulness, He opened up the way for us to live in right relationship with the only wise God. Let’s make the most of it!

Have a wise week!

Members of Christ’s CrossCulture Body

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For the next 2 weeks we’re going to be focusing on what it means to belong to the body of Christ in its local gathering at CrossCulture. This is an important thing for us to consider. It’s easy to take each other and the marvel of God’s redeemed people for granted. According to Paul in Ephesians 3:10, it is “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”. What an awesome place and privilege God has given the church! In Paul’s day, one of the big marvels was that people who previously had nothing to do with each other, even despised each other, were now together in the one body, glorifying the one God and Saviour. This is a vivid testimony to the marvellous grace of God. It’s the same here at CrossCulture. God has brought together lots of people from such diverse backgrounds of culture, nationality, ways of thinking, etc into the one body. It’s a marvellous work of God’s grace and power.

As in the early church, it takes love, forbearance and commitment to preserve and grow this God-given unity. Our passage today exhorts us to “encourage one another all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The Day when Jesus returns draws nearer, and God wants us to use the time to encourage one another and point people to Jesus.

We encourage everyone who is a regular part of CrossCulture to seriously consider becoming a member. We want everyone who loves the Lord and his people to be as fully involved as possible, fully committed to building each other up and proclaiming Christ to Melbourne and the nations.

Membership2016_Together_Slide

Knowing the Scriptures and the Power of God

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Jesus’ devastating judgment on the Sadducees was that they were off the track because they didn’t know the scriptures nor the power of God (Mark 12:24). They prided themselves in their detailed knowledge of the law. They were part of the religious elite of the day – leaders and teachers. And yet they were not only on the wrong track themselves, but leading others astray. It’s a terrible indictment. Their narrow legalistic framework ultimately leads them so far off the track that they condemn the author of life and of Scripture to death.

It shows the importance of knowing and understanding the big salvation picture of God’s word. The Sadducees only acknowledged the first 5 books of the Old Testament. They ignored God’s revelation through the history, wisdom and the prophets. When we do that, it’s so easy to resort to legalism.

But worse still, they didn’t know the power of God. His power to reveal himself, to fulfil his promises, to change people as they responded to his love and power. Theirs was a dry, legalistic, powerless, and ultimately wrong religion that rejects the promised Messiah.

It’s a great thing for us to know the scriptures, and we ought to always be digging deeper into God’s word. But we need to know the power of God. His power to fulfil his wonderful promises in his word and his power to make us more like Jesus as we respond to his revelation. Paul tells us that this is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. And it’s that power that gives us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (Ephesians 1:18-23). The power of God himself, which will surely achieve his purposes. May he keep filling us with his knowledge and power.

How much does Jesus care?

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I’m so enjoying ‘rediscovering’ how great our Saviour is, as we dig into Mark’s gospel. One of the things that hit me again as I prepared for this week is how much Jesus loves people. From the poor demented man, terrorised by demons, spending his days shrieking and harming himself in a lonely cemetery, to his terrified disciples in a sea-storm, his words and actions show a deep love for each one. His compassion for the poor woman who has been totally depleted by a 12-year illness is so touching. His concern for the crowds who are like sheep without a shepherd challenges and inspires.

These are not just emotions and feelings (they certainly are that!), but they result in actions that make a real difference in the lives of those He loves. The demoniac is released from his soul-destroying bondage, destructive wind and waves are stilled, the woman with the 12-year blood flow is instantly healed, Jairus’ daughter is raised from the dead, the crowds are fed, both by his life-giving words and the miraculously multiplied loaves.

It all points to Jesus’ ultimate act of love – dying on the cross in the place of people crippled by bondage to sin and evil, directionless, battered and fearful in the storms of life, spiritually dead. Jesus came to give his life a ransom for many, so that we might live, here and now and for eternity.

What a privilege to belong to such a sacrificial, loving, compassionate person, the Son of God. Let’s live in thankful response to his endless love for us, and proclaim this great good news to anyone who will listen!

How big is your Jesus?

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It’s great to be soaking ourselves in Mark’s gospel. It helps us to re-calibrate our idea of who Jesus is. It’s easy to begin to think of him as less than He is – either through disappointments in our lives, or just buying into unbiblical pictures of who He is and why he came.  One thing we see from the claims of the gospels, and from the things He did, is that He has extraordinary power and authority, over life and death – even his own life and death. Today’s passage shows us the extent of his complete rule in key areas that are necessary if we are to be saved: forgiveness, keeping the law, and the influence of Satan.

It’s no accident that the first creed of the Christian church was simply ‘Jesus is Lord’. They knew it from what they saw him say and do, and from the impact of his good news in the lives of people.  They knew that no matter what happens, Jesus is in charge. For most of them, in human terms, life was full of difficulty and hardship – extreme suffering, in some cases. But the one thing they had front and centre was that He rules. That He was Lord of their lives, their circumstances, and their future – a glorious future with him, the eternal Lord of heaven and earth.

I have found this to be the one thing that keeps me going in the tough times. Jesus knows what He’s doing, and He’s still exercising his Lordship over everything. And his purposes and intentions are good. Whatever He has for us is ultimately the best. We will know that fullness of that when we see him face to face, and everything else will be seen in its proper perspective.

Let’s keep trusting and following this big Jesus!