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Sam Reeve

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.


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!

Defining marriage

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This week the redefining of marriage has been all over the news. It looks like it might be for some time to come as well. The important question for followers of Jesus is what does our Lord think? It’s often claimed that Jesus didn’t speak about this issue. It’s true that He didn’t speak about the idea of homosexual marriage. It’s a relatively new idea on the landscape (the last few decades), so no surprises there. But He did speak very clearly about the nature of marriage. In Mathew 19, when asked about divorce, He took the opportunity to re-state God’s definition of marriage, given in the first chapter of the bible. He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” This is right in line with our current definition in the Marriage Act, or rather the Act has followed this definition that has stood for millennia.

Following our survey last Sunday (thanks for participating) we have written to our Victorian federal MPs and Senators communicating our concerns. The results of the survey were that 93% are opposed to changing the definition of marriage and for 84% this issue is a vote-changer.

At the same time we need to be careful that we respond with compassion for those who struggle with same-sex attraction (or any other temptation, for that matter). We need to offer each other real support as we seek to live godly and pure lives for Jesus, whatever form our struggles take.

Spreading the knowledge of God

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The big problem that God’s people had in Hosea’s time was that they had abandoned God. Their leaders had stopped teaching them how to relate to God. The people didn’t want to anyway, so the whole thing spiralled down into spiritual and national disaster. It got to the point where there was “no knowledge of God in the land” (4:1)

Any church is only a couple of generations from this kind of scenario. All it takes is for us to stop sharing the good news. The next generation will not hear, nor believe, and will not be able to pass it on. The result will be a powerless church with nothing of significance to say, and a culture devoid of any sort of knowledge of God.

It’s a serious responsibility that Jesus gave his followers – to disciple the nations, baptising and teaching people to obey all that He commands. There are many ways in which we can make sure that the knowledge of God doesn’t disappear from the land:

  • Speaking with people about Christ – how they can be forgiven and know God.
  • Giving people scripture to read, or reading it with them.
  • Teaching the good news to our kids and grandkids. If you don’t have a good kids Bible, here are a few good options. The Big Picture Storybook Bible (David Helm) The Jesus Storybook Bible (Sally Lloyd-Jones).

It would be a terrible tragedy if the words God wrote in Hosea’s time – that “there is no knowledge of God” were to be written about our era because we failed to declare the wonderful good news. It’s such good news, so worth sharing.

Let’s keep doing it!

The bad news and the good news

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There’s good news and there’s bad news. How often we hear that! I remember hearing of a group of missionaries who had been given orders to leave the country in which they were working. Their leader was going daily to negotiate with the interior ministry. Every day when he returned, he would say, “There’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news is that the order has not been lifted. The good news is that God is still on the throne.”

The word of the Lord that came to Hosea is bad news and good news. The bad news is that God is angry at his people’s sin – their continual spiritual adultery and idolatry. Like an unfaithful wife, they have abandoned the One who loved them and rescued them and guided them and provided for them. They have got into bed with other gods. God’s disappointment at their unfaithfulness and his holy and settled judgment on them is clearly spelled out. It’s a frightening prospect.

The good news is that He has not abandoned his promises. He is faithful. He will finally act to reverse the curse that they have brought on themselves and bring all his people safely home. It will be purely an act of his grace and mercy.

This is the message God gave through Hosea 2750 years ago.

God has not changed. He’s still the same. Sin is still as serious as it ever was – it still invites his wrath and judgment. And the Word of God that comes to us, the gospel, is still good news and bad news. The bad news is that we are all people who have deeply offended God and rightly deserve his wrath. If we don’t turn from our sin and spiritual adultery, we will pay the price of eternal judgement. The good news is that Jesus has come and paid the price for our rebellion and rejection of God. The judgment has fallen on him, as He dies in our place on the cross. Those who trust in Jesus receive God’s mercy and go from being ‘not my people’ to ‘my people’. What a wonderful blessing it is to be His people. God calls on us to live out our lives as a continual response to his grace and mercy.

Why not suffer wrong?

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One of the issues that our passage today raises is what do we do when our ‘civil rights’ and the glory of Jesus are in conflict? This is a real live dilemma for many of us, or will be some time soon, if it hasn’t been already.

Paul throws a possible solution in that runs counter to everything our world and indeed our own inclinations tell us. It’s true, we have the right to justice, fairness, to retrieve what we have lost, whatever it is. But he asks the question “Why not rather suffer wrong?” He is thinking particularly of the situation where two Christian parties are at loggerheads with each other, both with their own demands. One of the solutions he proposes is that one or both of the parties ‘suffer wrong’. Take the blame, bear the loss, cop the penalty, suffer the shame of being in the wrong, and being seen to be in the wrong. It’s a tough call. One that runs counter to the way our world works.

But it’s not a concept we are unfamiliar with. The One we follow, the One who rescued us from our own sin and stupidity did that very thing in order to secure our rescue. The wrong He suffered was horrendous – being blamed and shamed and punished for things He never did (In fact things we did). Everything in us screams that killing an innocent is totally unjust. But for Jesus, the glory of God and the good of his people over-rode his own feelings and rights, as we see from the monumental struggle in the garden of Gethsemane (“not my will but yours be done”). In so doing, the justice of God was perfectly satisfied and the immense love of God is shown to all.

May God give us the humility and strength to live like the One we call our Lord.

Keeping the body pure

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One of the big challenges that face Christians and the church today is to live the life of Christ in a culture that is becoming more and more hostile to such a lifestyle. Individualism is now so pervasive, that it’s a brave person who dares to challenge the lifestyle choices of anyone else. “It’s none of your business” is the infallible mantra.

It’s so easy to adopt this way of thinking in the church. It gets us out of having to face difficult things. But we lose so much if we go down that path. One of the reasons that God has adopted us into his family is so we can work with him to help one another become better people – more like Jesus, the perfect Son of God. Not just in our thinking and believing, but also in our living.

Paul challenges the Corinthian Christians to be who they are – people who have been set apart by God to be holy. People who have been made clean from sin by the sacrifice of Jesus. They had lost sight of this, and were carrying on as if anyone could do anything and still call themselves followers of Christ. He calls on them to separate from people who refuse to turn from sin – not even to eat with them.

We don’t do each other a favour when we step back from challenging and encouraging each other to greater holiness and Christlikeness. Hard as it is to open ourselves up to being accountable to God’s people, this is God’s provision to help us to flee from the things that hold us back, and to persevere in growing like Christ.

May God give us the courage to let others speak into our lives, and to speak into the lives of others, so that together we can truly grow in Christ and powerfully proclaim him.