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All Posts By

Sam Reeve

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!

 

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!