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Calling on God

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How’s your prayer life? What does it look like? Is God like the fire brigade to you – you make a panic call whenever something goes “wrong”, or is He more like a trusted friend and mentor that you want to connect with regularly and hang out with often?

So far in Jonah, he’s been totally avoiding talking with God, even though everyone around him is, including pagan sailors. But God brings him to a place where his only option is to cry out for his help. It’s when he’s staring death in the face that he finally calls out in desperation.

There’s nothing wrong with crying out to God in our distress, in fact there’s everything right with it. He’s all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing so it makes total sense to do throw ourselves on him. The tragedy is that if that’s the only time we call on Him, we miss out on so much. God wants to guide and direct and help us in all circumstances. His plan is that every part of our lives reflect his glory and point people to him, not just our disasters.

That’s what it means to have Jesus as our Lord and Saviour – accepting and joyfully living out his rule and rescue in every circumstance.

 

 

He’s a Jonah!

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We sometimes hear this expression for someone who seems to attract trouble. Every time they’re in the car, the boat, on the team, something goes wrong. It’s as if they bring bad luck with them (and that’s often what is meant when the expression is used). The saying comes from our passage today (Jonah 1). Whilever Jonah is on board the ship, the storm rages harder and stronger. Toss him overboard, and all is calm, all is bright!

But it’s not a case of bad luck, it’s a case of bad living. The storm comes not because Jonah is unlucky, it’s because he’s wilfully running from God’s good plan and purpose – for him and the people of Nineveh. The storm is not punishment, but part of God’s loving plan to rescue Jonah, the sailors and many others. Sometimes God takes pretty drastic action to get our attention and bring us back into line with his good plan for us and his world. Is God trying to get your attention now? Are you ready to listen, and follow his good direction for your life? It could be the difference between life and death, eternal life and death, for you and many others.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, you’ve been given a message to bring to a lost world, just like Jonah.  It’s easy to dodge that task, or just not do it, or pretend it’s someone else’s job, or even actively avoid it, as Jonah tried to do. But God is relentless in pursuing people, even his enemies. That’s why Jesus came to earth – to die, so that we could live and take this life-giving message to the nations. Let’s do it!

 

 

 

Running From Good

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Today we begin a series on the book of Jonah. It’s the story of the prophet who runs away from God. Jonah avoids doing the good thing that God had asked him to do and heads in the opposite direction. Now there’s something we can all relate to.

Surprisingly, people love running away from good things. It’s almost like we do it for fun. The dentist wants us to floss more, but we don’t. The physio wants us to do the exercises that would help us but we don’t do them. Our doctor wants us to eat healthier but we don’t. God wants more time with us, but we’re too busy. We want to see our family more but we don’t organise it. We have a few hours in the evening to work on achieving our dreams, but we watch Netflix instead.

Why do we avoid the things we know are good for us?  Why do we avoid good things that will help others? Why do we avoid good things we actually want and are allowed to have!? Running away from good is often easier because it doesn’t require any change. Change on the other hand is harder because it brings discomfort and may even put us at some risk (exposure, pain, failure, humiliation).

Jesus died to overcome our love of running away from good things. He died to change how we think about the purpose of our lives. He died to save us from self-destructive behaviour. In Jesus, we find more good for ourselves and others than we can fathom. Through Jesus change is
possible. After all, he made the difficult change of leaving his Father’s side to pursue us and bring about the greatest good in our lives. He knows what it’s like to go through difficult change so that good will be done.

It’s not easy pursuing the good he has for us and the good he wants us to do for others, but it’s possible because he has the power to be with us and to help us. In the story of Jonah, God was always with him even in his failure to do the good asked of him. The story is an encouragement to us that no matter where we run to, Jesus is always with us, helping us to both do and value the good he wants for us.

 

 

Open House, Open Heart, Open Heaven

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Welcome to CrossCulture Open House! We’re so glad you could come today and hope that you find your time with us inspiring and encouraging. Please take advantage of the many things that are on today to get to know us and the church better. There are tours that will give you some idea of what goes on here and why we’ve been here for the last 152 years. We’d love you to stay around to enjoy some food and friendship too.

We try to be open-hearted to everyone who comes, not just on Sundays but throughout the week as many people come through our Open Chapel and other programs. We hope you will find open-hearted friendship here today and whenever you choose to come.

The reason we want to be open in these ways is because God is like that. He’s keen for us all to get to know him – so much so that he came to visit planet earth, in the person of Jesus. Jesus ‘went about doing good’ the record says, and finally did the ultimate good of opening the door of heaven and relationship with God forever. That’s worth celebrating!

Enjoy our 152nd birthday party!

 

Where to CrossCulture?

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152 years ago today our forebears in the faith formed this gathering of God’s people now called CrossCulture. By the grace of God, the witness has continued and grown. The light of the good news has gone out, thousands of lives have been changed, hundreds have gone out to other parts of the world to live and to proclaim the message of Jesus. To God be the glory!

What about the future? Our context has changed a lot. (Former pastor Alan Webb recalls that in the 1970s Swanston St was deserted on Sundays – there was nowhere open to even buy a coffee, and Christians probably wouldn’t have done it anyway, even if there was!) Today is very different. Tens of thousands of people go past our church daily. Many are indifferent or even hostile to God. But many are open to hearing the good news of Jesus. All need to hear it, as do the people in the communities where we live and work.

God’s vision of his church is people shining like stars in a dark world, holding out the word of life, as we humbly and sacrificially follow our Master. It’s not an easy life (Jesus never promised that it would be), but the good news is the only hope for lost and broken people. More than ever we need to be praying and living so that people will see and hear the wonderful and powerful message of Jesus – God’s only remedy to the darkness. Let’s shine like lights!