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From The Heart

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!

 

10 years of the iPhone

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It was a special anniversary this year for Apple. The iPhone, released initially in 2007, reached its 10th year of production. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been patiently waiting for the revealing of the 10th iPhone, iPhone X.  Even if you hate Apple products and think they’re overpriced luxury items (they are by the way and yes, I still buy them), you might have at least been interested to see if they did anything dramatically new with their 10th phone. I can’t wait to get the new one so I can watch cat videos on a retina display and scroll through facebook faster than ever (I am joking. I think).

What you may not have known was that this year also marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, an event that probably made even iPhones possible (I’m not joking). The positive impact the Reformation had on education, government, healthcare, literacy, science and life in general has been hard to quantify (immense is a good word to describe it). Most of all, the Reformation threw off the layers of false religion that covered the Gospel and gave people access again to its true content – that salvation comes only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I understand why people care more about their phones than what happened in 1517. It takes a lot off effort to figure out how the past brought us to where we are today and 1517 was a long time ago. But for our church, and in fact for the world, the Reformation is a far more significant event than iPhone X. You might even say, that for that brief moment of history, the fate of a large portion of humanity depended on its outcome.

iPhones really did make a dramatic change to civilisation as we know it. For one, it gave you a device that could pretty much access most of the world’s information with the touch of a screen and it fits in your pocket. So, how about for a brief moment today you put aside the cat videos and use that incredible piece of technology to consider something that really matters – the moment when the life-changing Gospel of Christ was placed back in the hands of everyday
people like you and me.

 

The green-eyed monster

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One of the strongest drivers of human behaviour is envy or jealousy – the green-eyed monster (apparently the expression originates with Shakespeare). Wanting to have a better car, kitchen, phone, career, relationship, body, education, family, hairstyle, etc, etc – the list is endless. Of course wanting these things is not necessarily wrong. It’s what drives the desire that’s the problem. If it’s to be bigger and better than others that’s driving it, then of course ultimately it’s self-directed and wrong. Envy is a dangerous thing. It’s a pernicious form of self-promotion – evidence that our self-interest has been frustrated.

Jesus tells us not to worry about getting ahead of the rest (Matthew 6:25-33). God knows what we need, and doesn’t hold back in providing it (Check out he birds or the flowers, he says). What He wants us to have at the top of our priority list is to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness. In other words his loving rule over our lives and the lives of others, and to seek to reflect his goodness and purity in our lives – to be like Him. This frees us up to be like Him in other ways. To really seek the good of those around us. With envy on the back burner (or switched off altogether!), love and generosity can flourish and grow on the front burner. This is God’s great plan for his people. Let’s not get sidetracked on lesser things.

 

True Love is Honest

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We know that lying to one another is wrong (Leviticus 19:11), but what about telling white lies? A white lie is a small lie—just stretching the truth a little. We don’t mean to hurt anyone, in fact we do it so that we won’t hurt the other person.

Lying is telling something that is not true, with the intention to deceive others. White lies, on the other hand, might be partly true, or we just don’t mention everything. After all white lies seem polite, and it’s not like we personally gain anything much from it. White lies can help ease relationships between people, reduce agitation and bring peace. Besides, what other people don’t know won’t hurt them.

So, is a small sin like telling a white lie no big deal? For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23); we know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning (1 John 5:18). All sins are equally offensive to God and we should avoid it in our lives.

Perhaps we think that the “ends” justify the “means”. But God does not leave any room for doubt—all lying is wrong, no exceptions (Proverbs 6:16-19). Besides, who determines that the ends are justified, and who is it good for exactly?

Do we tell white lies just to make others feel good and not hurt their feelings? Lying to people is a very disrespectful way of not hurting their feelings. In the end, you just become known as a liar who cannot be trusted. If you tell one lie, you have to tell more lies to cover up the original lie. We also often use white lies to help ourselves. It’s part of our desire for self-interest (1 John 2:16). However, peace and truth can come together, it’s just that truth needs more work.

Those who lie, even telling small white lies, damage their own credibility. Truthfulness is precious to God (Proverbs 12:22), and it should be precious to us too.

 

 

The grace of generosity

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One of the first things we learn is to try to get what we can. Anyone who has had a toddler knows that the word ‘mine’ gets used regularly and loudly, pretty much as soon as it’s learned. We learn fairly early on in our lives that we can (often relatively easily) get what is not ours, sometimes without anyone knowing. Someone has said that a thief is someone who regularly confuses ‘mine’ and ‘thine’. God’s instructions to us are very simple. Don’t steal (Exodus 20:15). In contrast to the vast volume of our ownership laws, God is very brief. Just 2 words!

Wanting what’s not ours is a pernicious and prevalent disease. What is the antidote? God has given us the lead in this. The context of the giving of the 10 commandments is one of grace. The grace of God, who rescues his people. They have already been rescued from slavery, and now He’s telling them how to respond to his rescuing love. His generosity is vividly apparent. Even more so to us, who have had God’s grace lavished on us through the sacrifice of Jesus. Imitating this generosity of our Lord and Saviour not only benefits and lifts up those in need, but it turns our eyes off ourselves and helps us experience the joy of the Lord, the One who for the joy set before him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

Let’s excel in the grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:7).

 

Till Death Do Us Part

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For those of us who are married, if you used the traditional marriage vow, or if you used more modern vows, you would have used these or similar words – “till death do us part”. This is the promise we make to our spouse. These are the words we use in our commitment to them. That is the promise we are making. Till death would part us, if that is the promise you make, then that is the promise you should keep.

So, if anything but death is an option for you to end your marriage, then why would you say these words, “till death do us part”? Why not tell the truth, promise what you mean? Perhaps you should say something like – Till adultery, or abandonment, or abuse do us part.  But you can’t because the Marriage Law doesn’t allow for that.

In Matthew 19:3-12, Jesus speaks about marriage, and says;”Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). The man and the women are now one flesh. Marriage is an institution made by God, for all humanity, at creation.

The two become one flesh through sexual union. God made us to be to together in that way, and for life. So it says; “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate”, (Matthew 19:6). When divorce breaks a marriage, it is against how God made us to be. Divorce breaks one of the most intimate relationships on earth. It harms children in the relationship, no matter how old they are. It also harms society—the adultery of one person will affect at least two immediate families, and many other family members and friends.

Jesus said that faithfulness in marriage is an image of His faithfulness to the church. Ephesians 5:31-32; “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Let us reflect the faithfulness of Christ to us, in our faithfulness to our marriage partner.

 

RUOK?

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This Thursday is RUOK day. It was begun by Gavin Larkin who as a 27 year-old, unexpectedly lost his father to suicide in 1995. His father was his hero and a successful businessman, and Gavin had no idea he was hurting so badly inside. He started his RUOK movement as a simple way of reaching out to the people around us and caring for each other. Not long after starting RUOK day, he died from cancer. Two years later his oldest son also passed away, leaving a grieving widow and mum with 2 young kids. It’s a tragic and inspiring story of a family who in their grief are helping people to value the lives of their family, friends and colleagues by simply checking in on them. I don’t know if they are believers, but they sure value life – everyone’s life.

God’s command to not murder is really his way of telling us that life is very precious to him. Every life is sacred because everyone is created in the image of God, no matter how badly the image is shattered. We know this because God has told us, many times over. But more than that, we know because He has shown us. He gave up what was most precious to him, his beloved Son Jesus, so that we could be redeemed, forgiven, healed, put back together again in the likeness of his Son. Let’s make it RUOK year, rather than just one day. True love can do no less, as we seek to love our neighbour as much as we love ourselves.

 

To Respect Our Parents

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What does it mean to respect another person? The dictionary tells us that respect is a feeling of deep admiration or having a sense of esteem or of great worth for another person. In his first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 5:3-8), Paul emphasises one aspect of children and grandchildren looking after the physical needs of their parents and grandparents. If your parents are old and cannot look after themselves, then their children should be the first to look after them.

Let children be kind to their parents. This may mean providing for them financially (e.g. helping them with their financial affairs, paying bills for them), but it can also mean looking after them when they cannot look after themselves (e.g. taking them to medical appointments, arranging for the care they need,  taking them into our home and caring for them there).

”Let them first learn to show godliness to their own household” (1 Timothy 5:4). The emphasis here is that since your parents supported and nourished you when you were young and helpless, so you should support them when they are old and need to be cared for. Parents should not be left to the care of the church or the government when they have children who can care for them. How can we be kind to others if we do not first show kindness and care to our own family?

Then comes the statement in 1 Timothy 5:8, if you don’t look after your own family, you have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever. If we profess Christ as Lord, then we do what He tells us to do. As a Christian, our faith is also shown by our actions (James 2:26). Our faith is so often seen by our actions. We are to be kind towards other people, particularly to those in need.  So when it comes to our own family members, this requirement is even more glaring. True love respects; so our parents need for respect should come first and foremost, always before us.

 

Life-balance

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G’day, how are you?” What’s the most common answer to this Aussie greeting? I don’t have any research to prove it, but by far the one I hear the most is: “Busy!” It’s almost a badge of honour, or a mark of godliness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against people being gainfully and fully occupied, especially in the great work of honouring Jesus. But if the key indicator of our lives is how busy we are, something is wrong. It’s what we’re busy doing that matters.

Balancing competing priorities or just the business of surviving is not easy. It takes wisdom and skill. Wisdom to know what is really important, and skill to keep focused on what matters. And then a good plan to have our diaries (what we do) align with our priorities (why we do it).

God knows this, so he set the world up so that there are 6 days for work, and one when we stop working, take a rest and reflect – recreation – be re-created. That’s why it’s important that we gather together for part of the rest day – to help one another be re-created in the image of Christ.

This is one of the ways we truly love – the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (as we prioritise serving Him well and resting well) and our neighbour as ourselves (as we serve them well and also give them a rest from us!). That’s what Jesus says is what the law and prophets are all about – loving God and our neighbour. Responding to God’s love to us.

Let’s make sure that our priorities don’t get out of whack, and that what we do with our time reflects God’s priorities for us, our careers, our families, and our church family.