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From The Heart

Hope

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One thing we have in common is that we all have hopes for the future.  Holidays, a relationship, a family,  a new possession, success in our pursuits, better health—as people we can’t help but hope. In fact, even on the most ordinary of days, we’ve hoped for more things and in more ways than we probably realise (I hope the trains run on time tomorrow. Not all hopes are rational).

Proverbs 13:12 offers this reflection on hope: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”  When what we hope for comes true it really can make life feel wonderful. When it doesn’t, it can put a dampener on everything. Life will see some hopes obtained and others withheld and that’s one thing that won’t change for a while yet.

Philosophies and religions have made similar assessments that death is the ultimate hope stealer. When life ends, so does hoping in anything and hope itself is quenched by the reality that our lives will not go on forever. This is part of why the resurrection of Jesus is so strongly emphasised in the New Testament. It really was the foundation of the first Christians’ hope. They understood that unless the problem of death was somehow solved, all hope in all kinds of things was utterly pointless.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, hope becomes sensible. If death can be overcome, then it’s possible that good things we long for may not only happen, but last. The death and resurrection of Jesus gives Christians a valid reason to hope in every way. Death is no longer the ultimate hope stealer. In fact, in Jesus, life ceases to be transient. Death becomes transient, a mere moment, while life with Christ carries on into the future.

Make life after death with Jesus your most cherished hope. Hope for it more than anything else. Most of the particulars of our current life will not last. But life in the most satisfying of senses can and will last forever if you go through Jesus. You will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

Tell People the Truth.

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We want the good news of Jesus Christ to be the clearest message that our church communicates. We want it to be clear because it’s the most important message we can communicate. Nothing else is as important as the truth about Jesus.

People can only get to God through Jesus. People must believe in Jesus Christ if they are to receive forgiveness for their sin, avoid the judgment of God and come back to life again after they die. People can only believe in Jesus if someone tells them about Jesus and what he did for them by being crucified. In light of all this, we have to share the Gospel and do it with actual words.

Today’s passage reminds us that if a church ceases to be focused on communicating the Gospel then that church will quickly cease to be about Jesus. It may use the name Jesus, but they can’t possibly be about Jesus if they are not interested in sharing the good news about his death and resurrection with other people. This, of course, challenges us to pursue that focus as much as any other church.

You can slap the label of a popular brand on all kinds of products, but that doesn’t necessarily make them genuine. Real churches care about the real Jesus and love other people. Because of that they share the real truth about the pathway to God that all people must take.

 

The building project

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Our Open Up, Reach Out building project is getting close to kick-off on the site. Soon we hope to have things under way to make our Lt Lonsdale St entry into a safe, attractive space for welcoming visitors and helping one another to better achieve our aim of helping people to know Christ, grow in Him and proclaim Him. We’re really thankful for our Facilities and CCDF teams for all they are doing to progress this. Please pray for the final approvals to come through soon.

Our facilities are a great blessing from God that help us to gather together to do the greater eternal building project. If there is anything that comes through loud and clear from our digging into 1 Corinthians 12-15, it’s that the purpose of Christian gatherings is to build one another up to become like our Lord and Saviour – Jesus. That’s the reason God has gifted each of us and energises us by his Spirit – so that we can all put our shoulder to the wheel in this wonderful project of growing and building His body – the church. It’s a project that was approved by the highest authority way back in eternity past, and its significance will be all eternity future. And God will bring it to perfect completion in the new creation that we eagerly look forward to.

We trust you enjoy your shift on the site today, as we seek to encourage and strengthen one another in our resolve to live like Jesus. Let’s pray that during this week there will be real progress in all our lives – that this great project will be one step nearer completion. To Him be the glory!

’Esoteric’ and other words we should never use

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”Esoteric” refers to language that is only understood by or meant for a select few who have special knowledge that lets them understand it. The word itself is probably unfamiliar to most of us. Let’s hope we never have to read it again!

From technical terms used in any specialised field, to in-jokes in a particular social group, we often encounter language that stops us from knowing what is being said (or knowing what people really mean by it.) We can come away from such experiences feeling like that topic or interest is not for me, or that group doesn’t want me to be there.

In Church, we must work hard to avoid any language or actions that can only be understood by those who have been a Christian for some time. This is because we have good news about Jesus that we want others to hear, and most importantly, understand. Words and actions that stop people from knowing what’s going on make people think that they aren’t meant to be here or that it’s not for them.

The earliest Christians knew that Jesus was for all people so they tried very hard to make sure the different kinds of people they spoke to could understand the message. They even dressed
differently if it would make it easier for a particular group to be receptive and listen to them. (Do you know that you can get congee at some MacDonald’s in Singapore?! And KFC also sells rice in Indonesia! Wow! Imagine what the Church can learn from fast food restaurants…)

It can be very hard to weed out language that isn’t easily understood from how we speak about God. It’s even harder to make every aspect of our church service understandable to people who wander in.  It’s hard, but it’s not impossible.

God put in such an amazing effort to reach us—the lost people he loved. He sent a human being to reach human beings. Likewise, we should put in the effort to change some things that may make Christians feel comfortable on a Sunday but exclude the person who’s never stepped foot in a Church. God really wants them to come and know Him, so why should our comfort get in the way?

 

All you need is lurv!

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50 years ago, in the world’s first live round-the-world television broadcast, The Beatles sang this song to an audience of 400 million people in 25 countries. It hit the top of the charts in many places, and sold more than a million records in the US alone. The subject hits a nerve!

What John Lennon had in mind when he wrote the song was probably a long way from what Paul (the apostle, not McCartney!) wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 when he was encouraging the conflicted believers in Corinth to live a life of love. Certainly what Paul says is a lot more practical and coherent! When people speak of love in popular culture today, they’re usually referring to a feeling, or sex (a recent survey of top 10 songs showed that 92% of them had sexual themes or references). But what God has to say about love is much more intensely practical and life-changing. It’s about our actions, and what drives them. Like the love between God the Father, Son and Spirit, and the act of supreme love of Jesus on the cross, it’s always to be other-centred.

For us in the church, the body of Christ, it’s about actions that focus on the common good, building one another up, helping one another to be who we are meant to be – Christ-like. That’s what is to drive our use of our gifts (whatever they are) – love for our sisters and brothers in Christ, and a deep desire to help them know Christ, grow in him and proclaim him. To him alone be the glory!

We Need You!

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Why come to church? Why come to church early? Why stay on for lunch or dinner? Why go to Life Group? Why get involved in reaching out to others? Why spend time with Christian brothers and sisters?

We tend to make these kinds of decisions based on how we’re feeling, or some possible benefit to us, or how time-pressured we are, or even how good/bad the food is!

But in our reading today God has a very clear and compelling reason. Jesus needs you! He needs you to make your special contribution to the lives of his people. He has gifted you to help build up his body in a unique way. To not take your part is to somehow detract from the common good, to slow down the progress of us all growing more like Jesus. None of us can say or think that it won’t make any difference if I don’t come or contribute. Every believer is a vital part of the whole. Every one of us is needed to bring about the common good. That’s the way God has set things up, and when we take our part, we work with him in building up and transforming his people. It’s an enormous privilege and it has eternal significance. Most of us spend a fair bit of our time building homes, businesses, careers, investment portfolios, reputations, etc. All these things will pass away, but God’s kingdom lasts forever.

Let’s all encourage one another as we work together on this great building project that is the body of Christ.

 

Using your difference

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If you like cooking, chances are you don’t mind letting others eat part of the meal from time to time. If you’re good at administration, chances are you don’t mind organising the odd group outing or balancing a spreadsheet. If you’re good at teaching, chances are you don’t mind sharing what you know, with those who are keen to hear it. If you’re good at listening, chances are you don’t mind when someone comes to you simply needing a person to talk to.

If you’re trying to think of ways to serve others in the Church, you don’t have to start with the thing you hate most. In fact, chances are the best way for you to benefit others, may actually be something you already enjoy doing. Helping others may be as simple as inviting someone else to participate in the thing you love the most.

Contributing to the body of Christ is not limited to structured ministries. There are innumerable ways that we can love others using our particular gifts, skills and interests. We just have to open our eyes and hearts to the opportunities God constantly puts in front of us.

Of course, love requires us to do things we don’t enjoy as well so that someone else benefits. We certainly don’t want to deny that. But remember, God made you a particular way for a reason and now you’re a part of His body. The Holy Spirit made decisions about the sort of person you would be and no one else is quite like you. Why not use what you’ve been given to fulfil its proper purpose?

 

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)

Do You really hate gays?

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Rosaria Champaigne Butterfield was an English professor in Syracuse University, and a lesbian. As a proud and intellectual feminist, she taught women studies and spoke out against conservative and traditional sexuality and marriage. She was invited by various gay groups for speaking engagements and even gave a speech at gay pride marches. She advised the LGBT student group, wrote Syracuse University’s policy for same-sex couples, and actively lobbied for LGBT aims alongside her lesbian partner. She could never imagined herself to be a Christian…not even close. She proudly said that Christianity is not attractive whatsoever.

However, in 1997, God began to work in her life. Well, I think God had begun His work even before the foundation of the world. However, for her, God’s work started to manifest in her life then when a local pastor and his wife extended their hospitality to her and became friends with her. Two plus years later, she gave her life to Christ, left her old life, and began a total transformation of her life. Now, she is a wife, mother, and a wonderful Christian. We can say that perhaps it was because of the kindness of the pastor. Perhaps it was because of many coincidences in her life that guided her in her journey. But one thing is sure—God did not hate her, then and now.

The issue of homosexuality is not something Christians can ignore. It is before us, confronting us. We can choose to ignore. We can choose to condemn. OR, we can choose to engage, speak the truth in love, and extend our hospitality to them. Homo or hetero, God loves us all sinners.