Do not steal. It’s often the first commandment we think of, and perhaps also the one we think is the most black and white. Do not steal. Sorted, easy. The odd GCC pen doesn’t count, does it? Well, stealing isn’t necessarily just about appropriating possessions. How do we use our time and money, for example? Andy Sparkes challenges us in this talk to consider more deeply the context of this commandment and leaves us with a huge dilemma - what might we be stealing from God?
Nearly every day we hear someone using God’s name as an expletive or in an inappropriate way. Sadly, it’s commonplace. But it’s no big deal, right? Well yes, actually it is, because the Lord specifically commands us not to misuse His name. Why? Because the name of the Lord and who He is, are synonymous; He told Moses that His name is who He is - ‘I AM WHO I AM’. In the third talk of this series on the Ten Commandments, Steve Gibbons explains the reasons why we ought to be grieved whenever we hear God’s holy name misused, misrepresented or disrespected.
Sound recordists’s note: Apologies for the indifferent sound quality on this track - basic recording error responsible!
We have a God who jealously loves us. He doesn’t want anything else to take His place in our lives. That’s why the second commandment given to Moses for the Israelite nation - and latterly to us - instructs that we are not to have idols. But what exactly is an idol? Is it a possession, a feeling, another person, or what? Roger Snowdon tells us what God means when he says ‘no idols’ and offers tips on how we might overcome those distractions that take His rightful place in our lives.
Today we start a new series of talks considering the ten commandments given by God directly to Moses in the wilderness (see Exodus ch. 20). The first, most important commandment is this: ‘You shall have no other gods before Me’. In this talk, Pete Bond emphasises the importance of knowing God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit in order to properly hold him as the highest, most holy aspect of our lives. Rather like a good marriage, we must wholeheartedly commit to loving God before we can truly say that we hold no other god (idol) higher than Him who is Lord of all.
The Bible is full of people struggling to find their identity. We too may be torn between our Christian calling and the pressure to conform to the modern culture in which we live. Paul advises in Romans 12 v2a, ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. So how can we be transformed to take on the identity God means us to have? Graham Palmer gives us a few pointers in this talk as to how we might achieve this - culminating in a surprising alternative interpretation of the identity struggle experienced by the prodigal son and his older brother.
In this talk, the last in our series of the miracles in John, Steve Gibbons explores the reactions of Mary, Peter and John on discovering the empty tomb that first Easter morning. What would your reaction be?
It’s fair to say that most people know Jesus once walked on the water (see John 6 vs 16-21) but probably not so the reasons - and indeed implications for us - why he did it, as recorded in the wider telling of the miracle in the other gospels. Not only did Jesus prove to just His disciples that he has power over the elements and natural forces, but also that when we put our trust wholly in Him, we too can ‘walk on water’. Jesus invites us to walk with Him and holds us up as we step out in faith! Listen to Pete Bond explain what this means for us and how we can enjoy a deeper relationship with Him. NB: apologies for the poor sound quality on this track .
John records in his gospel (Chapter 9, vs 1-12) that, on his travels, Jesus met a man born blind. Whilst his disciples wanted to debate whose sin had caused it, Jesus took the opportunity to demonstrate to them all that he was willing to heal anyone who would believe in His authority - even on the Sabbath! But that’s not the whole story. Angela Siderfin goes on to contrast the legalistic religiosity of the Pharisees with the simple, growing faith of the now-healed man, and how Jesus announced to everyone that He is the Light of the World.
One of the best known of Jesus’ miracles is the raising of Lazarus, a man who had been dead for four days. John 11 tells us that Jesus loved this man and his two sisters, yet when He learned of Lazarus’ serious illness, He deliberately delayed the call to go and heal him. Why? Because this was to be no ordinary healing; this was to show God’s glory to His disciples and followers - a foretaste, if you like, of what was to come. Andy Sparkes explains the meaning of Jesus’ actions that led to raising Lazarus from death and reassures us that Jesus also loves us just as much - He still feels our pain and can raise us, too, by setting us free from what binds us or brings us down.
Who or what do you turn to when a life crisis occurs? Do we trust in our own strength, the advice of others, or perhaps turn to Dr. Google (other internet search engines being available!)? Or do we, like the royal official spoken of in John’s gospel (John 4), turn to Jesus, who can resolve every difficulty, regardless of where our faith is at that moment, if we would only put our trust in Him? The Royal Official wasn’t too sure, but he had faith that Jesus would help him. Even though things didn’t go quite as he expected, the official persisted, resulting in his son being healed. But there’s more to this narrative than initially meets the eye, so Graham Palmer helps us to understand all the issues involved - including the message to those who expected miraculous wonders of Jesus in order to confirm their faith.
Sometimes we come across miracles of Jesus that we take at face value, without truly understanding the message he has for all of us. The healing of a paralysed man at the Pool of Bethesda is just one such event. Surely it was ‘just’ the healing of a man who’d been ill for 38 years, right? Well, no, not ‘just’. There are truths here for us hidden in plain sight within the narrative and Martin Powell helps to reveal exactly what the bigger picture is resulting from Jesus’ words and actions that day.
For the next 7 weeks we’ll be looking at the miracles of Jesus uniquely mentioned in John’s gospel. This week Roger Snowdon speaks about the miracle at the start of Jesus’ ministry, the one at a wedding in Cana where He changed jars full of water into wine. It was the very best wine - not just any old stuff - in fact, finer than the fine wine that had been provided by the host at the start of the celebration. And Jesus provided his wine in abundance and, as Roger explains, still does today. The wine in this passage (John 2 vs 1-11) is used to represent the good things given by Jesus, good things that we can still tap into today. Have you welcomed your abundant share from Jesus?
We’ve all seen the stereotypical Christian portrayed on the television, or written about in the media - usually a mildly eccentric, bible-bashing, moral crusader with a blinkered view of life as it really is for most people. And yet, this image comes from somewhere; sad to say that even today, there are groups of Christians who are motivated (not necessarily led) to preach the gospel to anyone in whatever way they feel is needed, often without that vital element, love. Steve Gibbons uses illustrations from personal experience to describe how we can tell others the Good News without, dare I say it, any hint of ‘weird’.
Paul made it very clear in his fist letter to the Corinthians that, although he was a free man belonging to no-one, he considered himself to be a slave to everyone. Why? In order to win as many people as he could to Christ. He did this through relating to the culture around him (1 Corinthians 9 vs 19-21). If, like Paul, we want to share in God’s blessings, we too have to be sensitive to those around us - for the sake of the Gospel. Andy Sparkes examines in this talk why we must emulate Paul in his attitude if we are to bring others into the Truth.
We are called, as Christians, to be citizens of God’s kingdom and thus, to serve. We are representatives of His kingdom here on Earth - where we are, so is God’s kingdom. Where we serve the kingdom is probably where we spend most of (or certainly a lot of) our time - in the community, parenting, in the workplace, for example. Ephesians 2 tells us that, as God’s handiwork, He prepared us in advance to do good works. Angela Siderfin here explains how this relates to our daily lives.
Following on from last week’s talk ‘A Different People’, we consider today the same subject but this time from a different viewpoint. Again quoting from 1 Peter 2 (verses 4-10), we are (1) a chosen race, (2) a royal priesthood, (3) a holy nation and (4) a people for God’s own possession. We join Ted Winter part way through the first point; as a chosen race (people), it’s clear that God makes choices yet bestows no honorary titles - we have work to do!
The Bible reminds us that we are a peculiar people, a chosen people - or, to put it into today’s language, we belong exclusively to God (1 Peter 2 vs 9-11). This means we have responsibilities and as such we must be different to those in the world around us. How else would we get noticed were we to remain the same, doing the same old stuff we did before Jesus called us?? In this talk, Pete Bond uses 1 Peter 2 as his basis for teaching why we are indeed a ‘peculiar people’ and how we need to be different. NB: due - we suspect - to a fleeting power cut during the meeting, only the first 16 minutes of Pete’s talk were recorded.
Having already considered 5 key ways in which we may grow in Christ, both individually and as a church, we reach the final, perhaps most crucial element - our preparedness to change in order to grow. Because we like our comforts and being familiar with things, change is something we rarely relish but if we’re not open to change….well, we won’t mature. We’ll just stagnate, become less attractive and less relevant, not something we’re seeking to be at Gillingham Community Church! With reference to the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5), Pete Bond describes how Jesus challenged the people (and vicariously, us) to live righteous lives in accordance not just with the established law but additionally by God’s will. Remember, “you have heard it said but I (Jesus) tell you…”
Life, or how we decide to live it, involves making an ongoing series of choices, each of which can only ever lead to two possible outcomes - a right one, or a wrong one. The decision-making dilemma we all have is this - do we listen to what the Holy Spirit may be telling us, or do we just go ahead and do what we think is the right thing? In this talk, Steve Gibbons helps us to navigate through some of the bible’s helpful pointers as to how we can make the right choices, concluding that to choose God’s way is to choose life itself. Now, will that be the mince pie or the apple for me to snack on?!
Sacrifice is a very important part of our faith - after all, didn’t Jesus give us everything through the giving of himself? Our self-sacrifice helps us draw closer to God. Paul, in Romans 12, exhorts us to be ‘a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God’ and that we should ‘not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind’. Easier said than done? Well, Ted Winter here gives us some biblical pointers as to how we might become ‘a living sacrifice’ through our faith and actions - but beware, it comes at a cost. Expect and accept regular pruning!
Through all the various stages of life, we are always growing in some way. One aspect of our walk with Jesus which is sometimes overlooked (or worse, ignored) is that of spriritual growth for, if the church is to grow, we as individuals must also grow….continuously towards Christ. Surely we don’t want to remain as unweaned toddlers, feeding on nothing other than spiritual milk? In which case, we need to keep going, to run the race, forgetting what is behind us, constantly seeking spiritual growth through fixing our eyes on Jesus. Martin Powell’s talk outlines how our continuing spiritual growth benefits not just ourselves but also the whole church, in our relationships, our worship, our love for one another and so on…
A most important aspect of living as part of the wider church family is the question about how we, as Christians, interact with those who may have a same sex attraction. Unfortunately there has been so much unhelpful negativity broadcast over the years by conservative (small ‘c’!) groups in established churches; Graham Palmer seeks to clarify how we must keep Jesus in focus when dealing with this issue and love others, regardless of their sexuality, as He loves us. Graham, in his talk, refers to a number of testimonies on the Living Out website which can be accessed here, with further helpful advice on how to support those living with same sex attraction here. The publications referred to can be found here on GCCs website on the publications page - scroll down for the Same Sex Attraction booklet.
Acceptance of others. It’s not just for Sunday mornings! If we want to grow as a church, to become more like Jesus, we have to accept others, even those who are very different from us or who maybe don’t measure up to our values. Jesus accepted everyone; in fact, he made a point of showing love to those whom society deemed ‘unloveable’, such as Samaritans, tax collectors and fallen women. What an example! Don’t we want to make people feel welcome, included, loved and accepted? Angela Siderfin gives us the biblical background to the practical aspects of not just ‘accepting others’ but loving them too.
Jesus used the parable of the mustard seed to illustrate that big things generally have very small (but significant) beginnings. When we consider church growth - also the title of our new season of talks - we tend to think in terms of size and numbers, but of course, that’s nowhere near the full picture. For growth to take place, a church’s members need to be unified, maturing spiritually and welcoming; just some of the positive traits it takes to make a growing church. Pete Bond also takes as his key text the parable of the mustard seed from Luke 13 for this introduction to church growth.
Not to be confused with the fruits of the Spirit (see Galatians 5), the gifts of the Spirit are nevertheless of great importance in helping us to support one another and to relate to others about our faith. As followers of Jesus, we have all been given different gifts - we’re not all of us called to be prophets or healers or miracle-workers. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 12 v7 “…the manifestation [gift] of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all”. In today’s talk, Steve Gibbons speaks in more depth about these gifts, how they unite us all and imploring us to remain true to the particular gift given us by the Holy Spirit.