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.
What’s your story? How did you first come to know Jesus? How has Jesus made a real difference in your life? For what are you particularly thankful? All - or some - of these questions can form ‘your story’ which you can use to tell others about your faith. Few of us have incredible, Damascus road experiences but that doesn’t matter because, whatever your story, someone needs to hear it. And practising it makes perfect, as Angela Siderfin facilitates in this week’s talk!
Gillingham Community Church has been a Christians Against Poverty centre for 10 years! Woo hoo! Today we get encouraged by stories, testimonies and facts and figures to do with the wonderful work that we have been honoured to be a part of over this time.
Steve (our area manager and CAP Yeovil worker) helps us realise what an important work it is that we are doing here.
In this recording, the second in a trilogy of talks looking at relationships and the Church family, Graham Palmer considers what it means to be in a marriage relationship from the perspective of Jesus the bridegroom and the church. He examines why marriage is a covenant, not a contract, and introduces us to the concept that we probably married the wrong person. Intrigued? Then listen on!
This weekend, GCC has had the pleasure of hosting Pastor Fredie Sekeywa from Uganda. His first time in the UK, let alone visiting GCC, Pastor Fredie explains his mission in ‘Celebration of Hope Ministries’, of how establishing coffee farms is helping to provide incomes, homes and the Good News of Jesus to poverty-stricken families throughout his locality in southern Uganda. There’s also a message for GCC, encouraging us to ‘let our light shine’ in our community. Great coffee, by the way!
….or, in plain English, Friendship Evangelism. We all have the ability to influence our friends, relatives and work colleagues but do we ever introduce Jesus into our relationships? That’s ‘friendship evangelism’. It isn’t about forming relationships with the ulterior motive of proselytising, i't’s about using what we already have to talk about what is really important to us. With reference to Luke 15, Pete Bond explains how we might be more effective in evangelising to our cohorts
GCC is back! Here's hoping we're all rested and ready to move forward...ready, because if we want to grow both individually and as a church, we need to be open to change. And what better way to start than to consider our great calling - to go out and tell people the good news about Jesus. As the title of this informative talk by Andy Sparkes suggests, we have to develop a culture of evangelism. We all have a story of how we first came to know Jesus; so what's yours?
We all have the God-given ability to make choices. Unfortunately, we don't always make good choices, but then again, nor did some of the more successful characters throughout the Bible (think of Peter and David, to name but two). Crucially, our bad choices (failures) need not become our identity, because that is in Jesus. As Andy Sparkes here reminds us in this last talk in the Pick n' Mix series, we are held by God's hand. He chose us.
If we want to grow as a church family, we need to understand each other and in particular, the status in life to which God may have called us. Whether we're single or married, or maybe struggling with issues around relationships or sexuality, each of us has the ability to encourage, support and empathise with our Christian brothers and sisters. Graham Palmer starts off this mini series on the Church Family with 'Singleness', taking as his core text 1 Corinthians 7.
Sometimes we just don't feel peaceful or joy-filled. In fact, nothing affects our view on life, our mood or our relationships more than how we relate to that peace and joy available to us through the Holy Spirit. But we can choose to be joy-filled, to capture our negative thoughts and align them instead with God's heart. How we view ourselves and those around us is inextricably linked to our position in the Kingdom of God. Steve Gibbons bases his talk on Romans 14 v17, 'For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit', and offers some thoughts on how we can be filled with peace and joy.
If ever we need reassuring that God is both for us and wants the best for us, then all we need do is turn to James 1 v15: 'Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.' (NKJV). Whatever our circumstances, there's always something for which we can thank and praise God. Angela Siderfin gives us a timely reminder of this, providing some ways in which we can better appreciate God's good gifts and give Him the glory for them.