Recognising a fruit plant without seeing the fruit can be difficult. "Each tree is recognised by its own fruit". There are 9 aspects of one fruit - the evidence of the outworking of God's Spirit, in our lives.
In Christ I am a New Creation. The old has gone. The New has come.
We live in a period of time that exists in the promise of the completed works of Jesus, and has seen the beginning of those things. We are made new creations. We are still being made new. One day it will be finished. It was done. It is being done. It will be done.
Andy Sparkes unravels what it means to be a New Creation and what it should mean to us in the here and now
It's been our pleasure this weekend to host David and Liz Campbell and family, missionaries whose work we support as a church. Working primarily with disadvantaged and vulnerable young people, the Campbells have spent many years with Fusion Jamaica, making a positive difference for Jesus in several different neighbourhoods. David speaks here about the challenges we face being in the now, but not yet, Kingdom of God, using references from Jesus' ministry and examples from his own experiences to explain how we might become equal to the tasks God calls us to.
Vision has been defined as 'the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom'. I like that. GCC's vision was agreed not just with a great deal of imagination (aspiration) and wisdom (prayerfully and with the Holy Spirit's guidance) BUT also with the knowledge that there is responsibility for each one of us, both individually and as part of the church. It is vital we recognise that, should we ever feel we're doing okay just as we are, then that's when we're in great danger of losing sight of our vision, of ceasing to be a healthy and growing church. So we all have our part to play. Pete Bond teaches us how we can remain a church where people can meet Jesus, know Jesus and make Him known.
We start back at Gillingham Community Church from our summer break with a new series of Sunday morning talks that are designed to take us 'Back to Basics'. Over the next few months, we'll be considering the basic tenets of our faith and looking at how we might practically apply them. And what better place to start than Hope? Steve Gibbons teaches us primarily from Hebrews 6 about why we need a firm anchor for our faith and how we can keep our hope in Jesus alive.
Probably every Christian will have at some point referred to the apostle who demanded tangible proof of Jesus' resurrection as 'Doubting Thomas'. Yet surely Thomas was merely expressing in words the thoughts that most of us would have had in his position? Wasn't he actually being tremendously courageous in asking those difficult questions that others baulked at? Steve Gibbons teaches us that Thomas is not only misunderstood but that by digging deeper into the New Testament we will discover him to be a faithful, believing disciple who was prepared to ask awkward questions to overcome some of the uncertainties he experienced. Not sure about Thomas being an honorary scouser though....maybe I like him need to ask some difficult questions?!
Nicodemus was a New Testament intellectual, both a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. An older man, he was clearly someone with a thorough, in-depth knowledge of Jewish law and religious practise. And yet, from his meeting with Jesus as told in John 3, he was open to and desired to know more about the Son of God. Surely every Christian knows that famous, life-changing verse, John 3:16 - 'For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life' - but none of us except Nicodemus has actually heard it spoken directly by Jesus! Andy Sparkes sets the context for Jesus' famous meeting with Nicodemus, explaining why he was the first establishment figure to recognise and then seek the divine Jesus, and describes how we can learn much from this Pharisee's attitude.
We all love to be encouraged, don't we? So how wonderful it must be to be regarded as an 'encourager', a positive and uplifting person. Barnabas - Paul's right-hand man - was just such a person, so much so that he was known by his nickname 'Son of Encouragement', in other words, he was the very embodiment of encouragement. As Martin Powell emphasises in this talk, our church will only grow if we continue meeting together and encouraging one another (as Paul instructs in several of his letters); so there's a challenge - who can you encourage today?
It doesn't need me to say how difficult it can be these days to stand up for that which you believe, to go against the flow in a society that seems determined to go its own way, to do its own thing, exactly how it pleases. But that's not just in our times, because the Old Testament is full of different characters who knew what was right and then stood fast to achieve their God-given beliefs. One such man of integrity was Caleb who - along with Joshua - remained resolute in the face of fear and complacency demonstrated by the wandering Israelites as they stood on the cusp of entering the land promised to them. Ted Winter tells us how Caleb's example (Numbers 13 & 14) can speak to us today, naming five particular qualities we all should exhibit as Christians.
Every one of us at some time will complain to ourselves (or others!) that real life regularly gets in the way of our walk with God. But you know, it doesn't have to be that way because often what we think of as being obstructive is actually the right thing to do in the circumstances. Not sure how this can be? Then listen to this talk by Roger Snowdon, here using the example of Martha to show how we can interact with Jesus and do His will - even in the mundanity of our everyday lives.
If you want a good example of unswerving loyalty, persistence and service in the Old Testament then look no further than that offered by Benaiah to his king. Throughout David's reign, Benaiah remained steadfastly loyal, a quality the king clearly recognised when he put him in charge of his bodyguards. Even after David's death, Benaiah's loyalty continued to be rewarded when Solomon ascended the throne and made him commander of all the army. There's so much we can learn from this example of loyalty and persistence; here Steve Gibbons describes the many traits attributed to and evidenced by this little known titan of Israel.
Ephron the who, I hear you ask? Well, this week we're starting a new series of talks on some of the Biblical characters who - either wittingly or unwittingly - were instrumental in helping to build the Kingdom of God. Some of us might well think that the more obscure people named within the Bible were just that - obscure people; but if that's the case, why are they named? Were their actions more important than we give them credit? Beginning with Ephron the Hittite, Pete Bond explains exactly how he can teach us to be "Recognising and Blessing the Work of God".
The Bible is very clear on one aspect of Christian life - we are not designed to be a passenger. We all have our part to play. God gave each one of us different talents, gifts or passions and it's up to us to use them how he intends. If everyone contributes, then the whole church benefits (see 1 Corinthians 12). We're all different for a reason! Using 1 Peter 2 as the foundation for his talk, Andy Sparkes tells us why, if we want our church to be seen as being part of the body of Christ, we all need to contribute as the Living Stones God made us to be.
The second recording is of words and encouragement given by members of GCC following the Sunday talk.
We humans all possess the basic need to belong to something; belonging to a church generally fulfils that need in a Christian. But what is it that attracts us to a particular church? Is it the people, place or activities? How can we 'make' a church where everyone feels valued, welcomed and loved? Only when Jesus is at the centre of all we do - He who met with and cared about all sorts of people from different backgrounds and walks of life. Ted Winter tells us how we can be a church where everyone feels they belong. NB: Audio quality is not up to usual standard but please bear with the talk.
We believe that Gillingham Community Church is a place where people can feel both welcome and safe, a place where no-one is judged and everyone is accepted. But surely we are all damaged people, and as God's ways are not our ways, who makes this possible? Only Jesus, our refuge, our rock - it's on Him alone we must rely. There are many scriptural verses promoting Jesus as our safe place and in this talk Steve Gibbons runs through several of them to help explain why it is necessary for GCC to be a safe place so that we might all Belong, Believe and Be changed.
Community is a powerful thing. In a Christian context, community may be defined as being a group of people pursuing a common purpose, bonded by intentional relationships, engaged in authentic communication with one another, empowered by the Holy Spirit and the Word. Yet unity in this sense can also be fragile. In this unmissable talk, Steve Chupp explains how we can avoid the sources of this fragility (disagreement, gossip, disrespect, etc.) through healthy communication with each other and - most importantly - God. As Steve says, let's hold on to what we've got so that Gillingham Community Church can continue to serve each other - and those around us.
God really cares about the way in which we live out our lives. He wants us to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community. But do we actively stand for justice and mercy? Do our hearts break for what breaks God’s heart? He has called us for a time such as this, to 'act justly, love mercy and walk humbly' with Him (Micah 6:8). In this passionate talk, Andy Sparkes exhorts us to stand for justice and mercy, providing some practical ways in which we might do so.
The Bible tells us that it was the action of just one woman in Old Testament times that prevented the destruction of the Jews. Queen Esther was in the right place, at the right time.....for such a time as this. She recognised who she was, what she had to do and that no-one else could do it. Have you ever considered that we are where we are 'for such a time as this'? First we have to know who we are in Christ - as individuals and as part of GCC - and then aim towards the goal (prize) that God has set in place. Wouldn't it be wonderful to hear the words 'well done, good and faithful servant' when we attain it? Two talks for the price of one this week - first Pete Bond tells us how we can be sure of who we are and then Steve Gibbons speaks on where we should be going and how to be sure we're on the right path.
A church divided by argument, gossip or dissent is at best disunited and at worst demonstrates to others a warped example of Christianity. Yet without love, without respect and without the Holy Spirit's direction, that is precisely what we would be in danger of becoming. So we need to remain in God's word to continually learn how to be a church in touch with His desire for us. The three verses of Psalm 133 reveal the result of God's people living together in unity - and as Pete Bond here tells us, they remain just as relevant for us today as they were for Israel in Old Testament times.
Paul tells us in Romans 8 that it was God who chose us to be His sons and daughters in His kingdom. With this comes a great responsibility because as His heirs, we are called to be where we are right now, serving those around us. Using his tried and trusted theory of 'throughflowology'(!) Tim Bond explains from Romans 8 vs 15-17 exactly what it means to be a chosen son or daughter of God.
We want to be a church where the Holy Spirit has freedom to operate. But what exactly do we mean by this aim and how might we go about achieving it? There's a wealth of information out there - for example, much has been written about the gifts of the Spirit, lots of it good but also some decidedly questionable - but unless they're used as God intends, these wonderful gifts tend to be self-centred and certainly not for the benefit of the church. Roger Snowdon seeks to bring us back to what God's word says about his Holy Spirit, to teach us how we can make space for Him to operate effectively. So pray, read your Bible, meet with other Christians - don't be mystical.....stay real!
If we want to be effective disciples for Jesus then we HAVE to put Him at the centre of all that we are and all that we do. But he can only live (abide) in us if we allow Him to. How? Although God is not asking us to do something unattainable, it does need commitment on our part. We must seek Him. Ted Winter explains what it means to put Jesus at the centre of our lives and how, by allowing Him more space, time and commitment, we can properly reflect Him to those around us - both as individuals and as a church.
One of the final acts of Jesus' ministry, post-resurrection, was to tell his close followers what he expected of them ; '....go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit' (Matthew 28 v19) . That's for us too, as modern-day followers of Jesus. His command is not optional! But He does go on to reassure us that '....I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' So, with this promise in mind, we can be confident He will give us opportunities and words to speak - whatever our circumstances at the time. In this talk about discipleship, Trevor Bond tells us just how effective we could be when we obey Jesus' command, potentially influencing many people through even just one simple interaction. Think multiplication factor!
Jesus regularly alluded to Old Testament writings in His teachings and parables. That's how crucial and relevant God's word was then and still is now. Here at Gillingham Community Church, our desire is to be a Bible based community and in so being, to have Jesus at the centre of all that we do. But how do we know whether or not we're doing what He requires of us? Answer - through prayer and by regularly reading and referring to the Bible. But how can we be sure it's true? And can we still trust a book that was written hundreds of years ago? Here's Andy Sparkes reassuring us that the Bible is not only true, but also crucial to our growth and understanding as a church. I suppose one could comment that whilst His word thankfully lacks in nonversation, its steadfastness, wisdom and beauty are just ineffable in our post-truth world...listen on!
Who or what is the Holy Spirit? Well, He is the constant companion whom Jesus promised would take care of us when He left to return to the Father. He is our advocate, the one who stands with us and speaks up for us. Paul writes, in Romans 8 v14, that '...all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God'. So, as Pete Bond explains in this talk, if we want to be open and alive as a church to what God's Holy Spirit requires of us - and to where He is leading us - we need first to allow Him into every area of our lives.
Paul certainly had plenty to say to the churches he and his co-workers established in the early days of Christianity. Have you ever wondered what Paul might have written about Gillingham Community Church, had he ever had cause to visit? Hopefully something similar to the gushing praise he gave to the Philippian Christians! Healthy, growing churches don't just happen; each of us has his or her part to play, particularly in the way we interact with each other. Steve Gibbons here refers to Paul's letters to explain how we might achieve the aspiration contained within GCC's vision statement, 'to be a healthy, growing church'. How does one pronounce Euodia and Syntyche, Steve?! NB: the recording is incomplete and sadly does not include the last part of Steve's talk
We've reached the final aspiration of the GCC vision statement - 'to...meet Jesus, know Jesus and make Him known'. When we know Jesus, we want to share Him with others, but it's not something any of us finds particularly easy. After all, we're not all called to be evangelists! But it s hat God expects of us. Andy Sparkes examines what it means to 'make Jesus known', both as an individual and as part of Gillingham Community Church. So if you'd like to share God's love as a member of GCC, listen on for several opportunities!
It's vital that, if we want to be effective, spirit-filled Christians, we know Jesus. Really now esus as Lord and Saviour. It's only when we truly know Him that can we can exercise God-given discernment, or start to exercise spiritual gifts. Just look what happened to the seven sons of Sceva, whose efforts at casting out demons serve as a clear warning to us of our human limitations - Paul describes them in Acts 19 as operating in the knowledge of Jesus' reputation rather than His authoritative power. In his talk Steve Gibbons uses several bible texts to demonstrate how Jesus teaches us to know Him better.