Highlights from the AMiE conference

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We continue to be blessed by being an Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) church and the way

this provides us with gospel fellowship both in the UK and around the world. Some of us recently

attended the recent AMiE conference in Leeds and you can read a report about it by another AMiE

church leader here.

One of the highlights was hearing from new GAFCON general secretary Archbishop Ben Kwashi.

He and his wife Gloria lead a remarkable life serving the gospel in Nigeria, where the threat of

violent persecution remains all too real. You can hear a bit more of their heart for the gospel (and

their quite staggering care for 50 orphans in their own home) in a video from GAFCON 2017 here.

Street Mission in Scarborough

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In the first week of August I went over to Scarborough to participate in the street work that Trinity Church were doing as their mission week. This church is part of AMiE and is lead by Lee McMunn and Rob Tearle. A married couple called Maxwell and Naomi kindly provided me with accommodation for the three days I was there. Days would typically begin with prayer at 9am and then we had some training from Lee and Rob and would hit the streets about 11am. The people taking part would try and engage people passing by in a friendly way, hand out leaflets about an evangelistic course they were running and a holiday club they were doing towards the end of the summer holidays. We would finish around 4.30pm and then would go and debrief and pray for people we had spoken to.

I was greatly encouraged from participating in this work. It was scary at first but once we all acknowledged this to each other and prayed, the LORD provided us with strength.  Firstly, what I read in God’s word I saw played out before my eyes. Many people either ignored us or politely said they were not interested. Occasionally there was an angry reply, but people did stop and ask questions and seriously engaged with the Gospel. Often these were the very people who you would not expect to be interested, people with drug and alcohol problems, teenage boys and girls and people on holiday from far away places. I can honestly say that I had more decent conversations about Jesus on the streets of Scarborough in three days than perhaps I have had in three years. That probably reflects some of my unfaithfulness in proclaiming the Gospel but the truth is that there are many spiritually hungry people out there the LORD is drawing to His Son. We think that two people probably came to faith on the streets and many others are now connected with Trinity Church and are investigating Jesus. Please pray for these people to trust Christ for certain.

Secondly, the fellowship I found with those on the mission was incredible. The Holy Spirit made us a team after just a day and I can honestly say that I had genuine affection for all the people I came into contact with. 

We need to do this in Sheffield. Watch this space…

A Year at Oak Hill - Part Two

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Following on from last week’s guest post, our mission partner Simon Oatridge reflects on a year at Oak Hill College.

“How do you summarise a year in 400 words? Here’s a glimpse of what being an Oak Hill student has involved…

Width

It’s been an enormous privilege to receive such a wide range of teaching and experiences: from Communications Workshops given by a former West-End Shakespearean actor; to a whistle stop tour of the first 1000 years of Christianity. Studying the first six books of the Old Testament, and the Gospels has enlarged my view of God; attending a two-week placement at Westminster Abbey; learning more about Anglican Ministry (from Peter Juckes’ Dad!) and most recently having a week with the Chaplain of St. Luke’s Hospice back in Sheffield. Through it all, it has been good to study alongside others from different denominations, backgrounds, and places, and there was even the chance to set up “The Oak Hill Open” – an end of year golf day for students and lecturers.

Depth

Studying Hebrew and Greek has been interesting, confusing, rewarding, painful, and even fun (sometimes). My end of year exams included translating the parable of the sower, Genesis 22 and 37. I’ve come to (mostly) love writing essays, as they have given me the chance to consider a particular topic in greater depth. One assignment involved responding to Richard Dawkins’ view of God as a ‘moral monster’ based on the Canaan conquest in the Old Testament, while another gave me the chance to think more about God as Trinity. Each one has been practical: with essays on biblical youth and children’s work in church, servant leadership, and preaching being particular favourites.

Height

On the first day at College we were told “theology leads to doxology” – which is a fancy way of saying what we study is to cause us to love and worship God. Looking back on the year, I’m so grateful for how this has been a reality, whether in the prayerfulness of lecturers, in ending a lecture by singing together, daily chapel, or the example of faculty who model what it means to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Studying has caused me to rejoice, cry, smile, and silenced me as I have seen something more of the majesty, wonder, beauty and goodness of our God.

It was lovely to see many of you on Sunday. Thanks so much for your ongoing prayers, friendship, and support!”

A Year at Oak Hill - Part One

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We recently caught up with our mission partners Simon and Becca Oatridge to hear how they’ve found their first year at Oak Hill College. Here’s Becca’s perspective:

“It is hard to believe it has been a whole year since we left Sheffield! It has certainly flown by and looking back there is so much to be grateful for. We settled quickly into our new home, roles, church and life down south and though we miss friends and the beautiful Peak District, the transition has been a really positive one.

This time a year ago, I felt overwhelmed with all the changes that lay ahead, it was as if we had thrown everything up into the air and were waiting to see where it all landed. So many ‘knowns’ being swapped for ‘unknowns’. Then slowly as things became more familiar, I realised I felt guilty about my Christian faith; there was so much I could do and people I could invest in, or the many conversations I feel I should have- where do I begin? I would find myself suppressing the feeling that I wasn’t doing enough, not being a “proper Christian”.

Chatting to my sister about this in October, she reminded me of the wonderful simplicity of Jesus’ commandments: to love him and to love others. Somehow that seemed to make sense; rather than getting lost in the many things I wasn’t doing, I saw the simplicity of loving God. As I consider what it means to be loving him with “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”, I am trying to focus on the daily choices. To be faithful to him when others slander him, to try and pray for people when I say I will, to ask questions about faith to my friends when I can. Trying to not get distracted by how it will all end up, or what the future will look like I have been encouraged by some lyrics of an Audrey Assad song:

“Lead, kindly light, amid the grey and gloom,

The night is long and I am far from home

Here in the dark I do not ask to see

The path ahead, one step enough for me, 

Lead on, lead on, kindly light.”

God’s love for us enables us to love him and others in the small everyday things of life.

Yet how often I try to see the whole path ahead, at the expense of taking the steps marked out before me. I would love to learn to be faithful in the small things and trust him who directs my steps.

 We are at church this Sunday and hope to catch up with many of you there. "

Please do keep praying for Simon and Becca and look out for part two from Simon coming up on the blog soon.

Summer Mission: Foremarke 3

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Every year, approximately 60 14-18 year-olds descend upon Foremarke Hall in Repton, just outside of Derby. In 2010, I was one of those teenagers. Little did I know, however, that this decision would have a huge impact upon my faith and life in general.

The summer camp itself is Foremarke 3 (the last of three consecutive weeks, each with a different leadership team) and since my first time, I have returned nearly every year and now help to lead. The camp itself is a mixture of Bible-based teaching, worship and seminars/workshops combined with various outdoor off-site activities. This year, the teaching will cover a Bible overview with the particular talk I am giving covering Amos 5. One verse in particular sticks out as I prepare and write my talk:

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24

In these turbulent and often troubled times, great comfort can be found in God’s universal justice. But also a warning to all of us, to love and serve the Lord with sincere hearts, for that justice will judge all people. Like the waters, it cannot be tamed or stopped.

I was fortunate to grow up in a supportive and Bible-believing family and wider church family. Particular emphasis was given to the youth group, with roughly 15 of us attending Foremarke 3 each year. As such, I had always believed the Bible to be true and known Jesus had died for me, however, I never fully understood it until I went to Foremarke 3. It was here during that first week, that my eyes were truly opened to God’s majesty and saving grace and I fully understood what it meant to call myself a Christian.

The aim as a leadership team, and especially for me personally, is to replicate this same understanding amongst all of the members. To ignite the same fire and passion for Jesus as I felt that very first time. In recent years, more non-Christians have attended, which is a real blessing for witnessing, but not without its challenges. Each year, a number of people profess faith in Christ for the very first time. Whilst a great joy in itself, it is fulfilling to see often years of persistent, patient, gospel-centred teaching at work and producing fruit.

I owe a great deal to Foremarke 3. Never did I realise the impact it would have upon my faith and life in general (the following year I met my future wife!). Our hope and prayer is always that those non-Christians who attend would ultimately come to know and trust in Christ, and for those that already do to gain a deeper understanding of God’s grace and love. Physically exhausting, I always leave feeling spiritually refreshed.

As with all mission, constant prayer is essential. Please do be praying for us: for physical strength during a very busy and exhausting week; for spiritual strength to continue to preach God’s word faithfully; for new fruit through this work, that more would come to put their ultimate faith and trust in Him who saves.

How Long, O Lord?

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We went on a family trip to Ireland when I was a child, I don’t remember a lot, but I remember the weather getting progressively worse, the boat listing from side to side and crockery smashing - pretty entertaining for a kid! But my main memory is that my parents seemed concerned, which suggested to me that this might be more serious than I realised. The idea that they knew this was something they had no control over, and that they might not be able to protect me from, was the scariest part.

That was the first time I had seen that fallibility in my parents. Now I’m a parent, I realise more and more that there are a lot of things I have simply no control over and I can’t protect our daughter from.

In Chapter 8 of Matthew's Gospel, the disciples were out in a boat with Jesus when a storm arose, and they woke a sleeping Jesus saying “Lord, save us!” Jesus’ response was to ask them “Why are you so afraid?”  he then got up and calmed the storm. They were never in danger, the creator and sustainer of the universe was there with them and was always in control.

The song below, written with this event in mind and the using the words of Psalm 13, cries out to God for help in a situation when it feels like he’s not there; “How long will you hide your face from me?” and when doubt creeps in; “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?”. Yet in the song, as in the Psalm, we have words to remind ourselves what to do “I will trust in your unfailing love”.

Even when it feels like everything is falling apart and the waves are crashing over us, God graciously gives us words like this psalm to sing. God is still in control, his love is unfailing and we can rejoice in his salvation.

Summer Mission: Pursue Kenya

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Imagine a county where almost half of the population is under 14 years of age and half the population live below the poverty line. Imagine if 1 in 5 of these children have no formal education and 80% have no secondary school education. This seems so far from what we can imagine here, but it is the reality for the people of Kakamega in Western Kenya.

This summer we (Vicky and Rachel) will have the privilege of visiting Kakamega in order to volunteer with Pursue, a charity that provides funding and support to facilitate projects in rural communities in Kakamega county. It is a Christian charity that seeks to live out God's call to love our brothers and sisters in need. We cannot wait to go and support this ministry and use the gifts that God has given us.

Our trip will involve running a range of education training sessions for teachers from rural schools across the region and physio training for staff from the local school for disabled children. We will also be doing home visits to help support the parents of disabled children and equipping schools with more teaching and learning resources. 

To help raise funds for the training courses and to purchase resources, we have planned two fundraising events that we would love you to come to. 

The first one is a Women's Clothes Swap on Saturday 15th June (flyer here). It is the perfect way to get a brand new wardrobe for the summer whilst raising money for a good cause.

Secondly, come and test your taste buds with a Wine and Cheese Tasting evening on Saturday 6th July (flyer here).  Recruit a table of 6-8 friends and enjoy an evening of drinking fine wine from around the world, listening to great music, and eating the best cheese that Beeches has to offer! Tickets are £20 each and need to be purchased before the event. 

All proceeds will go to funding the training courses we will deliver, providing food and transport for the Kenyan staff who attend, and buying resources and toys to take out with us.

Most importantly we would also really value your prayers as we prepare for the trip.

Introducing Toddle Time @ Forbes Road

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The coffee machine is set up. The mini tables and chairs are stacked. The toys have been disinfected... We are ready to launch Toddle Time @ Forbes Road!

Starting on Friday 17th May at 10am, this new baby and toddler group will be held at the Memorial Hall on Forbes Road and is open to those 0-3 years old accompanied by their parent, grandparent or carer. Our prayer for Toddle Time is that it would be a safe, welcoming environment for your little ones. We hope that they will enjoy using our space to play, to enjoy bible stories, to join in singing and crafts and make new friends.

Six years ago, I became a mum for the first time. It was a joyful and amazing experience! But it could also be a worrying, anxious and often lonely time. I found going to baby groups a real lifeline in those early days. As well as a chance to get out of the house, someone else to make the coffee and a safe space for my baby to play, baby and toddler groups offered me the chance to chat to other mums, dads and carers. Many of those friendships continue to this day. As Christ Church Walkley, we are delighted to be able to use our building to support others in the community.

We want Toddle Time to be a place for carers as well as their children. Whether you’re coming alone or with friends; whether you’re loving looking after your little ones or finding it all a challenge; whether you’re the first-time mum of a new-born or an experienced grandparent of ten; our aim is to make you feel welcome and valued. And we promise there’ll be decent coffee.

If you want to find out more about Toddle Time @ Forbes Road then why not email us at info@christchurchwalkley.co.uk or just turn up!

Great is thy faithfulness

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Those who are regular attendees at Christ Church Walkley weekly services may have noticed we sang a couple of different verses to the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness a few weeks ago, including this one:

I have no merit to woo or delight Thee,

I have no wisdom or pow’rs to employ;

Yet in thy mercy, how pleasing thou find’st me,

This is Thy pleasure: that Thou art my joy.

The additional verses were penned by John Piper, who sums up his teaching with the phrase “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him”, this is an idea that he pieces together from many places throughout the bible and an idea that shines through this song. You can read more about the extra verses here.

The song is an affirmation of God’s faithfulness throughout every situation and reminds us that the most important thing we have to cling onto is our salvation, which only comes by grace, an undeserved gift.

Money in the light of eternity

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It was about 10 years ago when I got the inkling that money might be an idol for me. I was reading “Counterfeit Gods” by Tim Keller and realised that there were different ways you could idolise money. I always thought someone who idolised money would work every hour of the day, to earn loads of money, so they could buy lots of really expensive things. But I learnt that I was the type of person who liked to store up money in the bank and idolised the security that it gave me.  

 My fears and anxieties about money have gone up and down over the years.  When I first got married my anxiety was quite high. There was someone else involved in decision making about how money was spent which I found very challenging. Things settled down again whilst we saved to buy a house, there was money in the bank, I was happy! Then we had a baby and bought a house and the fears began to grow, yet as God continued to provide for us, they settled again. Then another baby was on the way and the fears grew again. The discontent set in and affected other areas of my life. Yet again, God continued to provide for us and the fear subsided. 

 A few weeks ago, I attended the ReNew South Yorkshire conference and there was a seminar called “Money in the light of eternity”. I signed up, knowing that even though I wasn’t going through a “bad patch” at the moment, money has been an issue for me, so I thought it may be useful. 

 The speaker took us to Matthew 6:19-21:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Idolatry of money can be a subtle sin which can look very much like being sensible, careful and a good steward of what God has given us. When in fact we are building up treasures for ourselves on earth which will not last, because they make us feel safe, good about ourselves and wealthy. We were challenged during the seminar to think about treasures in heaven, where will we invest in our money?  Will we spend our money on ourselves to live a comfortable life?  Will we save it up for our retirement or to give to our children as inheritance? Will that make us feel safe? Or will be build up treasures in heaven? Will we support those in pastoral ministry locally and around the world? Will we invest in our time and resources in evangelism and mission?  

Following the seminar my husband and I had a long chat about how we could be investing in gospel ministry rather than storing up treasures for ourselves. It’s always been something we’ve been keen to do but following the seminar we’ve decided to continue giving to our church and also give to another local Christian charity which is close to our hearts. We’ve also started a savings pot specifically to be used towards funding a future apprenticeship scheme for someone who wants to pursue full time ministry.  

Idolatry of money continues to be an area that for both myself and my husband we need to keep in check.  Money is a good gift from God and it is important to use it wisely, it’s important for me to remember it’s a gift and how important it is to be generous with what I’ve been given, rather than storing it up for myself to make me feel safe.

Living in the light of eternity

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Are we ready? We know Christ will return but do we think about it? Are we excited? Do we live in the light of eternity? 

At the Renew South Yorkshire conference, it was great to meet together with hundreds of other Christians from sister churches in South Yorkshire to hear from God’s word, ponder, pray & praise God. We spent a large proportion of the day looking at the 2nd letter of Peter. 

When talking about the return of Christ, it struck me how ‘the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’, 2 Peter 3:9. 

We don’t know the day when Christ will return but the delay that God gives is a time of Him patiently waiting for all people to love him and return to his loving goodness because he wishes that no one perishes and lives without Him in their lives. 

As God longs for this, we should also long for it. We should not be complacent in our telling of the gospel because we don't want our family and friends to perish without him. The knowledge that Jesus is coming back should fire us up to share the good news of Christ for He is coming. Are you ready? 

During the day, we had the opportunity to listen to different people from across the churches in Sheffield as they reflected on how we can make the most of our lives as we live in the light of eternity. 

One way that we can do this is by knowing that God is using all of our circumstances in the past and the present to bring him glory. The good times that we've enjoyed but also the rough times that we often endure. God uses both to bring us closer to him. We aren't to waste our past and our sorrows because God is in control of them. We are to remember them and give thanks that God uses them for our good and ultimately His good.

As the day closed, a story was shared where following a huge meteor storm in the 19th century, a boy turned to his mother and stated “that the sky is falling down” to which the mother replied “Thank God that I am ready.”  As we seek to live our lives in the light of eternity, can you say “Thank God that I am ready”?

Standing Strong: Supporting our persecuted family

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"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient , but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

In November a bunch of us went down to Birmingham to join two thousand others  for the Open Doors Celebration. Open Doors is an organisation that supports persecuted Christians around the world.  Hearing about the persecution of Christians - how can that be a celebration? It will be depressing won't it? 

Tears filled my eyes as I heard of the torture of Christians but the tears were of joy too as I heard testimonies of the Lord’s sustaining power in the midst of suffering as believers put their trust in God not the leader of their country. A beautiful little old lady who had escaped North Korea (the most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian),  shared with us the prayer her mother taught her: "Lord, Lord please help us". I was humbled by this simple prayer - dependence on Him. 

We heard that globally the persecution of Christians is the highest it's ever been. It could be assumed that the number of people turning to Christ would therefore decrease but the opposite is the case. We heard that in the face of persecution the gospel grows. Who wants a faith that you could live without and won't affect your life? Christ claims he is the way, the truth and the life. 

As murdered missionary Jim Elliot had said "he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Fasting

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[This post is a revised version of one that was published last year for our March week of prayer]

Christians need to cultivate what might be called ‘godly dissatisfaction’. That is, as well as patiently persevering in the things God commands us to do and trusting his timing for fruit, we also need to press on, longing for growth and being willing for costly change to occur. Such ‘godly dissatisfaction’ and longing is related to the biblical practice of fasting. 

Fasting is a physical hunger to match the sense of spiritual hunger we feel, or want to grow to feel more, for the coming and growth of God’s kingdom. Jesus says his disciples don’t fast because he is with them, but they will when he is taken away (Mark 2v18-21). It is body language designed to match the prayer ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ Fasting is an enacted prayer. 

Since some of us are fasting during Lent anyway, and others will be fasting during our week of prayer in March, we ought to look at what Jesus teaches us about this practice in Matthew 6v16-18. 

Jesus says we mustn’t fast like the hypocrites (v16). That is we don’t make a big song and a dance about it, showing off by looking especially dishevelled in order to impress others at our discipline or commitment. Rather we must do the opposite, and carry on basic personal care (v17). This is because we aren’t to fast for the reward of others but for the reward of our heavenly Father. Not that we are manipulating God or earning ‘God-points’ by our fasting, but because it is a God-given way of pressing on in the race of the christian life to take hold of all that God has given us in Christ. Our gracious Father promises to respond rewardingly to fasting. 

Please note, there are practical and sensible things to make sure you do too when fasting (such as drinking plenty, and being careful about how long you fast for). Also, if you have a medical or personal reason which makes fasting unwise (such as a historical or current struggle with an eating disorder), please don’t. There are other ways to apply the same principle, for example by fasting from something else. 

His Mercy is More

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Every week at Christ Church Walkley we say prayers together which are based on passages taken straight from the Bible. One of the prayers of confession we regularly use is the one below, based on Psalm 51 written by King David after he sinned grievously (you can read about it in chapters 11 & 12 of 2 Samuel). We use some of his words of repentance and this is what we pray:

Lord God, we have sinned against you; 

we have done evil in your sight. 

We are sorry and repent. 

Have mercy on us according to your love. 

Wash away our wrongdoing and cleanse us from our sin. 

Renew a right spirit within us and restore us to the joy of your salvation; 

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The last couple of weeks we’ve followed the prayer of confession with a song called “His Mercy is More” by Matt Papa and Matt Boswell. We may sometimes come to a church feeling rotten, and a pretty massive sinner yet again, but the confession and this song remind us that though our sins are many, our confidence is that God’s mercy on us is far, far greater!

You can listen to the song and read the lyrics here

Actions speak louder than words?

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What matters more: what we do or what we say? Is it the case that “actions speak louder than words” or “do as I say, not as I do”?

Often, we oscillate between the two depending on what suits as best at the time. When we feel that someone’s words to us aren’t stacking up, we point to their lack of actions; when we know that our actions don’t match up to our words, we declare out that our words matter more. In reality we know that ideally the two would go together, that our actions and words would agree with one another. One of the things that we’ve seen in the early chapters of Acts is that the same is true of our evangelism. Our actions and our words in evangelism need to go together. It’s an error to think that our actions alone are enough for people to come to know Jesus, but without our actions our words either won’t be heard or will tend not to carry any weight.

Acts 3 is a good example of this, Peter does a remarkably good deed to a man who had crippled from birth. Through the name of Jesus, he heals him and has given him his life back. If there was ever a good deed that might turn people to Jesus without any words, then this might be it. But the people who witness it just stare in wonder and amazement. They’re astounded, but they don’t praise God and turn to Jesus in response. Yet, the good deed gives Peter and John hearing, so that their words might be heard. Then they speak of Jesus and the people’s need for him and in response many, many people are saved that afternoon.

Without the good deed Peter and John probably wouldn’t have got the hearing that they did, without their words the crowd wouldn’t have turned and believed in Jesus. Peter and John’s actions and words went together. Their actions gave the people watching a picture of what Jesus could offer and their words helped people to understand what they were seeing.

I wonder if our lives and evangelism bring our actions and words together in quite the same way? Do we elevate what we say above what we do, risking nobody actually hearing us? Or do we elevate what we do above what we say such that no one ever actually hears the good news of Jesus? What would it look like to bring the two back together so that our actions give us an opportunity to speak about Jesus?

Acts: Hospitality and the Gospel

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Acts: Hospitality and the Gospel

In the recent sermon on Acts 2v42-47 we saw the striking devotion of the believers in Jerusalem to the teaching and life of the church, sharing their lives in daily generous joyful community.

Our temptation would be to feel burdened by their example with yet more things I need to add to my to-do list. But that just perpetuates the same problem, whereas the believers in Jerusalem saw the community of Christ’s disciples as their primary community - in which they found their identity, belonging and purpose in life. They shared normal life, their homes, mealtimes, as well as committing themselves to more ‘formal’ gatherings for instruction and prayer.

Therefore, a better place to start growing here is to think about what we already do in our lives that we can readily include others in. This is something that can aid christian discipleship but also (as it evidently did for the Jerusalem church too v47) forms an important part of everyday evangelism.

As part of this, I think we could do with re-visiting the practice of hospitality. It was a feature of the church as it spread out from the community described in Acts 2, and a number of places encourage hospitality (Romans 12v13 & 1Peter 4v9 or example) or make it a key aspect of the lifestyle expected of Elders (Titus 1v8).

It’s probably important to say that hospitality is different from hosting or from having a dinner party. Hospitality is ‘come as you are’ and ‘take us as you find us.’ It’s setting another place at tea time, it’s making the chilli stretch to another portion, it’s ‘do you want to stay for a cuppa?’ when someone pops round to pick something up. Many of us feel we don’t have much time - but however busy we are we need to eat. We might not have much money, but could we include others in our mealtimes once, twice or more times a week?

I recently read Rosaria Butterfield’s book ‘The Gospel comes with a House key’ (you can find it at CCW’s online bookstore at a discount price). It’s an inspiring read, full of stories about hospitality from Rosaria’s own life, including her own conversion to Christ and the life she and her husband (a pastor) now share with their neighbours. While our own contexts and capacities will undoubtedly be different to Rosaria’s, it is striking how ordinary it all is. While it’s not the story of a dramatic revival, we do see church family built up in Christ and the gospel shared with neighbours through walking the dog together, sharing simple meals and talking about the issues of life.

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Joining the dots between discipleship and evangelism

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As a church one of the things we’ve been thinking about recently is the relationship between discipleship and evangelism. Often, we think of discipleship and evangelism as separate entities. Discipleship is about our own growth as Christians, whereas evangelism is about reaching out with the gospel. Yet when we read the Bible, we see that this distinction isn’t as clear as we often think it is.

For example, see what Peter writes to a group of Christians in the New Testament:

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11–12, ESV)

What is Peter doing here?

He is urging his readers to live godly lives in the culture and society in which they live. He wants their lifestyles to be honourable when they’re amongst those who don’t know Jesus. This is about discipleship. This is Peter calling these Christians to increasingly live out their faith in the world. To grow in their godliness in every area of life, especially when they are around non-Christians.

But this discipleship has a purpose. This living out of the Christian life is seen by those who don’t yet know Jesus and Peter expects it to impact them. They will see the Christians good deeds, their different lifestyle, and come to glorify God.

The Christians Peter is writing to were literally sojourners and exiles, they were different to the people they lived amongst. There would have been the temptation to try and blend in, to fit in, to look like those around them. As Christians today, we can often face the same temptation, we don’t want to stand out at work or amongst our neighbours. Perhaps you fear what Peter says will happen to you, that people will “speak against you as evildoers.” It’s easier to try and just cross the line into Christianity yet to live our lives as closely matched to the world around us as we feel we can get away with. But not only is this damaging for our own relationship with God and our maturity as Christians, it’s devastating for our witness and evangelism.

We should be those who are growing in godliness and Christian maturity and therefore look increasingly like sojourners and exiles in the world we inhabit. The way we live our lives should look different to those around us, and we shouldn’t be surprised when that brings opposition and even claims that we are evil. But in the end, God uses the witness of our lives to give us opportunities for evangelism.

So where in your family life, your work, amongst your friends and neighbours does your life look the same as theirs? Should it look the same as theirs? In those places are you battling to live the most godly and honourable life you can in every aspect? If not, then what is stopping you?

One final thing, notice here that Peter is urging the other Christians on; perhaps we can be doing the same with one another, encouraging, urging, challenging one another to live righteous and honourable lives for the sake of those who don’t yet know Jesus.

Our Daily Bread

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This is the fourth in our series on reading the bible in 2019. This one is from Claire Jackson, who along with some other women in the church family, are reading the bible in an academic year.

What do we need to live? Amongst other essentials we need food and water. We wouldn’t dream of going for days without either of these, so why do we approach God’s word, the Bible, any differently? We are told throughout the Bible that reading it is essential to living as a Christian. Jesus himself says so plainly in Matthew 4v4 “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 

To take this seriously and obey God’s command to eat of his word, some of the ladies at Christ Church Walkley embarked on a plan at the start of September to read the whole Bible in an academic year. It’s composed by Christ Kirk, Moscow, Idaho who are really happy for others to join in so we can all pull up a chair each day at God’s table and eat together. 

Most days we read around six chapters, with each Sunday allocated as a rest/catch up day as we will all be eating from God’s word as we gather at church that day. Some days it’s a mixture of Old Testament and New Testament, others it’s all from one book. Basically the aim is to get people reading God’s word for themselves, however that is done! Some people have a cheap, paperback Bible to take along in a handbag or changing bag so you can grab it when you have a few minutes to spare. Others, like I, have downloaded an audio Bible so I’ve been able to listen to chunks of Scripture on my way to work, which sets me up for the day better than the usual drivel on the radio! You can download and print a paper copy, but there are also a few apps you can download to access an interactive version of the reading plan (follow the link above) - it’s exciting to tick the box to say you’ve read each chapter! It’s also been a joy to be encouraged by others to read the daily chapters wherever, whenever and however possible; I’ve read the chapters for the day whilst being with the boys as they played football at the park!

There is also a Facebook group for those joining in the challenge and as part of that, it’s been exhilarating to learn of and from other ladies reading the same portion of the Bible each day, yet are located all around the globe. This group has also answered some questions raised by less well known sections of the Bible, like Leviticus! 

Eating God’s word each day and in bigger chunks than I would normally embark on has been exciting and encouraging. Honestly, the more regularly I manage to read the day’s passages, the more I want to keep on reading. So let’s be humble in our obedience to come and eat at our Father’s table, let’s challenge each other to read his word each day.