You shall not commit adultery

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Generally, adultery is still considered wrong in our culture – most people wouldn’t actively encourage someone to go and commit adultery. There is a recognition that the breaking of the significant promises made during marriage is neither loving or good. Most people will know someone who has been deeply affected by adultery and we can all see the wider impact on the communities we’re part of. 

However, in the Bible, adultery isn’t a terrible wrong because of the pain it causes others but also because it’s an offence against God. In the Old Testament after King David has committed adultery he says, “Against you [God], you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,” (Psalm 51:4). I don’t think that David is saying he hasn’t wronged Bathsheba (with whom he committed adultery), nor Uriah (her husband) or anyone else involved. What he is acknowledging is that at its heart, adultery is despising God and His word (2 Samuel 12:9). There is a God-ward dimension to adultery which adds to the human pain and suffering it causes.

Secondly, adultery undermines the Gospel and misrepresents God. The unity that is found in marriage is supposed to be a very visual, lived out picture of the relationship between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:25-33). The indissoluble union, the love, affection, faithfulness and submission that exists between Christ and the church should in some small way be reflected by marriage. A marriage marred by adultery paints a very different picture of the relationship between Jesus and the church. It paints a picture which calls into question everything that is good, comforting, joyful and secure between Jesus and the church.

The commandment to not commit adultery is, at root, a commandment to love other people and to love God, including representing God and the Gospel faithfully. Marriage lived in faithfulness to one another and to God is a wonderful testimony and picture of God’s faithfulness and love to his church. 

For those who know their guilt in this area all too well, Psalm 51 continues with David calling God his salvation, deliverer and the one who can clean him. Adultery is serious, but not unforgivable. In his Psalm, David is crying out to God knowing that God will wash clean those who turn to Him in repentance and faith. David knows that even for those who have committed adultery, God will not despise a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) and we know there is always forgiveness at the foot of Jesus’ cross.

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You shall not murder

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It is perhaps the most familiar of the 10 Commandments, yet rarely meditated upon deeply. We find the sixth commandment in Exodus 20v13.

You shall not murder.

 

I think that there are two common attitudes towards this verse:

1) We look to it as evidence that we’re one of life’s ‘good guys’. We may not be perfect but we’re in the right on the important issues. This commandment, coupled with my own lack of murdering, shows that God and I are on essentially the same moral wavelength. (Hopefully he will reward me for this down the line.)

Or

2) We gloss over it entirely. It’s a bit obvious, isn’t it? I guess ‘No murder’ had to be in the commandments somewhere (for completion sake).  But it’s so easy I think I can skip safely on to the next one.

Whichever of these attitudes rings most true for us, I don’t think many of us spend much time contemplating the sixth commandment. But the Bible finds much more depth in this command than we are disposed to. Where we nowadays minimise the application strictly to the taking of life, the Bible teaches an expanded understanding, with both Old and New Testaments making it clear that God had much more in mind. 

For example, Leviticus 19 v 17-18 elaborates

You shall not hate your brother in your heart… you shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge… but you shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus teaching on this subject adds:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
— Matthew 5v21-22

Murdering in deed was of course forbidden, but God’s people were expected to put away murderous words too, and even thoughts of ill-will. Moreover, merely refraining from causing/willing harm still falls short of God’s call for active love, mercy and peace-making towards our neighbour.

Thus moods of anger, the bearing of grudges and scorning others with words are all filed under the category of ‘murder’. Suddenly this is not feeling so comfortable. A commandment which appeared to affirm my purity instead shockingly reveals my heart to be murderous. 

We began by suggesting two common attitudes to the sixth commandment. To conclude, here are two possible directions for further reflection:

  1. In directing us to prefer others’ welfare to our own, this commandment is revealing God’s own heart and character. It is perfectly fulfilled by Jesus laying down his life for us.
  2. The commandment challenges us to reconsider habits of deed, word and thought where we are naturally most satisfied with our behaviours. Even here we are very much in need of grace, forgiveness and help to change. 
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GAFCON

Christ Church Walkley's pastor, Pete Jackson, tells us about his upcoming trip to Jerusalem...

Soon, I will be travelling to take part in the third Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem. While there will be opportunities for me to share once I return, I’d love our whole church family to join together in praying for the conference while I am away.

GAFCON is the global movement of which Christ Church Walkley is a part. It brings together many bible-believing Anglicans from around the world in the fellowship we share in the Lord Jesus Christ and in his mission to the nations. The context for its formation and work over the last ten years has been the challenges to the authority of the bible in the West and the growth of biblical Christianity in many other parts of the world. Over 2000 delegates are expected at the conference, coming together from around the world for teaching, worship, discussion and prayer.

There are lots of reasons to be glad that we are a part of this global movement of God, but underlying many of them is the fact that we need each other. We need the challenging witness and call to faithfulness from our brothers and sisters in Africa, many of whom have recent memory of serious suffering for the gospel. We need the testimony and wisdom of those who have already faced challenges familiar to our own in North America and Canada. We need to have our eyes lifted from our own local situations to see what God is doing around the world.

If you want to read more about the history and the foundation of GAFCON you can read the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration which is part of our church’s doctrinal basis, or you can take a look at the GAFCON website.

Northern Men's Convention

John Magowan, one of the members of Christ Church Walkley, tells us about the Northern Men's Convention he and some others attended in May...

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Having stopped at Beeches to get Luke an all important pork pie for lunch, five guys from Christ Church Walkley made their way to Manchester on Saturday, 12th May to attend the Northern Men’s Convention. Since this was my first visit I didn’t quite know what to expect - but I certainly wasn’t disappointed!

We arrived as some 500 men descended on Trinity Church. There was an expectant buzz in the air as folk registered, had coffee, perused the extensive bookstall or viewed the many stalls manned by a wide variety of Christian organisations. 

The theme of the Convention was MEN STANDING ALONE - Holding to the Word of God in the worst of times and its centre-piece was three conference sessions led by Rupert Bentley-Taylor, an experienced Bible teacher, who had ministered for over thirty years in Bournemouth and Bath and now, in his retirement, is heavily involved in a new church in Bath. He was an excellent speaker.

Each session began with a time of worship. The praise was inspirational and the presence of the Holy Spirit was very evident  as Rupert Bentley-Taylor began each address. Having posed the question at the outset “How do godly men stand for God in godless days?” he proceeded to answer it by examining closely the lives of three men who did exactly that in their lifetime - Noah in the days of the flood in Genesis 6-9, Micaiah in the days of Ahab in 1 Kings 22 and Paul in the days of Nero in  2 Timothy 3:10-4:22. His exposition was excellent and the contemporary way in which he applied it was both relevant and challenging. All three talks are available online and are well worth a listen. 

With my friends, I left the Convention feeling challenged by God’s Word to serve Him better in the future, reassured that He has provided me with all the tools to do so and inspired that, in spite of the godlessness around us, there are still hundreds of men who have a similar goal.

Next year’s Convention is planned for 18th May 2019 with the speaker being Graham Daniels from Christians in Sport. 

I would urge all men in the congregation to put this date in their diary and plan to attend next year - wouldn’t it be great if so many wanted pork pies that we would have to place the order in advance! 

Honour your father and mother

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The fifth commandment is in Exodus 20v12 and it says

Honour your father and your mother…

Which means we must respect, love and (if we’re a child living in their house) obey our Mum and Dad. But why does God want us to do this? 

It’s not just because if we don’t we’ll get in trouble.

It’s not because parents always get things right (they don’t).

It’s because God has given Mums and Dads the job of bringing us up, and especially bringing us up to know him. That’s why the command is accompanied with a promise:

…that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

The message of God’s love and promises for his people was to be passed down to the next generation through the teaching, example, discipline of your father and mother. So that if children were to ignore them, they would be ignoring Him. 

This has some big implications for parents - for what they teach, how they discipline, what they want for their children, and how they organise life in their household. This is something the bible goes into in more detail elsewhere (Deuteronomy 6v4-9 for example). But this commandment emphasises the responsibility children have in all of this. 

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Remember the Sabbath day

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Which of these have you heard, or said, in the last week?

‘I mustn’t waste time’

‘If only I had more time I could…’

‘The time has flown by!’

How God’s people spend their time is at the heart of the 4th commandment:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.
— Exodus 20v8-10

Sabbath means ‘to rest’ or ‘cease.’ This pattern of working 6 days and having 1 day off was unheard of in the ancient world, and reflected the goodness of Israel’s God. All they had known was slavery in Egypt, now God commanded them to have one day off a week, as well as festivals!

What does the Sabbath mean for Christians today?                                                              

The New Testament suggests some Christians continued to observe the Sabbath as a special day, while others regarded every day as the same (Romans 14v5). It seems for some Christians the Sabbath was a cause of tension and division. Colossians 2.16-17 states:

Therefore let no one pass judgment… with regard to the Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
— Colossians 2v16-17

If we want to know what Sabbath rest from work is all about, we have to look away from the shadow and to the substance, or reality. Christians are to look to Jesus. He has finished our work of salvation, and is sat down at the right hand of God our Father. From there he invites us to ‘come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11v28).

Christ is the end of working for salvation. Christ is the end of justifying our existence by what we do. Christ is the end of slavishly living for the approval of our peers or bosses. It is easy to overwork and idolise our jobs, trying to find in them our identity, worth, and satisfaction. It is easy to live for the weekend, the next holiday, or ‘me time’ without the pressures of work and family. But Christ offers us the life we were always made for. Our Creator and Redeemer invites us to come to him and find ‘rest for our souls.’

In our work and rest, may we discover more of what St. Augustine discovered so long ago: ‘You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until it rests in you.’

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Shout for joy to the Lord!

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I didn’t see it in the news, I think it was because it was the same day as the Royal Wedding and the FA cup final, but here in Sheffield last weekend, the real story played out on the football pitch between 11 men of Christ Church Walkley and what seemed like an army from Christ Church Central. Over 90 minutes on Saturday morning, it felt like I used my legs and lungs more than I had done the entire year beforehand (and my body has told me so this week!)

A football game, like a lot of sports, is a natural place to pour out praise and adulation. One of our players is relentless in his encouragement and throughout the game picked out individual players with shouts of “great footwork”, “keep it up”, “excellent defending”. It might seem like just a little thing, but what is praise other than ascribing worth to someone or something, telling someone how good it is that they have done something worthy of celebration! Praising someone is picking up on a positive attribute and telling them 'that is great!'

We have a God that is worthy of far greater praise than a shout of encouragement to a teammate, Psalm 100 says;

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his.
— Psalm 100v1-3

The writer of this Psalm is encouraging us to join with the whole earth in shouting praise to God! The bible calls this worship.

I really like this live version of 'All Creatures of our God and King' by Kings Kaleidoscope:

It’s  God who made us, it’s God who made everything, so let’s take every opportunity we can to join with all the creatures of our God and King praising Him!

And just incase you were wondering, Christ Church Walkley won for the second year in a row, we’ll try not to boast about it.

Let all things their creator bless,
And worship him in humbleness,
O Praise Him!

The Name

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What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

So says Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. What’s in a name she asks? It doesn’t matter what you’re called, what your name is, it’s just a label that we use for convenience. 

It’s the same way we use names today, they’re a helpful way of referring to people. When I shout up the stairs for one of the children to come down (in principle!) the right child comes.  Their actual name doesn’t matter that much, we don’t pick baby names with the serious expectation that it will influence the character and identity of the child as they grow up.

But in the Bible, names are much more than simply tags so we know who we’re talking about. In the Bible, names tell you about the character of the person, it tells you what they’re like. Their name is intimately wrapped up in who they are as a person, in their identity. Treating someone’s name in a certain way was the equivalent of treating the person themselves that way. 

So how we treat and speak God’s name is how we are thinking of and treating God himself – the two can’t really be separated. Hence, the third commandment is so important even though in the midst of the other nine it’s often overlooked.

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who take his name in vain.
— Exodus 20v7

As we’ve seen in previous weeks the context of this commandment is important. A few chapters earlier God has revealed his name to Moses, “I am who I am.”  He is the God of Israel’s Fathers, the God who has made and kept in covenants with them, the God who is powerful, the God who can save and rescue them. 

When we speak God’s name it’s the good and powerful God of underserved rescue who we are speaking of. And so, our use of His name should have the right sense of gravity and weight behind it. We should treat God’s name in the same way we treat God.

To take God’s name in vain has the sense of making it worthless or emptying it. It’s to use God’s name in a way that is false to who He really is. That might be by using God’s name inappropriately, swearing an oath on God’s name or wrongly claiming to speak words from God as we see elsewhere in the Bible.

But, and perhaps close to home, it’s also when we use God’s name in a way that empties it of its meaning – that makes God into someone much smaller than he is. 

When we pray we take God’s name and often in our speech we use God’s name. But are we doing it in an empty or meaningless way? Does the way we use God’s name reflect who he really is, or does it distort or empty him?

It’s worth a thought over the coming week.

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No Idols!

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There is so much in this world that can drive us away from God, and we are gluttons for it! And God knows this, that's why the second commandment is to not create any idols. Make nothing, put nothing in place of God. Whilst the second commandment focuses on not creating graven images, things that we think might offer some resemblance to God, a real issue for Israel, our problem is often that we create idols of things that aren't inherently in and of themselves. 

We do it with our favourite toy, with our spouse, with children, with our work, our hobbies or our houses. Things that can so easily become all consuming and dominate our lives to the extent that they become our entire focus. Our lives become orientated to them, rather than to God.

It's no coincidence that this second commandment comes when it does - after the reminder of who God is and what he has done for Israel. "I am the LORD your God, who bought you out of Egypt." God says, "You shall have no other God's before me." God has revealed himself in such amazing ways to his people that to make something to represent God, or to worship something else is daft. More to the point, something that we could make - even the greatest of artist or sculptors - would not even come close to being a true representation of God. In fact, to look at an idol as our God, actually takes away from his glory because we would miss the mark by such a long way.

To avoid this completely God commands, for our own good, that we do not make idols of anything.

When Jesus comes we get even greater revelation:

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me
— John 14v8-11b

You see Jesus is revealed as the image of God, the first born of all creation. The author of the letter to the Hebrews starts with these words about Jesus:

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
— Hebrews 1v3-4

The Bible points us to Jesus. Jesus shows us the Father. Jesus is the image of God we need to look to and to worship. 

No idols, because God has revealed himself to us, ultimately in Christ. 

No idols, because Jesus is the one who rightly sits on the throne at the Father's side. 

No idols, because the LORD is far greater than we can ever imagine.

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So what is Judges all about?

Annie Juckes, a member of Christ Church Walkley and one of our administrators shares some helpful background to Judges (which we will be studying together on Sundays) - 

If you're anything like me you might know some of the stories from the book of Judges but have never studied it in any detail. At first glance it's pretty gruesome and bloody and very confusing. Having studied it on a Tuesday morning at our ladies bible study, I'm looking forward to getting to study it again, in a different way, on Sundays.

Here is a useful video from The Bible Project that gives a quick run-through of the book, breaking down it's literary design and flow of thought. The general idea is that the Israelites turn away from God and then face the consequences. God raises up judges in cycles: rebellion, repentance and restoration. 

There is also a blogpost on Judges by them here and you can catch up on all our Judges sermons here.

 

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Why the 10 commandments?

Our pastor, Pete Jackson, tells us why we've started looking at the 10 Commandments together - 

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We’ve recently started a series in the 10 Commandments on Sundays across all ages. It’s helpful to ask why we think this is worth doing.

In this post I just want to highlight one aspect of the answer, and it’s because Jesus links ‘law’ with mission

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
— Matthew 5:14-16

In Matthew 5v14-16 Jesus tells his disciples that they are the Light of the world, like Israel of old. They are to the let the light of their good deeds shine before others and the result will be glory to God the Father - presumably as people trace the light to its source and become his worshippers. So far so good.

But what does Jesus mean by good works? Where do we find out what that sort of thing is? It's no accident that from v17 onwards Jesus starts talking about his relationship with the old testament law, how he has come to fulfil it not abolish it. That means lots of things, but part of that is seen in Jesus’ teaching, where he gives (like he does from v21 onwards) the true meaning and application of the commandments. 

We should note that this is the case, even when our ‘good works’ are aspects of the Christian lifestyle that raise the curiosity, misunderstanding or even criticism of the world around us. The 10 commandments inform how we live in relation to money, truth-telling, sex, parents, human life - all areas of opportunity for our gracious witness to the difference that following Jesus makes.

Finally, at the very end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gives his disciples the great commission. They are to go and make disciples of all nations. But how do you do that? Jesus says it's by 'baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ This is broader than the 10 commandments of course, but it certainly includes Christ’s fulfilment of them in his teaching. 

Growing firm convictions about God’s commandments (and how these flow from and are a witness to his gospel) is part of being equipped for mission in today’s world.

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What other God would you want?

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We are made to worship, whether or not we’d always describe it like that. We worship other people, money, things, God, even hopes and dreams. We all have a god, or many gods, in our lives. It seems an unescapable part of our humanity – we were created to be those who worship. So, as we come to the first of the 10 commandments the question isn’t whether you will have a god but what kind of god you will have? 

And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. 
— Exodus 20v1-3

  Exodus 20 very briefly describes to us the God of the bible. He’s the God of rescue, power, love and grace. He is the God who rescued his people out of slavery to one of the most powerful empires of the day and He did it out of a love for his people even though they had done nothing to deserve it. 

The rescue of God’s people from slavery in Egypt gives us a very visual picture of our rescue from slavery to sin. A rescue that flowed out of God’s great love for his world and was of pure grace, it cost him his only son and we’d done nothing to deserve it.

It shows us what kind of God it is who calls us to worship him alone and have no other gods alongside him. There will be many other gods that call us to follow after them, things we desire, that drive us, that captivate us. But none of them offer us the freedom, life and deep-seated joy that the God of the bible can give. Often other gods seem to offer so much, security, happiness, longevity, the easy life, but in the end they all fail. The God of the bible has shown that he’s a good God who has the power to deliver on His promises. 

It is a command that we should have no other gods, but it’s a command that’s for our good because it leads to freedom and life. What other god can offer that? What other god would you want?

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An Eternal Ear Worm

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Matt Wiltshire (a member of Christ Church Walkley's band), tells us about another new song we'll be singing this week and why it should be, and is, our eternal ear worm...

What’s this mornings ear worm? 

Do you ever wake up with a tune already in your head? Perhaps it’s a phrase of a song that’s slipped into your dreams? The BBC 6Music breakfast show has a regular feature about exactly this, you send in your morning’s ‘ear worm’ - the tune that’s wriggling around your ear drums - and they play out the best/worst suggestions on air.

In the book of Revelation, the apostle John writes about a song he woke up to in his head after a dream. In it he describes an experience of heaven and when the throne is revealed (Chapter 4) he describes creatures worshiping their creator like this;

Day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
— Revelation 4:8

Day and night, never ceasing, that’s one long ear worm! 

Over the next few weeks we’ll be singing Rend Collective’s 'Hymn of the Ages':

The whole premise of the song is that we are joining in with the endless song that has been sung since the beginning of time and will be sung forevermore, as Rend Collective put it, ‘the song of angels, the hymn of ages, Holy is the Lord’

But it’s not just the angels’ song, it’s our song! We were made in the image of God to glorify God so we also sing:

The purpose in my days is to ever to proclaim, 
How great You are, how great must be Your song.

The 10 Commandments

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Last week we began a series in the 10 Commandments. We’re going to be looking at them in brief in every service, the children are going to be learning about them in their groups, and the adults will also be studying them in their mid-week small groups

It’s very important to see, right at the beginning, before he gave any commands or rules, God said this:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
— Exodus 20v2

This tells us that the 10 commandments are

Not a ladder...

God did not give these commandments so his people could climb up to him. He’d already come down to them. He was already their God and they were already his people. What’s more, he had already rescued them, even though they didn’t deserve it

Not a chain…

Some people think these rules are God’s way of spoiling our fun by controlling our lives. As if trying to obey God’s commandments is like being chained up as a slave. But they are given by the God who had rescued his people ‘…out of the house of slavery.’ The bile tell us consistently, it’s when we don’t live by God’s ways that we end up as slaves, not to Pharaoh, but to sin. 

Train tracks 

Everyone knows it is good for a train to be on its tracks. And (to stretch things for a minute) if a train decides ‘these tracks are a bit of a pain, they stop me going where I want to go’ - we know that would not be a good idea. 

When a train is on the tracks, whizzing along, it is doing what it was made to do. It’s the same when we follow what God says about how we should live. He gives us his commands because they are like the train tracks for a train. We might think we are restricted by them, told not to do certain things, and so on. But the reality is that living life God’s way is the life we were made for.

(Look out for more blogposts on The 10 Commandments over the next few weeks...)

I'm bursting out with songs of praise!

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Matt Wiltshire, a member of Christ Church Walkley and one of our musicians, writes about how Christian music helps us feed our minds - 

Towards the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians he says this:

...brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
— Philippians 4:8

When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you think about? Checking your email or Facebook before you make it out of bed? Praying, listening to music or a podcast while you have breakfast? Reading the news, the bible, or the Christ Church Walkley blog on your way to work?

There are so many different sources of information and entertainment now that sometimes the choice is overwhelming, and it gets more difficult if you are, like Paul suggests, trying to discern which things are true and pure to feed your mind with. 

Christian music is something that Nicola (my wife) has always found encouraging as long as I’ve known her and a good way to set her mind on the things above for the day ahead. It’s taken me a bit longer to recognise the value of Christian music but recently I’ve been hugely encouraged by it, and from chatting to some of you at church, I know it’s the same for a lot of others as well. So as a music team, we want to share some of the Christian music we’ve been encouraged by on the Christ Church Walkley blog, including some of the brilliant recommendations you’ve given us!

To start with, CityAlight are an Australian band who write simple songs with faithful and encouraging Christian lyrics. We’ll be starting to sing some of their songs together as a church over the next few months. The first song we’ll learn is Saved My Soul.

You my God have saved my soul, 
I am Yours forevermore, 
I won’t be moved of this I’m sure, 
You’re my God and You’ve saved my soul.

It’s full of gospel truth and celebration, but my favourite line is towards the end of the song;

You brought me up out from the grave, 
I’m bursting out with songs of praise

Isn’t that an amazing line to sing, knowing God has given you life and you can’t keep it hidden as sooner or later that praise will ‘burst’ right out to God! How great to be able to sing that with other brothers and sisters who want to praise God too!

We’ll put a bit more on here in future blogposts about why we sing, and more recommendations for your listening. Hopefully you’ll be encouraged like we have been and Christian music will help you, as Paul suggests, to think about  ‘whatever’ is excellent or praiseworthy.

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Is it just 'trust God and it'll be okay?'

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It was a question raised during our first evening of our Growing Together course. Is this what discipleship boils down to? Whatever suffering we’re facing, trials we’re going through, sins we’re wrestling with, we simply need to trust God and it’ll be okay?

There’s a wonderful element of truth implicit within the questions. It recognises God’s power, as well as His inherent love, compassion and goodness that means He can, and will, work in every circumstance. It also recognises our limitations, there is both tragedy and evil in the world and our ability to change that is often limited. There are things that happen to us that we have no control over and consequences to our actions that we could never foresee.

However, the best discipleship is more than simply stating the truth of who God is.

Firstly, the best discipleship speaks truth out of an abundance of love and compassion for somebody. I’m reminded of the raising of Lazarus in John 11. Jesus tells Martha the truth, that her brother will rise again (“It’ll be okay” – vs. 23) and that she must believe in Him (“Trust God” – vs. 27). But the whole episode is wrapped in Jesus’ love and compassion for her and the wider family and friends. He is deeply moved and troubled when He sees the distress of those who have lost a loved one (vs. 33,38) and He weeps with them (vs. 35). Jesus’ words of truth to Martha are said to someone He knew and loved. They’re not abstract, cold, and heartless platitudes.

Secondly, Jesus tells Martha the truth of who He is as the redeemer and how that was relevant to her struggle. In our discipleship we need both parts of the equation. We need to speak the truth and apply it to the particular sin or suffering someone is facing. Why does what Jesus has done and who he is, matter? How does it bring hope and comfort in this moment? Lazarus had died, so Jesus spoke of the hope of the resurrection He brought (vs. 25-26). He showed Martha why trusting in Him would ultimately mean it was okay. He spoke truths that were relevant and gave her genuine hope and comfort in the midst of her pain.

In our discipleship, we must be reminding one another of who God is. Yet we need to be doing it in a way that is relevant to the struggles someone is facing and out of a Christlike love and compassion for them.

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Growing Together

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And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
— Philippians 1:9-11

Sometimes when we talk about discipleship, maturity, or counselling it’s not clear where we’re heading. What are we seeking to mature into? What’s the target? Where are we heading and what are we hoping to achieve?

There are dozens of voices telling us who we should be seeking to become and what kind of person we ought to be. Some of those voices are external, the voices of our culture that lure us with the promises of acceptance and success if we follow them and threaten us with ridicule and isolation if we demur. Or the voices of parents, friends and family, who have their own particular vision of what and who we should be. Other voices are internal, the voices in our own minds that tell us what we deserve, can achieve, or have failed to become. Like a plant growing towards the sun all these voices give us a direction to grow in and a target to aim towards. 

In the passage above the Bible speaks another voice, it gives us a different direction to seek to grow in, a God-ward direction. Paul is writing to a church with his prayer and hope for who they will become and who they will mature into. It’s a maturity that’s rooted in love, lived out in wisdom, achieved through Jesus, and that brings God glory and praise. It’s a direction that we need to regularly turn back to. Our discipleship is a means of doing that, it’s a means of re-orientating ourselves towards a life that brings God glory and praise. 

For the next three weeks at Christ Church Walkley we’ll be looking together at how we help one another to grow into the kind of people Paul describes. We’ll make Paul’s prayer for the Philippian church our prayer. Each week I’ll try and share some of my reflections on what we’ve been discussing and learning here on this blog.

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