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.
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.
This is the third in our New Year bible reading series. This one is from Paul Jones who has two young sons.
Reading the bible with your children isn't easy - and I think that that's certainly true for me. I find it hard, but it's also fair to say that it is really rewarding. Our boys, 5 and 8, are both beginning to ask some really big and sometimes tough questions, which makes bible time exciting too.
We have 2 main 'slots' in the day where we do things. When we sit down for tea, we pray through the church family using the church prayer diary. We pray too, for the people we have around our table for tea that night. It's also a good time to make it a habit of saying thank you together, for our food. During Advent, we add in prayer and chat about the name of Jesus that is on our advent candle for that day. As the boys have gotten older this has been a good way to start to weave the whole bible narrative together.
The second slot is when we read the bible to the boys before bed. This has become a little more complicated recently. Our eldest has outgrown the Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Bible, so we got him the Holy Bible for Kids (ESV), which is the one he uses in Sunday School as well as the version we use in church. When we are reading the passage together, he will look up the reference in his bible and follow along with us. The Big Picture Story Bible is slightly easier for this as it provides references for each reading. This has helped to show both boys that the stories they are learning about come from the same bible as Daddy and Mummy have, and that we read from on Sunday at church. It has also allowed Sam to start linking things together - only last night he spotted that there were two instances in Matthew's gospel where God says "This is my Son with whom I am well pleased..." and so we were able to chat about that.
We then pray, normally in three ways; thank you prayers where the boys share, we pray about what we have learnt about Jesus from our passage, and sorry prayers which sometimes the boys will pray. From time to time we have to push hard on the thank you and sorry prayers - but as we say to the boys "there is always something we can say Thank You to God for!" and they are quickly learning that even if they've not been told off, there is always the need for God's forgiveness! We also make sure that we talk to the boys about what they've been learning in Sunday School. They don't always follow the sermon series - although when that happens it can make for a great discussion - so talking to them is really interesting. Seeing how their understanding of who Jesus is and what God has done is growing all the time.
Less formally, we have tried to take to heart Deuteronomy 6v4-7:
To talk about the things of God all the time. Whether they be in relation to school things, or a great view when we are out walking, a rainbow or when the boys ask us questions. One of the things that Jennie is particularly good at is praying with the boys if they are worried about something, or can't sleep, or are having a nightmare. We are conscious that whilst the more formal slots are important, showing the boys that following Jesus is all encompassing and that God is not just interested in, but in charge of, all areas of our lives is really important too.
It isn't always easy, and sometimes it is the last thing that I want to do after a long day at work - but I never feel that afterwards. It's not just your children who benefit, you do too. I'm sure we could do more and I'm sure others do lots of other exciting and encouraging things; so as parents, godparents and members of God's wider family - let's be better at talking about these things and better at asking for help, so we can all be the better for it.
This is the second in our New Year bible reading series. It follows on from Pete Jackson’s first post.
I want to encourage you to try and read the whole bible in a year in 2019. Here are a few follow-up thoughts to the previous post…
First of all, Trevin Wax builds on some of the things I said before in this post here, which also has some suggestions for schemes to use at the bottom.
Secondly, here’s a post arguing that we all have more time to do this than we think. Amongst other things, it shows that if you give only 12 minutes per day to your bible reading, you could read through the whole bible in a year. (And it uses an infographic to show this, which means it must be true.)
Thirdly, there are loads of good schemes or plans to try. Here is the link to the one I did this past year. I liked this scheme for a number of reasons, including
There being only 25 readings a month, so if you fall behind it is not a disaster, you can catch up. There were several times when this kept me going during the past year. In the latter part of the year I used this feature to get ahead and finish by the end of November. This means I have been doing something different for my bible reading during December and can return to the same scheme fresh in the new year.
Each day has four readings of varied lengths and across different types of bible book. I found it encouraging to be able to make rapid progress in some books, plus the shorter readings for those books makes it easy to achieve quite a lot if you need to catch up. It also made the experience each day less like slogging through heaps of text, which I sometimes found to be the case in the schemes that get you to read chunks of equal size from three books.
Finally, I think it is worth giving it a go even if you are fearful that you will soon fall woefully behind. Even just trying to do this sort of reading plan and ‘failing’ might well mean you read more of the bible in a year (and more of a variety of the bible) than if you hadn’t bothered. Plus, if you start out and end up so behind that you take a year and a half instead, that will still be so much to your benefit than if you hadn’t even bothered at all.
This is the first post in our series on reading the bible and praying in 2019. This one is written by Pete Jackson - look out for his next one with links to various bible reading resources.
I have failed at reading the whole bible in a year schemes on many occasions. However I am delighted to say that this year I successfully completed the new one I tried - and a month early at that. I don’t say this so that you will congratulate me, but to point out that it can be done.
As I look back over the year, here are some of the reasons I think reading the whole bible in a year is a worthwhile practice, even though it is hard.
It means you read the less familiar parts of God’s word…
One danger of sticking to the parts we know well or find ‘easier’ is that we are muting the voice of God and missing perhaps the very parts that will be most stretching or the most challenging to the way we naturally think and live.
It means reading across a variety of types of writing each day…
God’s communication to us in scripture comes in a rich variety of literary genres, and each affect us in different ways. The bible communicates to us not just by conveying information alone. Most days there’s been some kind of story/history, poetry and song or proverbs, and letters.
It makes sure we are reading the 71% as well as the 29%…
That’s the split between Old and New Testaments. Let’s face it, we often neglect the Old Testament in all sorts of ways, which means we are regularly tuning out of over two thirds of what God has to say to us.
It trains us in reading the bible for its own sake…
Sometimes we judge the value of our time in scripture from our immediate reactions or emotional responses, or a sense of what we have ‘got out of it’ there and then. At best that’s because we are expecting God to speak through his word, and for that word to be ever relevant. But at worst, this can descend into a search for a ‘blessed thought’ for the day. This is a misunderstanding of how scripture works and of how God’s word changes us. We are mistaken to look for ‘instant gratification,’ we must expect God to form us through constant and regular exposure to his word over the long haul. What’s more, we don’t just need tweet-sized nuggets of God’s word that we can instantly apply, we also need to know the big story arc and the repeated themes that recur page after page, so that gradually over time we learn to place our lives and understand our world from within that story.
It helps us join the dots differently…
Reading passages side by side that you wouldn’t necessarily have put together yourself will help you make connections you would never have made otherwise. This is important because the best tool for understanding the bible is the rest of the bible - God intends us to come to his word as one interconnected and diverse whole which reveals Christ in his many-faceted glory.
Here’s another brilliant Christmas video to watch & share…
Brett McCracken of The Gospel Coalition has compiled a playlist on Spotify of ‘111 Great Songs for Advent’. He explains the playlist here:
If you are a Spotify user, you can follow this link to start listening to his playlist.
Everyone knows the story that starts with…
…but you probably haven’t heard it re-written like this before!
Any other reason to sing? God Sings!
A good friend of mine encouraged me to choose a few Christian songs to regularly sing with our daughter Delilah at bedtime. Initially I thought, “oh great, I'll add it to the ‘how to be the perfect parent’ task list which already tallies around 100 things to ‘spend-a-quarter-of-an-hour-with-your-child-doing’ between getting home from work and bedtime.” However, I was persuaded to try it and did give it a go.
It doesn’t happen every night, and it doesn’t always go to plan (i.e. she’s wide awake tonight, well after we've finished singing several songs!) but sometimes, just sometimes, she falls asleep and I finish singing over her and then quietly leave her to snooze away.
Zephaniah, one of the Old Testament Prophets, prophesied about the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and then its full future restoration not just for the people of Israel, but for all nations. He wrote these words about a day when God will bring all people who trust in him into a new city safe from harm:
Our God sings to us! He rejoices over us, His children. He demonstrates His love with loud singing. I think it's an incredible audio-visual image, and if ever there was a reason to sing, surely this is it: our God sings!
This is an idea I think Will Reagan and United Pursuit capture really well in their song ‘I Can Tell’;
We had a great time at our wreath making events the last couple of weeks and hope that you did too! Below is the video we watched, why not watch it again, consider it, share it with your friends?
Here are 3 albums to request for yourself, to gift someone else (or preferably both) this Christmas:
Behold (A Christmas Collection) - Lauren Daigle
If you could imagine Adele accompanied by Louis Armstrong covering Christmas classics, you’d be somewhere close to the experience of listening to Lauren Daigle’s ‘Behold’ album. It starts with standards like ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ and with a jazz tinge it goes in directions you wouldn’t expect. There are Christmas carols throughout such as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, but the highlight of the album is surprisingly the most stripped back of them all, it’s an original called ‘Light of the World’
This is an album you could buy for anyone you know or have playing when you have friends and family round this Christmas. It’s fun, it’s nostalgic, but at it’s heart it celebrates God’s plan for us in Jesus, which is the reason for the season, right?
Good News - Rend Collective
As the title suggests, this album is about the ‘Good News’ or ‘Gospel’ presented in a folk-roots style. The tone of the album is joy and hope in Jesus.
Like all the Rend Collective albums it’s low-fi, not in terms of quality (which is excellent) but in everything they do they manage to keep their close-knit, campfire sound - as if you are right in there with the band. Expect lots of banjo, fiddle, singing, stomping, shouting and general raucous joy.
I think the song “Resurrection Day” epitomises the album, the joy of salvation today, and the sure hope of the life to come in Jesus.
Songs Of Common Prayer - Greg Lafollette
These are the first words sung on the album, lifted from Psalm 51 and used in Anglican Liturgy as an invitation to worship. This sets the theme for this album of ten songs based on the Book of Common Prayer (clue in the title again). These are simple, short songs with interesting melodies and harmonies; it has an acoustic feel but there are synths and electric organ on this record as well.
This album certainly was a grower for me and was my wildcard choice for this recommendation. Whatever your opinion on liturgy, for me, this setting helped me see the words anew and gave me a new love for the great Bible based summaries of the gospel. I hope it will for you too, and maybe you could think of someone who might appreciate this as well.
Chocolate Advent calendars quickly come to mind when I think of Advent: finding the door each day and counting down the days until Christmas. It brings back memories of being a child - that hopeful, expectant, excited, rarely patient, waiting for Christmas day itself. But despite still loving a good Advent calendar, this season has taken on much more significance to me over the last few years. The Advent calendar is just a very faint shadow of the real coming that Advent looks forward to.
Advent is a time when the church is waiting for the promised coming of Jesus, remembering his first coming and waiting for his second. God’s people had spent thousands of years expectantly waiting for their promised Messiah. Then, a little over 2000 years ago, one night in Bethlehem, God’s promise was fulfilled as Jesus the Saviour of the world was born – God became man. The first season of waiting was over. A few years later John proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’
Yet when Jesus left us and returned to his Father, he promised that he will come again to “save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28) and so the second period of waiting began. Advent is a time of hopeful, expectant, eager, and faithful waiting for the day when Jesus comes again. We wait remembering the time God first fulfilled his promise to send a saviour, trusting that Jesus will fulfil his promise to return.
So this Advent, as we eat our chocolate, light our candles and sing our carols let’s be remembering the fulfilled promises of Jesus’ first coming and eagerly waiting for his second.
A few weeks ago I met a guy called Sol Fenne, and apart from having an incredible name, Sol is a real inspiration. He works for an organisation called 20schemes which is a gospel church planting organisation reaching the poorest communities on council estates (or schemes) in Scotland.
I met Sol at the Sovereign Grace conference I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. Sol is a songwriter and has written songs/hymns for the 20schemes churches to sing. He has written them with specific people in various life situations in mind. He performed a couple of these songs at the conference with his wife Carlie and Devon Kauflin.
Recently I have been doing some distance learning Bible study and trying to think about this very issue: how we use music in our church. In the apostle Paul’s letter to the christians in Ephesus he says he wants them to be “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” and what better way to do that than with songs founded in scripture with real life situations woven in.
‘Revelation Hymn’ is written from the book of Revelation in the Bible. The song is focussed on the final day, when Jesus will judge all people, and “some will shout with joy, some will fall in fear.” The challenge in the final verse of the song is which one these will you be; “time is running out, are we safe in Christ to stand before the throne?”
‘Flee From Sin/Run To Jesus’ is written to reassure us that though trusting Jesus is a daily war, we have victory when we flee from sin and run to Jesus: “when I fear my addictions won’t be overcome, there is hope through Christ’s resurrection day”
Songs written for real people in real situations, trying to trust Jesus despite the daily doubts and difficulties. Different people, yes, different situations, yes, but all of us brothers and sisters in Jesus. “God provides all the help I need to persevere, Praise His name! That my life is found in Him!”
On Saturday 10th November we held a Remembrance Day Tea to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War One. You can read an article written about the event here from Walkley Watch, and below are some photos and video clips from the event.
Why worship with singing? Worship isn't just singing, but it is part of it.
I heard someone say this on a podcast recently, what do you think when you hear a phrase like that? Do you think “I’m not sure that’s right, 'worship' is a whole life attitude not just something we do on a Sunday?”
Or do you think, “Well 'worship' is singing, right?"
Or do you think something else entirely? Well the apostle Paul wrote a letter in the first century AD to instruct the church in Rome to
Worship is to be a sacrifice of our whole bodies, our whole lives, and we need to consider all the things we do as acts of worship. That has big implications for how we worship God; in our jobs, with our families, through our illnesses, in rest and celebration. So praising God in church is worship, just as honouring God at work is, or thanking God at mealtimes.
So some might think, “great, I’ll tick the ‘worshiping God at home and work’ box and I won’t have to do the ‘singing worship’ part.” A trip to any church on a Sunday would provide loud vocal evidence to suggest this isn’t a biblical conclusion! In the Bible we see time and time again that part of what we present to God in worship should be singing, Psalm 147:1 puts it like this:
I actually enjoy singing. Perhaps it’s the frequencies, resonance, interesting song melodies and words, I couldn't pinpoint it; I have just always found playing guitar and singing to be cathartic.
However, I know that’s not true for all of us, singing is definitely a sacrifice for some people. Whether that’s because society imposes a certain view of singing being acceptable (especially for men) or whether it’s because you’re not good at it you don’t enjoy it, it is part of our spiritual worship, presenting sacrifices to God.
Something that I learnt from a talk by Bob Kauflin on worship is that the Bible has over four hundred references to singing and fifty direct commands to sing: you can’t get away from it! If someone asked you 400 times to do something, you'd maybe get the hint that it was important to them.
So I hope you’ll join me in ‘singing worship to God this Sunday’, even if you don’t necessarily want to, knowing that living lives of worship means sacrifice, and for some of us, part of that sacrifice includes singing on Sunday.
On the theme of sacrifice, this is a song by Dustin Kensrue based on the famous ‘Suffering Servant’ passage in the book of Isaiah:
You can listen to or read that full Bob Kauflin talk here.
Matt Wiltshire recently went to a music conference in Bristol and tells us about it here:
Sovereign Grace is a large organisation of churches in the US who produce a lot of good quality Christian music and some great resources for church music leaders. We have been using their songs and resources at CCW for years, so when I heard they were putting on a worship conference in the UK I thought it would be worth a trip to Bristol to see what we could learn from them.
The day I attended was pretty full on (9am-9pm!) It covered a lot of topics such as planning services, arranging music and the centrality of God’s word, and we spent plenty of time of singing and praising God together. It was massively encouraging: the musicianship was excellent and the band lead us well so that the priority of God’s words was really obvious when we were singing together.
There were several parts of the day that were particularly encouraging and I’ll blog about them in future, but one of the highlights was a talk by a pastor of a Sovereign Grace church in Minneapolis. He drew our attention to some words from the Bible from the first letter of Peter to Christians in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey):
It’s a bit of a weird one, telling us we are like living stones, especially strange when I was in a room full of people with whom, apart from the music leader connection, I had very little else in common. Some were a lot older, from other countries, speaking different languages, representing various religious denominations and all sorts of different professions and careers. But that was kind of the point, we were a bunch of odd, funny shaped stones, that on the face of it didn’t fit together, but when we came together before God’s word, to sing, pray and worship our creator God, we were being built into God’s house in order to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you” as Peter put in his letter just a few verses later.
A house can’t be built with just one stone and we cant come to God and just be on our own. In a wall, each stone depends on the others to hold it up, and in God’s house, each stone is hewn and shaped with intention to look its best when it is placed alongside and connected with others. What’s more, Peter tells us that Christ is the cornerstone, not just part of this building - he sets the dimensions, shape and layout of the whole thing! So we are not just a pile of stones, we are sculpted stones built together into something that is much greater than it’s constituent parts.
It means that sometimes, when we feel like we have very little in common with others in our church - different professions, personalities (and musical preferences!) - we shouldn’t be surprised. The reality is we are all odd shaped stones. But we are living stones, being built into a spiritual house, God's house, where He dwells and where we have one joy to proclaim the excellencies of our God. How incredible is it, that as we meet in worship this Sunday, together we are a hand-crafted, architectural masterpiece, a stunning edifice being built for God’s glory!
Since it’s both Reformation Day and Halloween today, here are two videos for you to enjoy and to share…
On the blog we’re starting a new series called ‘Music Mondays’ which will feature a post written by one of our musicians, or relating to our music or worship. Below is the first, written by Matt Wiltshire:
Why do we worship? God reveals himself, so we respond.
Have you ever met your idol? I'm not talking about someone or something you hold in higher esteem than God (though if that is what sprang to mind then there are some previous blog posts on the 10 Commandments that you should read!) but have you ever met someone you truly admire? How did the conversation go?
When I was a teenager I remember unexpectedly meeting Steve. He introduced himself and then mentioned he was in The Stands, one of my favourite bands at the time. I was awestruck, and after I pulled myself together I started to tell him how much I loved his album, especially one particular song. Thankfully he graciously humoured me.
Steve had revealed a part of who he was, something I was in awe of, and I responded, maybe a little over the top. I'm sure you can think of similar experiences, though I imagine you probably composed yourself better than me!
When it comes to meeting God, there is a legitimate sense of awe, and the revelation and response go much further. One of the places we see this is when Moses experiences the glory of God recounted in Exodus 34:6-8:
God stated who He is and Moses worshipped. Moses knew who to worship as he had just been given a mini CV, a LinkedIn profile: God the merciful, gracious, patient, loving, faithful and just. We have a much more complete CV to draw on in our worship, as in the Bible we have the full revelation of God in Jesus.
We can learn from Moses; when God reveals himself, our response should be worship. This song by Manchester band Rivers and Robots encourages us, just as Moses did, to bow our heads to the earth before God and worship;