The Fire Of The Lord

an introduction to the Person and work of the Holy Spirit

Ephesus is as good a place as any to start! When Paul first arrived there his opening gambit to the disciples there was a probing question – “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”: to which they replied – “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19.1f).

Sadly (and strangely!) their answer is often reflected in the experience of Christians today: while they will, of course, almost certainly have heard of the Holy Spirit, in too many cases Christians have not been taught that much about Him (and, indeed, aren’t even sure whether to refer to the Holy Spirit as ‘Him’ or ‘it’).

Whatever the reasons for this are, it’s a regrettable omission, not least because the lack of such careful instruction has huge repercussions. It’s a deficiency which inevitably has an adverse impact on a person’s growth in grace, their experience of the gospel, and their fruitfulness in ministry.

This short series of seven studies, therefore, is intended to provide something of a corrective to any such lack. It is, of course, no more than an introduction, starting with God’s promise that He would pour out His Spirit, concluding with His exhortation to be filled with the Spirit, and, between those ‘bookends’, exploring some basic truths about the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s work in and through His church.

There are two main dangers against which it’s as well from the start to be on your guard.
1. First, there’s the danger that we treat (and keep) this as a purely ‘academic’ or theoretical study: ensure you approach these studies expectantly, therefore, looking to the Spirit Himself to use them in a thoroughly transformative way in your life.
2. The second danger is that these studies become contentious and occasion a divisive spirit. That runs wholly counter to all that the Spirit is committed to doing! So pray for the wisdom to ensure that the manner in which you share in these studies does not serve to grieve the very One about whom we are seeking to learn!
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Strangers On The Earth

Strangers on the earth

Getting to grips with the message of 1 Peter

“.. that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light …” [1 Pet.2.9]

These are changed days! Our land has moved from being ‘the land of the Book’ to being an essentially secular society, which has defiantly thrown the Book well and truly out of the pram.

Both the rapidity with which that shift has happened, and the extent of the change which has occurred, have taken many by surprise and left many in something akin to a state of shock – quite taken-aback and, indeed, sometimes almost traumatised, as the Christian church is often ridiculed and vilified, and as believers today now find themselves pushed out to the margins of society, and viewed as oddballs, bigots, baddies – anything but ‘mainstream’.

This is not how it’s meant to be…. Or so we think.

But in truth the ‘norm’ for the followers of Jesus Christ has in most places and at most times down through history, seen them out on the fringes of society, often pilloried, sometimes roundly persecuted, and in varying degrees deprived of the sort of ‘platform’ which for centuries here in Scotland we have simply taken for granted.

It’s hardly surprising that this letter we know as 1 Peter has become in recent years very much part of the ‘staple diet’ of Christians in the west, as the foundations on which our society has been built have started to crumble; for 1 Peter has just such a situation in mind, sent to Christians who were increasingly finding themselves marginalized and persecuted on account of their faith.

How can you declare the praises of the Lord when you’ve not got the platform to speak? Or as the psalmist expresses it – “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” [Psalm 137.4]

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In many ways that’s the question which 1 Peter seeks to answer. May we all learn well from the lessons which this letter provides, and be the better equipped to sound out the praises of our Saviour today!

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A.C.T.S.

A.C.T.S.

Our ‘Core Values’ at Gilcomston Church

“.. As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you …” [John 20.21]

It’s important in every sphere of life to know what we’re about – otherwise we’re liable simply to drift. That’s as true for us as a fellowship as it is for us as individuals.

The start of a new year is an appropriate time, therefore, to ensure that our sense of direction is clear and to set out again the ‘parameters’ which define the ministry which we believe the Lord has given us here.

All that we seek to be and do as a fellowship at Gilcomston Church is encompassed, essentially, in the acronym ACTS. That’s to say, we aim to be a body of believers at the centre of Aberdeen’s life who are –

  • Attracting people to Jesus through lives which put the spotlight centre-stage on Jesus:
  • Consolidating our faith as believers by clear Bible teaching with contemporary application:
  • Training all our members for fruitful lives of ministry in the service of Jesus Christ:
  • Sending out our people in the cause of gospel growth – both into our local communities and into the world at large.

Through the four Sundays in January we’ll consider each of these in turn, using four passages from John’s gospel, and the incidents they record, as our starting point.

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May these four studies serve to give a real focus to our lives and see the Lord ‘enlarging our territory’ through this coming year.

ACTS 1      PowerPoint 1

ACTS 2      PowerPoint 2

ACTS 3     PowerPoint 3

ACTS 4

Waiting

Waiting

The season of Advent is characterized by waiting. As children we perhaps can still remember how long a wait it seemed in the countdown to Christmas Day. Waiting is never easy, but today more than ever the whole notion of waiting goes very much against the grain of a markedly ‘instant’ society.

Waiting, however, is a recurring theme in the Scriptures, a frustrating constant in the experience of believers. Invariably faith is seen to go hand in hand with hope, because the promise to which we hold is still future. In these weeks leading up to Christmas, therefore, we’ll explore this component of hope and the consequent experience of waiting.

Waiting 1  PowerPoint Slides

Waiting 2

Signs Of Life

Signs Of Life
The seven ‘signs’ in the public ministry of Jesus

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

[John 20.30f]

John records seven incidents during the public ministry of Jesus which he describes as ‘signs’. ‘Signs’, as John presents them, both authenticate (see Acts 2.22 for a similar perspective) and illustrate: that’s to say they point clearly to who Jesus is and the significance of what He has come to do.

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Poplar Trees

‘Poplar trees

by flowing streams’

The work of the Holy Spirit in His church

“I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground: I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams”

[Isaiah 44.3f]

The Holy Spirit is the great ‘executor’ of the Godhead. He effects, both powerfully and perfectly, the will of God.

In this short series of studies we’ll consider a number of significant implications of the work of the Holy Spirit for us as a fellowship of God’s people.

This series makes no claim to be exhaustive (even if you may sometimes find it exhausting!), nor should it prove to be divisive – such an outcome, as the first study makes clear, runs entirely counter to all that the Holy Spirit is intent upon effecting in the life of His church. The series is intended, rather, to be instructive and encouraging, helping us to see, at a practical level, how God’s astonishing purpose in Christ is being and will be realized.

By focusing on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ’s church we are, of course, implicitly acknowledging that it is only by Him that the purpose of God is progressed, that the church of Christ is built, and that our lives as His people are changed. Prayer, therefore, will be an integral part of our studies, as we look together to Him to effect His will in our life as His people. Make sure that in each study there is time set aside for just such eager and expectant prayer!

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May there be in these days a fresh outpouring by God of His Spirit upon our lives as His people, and upon our life together as His church.

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on the road

On the road

Luke’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry

“.. so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught …” [Luke 1.4]

Luke’s account of the life and ministry of Jesus is the most thorough (and the longest) of the four gospel records. It was written for a man called Theophilus (that may well not have been his actual name, but a ‘cover’ to protect his identity), who was almost certainly an eminent Roman citizen. His account, therefore, was written for a primarily ‘Gentile’ context and does not presume any great knowledge of the Bible.

Luke is up front about his intention: it’s to help this man have the confidence to trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. It could be a costly thing being a follower of Jesus back then (as in many places to this day), and Luke wanted to bolster the embryonic faith of this man in the face of both the hostility he was likely to face and the adversity which almost certainly would be his experience.

Three good reasons why it’s worth our while taking a read of his account of the life and ministry of Jesus are given by Luke in the brief introduction with which the book begins (Lk.1.1-4).

First, he underlines how careful he has been in researching this remarkable and important message: whenever we’re able to double check what he says, he is found to be 100% reliable and accurate.

Then, too, he explains how comprehensive his account is as well. He investigated all his ‘sources’ (other accounts, Bible prophecies, eye-witness accounts, and respected preachers), and he investigated the story ‘from the beginning’. He’s nothing if not thorough!

Moreover, he has taken care to ensure that his account is as clear as possible. It’s what he himself called ‘an orderly account’ – not random reflections and recollections hastily thrown together.

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May this study of Luke’s gospel help us all “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”, to the end that we “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (see Heb.12.1-2)

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Growing

GROWING

why growth matters, what it looks like and how it happens

“All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing…”
[Colossians 1.6]

Where there’s life there’ll be growth: at least, there will be where the life is healthy.

The message of the Bible is about life. It’s a message about God, about the living God who breathed the dust of the earth into life and who brought the dead on the earth back to life: it’s a message about who God is and how He works and what it is He promises to those who trust in Jesus. And always the theme is life.

To have Jesus is to have life – because He is Himself the way, the truth, and the life (John 14.6); or, as He’d put it earlier, because He is Himself the resurrection and the life (John 11.25).

To have Jesus, therefore, also means you’ll grow: and it’s as much to that end as any other that the Scriptures are given – that we might “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet.3.18).

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This series of studies addresses this whole theme of growth, considering why we can expect growth and what that growth will look like, why such growth is important, how such growth will happen and what that entails for the basic patterns of church life.

Hopefully this series will provide an opportunity for us all to pause and reflect on the growth in our own lives as followers of Jesus; and at the same time it will help deepen our understanding of the God-ordained ‘structures’ within the life of the church which are geared towards cultivating such growth.

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“All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.”   [Colossians 1.6]

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Saving Sophie

“SAVING SOPHIE”

a bird’s-eye tour of

Paul’s letter to the church at Rome

“the gospel .. is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.. ” [Romans 1.16]

Paul’s Letter to the Romans was from the start a foundational document: and down the centuries it has proved to be hugely influential in the experience of countless individuals.

It’s a long letter – running to 16 substantial chapters: and, because of the very thoroughness with which Paul sets out the message of the gospel through this letter, it can also seem quite daunting!

Because it’s so foundational, however, and because as we get to grips with the teaching it contains it invariably proves so transforming in the living of our lives, we’ll be running a 9-part course in the autumn, entitled ‘Romans for rookies’. The plan is to run this course at two different times, one through the day and one in an evening, in order to make it as available as possible to as many as possible.

This present series of Sunday morning studies through the summer months will hopefully provide something of a ‘taster’ for the course!

Although the Community Groups will be taking a break through the summer, study material with questions in the usual form will nonetheless be available week by week through the summer – in the hope that individuals may still find it a helpful means of reflecting further on the ground covered on a Sunday morning.

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Paul hadn’t visited Rome at this point in his ministry, but he saw the strategic importance of the church at Rome and planned to be with the believers there in the near future.

This letter is effectively, therefore, his way of introducing himself and his message to them. May the Lord use these studies help acquaint, or re-acquaint, us all with the great truths of the gospel!

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