Summer Break

Just to let you know that none of the groups has got beyond the end of gifts of discernment, so anyone doing the sessions via the web is well ahead, as you will have had chance to look at gifts of healing and wholeness (a couple of posts back.)

The groups are now having a summer break and will not start again till September, so we will catch up with the online session followers in the autumn (that sounds ages away.)

I have prepared the final session on gifts of support but I think perhaps it would be best to wait to put it online when the groups catch up…so don;t expect anything further till after the summer holidays!

Rev Bev

 

Gifts of the Holy Spirit – tongues, a snippet of encouragement

If you are one of those people who worries about the gift of tongues, whether you have it, or whether it is even “legit”, then here is a story to help you. It was spotted by one of our group members and she thought of it when we were describing praying in tongues for the situations “when words just aren’t enough.”

There’s a story of a father who hears his little daughter repeating the alphabet the best she can. But he notices she has her eyes closed. He asks her what she’s doing and she opens one eye to look at him.

“I’m praying, Daddy,” she whispers.

“It sounded an awful lot like your letters,” he said.

“Mummy says letters make up all the words,” his daughter explained, “and sometimes when I pray to God I don’t know what I want to say, so I give Him all the letters and let Him turn them into the right words.”

There is great truth in this. Even as adults it can be difficult to find the right words, so perhaps we ought to borrow that little girl’s faith and hand it all over to God.

Maybe the only prayer we really need is trust.

Read Romans 8:26-28 for further thoughts on this –

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

A final question on this to ponder, is silence (tuned in to God) one manifestation of the gift of tongues? I think it may be…

 

 

 

 

 

Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Gifts of Healing and Wholeness

Here is the latest installment, on gifts of healing and wholeness. None of the groups have yet got on to it. They are taking a lot of time over each section because the conversation are deep, meaningful and also practical in terms of seeing gifts in others and in ourselves.

It is worth noting that one of our churches, St John’s in Llandudno, has a weekly service of prayers for healing and wholeness, Thursdays 1.45pm. St John’s therefore has a healing ministry within the town. We have regulars who come week after week, and others who simply come in off the busy shopping street. We minister to them all. For more information see St John’s Healing Ministry

I hope you enjoy this section of the material. I would appreciate any feedback/comments you may have.

We’re up to our third set of gifts:

  • Gifts of leadership
  • Gifts of discernment
  • Gifts of healing and wholeness
  • Gifts of support

In the last section we looked at gifts of discernment. This time we are looking at gifts of healing and wholeness.

What is healing (in any context, not only spiritual)?

What is wholeness (again, in any context, not only spiritual)?

Which gifts would you describe as gifts of healing and wholeness?

See Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and 28-30, Ephesians 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11.

I have picked out these gifts as gifts of healing and wholeness, but you may have others. That is fine.

Encouragement, showing mercy, faith, healing, working of miracles, helping

Can you describe what each of these is about?

Why have I suggested that they are gifts of healing and wholeness?

Are there any you have difficulties with?

 Read Romans 8:26-27. Some people consider intercessory prayer as a gift of the Spirit.

Why might such prayer be considered a gift of the Spirit rather than simply prayer?

When we looked at gifts of leadership you will remember that the writer of Ephesians particularly focused on them and the writer of the first letter to the Corinthians focused on gifts of discernment. There were good reasons for them doing so, related to the situation into which they were speaking.

Is there one list that particularly focuses on gifts of healing and wholeness?

Why might this be?

What is the purpose of these gifts?

Can you think of any people in the Bible (especially the New Testament) where the Spirit has given one of the gifts of healing or wholeness?

Discuss these examples and look them up in the Bible (suggestions below in case you can’t think of any!)

Have you experienced any of the gifts of healing and wholeness at work in people’s lives, either your own or others? (Remember, the gift may be given long-term for undertaking a role, or short-term for a one-off situation.)

 How do you know whether it is a gift of the Spirit at work or something else?

 Having discussed the healing and wholeness gifts do you feel more able to discern when the Spirit is working through someone in this way?

A final question to ponder but not discuss: how do you feel about the gifts of healing and wholeness? How have you responded to thinking about them? Might the Holy Spirit be telling you something about your spiritual gifting?

Conclude the session with prayer and private pondering of the final question.

Notes:

  • Healing means “the process of making or becoming well or healthy again.” It is not the same as curing.
  • Wholeness means “the state of being a complete or harmonious whole; unity; the state of being unbroken or undamaged.”

Definition of these gifts (my suggestions):

  • Encouragement – the act of giving someone support, confidence or hope in the Lord. The word is sometimes translated as “exhortation”. It is the Greek word paraklesis (note how this is the same root word used to describe the Holy Spirit in the gospel of John – the paraclete, the comforter/counsellor.)
  • Mercy – a ministry of visiting, prayer and compassion to the poor and sick. Maybe we would understand it better if it said “kindness” (to those in trouble.) The Greek word is eleos, to feel sympathy for the misery of another, especially expressed in an action.
  • Faith – the gift of faith goes beyond “everyday” having faith in God. The gift of faith is something that god gives for a specific outcome, a supernatural ability to trust without any doubts for a specific need.
  • Healing – being used by God to bring healing. Remember, healing is not the same as physical “fixing.” Consider what sorts of healing the Spirit could bring.
  • Working of miracles – to undertake powerful actions that witnesses acknowledge to be originating in, and enabled by, God.
  • Helping – to do with service to the sick and poor (though it could be to do with helping in a “lending a hand” sense so I may well put it in gifts of support too.)

Examples of gifts of healing and wholeness:

  • Encouragement – Barnabas, “son of encouragement.” Acts 4:36, Acts 9:27, Acts 13:43, Acts 15:36-41
  • Mercy – Matthew 20:29-34, Luke 10:30-37, Acts 11:28-30
  • Faith – Daniel 6:1-24. Would it not have been a gift of faith if Daniel had been eaten?
  • Healing – lots of examples from Jesus of course. I find this one (two() particularly fascinating, Luke 8:41-56. For a non-Jesus example see Acts 3:1-10
  • Miracles – see Acts 3:1-10 again for the response of the crowd. See also Acts 8:5-8 and Luke 10:1-20. Note how the working of miracles is linked to the kingdom rather than any glorification of “magic powers.” Miracles reflect how things will be in the fully established kingdom of God. “The kingdom of God is near.”
  • Helping – Acts 9:36, Romans 16:1-2

 

 

 

Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Gifts of Discernment

I’m sorry I’ve been so long putting this latest post up. I had forgotten I had not already done it, and now you are going to get two in one day!

A recap

The gifts of the Spirit are many and various. None is more important than the others. Every Christian who is willing and open, who desires to receive the gifts, will receive them, but they are not usually only for personal edification, they are for the good of the community. No one has all the gifts, because they are gifts, given by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes gifts relate to people’s natural skills, sometimes they do not. Sometimes people receive a gift for a long period, for example when it relates to a role they are being called upon to undertake for God. In other situations the gift is given for a particular moment or situation. In every situation, spiritual gifts are given by the Spirit of God because they are needed to build up the body of Christ in some way.

There are many gifts listed in the Bible but the ones listed almost certainly are not all the gifts that the Spirit gives – the way they are listed often looks as if they are examples rather than complete lists. But the Biblical lists allow us to study the types of gifts that the Spirit might give and so help us to recognise them in our lives and in the lives of others. By recognising the movement of the Spirit in our and our friends’ lives we can encourage one another to be open to allowing the gifts to work through us, and we can discern the gifts at work in others and in ourselves.

This is the categorisation I have chosen to help us look at the various types of gifts. There are plenty of other ways. This is simply to make things manageable for us.

  • Gifts of leadership
  • Gifts of discernment
  • Gifts of healing and wholeness
  • Gifts of support

In the last section we looked at gifts of leadership. This time we are looking at gifts of discernment. Discernment is defined as the ability to judge well, to be able to comprehend what is obscure.

Which gifts would you describe as gifts of discernment?

See Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and 28-30, Ephesians 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11.

I have picked out these gifts as gifts of discernment, but you may have others. That is fine.

Word of wisdom, word of knowledge, distinguishing between spirits, tongues and their interpretation, prophecy (yes, I put it in the leadership category too!)

Can you describe what each of these is about?

Why have I suggested that they are gifts of discernment?

When we looked at gifts of leadership you will notice that they appeared in several lists, but the writer of Ephesians particularly focused on them.

Is there one list that particularly focuses on gifts of discernment?

Why might this be?

If your Bible has them, look at some of the titles the editors have added to show the topics covered in the first letter from Paul to the Corinthians.

What sort of place was first century Corinth?

What problems are affecting the young church there?

Can the modern church suffer similar problems?

What is the solution?

Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.

What approach should believers have to working out what is right and wrong, what is appropriate and what is not?

Even the spiritual gifts (perhaps particularly the more showy ones) got misused and abused by the Corinthian church. They tended to take everything to excess. There was quarreling and one up man ship. One gift in particular seemed to cause issues.

Read 1 Corinthians 14

Which gift was causing problems? Why?

What was Paul’s advice? Did he ban the gift or offer some other instruction?

How do we manage order in the church with regard to gifts in today’s church? Is it simplest just to stifle “peculiar” gifts or is that an inappropriate approach?

What is Paul’s primary advice with regard to gifts? 1 Cor 13:13 and 1 Cor 14:1?

Going back now to think about all the gifts of discernment:

What is the purpose of the discernment gifts?

Can you think of any people in the Bible (especially the New Testament) where the Spirit has given one of the gifts of discernment?

Discuss these examples and look them up in the Bible.

Have you experienced any of the gifts of discernment at work in people’s lives, either your own or others? (Remember, the gift may be given long-term for undertaking a role, or short-term for a one-off situation.)

 How do you know whether it is a gift of the Spirit at work?

 Having discussed the discernment gifts do you feel more able to discern when the Spirit is working through someone in this way? Why is this important?

 A final question to ponder but not discuss: how do you feel about the gifts of discernment? How have you responded to thinking about them? Might the Holy Spirit be telling you something about your spiritual gifting?

Conclude each session with prayer and private pondering of the final question. Perhaps read 1 Cor 13. Pray for everyone to have the discernment to see the gifts of the Spirit at work in others Christians’ lives and to acknowledge that the Spirit has given them gifts too. Pray for everyone to be open to the movement of the Spirit in their lives and the life of their church.

Notes:

  • Ancient Corinth was the butt of Roman dirty jokes, and playwrights portrayed the Corinthians as drunken brawlers. The Greek verb “to Corinthianize” meant to live shamelessly and immorally. The Corinthians loved money and the kinky things it could buy. Corinth’s goddess was Venus, the goddess of love, and a temple built in her honour employed more than 1000 prostitutes. New cults and religions that sprang up in the city usually fell prey to the prevailing environment.
  • The first letter from Paul to the Corinthian church gives direct, forthright advice to a troubled situation. There were divisions in the church, a case of incest, court cases, the abuse of Christian freedom, chaos in worship, misuse of spiritual gifts.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:14 gives the New Testament’s most complete teaching on spiritual gifts such as healing and speaking in tongues. Paul stresses two concerns: (1) Showy gifts must not be given higher rank than they deserve, (2) These gifts should contribute to orderly and proper worship not cause confusion and distress. Note how Paul talks about the effect of “weird” gifts on unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22-25.) Note also that just because Paul talks about one gift a lot does not mean that it is more important than the others – on the contrary, his reason for talking about it is because it is a source of issues.
  • Word of wisdom. A message of wisdom granted to an individual. Seeing from God’s perspective.
  • Word of knowledge. An understanding granted to an individual regarding spiritual truth or doctrine.
  • In the New Testament the office of prophet is to equip the church for the work of service through exhortation, edification and consolation. Prophecy is reporting something that God has brought to your mind. It is not fortune-telling! Often, it is forth-telling, i.e. “telling it like it is” about the present and pointing out the inevitable consequences in the future.
  • Distinguishing between spirits. The capacity to discern the source of a spiritual manifestation, e.g. “Is this prophecy (or other statement made with persuasive conviction by someone) from God from an evil source?”
  • The ability to speak in an unlearned language. Paul seems to have distinguished between the public use of the gift which must be interpreted and private use which was for spiritual strengthening and worship “when words just aren’t enough.” Some believers argue about whether tongues are existing human languages or a non-human language (glossolalia). In my opinion this is a waste of time – surely God can give what he wants when he wants for the purpose at hand.
  • Interpretation of tongues. This gift should always follow any public exercise of the gift of tongues. All speech in Christian worship should be intelligible to those present (1 Cor 14.)

Examples of gifts of discernment:

Word of wisdom: Jesus heals a man in Matthew 22:15-22, Paul before the council in Acts 23:6, Jesus being tempted in Luke 4:1-14.

Word of knowledge: Noah building the ark in Genesis 6:14-22, Joshua knowing about Achan’s sin in Joshua 7:10-11,
Elisha knowing that Gehazi lied to Naaman in 2 Kings 5:20-27.

Distinguishing between spirits: Jesus in Luke 4:31-37, Jesus in Luke 4:1-14, Paul in Acts 16:16-18 (a good example of a situation where it seems like the action is godly but it is a mask for something that is not.)

Tongues: the apostles at Pentecost in Acts 2:4, the converts in Acts 10:44-46, the converts in Acts 19:6

Interpretation of tongues: unnecessary at Pentecost in Acts 2 – the whole idea was that everyone could understand. I can’t find an example where an unknown tongue is interpreted in the Bible…

Prophecy – already discussed in the last session. Lots of examples in the Bible, but regarding discernment specifically, how about Rev 2:1 – 3:22 where John speaks out for Christ about the state of the seven churches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Gifts of Leadership

Yes, at last, we are on to the second section – gifts of leadership. Here is the material for this section. I will add some posts with comments from the groups as we work our way through this section.

A recap

As Christians we are to develop all the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23.)

The gifts of the Spirit are a bit different. They are many and various. None is more important than the others. Every Christian who is willing and open, who desires to receive the gifts, will receive them, but they are not usually only for personal edification, they are for the good of the community. No one has all the gifts because they are gifts, given by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes gifts relate to people’s natural skills, sometimes they do not. Sometimes people receive a gift for a long period, for example when it relates to a role they are being called upon to undertake for God. In other situations the gift is given for a particular moment or situation. In every situation, spiritual gifts are given by the Spirit of God because they are needed to build up the body of Christ in some way.

Types of spiritual gifts

You will remember that we discussed in the introductory section how to categorise gifts. There are many gifts listed in the Bible but the ones listed almost certainly are not all the gifts that the Spirit gives – the way they are listed often looks as if they are examples rather than complete lists. But the Biblical lists allow us to study the types of gifts that the Spirit might give and so help us to recognise them in our lives and in the lives of others. By recognising the movement of the Spirit in our and our friends’ lives we can encourage one another to be open to allowing the gifts to work through us.

This is the categorisation I have chosen to help us look at the various types of gifts. There are plenty of other ways. This is simply to make things manageable for us.

  • Gifts of leadership
  • Gifts of discernment
  • Gifts of healing and wholeness
  • Gifts of support

Gifts of leadership

Read through some of the lists of gifts given in the Bible, e.g. read 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 28-30, Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:7, 1 Peter 4:10-11

Which of these would you describe as gifts of leadership?

I have picked out these gifts as gifts of leadership, but you may have others. That is fine.

Apostle, leader, pastor, teacher, speaking, prophecy, evangelist

Can you describe what each of these is about?

Which lists do they appear in?

Why have I suggested that they are gifts of leadership?

Read 1 Corinthians 12:27-30

Why does Paul give an order to gifts in this passage?

Do you think it helpful or unhelpful? Why?

Read Ephesians 4:11-12 again.

What is the purpose of the leadership gifts?

Can you think of any people in the Bible (especially the New Testament) where the Spirit has given one of the gifts of leadership?

Discuss these examples and look them up in the Bible.

Have you experienced any of the gifts of leadership at work in people’s lives, either your own or others? (Remember, the gift may be given long-term for undertaking a role, or short-term for a one-off situation.)

 How do you know whether it is a gift of the Spirit at work?

 Having discussed the leadership gifts do you feel more able to discern when the Spirit is working through someone? Why is this important?

 

A final question to ponder but not discuss: how do you feel about the gifts of leadership? How have you responded to thinking about them? Might the Holy Spirit be telling you something about your spiritual gifting?

Leadership gifts are not in any way superior to other gifts. It is simply that leaders are leaders. Also, it is clear from Ephesians that these gifts are gifts of serving which are supposed to enable all God’s people to discover and develop their ways of serving so that the body of Christ may be built up. Leadership gifts are nothing to do with pompous people with an over-inflated opinion of themselves! On the contrary, as with all gifts, leadership gifts are best displayed in those who have truly given themselves over to serve Christ and his body, the people of God.

Conclude each session with prayer and private pondering of the final question. Pray for everyone to have the discernment to see the gifts of the Spirit at work in others Christians’ lives and to acknowledge that the Spirit has given them gifts too. Pray for everyone to be open to the movement of the Spirit in their lives and the life of their church.

 

Notes

  • The word apostle comes from the Greek word apostolos which means “a messenger, one sent forth with orders.” It refers to one with delegated authority in a foreign land. Apostles were the first leaders of the Church, commissioned by Jesus. There are differences of opinion about whether this role still exists, e.g. the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches hold that properly ordained bishops are the successors to the apostles. The Pentecostal Church uses the term apostle for those it sends out, e.g. on pioneering ministries.
  • In the New Testament the office of prophet is to equip the church for the work of service through exhortation, edification and consolation. Prophecy is reporting something that God has brought to your mind. It is not fortune-telling! Often, it is forth-telling, i.e. “telling it like it is” about the present and pointing out the inevitable consequences in the future.
  • An evangelist is devoted to preaching the gospel for the purpose of leading people to Christ.
  • Pastor derives from the Greek word for shepherd. Pastors lead, guide and set an example for other Christians.

 

Examples

Some examples of the gift of leadership in the New Testament:

evangelist/teacher Philip in Acts 8:26-35?

prophecy Acts 9:10-16 Ananias and Acts 11:27-28 Agabus

leadership Acts 15 passage re Council of Jerusalem discussion & decision-making; Acts 27:27-38 Paul takes charge of the ship!

teaching Acts 18:24 Apollos

Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Intro Part 3

Yes, I know, part 3 of the intro. And some of us still haven’t finished it. However, one group has now got on to the leadership gifts so I will add that section shortly.

Re the introduction section, I have made a few minor modifications to the material as we have gone through it – mainly to widen out the bible readings.

Last time we got as far as the end of the Old Testament and were ready and waiting for the age of the Spirit to begin with the coming of Jesus. But before plunging in to New Testament, I showed the group a video from The Bible Project, which outlines beautifully the story of the Holy Spirit. You can find it here:

https://thebibleproject.com/?gclid=CO7zgtzL-dMCFeq17QodrgEKlw

Go down the page and find “Biblical Themes”. The Holy Spirit video can be found there (you may need to scroll to the side) and can be viewed online or downloaded.

Now, back to the start of the New Testament’s account of the Holy Spirit…

Here is the section we are looking at:

The pouring out of the Spirit

The days foretold by these prophets is now upon us. We are living in the age of the Spirit, an age heralded by the coming of Jesus.

Read Luke 3:16 and 3:22.

Jesus received the Spirit at his baptism, and John tells us that Jesus would be the one to baptise with the Spirit. The Greek word for baptism mean “to overwhelm”, “to immerse”, “to be plunged into.”

Jesus offers a complete immersion in the Spirit to all who turn to him, John 7:38. But, during Jesus’ ministry, the age of the Spirit had not yet begun, John 7:39, Luke 24:29, Acts 1:8. The age of the Spirit began on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit rained down in an overwhelming, immersing, plunging manner, Acts 2:1-13. Peter explains to the amazed crowd what has happened and invites them to join in, Acts 2:14-41.

What do the images of water and fire tell you about the Spirit?

Who is the Spirit now promised to? Does that include us?

How do we receive the Spirit?

Reflecting on the readings and questions, it was clear to us that the Spirit is given to every believer. As Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said in his sermon,

“Repent and be baptised every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all who the Lord our God will call.”

EVERY believer receives the gift of the Spirit.

There was some discussion about whether baptism was a necessary precursor to receiving the Spirit. Certainly, the passage above could be interpreted that way. But we preferred to emphasise not so much the mechanics of baptism as the intent, i.e. the desire of the believer to be forgiven for their sins and to make a public statement of their faith, a witness to the fact of their conversion.

The next subsection is:

The work of the Spirit

Read John 14:15-27 and John 16:5-16.

What do Jesus’ words tell us about the Spirit’s work and role?

Again, the group spent a lot of time on this. We identified these characteristics of the Spirit: counsellor, Spirit of truth, he lives in us and is in us, holy, teacher, convicter with regard to sin, righteousness and judgement, guide into truth, makes Jesus and the Father known to us.

The Spirit of God lives in us? We accept this almost without thought but aren’t amazed at it! How can that be? God is living in us! It is amazing stuff. That’s how close and intimate a relationship God wants with us.

The fruit of the Spirit

Now read Galatians 5:22-23.

This is a list of the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit reflect the character of Jesus. When we become Christians we are not suddenly perfect! The Holy Spirit works within us, transforming us so that we reflect the character of Jesus more and more.

Who “gets” the fruit of the Spirit – are they for everyone or only special people?

What are they for?

How do we grow the fruit in our lives?

We agreed that the fruit is for everyone but they are not gifts, they are fruit, which means they take time to grow and develop to come to ripeness/maturity in us. The idea is that we gradually develop the increasing likeness of Jesus Christ in our character as the Holy Spirit works in us and through us and helps us grow as Christians.

Spiritual gifts

The gifts of the Spirit are not the same as the fruit.

There are lots of lists in the New Testament, e.g. read 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28-30, Ephesians 4:7 and 11-13, Romans 12:4-8, 1 Peter 4:10-11

Do these lists list all the gifts?

Is there a difference between natural and spiritual gifts?

Who receives spiritual gifts?

Every Christian who desires them will receive spiritual gifts but no one has them all or all the time. They are gifts, given when needed.

The Bible does not categorise the gifts but many people have done so in order to make it easier to study them.

How might you try to categorise the gifts?

We are going to study the gifts in groups according to this categorisation:

  • Gifts of leadership
  • Gifts of discernment
  • Gifts of healing and wholeness
  • Gifts of support

This is simply to make things manageable for us.

Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 and 11

What are the spiritual gifts for?

Are any gifts more important than others?

We decided that the lists given in the Bible were not exclusive. God can give any gift he wants for the purpose he wants to achieve. But the lists in the Bible are helpful in showing us the range of gifts that he wants to share with his people. We loved it how gifts such as prophesying were listed alongside gifts such as helping and encouraging.

We pondered the difference between natural and spiritual gifts and concluded that God’s Spirit may well use a natural skill and enhance it for God’s purposes. but a spiritual gift may also come suddenly without any natural skill involved at all. (It is interesting that non-believers will often refer to a “natural” skill as a “gift”, but surely a gift has to be given by someone, and we know who that someone is!)

We also noted that sometimes the Spirit will give a gift for the long-term when someone needs to fulfill a role, e.g. a leader. But sometimes a gift is needed only for the moment, e.g. in a crisis the Spirit may give the gift of leadership to a particular person for that particular situation.

Looking at the Bible passages, we were very clear that gifts are NOT given for personal aggrandisement. Rather they are for the common good, the building up of the body of Christ.

1 Cor 12:7 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

Eph 4:12 “…to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

To finish, pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to us through these sessions and that we will be open to receive whatever God wants to give to us.

Related to this last suggestion of prayer for the end of each session, we discussed how we can tell which gifts we have, either as long-term roles or as given at any moment by God. I explained how we will keep coming back to this, as a key part of the study series is to know that every believer has spiritual gifts and then discern which gifts we see in others and in ourselves.

Certainly, discernment is a key skill here. If people you trust  and respect keep saying to you that you are good at something, what is God telling you through this? If you are suddenly excited by something someone says about a particular spiritual gift, what is that telling you? Or think about what sort of things you enjoy doing for God – what is that telling you?

By way of example, one of the group members said she could think of a gift not listed and she said “inspiring others in the faith.” As she said that, I got very excited. I love doing that sort of thing – from the pulpit, in baptisms with families who do not know the Lord, at the Extravaganza, in discipleship groups, anywhere I’m given the chance really… What she said touched me and it was the Spirit lifting my heart about one of the gifts he wants to use in me.

How exciting this all is! The Holy Spirit wants to give us all gifts!

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Intro part 2

Well, the two groups I am involved with kicked off again this week, and it was great. So good in fact that neither group got beyond the first section on the promise of the Spirit. We’ll not be finished by summer!

Here’s what happened.

There was lots of discussion about what things were like before the Holy Spirit got going at creation. The earth was formless, dark, disordered, chaotic and the waters were deep and turbulent and uncontrolled.

The Spirit hovered over the waters ready for action…

…and then came order.

We discussed how the Holy Spirit does a similar role today, bringing order out of the chaos of our lives, calming us and counselling us, but challenging us and directing us if necessary to prevent us becoming complacent and too cosy.

The Holy Spirit brings life (Genesis 2:7.) Science can spot life when it’s there but finds it hard to define what life is. But we know – it is when God’s Spirit has “breathed” life into the dust. Thus the Spirit is present in all life. As Paul said in Acts, “In him we live and move and have our being.”

In Old Testament times the Spirit of God came upon particular people for particular tasks (not on everyone.) The Spirit was given when a role or task was needed for the common good of the faith community. We particularly enjoyed Bezalel who received skills in creative work from the Spirit. The Spirit did not always come on people who felt strong – Gideon was a wuss but the Spirit made him strong for God’s purposes. Though the Spirit’s coming was for particular purposes for the common good, sometimes something was given to the individual to encourage them for the difficult task ahead. See for example Isaiah’s vision of his calling to be a prophet.

Reading about the time to come from Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Joel, it is clear that a new age was coming where God was going to build a new and closer relationship with his people, a more intimate relationship where his Spirit would be poured out on all believers. “Poured out”, not a bit here or there to special people, but poured out generously to everyone.

And then the Bible goes quiet for 400 years until…

But we had to stop there!

What a cliff-hanger!

 

 

 

 

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Introduction

Holy Spirit

Hello. Having completed our very successful Lent series (with over 50 people attending each week over the two sessions) we are now starting to look at the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I hope you find these sessions helpful. Although I will be posting individual sections as I create them, it may well be that the groups meeting take more than one session on each section of the material. That is fine. There is no need to rush important stuff like this!

Here is the first section. Please let me know if you are following this blog and have any comments to make.

Read Joel 2:28-29

No church or Christian individual can be renewed and empowered for works of faith without the Holy Spirit. So what or who is he?

The promise of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit was right there at the beginning. Read Genesis 1:1-2.

What role did the Holy Spirit play in creation?

Does this give an insight into the role of the Holy Spirit today?

 When God created humanity, he created us from dust by breathing the breath of life into us (Genesis 2:7.) The Hebrew word for breath here is ruach, which is also the word for the Spirit.

What insight does this give us into the role of the Holy Spirit?

In Old Testament times, God’s Spirit came on particular people for particular tasks. See for example Exodus 31:3-5, Judges 6:15, 34, Isaiah 6:1-8.

What people and tasks did the Holy Spirit inspire here?

Now read these readings: Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:26-27, Joel 2:28-29

What does this tell us about God’s plans? How would the new covenant differ from the old?

What would be the role of the Spirit?

Who would receive the Spirit?

The days foretold by these prophets is now upon us. We are living in the age of the Spirit, an age heralded by the coming of Jesus.

Read Luke 3:16 and 3:22.

Jesus received the Spirit at his baptism, and John tells us that Jesus would be the one to baptise with the Spirit. The Greek word for baptism mean “to overwhelm”, “to immerse”, “to be plunged into.”

Jesus offers a complete immersion in the Spirit to all who turn to him, John 7:38. But, during Jesus’ ministry, the age of the Spirit had not yet begun, John 7:39, Luke 24:29, Acts 1:8. The age of the Spirit began on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit rained down in an overwhelming, immersing, plunging manner, Acts 2:2-4. Peter explains to the amazed crowd what has happened and invites them to join in, Acts 2:33, 2:39.

What does the image of water tell you about the Spirit?

Who is the Spirit now promised to? Does that include us?

How do we receive the Spirit?

The work of the Spirit

Read John 14:15-27 and John 16:5-16.

What do Jesus’ words tell us about the Spirit’s work and role?

Now read Galatians 5:22-23.

This is a list of the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit reflect the character of Jesus. When we become Christians we are not suddenly perfect! The Holy Spirit works within us, transforming us so that we reflect the character of Jesus more and more.

Who “gets” the fruit of the Spirit – are they for everyone or only special people?

What are they for?

How do we grow the fruit in our lives?

Spiritual gifts

The gifts of the Spirit are not the same as the fruit.

There are lots of lists in the New Testament, e.g. read 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 28-30, Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:7, 1 Peter 4:10-11

Do these lists list all the gifts?

Is there a difference between natural and spiritual gifts?

Who receives spiritual gifts?

Every Christian who desires them will receive spiritual gifts but no one has them all or all the time. They are gifts, given when needed.

The Bible does not categorise the gifts but many people have done so in order to make it easier to study them.

How might you try to categorise the gifts?

We are going to study the gifts in groups according to this categorisation:

  • Gifts of leadership
  • Gifts of discernment
  • Gifts of healing and wholeness
  • Gifts of support

This is simply to make things manageable for us.

Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 and 11

What are the spiritual gifts for?

Are any gifts more important than others?

To finish, pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to us through these sessions and that we will be open to receive whatever God wants to give to us.

 

There is a Green Hill

We are now studying the verses of the hymn, “There is a green hill”, for five sessions during Lent. This material is copyrighted and can be reproduced for personal and church use but it is not appropriate to copy it on to the web, so if you want a hardcopy of pdf version of the material please let me know and I will send it to you.

We had an excellent first session yesterday, with 39(!) people at the morning session at st David’s and 20 at the evening session at St John’s. The discussion was wide-ranging and fascinating, so if you want a copy of the material do please let me know.

If you want to join us next Wednesday then it is 11am at St David’s, Craig y Don or 7.30pm at St John’s, Llandudno.

 

 

Ecclesiastes 5:8 – 6:12 What does it take to be content?

This is the last of our Ecclesiastes studies, at least for a while. We’ve actually got another six sections to go but we need to pause now while we do our Lent study series, “There is a green hill”, based on the familiar Easter hymn. These studies are taking place during Lent starting next Wed 8th March, 11am at St David’s Craig y Don or 7.30pm at St John’s Llandudno. There are five sessions, one per verse of the hymn. I may put these up as posts on this blog so keep an eye out from next Thursday 9th if you are interested or, better still, come along to the live sessions!

Anyway, back to this week’s study from Ecclesiastes. Here it is:

If the advertisers are right, we have a lot to feel discontent about. We don’t have enough possessions, and we don’t have them soon enough or up to date enough. Fulfilment is equated with wearing the right kind of clothes, driving the right kind of car, drinking the right kind of beverage. This lifestyle of discontent held similar sway for many of the Teacher’s contemporaries. In this section he challenges his reader to stop seeking satisfaction from accumulating things. Instead he offers an alternative, one that leads to a lifestyle of contentment.

Warming Up to God

In what areas of life do you find yourself least content? Consider Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” For what do you have reason to rejoice today? Praise your God, the Lover of your soul, today before you look into his Word.

Read Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12

 Discovering the Word

  • How does the Teacher describe the nature of wealth?
  • What negative effects does the desire for wealth have in public life (5:8-9) and in personal life (5:10-17)?
  • Note the contrast between 5:18-20 and 6:1-2. What role does God have in the satisfaction which wealth, possessions and honour can bring?
  • Many children and a long life were considered the greatest of blessings in the Old Testament (6:3-6). What does our society define as “the good life”?
  • In 6:7-12 the Teacher uses questions to challenge his readers. How would the questions challenge an unbeliever (see especially v. 12)?

Applying the Word

  • On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being very little, 10 being very much), how would you rate your attachment to the things you own?
  • Give an example of how viewing possessions as a gift from God would help to change your attachment to them.
  • How could you exercise trust in God for an area in which you lack contentment?

Responding in Prayer

Confess any discontent to God and ask him to help you value his goodness and sufficiency.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

As usual, we got stuck into the material. There was some discussion about adverts and how they manipulate us into being discontent with what we have so that they can sell us something else, and how aware we need to be to avoid being pulled in to this sort of thinking. Ads for loans and gambling got us particularly wound up. No wonder discontent pervades our society when our economy works by making people discontent and turning us into consumers wanting more and more… But it seems that even this is nothing new:

“As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?” 5:11

We, as always, were amazed at the up to date relevance of much of the Teacher’s words, and marvelled once again at how God’s Word, written thousands of years ago can still speak right into our situation.

We did question whether discontentment was always inappropriate. Certainly discontent in the sense of distress is not “wrong” because such a person is desperate to be content and at peace. And what we might call “holy discontent” is not inappropriate – if there is an injustice or an abuse of power or suffering then we ought to feel discontent until the issue is resolved. There is no motivation for positive change unless there is discontent with the way things are.

Looking at the early verses of the section reminded us of the dangers and injustice of a situation of “haves” and “have nots”and, in particular, how societies tend to work in a way that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. An increasing gap between rich and poor leads to discontent for everyone.

We agreed that perspective is everything when it comes to wealth and possessions. Someone who knows themselves to be accountable to God and that everything they have comes from him realises that they need firstly to be thankful and secondly to be a good steward of the resources they have been given by God. There is no grasping after more because they are secure in their relationship with the Lord.

But how does someone who has no faith in God think? What are they working for? What is the point or their grasping after wealth “except to feast his eyes” on what they have?

We found 5:19 and 20 particularly helpful when compared with 6:1-2: a person who has wealth and possessions and everything his heart desires is never satisfied because his heart always desires more, and in the end it all goes to someone else anyway. But a person who is grateful for what God has given him will be happy with what he has and not grasp after more. Furthermore he will find his life occupied in serving God through his work and so be satisfied. This is true contentment.

“There is nothing better for people than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in their work – that is the gift of God.” 3:12-13