15 Apr 2019

Update From Ian

Dear Brothers, Sisters, and Friends,

As I near the end of my first year at seminary, I have much to be thankful for. We often speak and sing of the goodness of God — I have certainly tasted and seen his abundant goodness during my time here thus far. Your prayerful support has been a continual encouragement to me. How good it is to be able to commit one another to the Lord in prayer, even when separated by great distance. The same God who formed the land and the sea bows an ear to hear the prayers of His people — what cause we have to love Him and praise His name! (Psalm 116:1)

I have just completed the sixth week of my final eleven-week term for the academic year. This term I am studying the Gospels, Apologetics, the Minor Prophets, and Greek. I am also taking my first preaching class. Minor Prophets has been a particularly enjoyable class. These are often some of the more neglected books of Scripture but this class has shown them to be like mines with many precious truths to be found within. The professor’s extensive knowledge of the Hebrew language has been useful in bringing to light different aspects of the poetic language and underlying themes in these books. Aside from the studies, there has been plenty opportunity to spend quality time with fellow students and their families, as well as the staff and faculty. The need for good Christian fellowship is as real within the walls of a seminary as it is without. I praise the Lord for granting me such fellowship with believers of different ages, nationalities, and experiences, over these past few months. We may say it often, but iron truly does sharpen iron (Proverbs 27:17).

Spring has sprung here in Pittsburgh which has been nice to see. It has been a busy time at the seminary, with preparations being made for transitions in the faculty, while the students are getting ready for presbytery exams and summer placements. With regards to the faculty, David Whitla, whom many of you will know, will soon be heading this way from Northern Ireland, as he will be taking up the role of Professor of Church History.

Last Saturday, a group of us went to the large Jewish community of Squirrel Hill, just a mile up the road from RPTS. Through street-preaching, the singing of Psalms, and one-on-one conversations, the Messiah was clearly set before passersby, some of whom were heading home from synagogue. In fact, one of the conversations that took place was with a local rabbi. This is without doubt a hard community to break into but we’re reminded in 1 Corinthians 3:6 that while we are to plant and water the good seed of the gospel, it is God alone who gives the increase. I must say there was a poignancy to this small group, representative of the Gentile nations — including America, China, Guatemala, and Scotland — singing in this Jewish community about the Messiah who has come, and will come again. As further attempts are made to reach out in the coming weeks, please pray the Lord would open ears and hearts.

On the point of prayer, I am sure you have been remembering Sylvester Konteh in The Gambia. Please continue to do so as he faces the difficulty of studying in isolation. We are in three of the same classes so have been able to compare notes and discuss assignments from time to time. I would also appreciate prayer as I will be preaching in the seminary chapel for the first time on 1st May, and then sitting my final exams shortly after. I cannot fully express how great an encouragement your prayers are in these things.

The church in Scotland is never far from my thoughts and prayers. Thank you to those who have been in touch by various means — I always love to hear how the Lord is working in your midst. In my last few letters, I have left you with quite lengthy quotes, so this time I’ll leave you with a shorter one. Augustine of Hippo once stated, “O Lord, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” In following events back home, particularly the continued spiritual decline of our nation, there are many things which may cause our hearts to be restless. But friends, we must be mindful that we have far greater cause to rest in the Lord. Not only are we to rest in Him for our salvation, trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, but also for our sanctification. The more we rest in Him, the more we will grow in Him, and the more we will be used by Him as salt and light in the world, to the glory of His great name.

I look forward to returning home on 21st May, Lord willing. In the meantime, be assured of my prayers and remember that, for the Christian, He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Every blessing,
Ian Gillies