GCI Update

Who is God?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Joe Tkach and Tammy TkachCharles Haddon Spurgeon was England’s best-known preacher for most of the second half of the 19th century. In a sermon he gave when he was only 20, Spurgeon declared that the proper study for a Christian is the Godhead. Here is a quote from that sermon—it’s one of my favorites:

Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon (1834-92)

The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God.

As have many other preachers and teachers, Spurgeon reminds us that the great and central question of Christianity is this: “Who is God?”

God’s own answer is not a proposition, but a person: the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ. As the self-revelation of God, Jesus is the focal point of our knowledge of God’s nature. Jesus, who takes us to the Father and sends us the Spirit, teaches us to ask, “Who is God?,” then bids us look to him for the definitive answer.

Throughout history, many great thinkers pondered the question, “Who is God?” Unfortunately, they often did not, or in certain cases (before the Incarnation) could not, make Jesus the living center of their investigations. Working from the central revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the doctrine of the Trinity was developed to answer the false reasoning and heretical ideas about God that had infiltrated the church in the first three centuries of its existence. Though the Trinity doctrine doesn’t answer all questions about God’s nature, it helps us focus on who God is without wandering away from sound doctrine.

The early Christians were not unique in developing errors of reasoning as they pondered the nature of God. Theologians and philosophers of every age got it wrong and our time is no exception. Old ideas have a way or repackaging themselves and worming their way into contemporary thinking. It is important that we are aware of two errors that are prevalent in our day. Both lead to wrong conclusions and a distorted picture of who God is.

The first error is a modern version of pantheism—the idea that God is a part of his creation instead of being distinct from it and Lord over it. Though Scripture tells us that creation tells us about God (Romans 1:20), there is an important difference between believing that God is present to everything and believing that everything is God.

Unfortunately, a belief in the divine spirituality of everything (often referred to as “the Universe”) is common today. Hungry for spirituality and put off by traditional religion, many people are seeking “enlightenment” in obscure and fringe ideas. Go into any large bookstore and you’ll find whole sections devoted to fantasy fiction and the occult. Video gamers are obsessed with ever more bizarre themes and fantastic creatures wielding supernatural powers. Technology is blurring the line between fantasy and reality, and the spiritual landscape is becoming cluttered with offbeat ideas.

The same thing happened in the early years of the church. People had an appetite for magic and mystery. As a result, many non-apostolic epistles and gospels were in circulation—offering a mix of truth and bizarre ideas about God, reflecting the popular culture of that day. Paul reminds us what happens when people lose their spiritual moorings:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles (Romans 1:21-23).

A second prevalent error in our day concerning the nature of God is conceiving of God as a spirit force that dwells in everyone individually. From this perspective, God is viewed as a genie that we carry with us, making use of him as the need arises. It’s as though God is a cosmic smartphone with all kinds of useful apps.

Following this line of faulty reasoning, we wrongly conclude that when we travel, we are taking God somewhere that he is not already present. God becomes dependent upon us and is limited by our limitations. As a result, God can’t be more faithful than we are. Though this false idea may boost our sense of self-importance, it is a false sense of importance that negates the grace of God.

The truth of God’s nature, revealed in Jesus, is the opposite of this error. As the authors of the New Testament remind us, God remains faithful even when we are faithless. Our true importance is related to our identify as children of the God who not only dwells within us by his Spirit, but far beyond us. Our calling is to join God in what he is doing. We do so with great anticipation knowing that he has been at work long before we arrive on the scene. We are greatly privileged to share in what the Holy Spirit is doing to turn people around and to draw them into a reconciled relationship with the Father and the Son.

The more clearly we understand who God is, the better will be our understanding of who we are and of our calling to live in communion with Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach signature




Sonny Parsons

Sonny and Jane
Sonny and Jane Parsons

Sonny Parsons, who grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, pastors GCI’s congregations in Big Sandy, Texas and Texarkana, Arkansas.

Sonny has a long history of community service. “I always enjoyed serving others. While in high school as an Eagle Scout I helped start one of the first camps for mentally challenged children in Mississippi and served for seven summers with the program. While working as a school administrator and educator, I served for 20 years in the summers as waterfront director or counselor at a Boy Scout camp. As an adult, I attended the National Boy Scout Camping School and served on the faculty in the aquatic section. For the past 25 years I have served with the Big Sandy Volunteer Fire Department as a firefighter and paramedic. I also have served as captain of Emergency Medical Services.”

Sonny credits his parents with giving him a heart for serving others. “They instilled in me a commitment to always treat others like you would like to be treated and help care for those less fortunate. As a child I always wanted to obey God and ‘do what was right.’”

In 1964, while a premed student at Mississippi State University (MSU), Sonny was part of a group of 15-20 students who started listening to The World Tomorrow broadcast. “Many of those students became WCG ministers or Ambassador College faculty.”

Sonny met his wife Jane in high school. “She was a sophomore and I was a junior. We dated for five years and married in 1964 during my senior year at MSU. We have been married for nearly 49 years.” While a married senior at MSU, Jane earned her what Sonny calls a PHT (“Putting Hubby Through”) degree! “Earlier, she had earned a business college degree and now worked to help me finish school. When we first started dating, she passed me a note that was signed with the letters MTYLTT which stands for More Than Yesterday Less Than Tomorrow. She had those letters engraved inside my wedding ring. They speak of our love for each other and our love for God that should be more than yesterday but less than tomorrow. In our wedding service, Jane had a song sung from the book of Ruth with the words, “Where ever thou goest, I will go.” Little did she know that I would drag her all over this earth. But she has always been there by my side.”

Sonny and Jane have had two children: Todd, who died in 2006, and Amy who has served as a flight medic and now is a supervisor with Mother Francis Hospital and Champion EMS. Todd had two girls, Amanda and Alison who live in California. Amy has three children: Treston, who just completed four years in the Air Force; Tory, who is in nursing school; and Tyler, who is finishing her second year in college. They also have one great grandchild, Hadyn, who is Amanda’s daughter.

Sonny has always felt that being prepared and seeking counsel is important. “Upon finishing college, I wrote the Letter Answering Department in Pasadena and asked what field they would recommend. Given my background, they recommended teaching and suggested I read Proverbs 3:5-6. With that passage of Scripture in mind, I prayed. The answer came unexpectedly when a man I had never met asked if I would like to teach school and be his assistant principal! I learned then to take the promise in that passage quite seriously.”

Sonny says that, “trusting God in that way has helped prepare me for life. As Director of YES (Youth Employment Services) with the Jackson, Mississippi public school system, I was asked to develop a career development program for seven school districts. I used godly principles in doing so. I told this to the National Director of Career Education in Washington when he asked why the program was so successful. I was then named as a consultant to the US Office of Education and the project was chosen as a National Exemplary Program in Career Development in the US for young people. Only seven were chosen from the nation, and a book was written about it. This helped prepare me for the development of MPEC, (Mail Processing Extension Center) at Ambassador during the 80s and 90s.”

While working at Ambassador in Big Sandy, Sonny was asked to enter vocational ministry. “Richard Rice, the director of the US ministry, asked Jane and me to move to the San Antonio area where we pastored churches in San Antonio, Uvalde, Corpus Christi and Victoria for seven years. We then asked to return to Big Sandy since our children and grandchildren lived there. In 2002, we were assigned to pastor the Big Sandy and Texarkana churches. We’ve been doing so for almost 12 years.” Sonny says that his most memorable moment as a pastor was baptizing three of his grandchildren.

Sonny with Gov Perry
Jane, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Sonny

As part of his pastoral ministry, Sonny has been actively involved in the community. “I love serving others, and have had the opportunity to serve as Big Sandy’s Mayor, the President of the Ministerial Alliance and member of the boards of the Community Development Corporation, the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce.”

Sonny has earned five academic degrees: an AA and BA in Theology, a BA in Sociology, and MEd and EdS degrees in School Administration.

Sonny says that one of his greatest joys in ministry is “seeing transformation take place in people’s lives as they believe in and accept Jesus Christ and realize that they are under grace.” He loves that GCI has helped him understand “the awesomeness of Trinitarian theology.” Sonny says that his passion is to “become more and more like Jesus.” Other passions include family and “developing lasting friendships and relationships.”

Asked when he feels closest to God, Sonny replied, “When in prayer or when I see his hand at work in events or when I witness lives being transformed.”

SEP Australia

This update is from Alaric Kurzawa.

SEP 2014 in Australia was held on January 6–17. There were 96 campers and 61 staff. The theme was “Discovery” based on the encounter Jesus had on the road to Emmaus with two of his disciples. Through daily discussions, campers were encouraged to know that Jesus is with them on their life journey, and that no matter what age they are, the entire journey is one of continual discovery of who Jesus is as we grow deeper in relationship with him.

SEP greetings

The camp featured some new activities thanks to ideas gleaned from sister camps in the U.S. Thanks to Higher Ground camp, our campers enjoyed nine-square and water-balloon battleship. Thanks to SEP SoCal we had an affirmation team called the A-Team. These new features were a big hit with the campers and staff. We will be using them at our future camps.

SEP campers

Other activities at camp included dance classes, high ropes course, mud pits, table tennis, leather work, journal making, basketball, water skiing, and putting together a worship service for the camp.


Thanks to all who were praying for the success of our camp in Australia. The campers left giving the staff hugs and telling them they would return when the camp is held again in two years.

Philippine singles camp

SinglesCamp2013bSingle adults from 15 GCI churches in the Philippines gathered recently for a year-end camp that addressed the spiritual, emotional, social and physical needs of young singles. The four-day camp was held at a beautiful seaside resort.

The 56 women and 36 men in attendance at the camp were welcomed with an introductory message followed by lunch. Other presentations during the camp were given by GCI pastors Rex dela Pena, Audie Santibanez, Gil Llaneza and Vergil Bargola. Topics addressed the camp theme of “Living with Abandon,” with messages about God’s love, surrendering to God, living by faith and serving in ministry.


Rex dela Pena spoke about God’s love for us and how we abide in him as we walk with him, trusting in his love. He asked the attendees to surrender to God those things that hinder them from living with abandon for God. On his second talk, Pastor Rex gave five suggestions for how we can give God free reign in our lives: (1) Stand and claim his promises; (2) Operate on faith and choose to worship; (3) Repentance by dependence; (4) Empty yourself for ministry for others; and (5) Recall God’s activity in your life. He ended with an adage from Garth Brooks: “Sometimes God’s greatest gift is an unanswered prayer.”

The singles expressed their thanks to those who subsidized the campers and prayed for the camp’s success. One attendee commented: “Not only did I feel the warmth of the community, I also felt that I belonged there even before I came. It was an experience of God—from meeting extraordinary people, to marveling at God’s creation, to being guided by God’s words through our devotions.” Another commented: “The best thing that happened to me in the camp was that I got to see the people I grew up with, and meet people from other GCI congregations.”

SE Asia update

This update is from Rod Matthews, GCI mission developer in SE Asia.

Malaysia: women’s conference

In December, the women’s ministry of our Kuala Lumpur church hosted a two-day conference and retreat for 46 women from GCI churches in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Wong Chew Yeng, wife of pastor Wong Mein Kong, organized the event which had the theme “Living Loved in Christ.”

Maylasia group

The keynote speaker was Patricia Halford from the USA (pictured above on the left end of the front row). Pat shared from her life experiences in explaining how in times of trial we find ourselves in “God’s waiting room.” She reassured the women that, “God never wastes a hurt when we give it to him. We serve a God who is always ready to turn our attention not to the size of our problem but to the size of our God.” In a second presentation, Pat referred to the “butterfly effect”—that every action no matter how small makes a ripple in the universe. She applied this idea to Christian living, noting that every change we allow God to make in us, no matter how small it seems, matters as part of the radical change that God is making in us and in the world.”

Other conference speakers included Lulu Guzon, wife of NE Asia mission developer Eugene Guzon; my wife Ruth Matthews; and Wong Chew Yeng, wife of SE Asian pastor, Wong Mein Kong. The event included times of worship in song and communion, followed by a tour of the city.

Thailand: Ambassador Bilingual School expansion

ThailandFrom its inception, the Ambassador Bilingual School (ABS) founded and run by Chugait and Ampon Garmolgomut in Chiang Mai, Thailand has prospered. In the next academic year, they expect an enrolment of over 800 students from kindergarten to year nine. Chugait, a 1986 graduate of Ambassador University, upon returning to his homeland, wondered how to take the gospel to his own people. He was challenged by his good friend and mentor, Dr. Herman Hoeh to invest in the lives of others through education by starting a school based on true values and right living. Dr. Hoeh gave him $100 to help start this new life. As Chugait constantly mentions, God has blessed him in so many ways, with the greatest of those being his lovely wife, Ampon whom he met at Chiang Mai University after his return. They make a perfect team with their mix of shared vision, effective implementation and trust in God.

HalfordOn December 11, a dedication ceremony (pictured at left) was conducted for the new ABS administration building (pictured above, right) and secondary classroom building. John Halford, long-time friend and supporter from Chugait’s days at Ambassador University, gave the dedication address. Wichai Jennititham, a Thai government official and good friend who has been instrumental in facilitating compliance with all educational and legal requirements, gave an address as well.

ABS promotes the learning of English in order to lay a much wider foundation for international opportunities and success in the future lives of the students. The biblically-based educational philosophy of ABS and the personal love and attention lavished on all the students by Chugait and Ampon, and reflected by the teaching staff, have been keys to their remarkable success. In addition to ABS, they run another smaller English-language-development school for children of all ages and a kindergarten called “Little Stars.”

As a result of teaching Christianity by example, God has used Chugait and Ampon to draw people to himself, resulting in the planting of a church that now has about 70 members. Pastoral assistance comes from an expatriate missionary living in Chiang Mai who also serves as one of the ABS teachers.

India: Hyderabad church partners with “Shining Stars”

WiigShining Stars is an organization working to develop youth and children in India. Their vision is to raise godly leaders by discipling children through holistic programs run in partnership with like-minded churches. It was founded in 1996 with after-school clubs to help children with their homework and provide them with a healthy snack and recreation. Today the ministry has nine centers serving about 400 children. They also train and equip leaders and teachers to facilitate children’s ministries in churches.

On October 27, Shining Star’s director, Peter Wiig (at right), gave a presentation to our GCI church in Hyderabad pastored by Daniel Zachariah. Moses, one of the children who graduated from a Shining Star, shared his experience on how the school had shaped his life into a disciple of Christ. He now works for Amazon Books and continues to volunteer his time providing administrative support to Shining Star. Pastor Daniel wrote, “It is our hope that we can continue to work with Shining Stars and support them in their efforts to serve under-privileged children in our city.” It is hoped that the church hall in which GCI meets can become one of the children’s centers.

Church multiplication summit

This update is from Randy Bloom, director of GCI’s Church Multiplication Ministries.

CMM4groupGCI-USA held its 2014 Church Multiplication Summit on February 7-8 in New Orleans. Over 50 people attended, including GCI church planters, mentors and district pastors who are forming church planting support networks.

CMM2 MaryChurch planters Mary Bacheller (at left), Rannie Childress (standing at right), Dishon Mills, Angie Tabin (at right, below) and Heber Ticas shared stories about changed lives, making new disciples and starting new churches. Superintendent of U.S. Ministers, Dan Rogers then reviewed the development of Church Multiplication’s Ministries.


Associate Superintendent of U.S. Ministers, Greg Williams spoke about the importance of working together to plant new churches and the need for US regions and districts to take a larger role in identifying, preparing and supporting church planters. As Greg noted, the foundational resources are in place, and now we need more church planters. Please join CMM in asking the Lord of the Harvest to raise up gifted and passionate leaders who will make new disciples and start new churches.

To learn more about current GCI-USA church plants, go to the following websites:

The kingdom of God, part 2

This is part 2 of a 6-part series by Gary Deddo on the important, yet often misunderstood, topic of the kingdom of God. For additional articles in this series, click on the corresponding number: 13456.

Last time we looked at how Jesus is central to the kingdom of God and is the supreme King of kings and Lord of lords. This time we’ll look at complications related to understanding how the kingdom of God is present now.

The kingdom’s presence in two phases

Biblical revelation conveys two things that are hard to put together: that the kingdom is present but also that it is future. Biblical scholars and theologians have often seized on one of these two aspects, giving either one or the other prominence. But a significant consensus has developed over the past 50 years or so as to how best to grasp these two dimensions of the kingdom. That consensus coheres with who Jesus is.

The Son of God became incarnate by the virgin Mary about 2000 years ago and shared in our humanity and lived under our fallen condition here on earth for 33 years. Seizing our human nature [1] from conception to death, thereby uniting it with himself, he went through our death to resurrection and then after some days of appearances, ascended bodily, that is, remained united to our humanity, to return to the presence of the Father and full communion with him. The result is that, although still sharing in our now glorified human nature, he is not present in the way he was before his ascension. He is, in a way, absent from earth. He has sent the Spirit as another comforter to be with us, but he in his own person is unavailable to us as he was. But he has promised us that he will return.

Parallel to this is the nature of the kingdom. It was indeed “near” and active in Jesus’ earthly ministry. It was so near and available that it called for an immediate response, just as Jesus himself called for a response of faith in him. However, as Jesus taught, his rule and reign had not yet come in its fullness. There was more to come. And that time will coincide with Christ’s return (often called his “second coming”).

So faith in the kingdom includes hope for the coming of the fullness of the kingdom as well. The kingdom was already present in Jesus and continues to be present by his Spirit. But its completion is not yet. This is often summarized by saying the kingdom of God is already, but not yet. George Ladd’s careful work solidified this way of understanding for many orthodox/evangelical Christian believers, at least in the English-speaking world (also see the GCI article at www.gci.org/gospel/kingdom).

The kingdom and the two ages

The biblical understanding clearly distinguishes between two times, two ages, two epochs: the “present evil age” and what is called “the age to come.” We currently live in the “present evil age.” We live in hope of “the age to come,” but we do not yet live in that age. We are still, in biblical perspective, in the present evil age. So we live between the times. Biblical passages that clearly indicate this scheme are ones like these (the NRSV translation is quoted throughout this article—hover over the links to read the cited verse in the NIV translation):

  • “God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come” (Ephesians 1:20-21).
  • “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:3-4).
  • “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:29-30).
  • “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous” (Matthew 13:49).
  • [Some] “have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5).

This two-fold understanding of ages or epochs is unfortunately made less obvious by the fact that the Greek word for “age” (aion) is translated a number of ways, including “eternity,” “world,” “forever,” and “long ago.” Those translations contrast time with endless time, or this earthly realm with a future heavenly realm. While the idea of different ages or epochs includes these temporal or spatial contrasts, it actually brings out a much more comprehensive contrast between qualitatively different kinds of life now and in the future. So in some translations we read that the seeds that grow in certain soils are choked by the “cares of this world” (Mark 4:19). But since the Greek word aion is used, we should also take it to mean choked by “the cares of this present evil age.” So also in Romans 12:2 we read that we should not be conformed to this “world,” but we should also understand this to mean not conformed to this present “age.”

The words translated “eternal life” mean also having the life of the age to come. This is made clear in Luke 18:29-30, quoted above. Eternal life is “eternal,” but there is much more to that life, compared to life in this present evil age, than just being much longer! It’s life that belongs to a whole different age or epoch. The contrast is not just short compared to infinitely long life, but rather between life in our current age that is still fallen—infected by evil, sin and death—and life in the age to come, where all traces of evil will be eradicated. In the age to come, there will be established a new heaven and earth and a new relationship between them. That will be a whole different kind and quality of life—God’s kind of life.

The kingdom of God then is ultimately aligned with the age to come, with the kind of life that is eternal, and also with Christ’s return. Before he returns we live in the “present evil age” and wait in hope for the age to come. We continue to live under fallen conditions, where nothing is ideal—where everything is less than perfect even though Christ is risen and ascended.

The surprising thing, however, is that even though we continue to live in the present evil age, by the grace of God we can experience in part the kingdom of God now. There is a way that it is present here and now before the present evil age is displaced. Unexpectedly, the future kingdom has broken into the present without bringing God’s final judgment and the ending of this age. The kingdom is here and now foreshadowed. We are given foretastes of it. We experience some of its blessings here and now. And we can belong to it, which means belonging to Christ, here and now, even though we remain in this present age. This is possible because the Son of God came into this present age and completed his mission and sent us his Spirit, even though he is not bodily present. We enjoy now the firstfruits of his victorious reign. But there is an interim period (or an “eschatological pause,” as T.F. Torrance liked to phrase it) before Christ returns, where God’s saving purposes continue to be worked out in this age.

Building on the biblical vocabulary, biblical scholars and theologians have used a variety of words to convey this complicated situation. Many, following George Ladd, have expressed this contrast by saying that the rule of God was fulfilled in Jesus, but is yet to be consummated by Jesus upon his return. The kingdom of God is already present, but it is not yet here in its fullness. Another way to express this dynamic reality is to say that the kingdom has been inaugurated but we wait for its completion. This understanding is sometimes referred to as “inaugurated eschatology.” By the grace of God, the future has broken into the present!

The implications are that the total truth and reality of what Christ has done is now significantly hidden from view because we are living under the conditions of the Fall. In this present evil age the rule of Christ is real, yet hidden. In the age to come, the kingdom of God will be manifested fully because all the remaining effects of the Fall will be removed. Then the full effects of Christ’s work will be gloriously and universally manifested. [2] The contrast being made is between the kingdom hidden as compared to being fully manifested, not between a kingdom present as compared to a kingdom that is absent.

The Spirit and the two ages

This view of the kingdom corresponds to what is revealed in Scripture about the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised and, with the Father, sent the Holy Spirit to be with us. He breathed on the disciples his Spirit and then on Pentecost the Spirit descended upon those gathered. The Spirit empowered the early church to be faithful witnesses to what was accomplished in Christ so that others may enter Christ’s kingdom. The Spirit sends God’s people out to the ends of the earth to proclaim the gospel of the Son of God. We thus join in the Spirit’s mission.

However, we do not yet have the complete fullness of the Spirit and we are to hope in that completion some day. Paul indicates that our experience today is only a beginning. He uses the image of a down payment, pledge and earnest (arrabōn) to convey the idea of an advance giving that is partial, that is a security for the complete giving (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5). The image of inheritance, used throughout the New Testament, also conveys the idea of having now in the present something that will surely be greater in the future. Note these words from Paul:

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will…. This is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory…so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints (Ephesians 1:11, 14, 18).

Paul also uses the image of us having now only the “firstfruits” of the Spirit, not his fullness. We experience now only the beginning of the harvest, not its complete blessings (Romans 8:23). Another important biblical image is of having a “taste” now of what is to come (Hebrews 6:4-5). In his first epistle, Peter puts many of the pieces of the puzzle together when he writes about those who have been “sanctified by the Spirit”:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Our present experience in the Holy Spirit is indispensable, though it is but partial. Our experience of the ministry of the Spirit now is connected to a much greater fulfillment that one day will be fully manifested. Our present experience fosters a hope that will not be disappointed.

This present evil age

That we are now living in the present evil age is crucial to understand. The earthly work of Christ, though finished and victorious, has not yet eradicated from this time, this epoch, all the effects of the Fall and all its consequences. So we should not expect the effects of the Fall to be obliterated before Jesus returns. The New Testament witness to the continuing fallen condition of the cosmos (including humanity) is pervasive. In his high priestly prayer of John 17, Jesus prays that we not be taken out of our current situation even though he knows that we will suffer and be rejected or persecuted in this age. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus points out that here and now we will not yet receive all that the kingdom offers, such as having our hunger and thirst for righteousness fulfilled. Rather, we will experience a persecution that mirrors his own. Just as clearly, he indicates that our longings will be fulfilled, but in the future.

The apostle Paul notes that our true selves, rather than being obvious, are “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). He points out that we are earthen vessels, which contain the glory of the presence of Christ but which do not yet appear glorious themselves (2 Corinthians 4:7), but one day will shine forth (Colossians 3:4). Paul indicates that “the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31, cf. 1 John 2:8, 17) but that it has not yet reached the final end.

The author of Hebrews readily admits that it does not yet seem that all things are in subjection to Christ and his people (Hebrews 2:8-9), even though Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).

In his epistle to the church in Rome, Paul notes how the whole creation has been “groaning with labor pains” and how “we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23). Although Christ has completed his earthly ministry, our current state does not manifest the fullness of his reign and victory. We remain within this present evil age. The kingdom is present, but not yet in its fullness.

Next week, we’ll look at the nature of our hope in the future consummation of the kingdom and the complete fulfillment of the biblical promises.


[1] In Hebrews 2:16 the Greek word, epilambanetai, is best translated “seize,” not “help” or “concerned.” See Hebrews 8:9, where the same word is used for God’s taking Israel out of the grip of Egypt’s slavery.

[2] The Greek word used throughout the New Testament, and emphasized in the name of the last book of the New Testament, is apocalypsis. It can be translated “revelation,” “manifestation,” “uncovering,” “disclosure” “appearing” and “coming.”

Naomi Biswas

Naomi and John Biswas
Naomi and John Biswas

GCI elder John Biswas, director of the Bengali Evangelical Association, requests prayer for his wife Naomi. She is suffering from asthmatic congestion, which hinders her breathing and speaking. Her energy level is quite low, making her unable to work in her nursing job.

Cards may be sent to:

Naomi Biswas
Bengali Evangelical Association
P. O. BOX 1733,
Loma Linda, Ca., 92354

George Affeldt

This update on George Affeldt’s condition is from his daughter Jennifer (Affeldt) Giddens. For the original prayer request, click here.

George with his daughter Jennifer
George with his daughter Jennifer

Perhaps you saw on Facebook the picture at right of me with my father during a Super Bowl party held at his bed in the hospital. I’m pleased to report that since then, Dad has been sent home. He’s a bit weak, but doing well.

On January 24, Dad fell when getting out of bed. Mom called 911 and they took him to the emergency room at the hospital. A kidney stone was discovered. It had dropped and lodged between his bladder and kidney, causing severe infection. Surgery was needed, though due to his blood pressure dropping, it would be risky. Dad asked my sister to call my brother and me before going into surgery. I don’t think Dad expected to survive, but he did! He told my nephew, Jonathan, “I pulled one out of the fire today!” Dad then spent several days in the hospital recuperating. They treated him for a blood infection and gave him dialysis to “wake up” a sleeping kidney. He is now home, continuing to receive antibiotic treatments. They don’t feel that he will need further dialysis.

Dad has an amazing testimony to God’s power to heal. Thanks to all who prayed for him, my mom and our whole family. We have felt those prayers! Please continue to pray for Dad’s recovery, that he will be able to spend several more years (and Super Bowls) with us.

Cards may be sent to:

George and Jacki Affeldt
508 North Marquette Avenue
Sioux Falls, SD  57110-5736