GCI Update

Here they go again!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Joe Tkach and Tammy TkachFirst it was the Millennium Bug, threatening to destroy civilization. Then it was the Mayan Calendar, anticipating the end of the world as we know it. Now some people—particularly those with a seemingly incurable case of prediction addiction—are making a big deal out of “blood moons.” Here they go again!

Lunar eclipse illustration courtesy of Luc Viatour

The term “blood moon” arose in folklore—often with religious connotations. It describes an astronomical phenomenon of four successive lunar eclipses within a short period. The scientific name is a “tetrad.” We are in one of those periods now. Well, so what?

Though rare, tetrads are not unique. They have occurred 142 times in the past 5000 years and will happen eight more times this century. But some prophecy buffs regard the current tetrad as especially significant because the eclipses will coincide with certain Jewish festivals. Though they warn that this is ominous, we seem to have survived the first eclipse just fine. It came and went on April 15, which was the second day of the Passover festival. In the U.S., the big event that day was passing the deadline to file income tax returns (I hope you survived!). The second eclipse in the tetrad then comes on October 8, 2014, during the festival of Tabernacles. The third will come on April 5, 2015, again during Passover, and the fourth on September 28, 2015, again during Tabernacles. Ironically, three of these four eclipses will not even be visible in Israel, although the September 2015 one may be.

Again, I ask, “So what?” There is nothing particularly extraordinary about this. The Jewish holy days are scheduled according to a lunar calendar with some occurring on the full moon. Thus the current tetrad is not the first to coincide with Old Testament festivals. It happened in 1967-68; 1949-50; 1493-94; 860-61; 842-43; 795-796; 162-163; and 32-33 AD. But this historic reality does not stop the current speculation. Some people insist on interpreting this as the harbinger of a significant prophetic event. A few see it as signaling the rapture or the tribulation. Others, no doubt, will try to fit it into their speculative prophetic timeline in other ways. They should heed Isaiah’s warning:

When people tell you, “Try out the fortunetellers. Consult the spiritualists. Why not tap into the spirit-world, get in touch with the dead?” Tell them, “No, we’re going to study the Scriptures.” People who try the other ways get nowhere—a dead end! (Isaiah 8:19-22 MSG).

Jesus warned of false prophets, alarmists who would proclaim, “Here’s the Messiah! There he is is!” But Jesus’ advice was this:

“Don’t fall for it. Fake Messiahs and lying preachers are going to pop up everywhere. Their impressive credentials and dazzling performances will pull the wool over the eyes of even those who ought to know better” (Matthew 24:23-25 MSG).

Jesus, not astrology or astronomy, is the lens through which we read and thus interpret scripture. Some will object, pointing to Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem:

“Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29).

Others, no doubt, will point to Peter’s words, spoken on Pentecost:

“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord” (Acts 2:20).

In making this proclamation, Peter was quoting Joel’s prophecy, as recorded in the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament), concerning the heavenly signs that would accompany the outpouring of God’s Spirit. These signs would occur, “before the coming of the…day of the Lord.” In Peter’s mind, the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection and his promised return were telescoped into a short span of time. As he spoke these words, reverberating in Peter’s mind, no doubt, was the darkening of the sun and the red moon that occurred on the Passover at Jesus’ death (Luke 23:44). He and other of the disciples likely considered those events as fulfilling Joel’s prophecy concerning the beginning of the last days—the time when the Holy Spirit would be working to call and convict all humanity. Ever since Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, we have been living in those last days.

cartoon on false doctrines
Used with permission from Leadership Journal and cartoonist Jonny Hawkins.

There is no warrant for using predictable astronomical events as a hermeneutical device for interpreting the Bible. God set these marvels of the universe in motion and they are a joy to behold. As David declared, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). We should enjoy God’s creation for what it is, not for something beyond its purpose.

Cosmic events and even general historical events, are not to be used to try to make God’s providential working predictable. Such approaches should be left to those who practice astrology, divination and necromancy—practices strictly off limits for those who worship the living God.

Yes, when God works according to his divine wisdom, the effects will be seen in history and even in the wide expanse of the universe. This is so because God in Christ is Lord of both history and the entire cosmos. As those who worship him, we recognize and can anticipate the kinds of things our God will do, because we know that they will express his nature and purposes, which are revealed to us in Jesus Christ. And that is all we need to know. Jesus himself is God’s final Sign. He is the ultimate Reality, who enables us to trust in God in every circumstance and at all times. God revealed to us in Christ is faithful, not predictable.

Frankly, it is wearisome to me to see people reacting to these naturally occurring phenomenon with a spirit that is not unlike that of the Pharisees who came to Jesus seeking a sign in the sky. The Bible says they did so to “test” Jesus. Note Jesus’ reaction:

He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side (Mark 8:12-13).

We don’t need a sign when we have the Reality standing before us, alive among us by his Spirit. So let’s pause to sigh deeply like Jesus did and go back to the Lord’s work and worship.

Your brother in Christ,
Joseph Tkach

David Howe

Ann and David Howe

“I’m a geek and a nerd and I live on the bleeding edge of technology. I’m one of the few pastors who would love to go to Comicon and the CES show” said David Howe, pastor of Grace Family Fellowship, our GCI congregation in Elkhart, Indiana. “I’m a geek in the true sense of the word. I had to play with the cutting edge gadgets as-seen-on-TV, including the Flowbee, Dyson vacuum (not a good Valentines gift!), hybrid car and anything cutting edge. I had the first smart phone in 1996 (a Nokia 9000 Communicator; I still have it).”

David grew up in Linden, Michigan and started attending the Flint, Michigan church with his parents in 1973. “I basically grew up in the church. I am challenged by the pursuit of truth. What started as attending the only church I ever knew, transformed into a quest to find God in my life and develop a deep and personal relationship with him. Our changes indicated to me that we were serious about finding the Truth, the Way and the Life.”

David said he wanted to be a pastor since he was a teen and decided to attend Ambassador University. His dream changed for a while after graduation. “After Ambassador, I followed the path that was open, which was technology. I didn’t imagine that God needed to take me on a longer journey to prepare me for what he had in store.”

It wasn’t long before ministry opportunities came about and David started attending the Port Huron, Michigan church in 2002 to work with and be mentored by bi-vocational pastor, Jim Meade. Not long after that, David became the congregation’s bi-vocational co-pastor. “After getting laid off in 2005, and being unable to find an open door in that area, I applied to be the pastor of our Elkhart and Michigan City, Indiana churches. I went full-time in those responsibilities in 2006, then in 2009 I became the bi-vocational pastor in Elkhart.”

David and his wife Ann have been married for 21 years. “She is my soul mate and we have three children, Amanda (12), Ariana (10) and Taggart (8). Ann works with the middle-school ministry, but more importantly she helps me with my messages to make sure I’m able to connect with everyone in my congregation. Most importantly, she is the evidence for me that God loves me unconditionally—she is a constant support and encouragement.”

When asked what he enjoys most about being a pastor, David said, “The chance to see people come to a personal relationship with our Triune God. Being a part of peoples’ lives when God is working through them is also something I enjoy. I love seeing relationships mended and blossom. I love being a part of God’s tool chest to help people be inspired by the Holy Spirit.” Along this line, David said that what he loves about GCI is “our understanding of the early church’s beliefs of who God is—this has been exciting and life changing for me. That I can share in the journey of this denomination as God leads us into the next chapter, is wonderful.”

When asked to share about a most memorable moment as a pastor David recalled a time when, “There was a teenager my wife and I worked with when we came into the area. She had a rough environment and attended our church on her own from the time she was a kid. When she was 16 she decided to get baptized and that was a very memorable moment for us.”

David has many interests. “I love to travel and seek adventure. I’ve sky-dived, white-water rafted, rock-climbed, did the NASCAR driving school in Fort Worth, was scuba-certified, and traveled most of the 48 states by car. I’ve been to England, Spain, France, Canada, Puerto Rico, several islands in the Caribbean and Mexico and we are saving up for our 25th anniversary to take the family to Hawaii. After the kids go to college, my wife and I hope to drive to Alaska. I want to learn piano and how to sail. I hope to publish a children’s night-time story book that I’m working on now.”

With all these interests, David makes sure he has time for his true passions: his wife and family, and “reframing the gospel in ways that connect with the next generation. I’m interested in using technology to promote communication and relationships and to help people connect to our Father.”

When asked when he feels closest to God, David said, “When lying in my hammock with my wife next to me and a fire burning in the fire pit (and no mosquitoes!).”

Philippine youth camp

In line with its 2014 theme, “Forward Together On Mission With God,” GCI-Philippines is conducting several youth camps this year. The first was held recently in Malaybalay City on the Island of Mindanao. It ran for six days, with 67 campers and 32 volunteer staff, mostly from GCI congregations in Mindanao and some from Manila City. About one third of the campers were first-timers at what camp director Pastor Rey Balistoy said was the longest camp held so far in Mindanao.

SEP Mindanao2014

National Director Eugene Guzon was among the camp speakers. The teaching curriculum used was “Superhero,” produced by Generations Ministries. On the last night, campers shared by candlelight in a reflective and personal “Encounter” event. In the midst of the challenges they face, and in their quest for inspiration to move on, the campers drew assurance, healing, power and encouragement from knowing that Jesus, the true Superhero, is with them and for them.

The camp graduation ceremony was heartwarming, showing the depth of friendships made and the spiritual refreshment received, having focused on Jesus’ attributes of Gratitude, Courage, Hope, Integrity and Vulnerability, all compelled by his deep Love for all. Three campers were baptized on the last day of camp. At the closing ceremonies, everybody praised God for a spiritually enriching event.

Guadalajara Conference

This update is from Lorenzo Arroyo, mission director for GCI in Mexico.

Small group discussion

GCI Mexico recently held its annual Training Conference for pastors and other congregational leaders over the Easter weekend. Held in Guadalajara, the event was attended by about 70 GCI Mexico adults (with about 120 adults and children attending the Easter service). Alfredo Mercado, national leader for GCI Mexico, coordinated event transportation, lodging, and meals.

Guest presenters

A story of transformation

There are always special stories of inspiration told at these conferences, as the Spirit works within and among us. Here is one such story.

G with Lupita
Rita Arroyo with Lupita

On the first day of the conference a woman named Lupita was moved to attend though she had never been to a GCI church service or activity. She had been depressed due to the death of her husband of 40 years, a loss that left her feeling empty and alone. But after attending women’s workshops on loneliness with Barbara Rogers, and on sharing your faith with Rita Arroyo, Lupita experienced an amazing transformation. She became a new woman—radiant, cheerful and full of new life in Christ! Several from the Guadalajara church befriended her and Lupita declared that she will never leave GCI, now that she has found a place to belong.

Lorenzo teaching
Lorenzo teaching

An emphasis on disciple-making

Lorenzo Arroyo conducted workshops on the need, call, and art of making disciples with an emphasis on casting nets and reaching out to the lost.

Heber teaching.
Heber teaching

Heber Ticas led small group discussions on a missional model for pastoring that focuses on making disciples on the congregation’s “home turf.” He also led the youth in small groups, keeping an eye out for potential church leaders. He then hosted a dinner for young emerging leaders, sending them the message that GCI values and validates them as they prepare for church leadership.

Young adults meet.
Young adult discussion

During the conference, Samuel Mercado, national youth coordinator for GCI Mexico, announced plans for the third Mexican youth camp to be held at the end of this year. Natanael Cruz, who pastors our Mexico City congregation, announced the launch of a new video ministry geared toward the unchurched next generation.

Rogers enjoy the night life.
Rogers enjoy the local culture

In the evenings, event trainers took time to experience some of the food, culture and folklore that Mexico offers.

Guadalajara Dan preaching
Dan preaching, Heber translating

During the conference, Dan Rogers gave inspiring messages on faith and decision-making in the church, then at an uplifting Easter service he gave a moving sermon on Paul’s argument for the resurrection of Christ. Worship at the Easter service was led by Natanael Cruz,who offered dazzling keyboard arrangements of spiritual songs. Worshipers were moving and clapping to the music—it was a truly amazing Easter event!

Easter service.
Natanael leading Easter worship

Much thanks to the individuals and congregations in Canada, Washington, Oregon and California for the generous gifts that made this event possible. Praise the Lord!

Consider video conferencing

In ministry, frequent, effective communication is vital. Yet often we are unable to meet face-to-face. What to do? A good solution is to hold a video conference using one of the free video conferencing services listed below. To conduct one, all participants must have high-speed internet (broadband) and a web camera hooked to the computer they will use during the call (a video picture of all the call participants will appear on the screen–see the example below). You can purchase a low-cost web camera from Amazon.com.

If you don’t have these tools, an alternative is to meet by teleconference, which hooks multiple telephone lines on one call. For that, we recommend FreeConference, a free teleconference service that you’ll find at http://www.freeconference.com/. It’s easy to use. See their website for instructions.

Here are the free video conference services that we recommend:

  • Google+ Hangouts – For those with gci.org email addresses, your gci.org email address is a “Google Account” so you already have a free account on Google+. There you can create video meetings using the Hangouts feature.
  • VSee – This service provides free video conferencing for up to six users. You can download what you need at http://vsee.com/. VSee also has a phone app.
  • Oovoo – This free video conferencing service is good for up to 12 participants. Download the program at http://www.oovoo.com/home.aspx. A phone app is available.
  • Skype – This video conferencing application just recently began offering free services for groups. Go to http://www.skype.com/en/.
Here’s what a video conference looks like on your computer screen (in this case with six participants).

Shirley Moskel

In the last issue of Weekly Update, we announced the death of Shirley Moskel. Here her husband, GCI pastor John Moskel, offers a tribute to Shirley and his thanks to Update readers.

Thank you to all for your prayers on behalf of my dear wife, Shirley. On April 19, she ceased her struggle with lung cancer.

Stephanie, Shirley’s daughter, was able to assist me in caring for Shirley at home, with the hospice nurse and staff giving much-needed support. Shirley was on the maximum allowable dosage of pain-killer medications, plus a little extra in her final days. She had a fair degree of mental confusion in her last week, but that was expected as the disease progressed through her frail body.

Retired GCI pastor Keith Brittain officiated at her memorial service. Over 160 attended. Our local congregation, Open Hearts Fellowship, provided a delicious lunch following the service.

Though it was at times exhausting to care for Shirley through the night, I cherish those memories and consider it a privilege to have helped make her suffering a little more bearable. She was a terrific companion, always ready to share a laugh and be cheerful in the midst of what must have been very deep pain.

The silence and the loneliness are hard to bear now, but I take comfort in what one clergyman said recently, “The nice thing about being a Christian is that you never have to say goodbye.”

I eagerly anticipate the grand family reunion that lies ahead.

Cards may be sent to:

John Moskel
130 Youpon Drive
Lexington, SC 29073

John Halford

In the last issue of Weekly Update we requested prayer for John Halford. Here is an update from John’s daughter, Becki Halford Brown.

John Halford
John Halford

Tests show that Dad has stage three esophageal cancer. He is scheduled to start radiation and chemotherapy soon—going five days a week for five weeks. He will then have a couple weeks of rest, then surgery. That will be followed by more rest then additional chemotherapy. The bottom line is that Dad is in for a rough six months, but we are optimistic that he will get through this and will be back to his old self soon.

Doctors have given Dad something to help with his nausea to increase his appetite. We are praying this works because he is weak due to losing a lot of weight.

The cards and letters that have been sent to him from all over the world are covering his mantel and Mom is having to find more space to put them. Dad has expressed time and time again that he is overwhelmed by all the kind words and prayers from you all. It has been such an encouragement to him. Thank you all so much. I will keep you posted on his progress.

Cards may be sent to:

John & Pat Halford
5836 South State Road 129
Versailles, IN 47042

To learn more about John and his perspective on life and aging, watch the video below.

On YouTube at http://youtu.be/VyWVmwiyOqE.

Death of Arnold Clauson

District and church pastor Arnold Clauson died peacefully at home on April 26, with family at his side, just three days after his 70th birthday. He had been battling prostate cancer since last summer. The schedule of funeral services is given at the end of this post. Following is a short biography written in tribute to Arnold by his daughter, Rachelle Clauson. It includes quotes from Arnold’s notes about his life.

Arnold Clauson
Arnold as a child
Arnold as a child

Dad was born to Sam and Nellie Clauson on April 23, 1944, in Hendricks, Minnesota. Sam’s family had immigrated to the U.S. from Norway in 1885. Dad already had four brothers and a sister when he came into the world, with another sister to follow. He was the first of his siblings to be born in a hospital. The family lived in a three-room farmhouse on the rocky prairie four miles outside Astoria, South Dakota. They had a family garden and lots of animals but no electricity or running water; they used a wood-burning stove, an outhouse and a well.

Dad wrote, “My childhood was filled with the carefree spirit characterized by many who grew up ‘on the farm.’” Those years of living and working on the farm shaped many of the qualities that benefited Dad and the people he served throughout his life.

Arnold and Trish
Trish and Arnold

Dad met Mom at Ambassador College, where they worked together in the transportation department. Fifteen years ago, Dad wrote: “I gained many life-long friends during my years at Ambassador. But by far the best one is the one I asked to be my wife, Patricia Ann Panella. We got serious during my last year of college and began to plan toward marriage. On June 8, 1969, at 12 o’clock, it happened. We said ‘I do’ and have continued to do so for the past 30 years!” This year marks the 45th anniversary of my parent’s marriage and their abiding commitment to the life they built together. Their first child, my sister Shari, came along in July 1970. I was born in June 1973, and Stephanie came in November 1983.

Dad began serving in ministry in 1968. He was a ministerial trainee in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma, and then in Peoria and Champagne, Illinois. Then he served for a time as a local elder in Cleveland, Ohio. Thereafter, he was the senior pastor in Erie, Pennsylvania; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Enid, Oklahoma; Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Paducah, Kentucky; Denison, Texas; Paris, Texas; Antlers, Oklahoma; and Dallas, Texas. My parents then lived in Pasadena, California for a sabbatical in 1978.

Arnold on guitarDad was a faithful and dedicated servant to all of his congregations, both within and outside the walls of the church. He is loved by many, many people. Dad is well known for his solid leadership, his skillful yet unassuming style of speaking, his song leading, and counseling. Others remember his exceptional talent for organization and coordination, which contributed to well-planned District Family Weekends, volleyball and basketball clinics, DELs meetings, Regional/District/New Pastor Conferences, festival worship services, SEP canoe trips, YES camps and rock climbing adventures. He combined these abilities with his proficiency in all manner of technological devices and equipment to produce color-coded manuals, filing systems, sound system solutions, PowerPoint presentations, conference schedules and church bulletins.

Others know Dad for his skills as a carpenter, handyman and consummate do-it-yourselfer, who turned visits to widows and church members into opportunities to fix anything that was broken in their homes. He worked tirelessly on expanding the Grace Communion Church hall for the Dallas North congregation, just as he did on countless other construction projects over the years. He gave his all to everything he did, never quitting when challenges arose. He was able to “MacGyver” a solution to almost any problem—one of his all-time favorite phrases was, “The impossible just takes a little longer!”

Finally, I know that many have been touched simply by the warm smile and willing hand that Dad extended to all those he met in his time on earth, whether they be stranger or friend. He will be fondly remembered and deeply missed.

Funeral Arrangements

Arnold’s family warmly invites you to join in honoring and celebrating his life at any of the following events:

  • Visitation: 6:00-8:00 pm Friday, May 2, American Funeral Services, 4312 West Crawford Street, Denison, TX 75020.
  • Graveside Committal Service: 1:30 pm Saturday, May 3, Fairview Cemetery, 1501 Hwy 91 N., Denison, TX 75020.
  • Remembrance Service: 3:00 pm Saturday, May 3, Harvest Time Assembly of God, 222 S. Heritage Pkwy (FM 1417), Sherman, TX 75092. A reception and fellowship follow at 4:00-6:00 pm.

To sign the digital guestbook on the funeral home website, click here.

Flowers may be sent to the funeral home:

American Funeral Services
4312 West Crawford Street
Denison, TX 75020

 Cards for Arnold’s family may be sent to:

Trish Clauson
109 Melrose Cir
Denison, TX 75020-2697

Converge 2015

ConvergeAfter two years of Converge gatherings in two regional locations, GenMin will be holding Converge 2015 in one location: Deer Creek State Park near Sterling, Ohio. The event will occur on March 20-22, 2015 and is open to all GenMin leaders, staffers, friends and partners—all those interested in gathering to celebrate what God is doing to raise up and equip a new generation within our fellowship.

We have reserved the entire beautiful Deer Creek Lodge, which has over 100 hotel-style rooms designed for multiple occupancy.

Paul Young sketch
Wm. Paul Young

The featured speaker at Converge 2015 will be Wm. Paul Young, bestselling author of The Shack and Crossroads. For his bio, click here. To view GCI You’re Included episodes with Paul and theologian C. Baxter Kruger, click here.

Registration for Converge 2015 will open soon and we’re expecting a sellout crowd, so don’t delay once the registration site opens (watch for an announcement at www.gci.org/events). The costs for the event will be posted there along with registration information.

To help you get a feel for Converge, here is a video of a presentation from GenMin national coordinator Anthony Mullins speaking at Converge 2014, West:

On YouTube at http://youtu.be/LQ5CJ7_YNB0.