GCI Update

A word of knowledge?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Joe Tkach and Tammy TkachSeveral years ago, a brother in Christ from another denomination approached me with a sense of urgency. He said he had a “word of knowledge” for me from the Lord. He said God wanted me to know that unless I went to a particular church in Toronto or Pensacola to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, God would remove me from church leadership within six months and our denomination would disappear within a year. Wanting to be polite, I didn’t say what I was thinking: “I believe Jesus is telling me not to listen to you!” 

Though I believe the Spirit, from time to time, gifts some with special wisdom and discernment, this brother’s message was clearly the invention of his own imagination. Over the years, many have felt the need to share with me a word of knowledge or a prophecy, which they claim is from the Lord. On one occasion, a gentleman declared that he wanted to anoint and ordain me. I explained that I already had been ordained and wasn’t sure why he wanted to anoint me (I wasn’t feeling sick—at least not until he mentioned this “word”!). It reminded me of the people who audition for one of those TV singing contests. Though they sound awful, they get angry when the judges won’t let them on the show!


Though I’ve had several of these experiences over the years, the only times the prophecy was true, was when it mirrored (coincidentally?) what already is revealed in Scripture. One time, a woman who said she was a prophetess brought me this message from the Lord: “God loves you!” She seemed taken aback when I replied, “He loves you too!” She seemed genuinely surprised when I then told her that God’s love for all people is one of the fundamentals of the faith. I mentioned that the old song is true, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” I think she walked away disappointed.

false-hopeOn another occasion, a man told me that God told him to “wash my feet.” He seemed surprised when I replied that his message was more for him than for me—perhaps God was telling him to serve me and others in practical ways. It’s sad that some people are motivated to convey a “word of knowledge” for others, yet they do not hear God’s already-revealed word for them!

Those who have come to me with a word of knowledge or a prophecy generally have not brought a new revelation. Not a single one of these prophecies has come to pass. But that’s no surprise, because the purpose of prophecy is not to foretell the future but to point to Jesus, who is the center of God’s plan of redemption. As the apostle John wrote, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). Jesus declared that all Scripture (and that includes all its prophecies) point to him (John 5:39). As declared by the author of Hebrews: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus is now our prophet, as well as our priest, sage and king.

When someone proclaims that the Spirit has given them a special gift, they (perhaps unwittingly) imply that the Spirit is operating separately from Jesus and the Father. Some even proclaim that the Spirit gets “the short end of the stick” when he doesn’t receive as much worship as do the Father and the Son. They seem to conceive of the Trinity as three-in-competition rather than three-in-communion. But let me be clear: The Spirit has not altered God’s plan of redemption; has not displaced Jesus as the center of all prophecy; and never works separate from Jesus and the Father. The Spirit never does anything outside the unity and communion of the Trinity.

Jesus explained that the Spirit is sent to guide us into all truth and in doing so does not speak on his own. He is sent to do the will of the Father. The Spirit comes from the Father, through the incarnate Son, and actualizes within us all that God accomplished for us in Christ. Elmer Colyer put it this way in an article entitled “Thomas F. Torrance on the Holy Spirit”:

Jesus, our brother, does all of this for us on our behalf and in our place in and through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is born of the Spirit. At his baptism, Jesus was anointed for us with the Spirit without measure, for he received the Holy Spirit into the very humanity Christ assumed in the incarnation. Jesus Christ lived out his entire earthly life and ministry in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Everything our Lord did, he did in the communion of the Spirit, including his death and resurrection. So it is no isolated or naked Holy Spirit who comes upon the church at Pentecost, but rather the “Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7), the Holy Spirit who was fully engaged in the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.

Just as Jesus does not do anything behind the back of the Father, neither does the Holy Spirit work independently of the Father and Son. T.F. Torrance talked about the Spirit “hiding behind the Father” and bringing the “radiance of God’s glory to bear upon us.” The Holy Spirit does not have a separate agenda nor does he give messages separate from what the Word is saying. Note this from T.F.:

Like Christ the Holy Spirit is one in being and of the same being as the Father, but unlike Christ the Holy Spirit is not one in being and of the same being as we are, for he incarnated the Son but does not incarnate himself, he utters the Word but does not utter himself. He directs us through himself to the one Word and Face of God in Jesus Christ in accordance with whom all our knowledge of God is formed in our minds, knowledge of the Spirit as well as of the Father and of the Son. This is the diaphanous self-effacing nature of the Holy Spirit who hides himself, as it were, behind the Father in the Son and behind the Son in the Father, but also the enlightening transparence of the Spirit who by throwing his eternal Light upon the Father through the Son and upon the Son in the Father, brings the radiance of God’s Glory to bear upon us. We do not know the Holy Spirit directly in his own personal Reality or Glory. We know him only in his unique spiritual mode of activity and transparent presence in virtue of which God’s self-revelation shines through to us in Christ, and we are made through the Spirit to see the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father.

When the Scripture speaks of the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is not speaking of things separate from the Father or the Son. The fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.), are characteristics of the Son that we share in through the indwelling Spirit. Likewise, the gifts of the Spirit (including the “word of knowledge”) are not separate from the Father or the Son, and are given principally to encourage and embolden the faith of the recipient.

Let me close with this from T.F. Torrance: “What Jesus Christ does for us and to us, and what the Holy Spirit does in us, is what God himself does for us, to us, and in us” (Christian Doctrine, p. 95). Now that’s a word of knowledge!

Looking to Jesus, the one true prophet,
Joseph Tkach

Note: the cartoons in this issue are used with permission from Naked Pastor (www.nakedpastor.com).

Southeast Asia update

This update is from Rod Matthews, GCI mission developer in Asia and the South Pacific.

Bangladesh: A Work of Wonder

Asia1The work that God is doing in southern Bangladesh amongst the poorest people living in one of the world’s great floodplains continues to inspire. With Bengali Evangelical Association founder and leader, John Biswas, I visited the mission base at Sathsimulia, a village about 40 km from the city of Barisal, on March 18. Generous donations from congregations and people in many countries over the past years have enabled the construction of a fine facility (pictured at right) that provides meeting and lecture rooms, accommodation, and a secure shelter during cyclones and local flooding, which are prevalent in this area of Bangladesh.

It’s an administrative base for a number of outstanding programs which reach into the surrounding communities – schools for children, goats for disadvantaged families, nurse’s aides to conduct village clinics, gospel workers to conduct home Bible studies and establish congregations, and the discipling of those with whom God is working. We conducted a mid-week meeting of nearly 400 people packed into the hall on the ground floor (pictured below), where John and I spoke on biblical topics with the upcoming celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection in mind. Of course, I needed a translator so my English could be understood by all of these Bengali-speakers. Jacob Biswas, John’s brother, provided that service. Bibles were distributed to those who still didn’t have one.


Asia3Afterwards, everyone ate well with a meal provided by the staff. We walked around the compound, appreciating the blessings of such a fine secure facility in this rural area, and seeing the latest project – a fish-breeding pond (pictured at right). It’s amazing that the work that God is doing in this area comes from a mission centre than cannot be reached by a 4-wheel motor vehicle – you have to walk nearly a mile along tree-lined paths on raised banks between rice fields and ponds and past homes and yards with tethered animals to reach the centre.

Asia4Back in Barisal, where we stay, a meeting of nearly 60 workers (pictured at right) was held on Friday, March 20, where I addressed the group before a series of reports were given on the progress of the range of activities under way. It’s inspiring to see the enthusiasm, dedication and involvement of these core servants of God in a country of significant social challenges, lack of resources, widespread poverty and not uncommon opposition.

Asia5In March 2016, the church is planning a major conference in Dhaka inviting international speakers and guests so the rural and urban Bengali people who have responded to God through BEA’s work may fellowship together, hear a range of speakers to enhance their spiritual education, and help the Bengali people feel more a part of our international fellowship. Everyone is welcome to attend in support of our work in Bangladesh. The trip will include seeing the real Bangladesh during the day’s drive south to Barisal and a visit to the mission base at Sathsimulia.

Sri Lanka: Teaching the Teachers

Asia6The Colombo Theological Seminary (CTS) again requested Perth (Australia) pastor, and Sri Lankan National Director, Mohan Jayasekera (pictured at right), to be a guest lecturer, this time on the subject of the Life of Paul, focusing on his understanding of election and eschatology. Mohan taught over four days in March. The students included 31 pastors from all over Sri Lanka. His presentations made a great impact, so much so that the senior founding pastor of the Calvary Church in Colombo, Rev. Dr. Tissa Weerasingha, remarked that he had not previously heard such an enlightening approach taken and requested a copy of Mohan’s notes.

Colombo Theological Seminary has been directly involved in the translation and printing of a number of GCI publications, starting with our Discipleship 101 course, which was translated into Sinhala and Tamil and is used as a text in the first-year Bible class at CTS. Later they were involved with the translation and publication of our booklet, “The God Revealed in Jesus Christ” in both languages. Subsequently the series of articles by Dr. Gary Deddo entitled “Scripture, God’s Gift” were compiled into an English-language booklet and published by CTS and now this, too, has been translated and printed in both these Sri Lankan languages.

Karen Refugee Church Update

Southeast Asian Senior Pastor, Wong Mein Kong, and I went to Maesot, Thailand, to visit our Karen brothers and sisters in Christ who are in one of the refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. Since their pastor, Lah Shi, died about two years ago, we were wanting to encourage them and reassure them that they had not been forgotten. However, on arrival we found that a governmental agency had put a temporary seal on the camps for the purpose of conducting a census. We were not permitted entry, and that was a big disappointment. However, whenever our agenda takes a hit, it seems God has something else in mind.

Asia7But first, let me explain that upon the death of Lah Shi at the age of 73, we wondered how we could serve these people, few of whom speak English, and who were now without a bilingual pastor. The group has a good relationship with several other denominational groups within the camp, and there have been exchange visits of musicians and children’s singing groups, so I thought that perhaps God might provide leadership from sources we were not so familiar with – perhaps a succession plan beyond anything we could arrange. But surprises are the name of the game in Asia! Several individuals and families have been able to find a way to live outside the camp. One gentleman (pictured at left) is named Goro. He is a quiet man and I had thought his English was poor, only to find later that he was shy and simply didn’t want to risk showing up his lack of practice in English. Goro has stepped up and now fills the pastoral role of looking after the welfare of the congregation through visiting and taking Bible studies as he is able. I should mention he is 83!! I guess succession planning from God’s perspective isn’t quite as limited as ours.

Asia8Goro informed us that while we couldn’t go to the camp, we had a baptism to conduct— the son of a member family living outside and some miles beyond the camp. The family had requested a communion service as well. So we drove for about 90 minutes north up a good road, past the town of Tha Song Yang. Their home is a very basic wood and bamboo construction. We sat on mats on the floor, and talked about the meaning of the bread and wine, with Goro translating into the Karen language.

Asia9The river was a short walk away, and we found a depression in the river bed deep enough for the baptism (see picture above).  The family (pictured at left) watched, as did two water buffaloes with whom we shared the stream. They were up-stream from us, so I could only hope they had been in the water long enough to use the stream for all their needs well before we joined them in the water!

Wong Mein Kong and I felt privileged to have celebrated the commitment of this young man to a life of walking with Christ as one of his disciples. He has grown up in a refugee camp and it is still uncertain as to what opportunities will be open to him – but only in this world.

Concerning reduced church attendance

Many churches in North America report reduced church attendance among committed members. Some helpful thoughts about this trend are found in an article at http://careynieuwhof.com/2015/02/10-reasons-even-committed-church-attenders-attending-less-often/.

Patty Mitchell

Here is a follow-up to the earlier prayer request for Patty Mitchell from her husband Wayne, pastor of the GCI congregation in Seattle-Bellevue, Washington.

Wayne & Patty Mitchell
Wayne & Patty Mitchell

We just returned from our day with several doctors. Thank God, we got some good news! What the doctors thought was cancer in Patty’s lungs and lymph nodes in her chest, turned out to be inflammation brought on by an infection she has been battling for three months. What came at us like a roaring lion, the true Lion of Judah tamed into a scratching house cat. There is, after all, only one King of the Jungle. And we roll with him!

Patty’s doctors started her on a regimen of supplementation, diet and hot Epsom salts baths to treat the inflammation. She also continues to be treated for papillary carcinoma. We meet soon with surgeons to discuss the extent of needed surgery. After that, she will have 12 weeks of chemotherapy, then bi-monthly treatments for a year. She should be clear then. If not, we will continue the regimen until she is.

So it’s very good news overall! Thank you for your prayers, kind words and loving support.

Cards may be sent to:

Wayne and Patty Mitchell
14509 254 Avenue SE
Monroe, WA 98272-9333

Death of Mike Horchak’s father

Joe and Mike
Joseph and Mike Horchak

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of Joseph Horchak, the father of Mike Horchak who pastors GCI churches in Hammond and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Joseph died on April 10 in Mountain Home, Arkansas, at the age of 93. During his last hours, his daughter, Jacqui Blackwood, was by his side.

Born in Breziner, Pennsylvania in 1922, Joseph married Betty Wargo in 1944. She preceded him in death. Joseph is survived by three sons: Joseph C. Horchak (Jackie) of Roseville, CA, Michael Horchak (Pam) of Hammond, LA, and Douglas Horchak (Tanya) of McKinney, TX; daughter, Jacqui Blackwood (Fred) of Holly, MI; ten grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Cards to the family may be sent to:

Mike Horchak
41120 Adelle Drive
Hammond, LA 70403-7539

Birth of Chenys’ first child

GCI Pastor Kernani Cheny and his wife Juliette of Martinique are ecstatic in welcoming to the world their first child, Keynan Josue. He was born on April 15, weighing eight pounds and 20 inches long. Though the pregnancy and cesarean-section delivery were difficult, baby Keynan is well and lively. New mommy Juliette is very tired but happy to welcome this wonderful gift.

Keynan Josue

Birth of Millers’ grandchild

Bob Miller and his wife Ruth are pleased to announce the birth of another grandchild, Lily Renee Miller. According to Bob, who pastors GCI churches in Birmingham and Good Hope, Alabama, “Our son Brian and his wife Kristin report that the delivery went well and Lily is a healthy little girl—born on April 20, weighing 7 pounds, 4 ounces; 21 inches long. Brian and Kristin are exhausted and the grandparents are doing great!”

Millers grand