GCI Update

Our Triune God: living love

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

joeandtammyIf asked to identify the oldest living thing, some might point to Tasmania’s 10,000-year-old pine trees [1] or its 40,000-year-old shrub [2]. Others might point to the 200,000-year-old seagrass on the coast of Spain’s Balearic Islands [3]. As ancient as these plants may be, the oldest living thing is far older—it’s the eternal God, who is revealed in Scripture to be living love. Love is God’s nature, and the intra-personal love of the Trinity has existed from before creation. There never has been a time when true love did not exist because our eternal, Triune God is the Source of authentic love.

Augustine of Hippo by Botticelli (c. 1480), Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (d. 430), emphasized this truth by referring to the Father as “Lover,” the Son as “Beloved,” and the Spirit as the love existing between them [4]. Out of his infinite abundance of love, the Triune God created all that exists, including you and me. In The Triune Creator, theologian Colin Gunton argues for this Trinitarian explanation of creation, noting that we must consider the whole biblical witness and not just the Genesis creation accounts. Gunton notes that this approach is not new—it’s how the early church understood creation. For example, Irenaeus noted that a Trinitarian perspective requires viewing creation in the light of what happened in Jesus. The God who created everything out of nothing (ex nihilo) did so with great purpose—out of love, in love, and for love.

As T.F. Torrance and his brother J.B. liked to say, creation was the result of the overflow of God’s love. This is seen clearly when God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26). In the phrase “Let us…” we find a hint of God’s triune nature. Some interpreters disagree, saying that viewing this as a reference to the Trinity is to impose New Testament understanding on the Old Testament. They typically explain either that “Let us” is a literary device (the “majestic we”), or that God is talking with the angels as his co-creators. But Scripture never attributes creative powers to angels. Further, we should interpret all Scripture through the lens of Jesus’ person and teaching. The God who said “Let us,” was the Triune God whether or not ancient humans knew it.

As we read the Bible through the lens of Jesus, we come to understand that God’s creation of humankind in his image is a profound expression of God’s nature, which is love. In Colossians 1:15 and 2 Corinthians 4:4, we learn that Jesus, himself, is the Image of God. Jesus images the Father to us because he and the Father are one in being in a relationship of perfect love. Scripture tells us that Jesus is connected to creation (including humankind), referring to him as the “firstborn” of creation. Paul calls Adam (the first man), the copy (“type”) of Jesus “the one who was to come” (Romans 5:14 NRSV). Jesus is thus the prototype of all humanity. Paul also calls Jesus the “last Adam,” who as the “life-giving spirit,” renews fallen Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), thus transforming humankind into his own image.

As Scripture tells us, we have “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10), and “we all, who with unveiled faces, contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). He is the true Image of God, who in taking on our human nature, “tasted death for everyone.”  By uniting himself to us, Jesus sanctified us and made us his brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:9-15). We have been created and now are being re-created according to the image of the Son of God who, himself, images for us the holy loving relationships in the Trinity. We are to live and move and have our being in Christ, who has his very being in the tri-personal communion of love of the Father, Son and Spirit.

In Christ and with Christ, we are God’s beloved children. But sadly, those lacking understanding of God’s Triune nature of love easily miss this important truth, embracing instead various misunderstandings:

  • Tritheism, which denies God’s unity, claiming there are three separate and distinct gods, thus making any relationships between them external and not essential to God’s nature.
  • Modalism, which teaches that God is a single being who appears at various times in one of three different modes. This teaching also denies any relationships internal and eternal to God.
  • Subordinationism, which teaches that Jesus is a creature (or a divine being who is less than the Father) and thus not eternally the divine Son of God. This teaching also denies that God in his being is a triune relationship of holy love for all eternity.
  • Other teachings, though affirming the doctrine of the Trinity, fail to grasp its deepest glory: that the Triune God is loving in his very being before there ever was a creation.

Understanding that the Triune God is, in his very nature, love, helps us see that love is the foundation of all things. At the center of that understanding is that all things come from and revolve around Jesus who reveals the Father and sends the Holy Spirit. Thus, the place to start in understanding both God and his creation (including humankind), is in asking this question: Who is Jesus?

It is inescapably Trinitarian that the Father has created all things and established his kingdom by placing his Son at the center of his plan, purpose and revelation. The Son glorifies the Father and the Father glorifies the Son. The Holy Spirit, who doesn’t speak of himself, constantly points to the Son, thus glorifying the Son and the Father. The Father, Son and Spirit delight in this triune interaction of love. And when we, God’s children, confess Jesus as Lord, we do so by the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father. As Jesus predicted, true worship is “in spirit and in truth.” When we worship the Father, Son and Spirit, we are worshiping the oldest living thing who, in love, created us to love him and dwell with him forever!

Feeling loved,
Joseph Tkach

[1] http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=3240

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/1996/10/20/world/australians-report-40000-year-old-shrub.html

[3] http://www.dogonews.com/2012/2/10/ancient-seagrass-may-be-the-worlds-oldest-living-organism

[4] Classical Trinitarian Theology, a Textbook by Tarmo Toom, T&T Clark, 2007, pp. 153-54.

Disaster in Nepal

This update concerning the recent earthquake in Nepal is from GCI mission developer, Rod Matthews.

Deben 3At about noon on April 25, a severe earthquake (7.9 magnitude) struck in the central part of Nepal. Its epicenter was about 50 miles northwest of the city of Kathmandu. I was immediately concerned about our ministry partner there, the Himalayan Gospel Church, led by Deben Sam. Deben was able to contact me by email, explaining that the quake struck during their Sunday morning church service. The wall between the children’s classroom and kitchen collapsed, but by God’s grace no children were injured. At Deben’s home, a wall collapsed and windows shattered, yet none of his family or any of the 16 orphans who live with him were injured.

New reports show significant destruction in Kathmandu, especially to older buildings that are largely constructed of unreinforced brick. Deben lives close to the old, historic area of Durbar Square, which has been featured on many news reports due to the collapse of many historic temples in the area.

Deben 5I told Deben of our deep concern, and our prayers for the people of Nepal suffering in this disaster, especially his church members and extended family. The three-month-long Bible school he has been conducting in his church building for young leaders from rural congregations is drawing to a close. We hope that none of those attending have suffered loss.

On April 27, I received this update from Deben:

This afternoon we got electricity in our area. There’s not so much damage in our area, just cracks in the building and collapsed boundary walls. The news reports shortage of the food in the market, but I don’t think so because most of the shops are closed. My wife has already stored food for a month so we have no present shortage.

Deben 6By the grace of God, my family, children and the whole congregation are fine. But it is very bad news that several other churches in the area collapsed with members trapped inside. Most of the people in Kathmandu are camped in the streets, stream-beds, or wherever they find an open place. We are distributing water and instant noodles to the people who are staying in the area surrounding our church.

Some people are still alive but trapped under collapsed buildings. In some areas the dead bodies are still not taken out and the whole area has begun to smell. You may guess how much need there still is here. Rescue teams are unable to reach many of the remote areas. Many have died and there is a lack of tents, food, etc. for those who are alive—most of the food and clothing was buried in the earthquake.

Deben 4I have sent funds to four pastors in affected areas so they can buy foodstuffs from local markets and distribute it as emergency relief. Our team in Kathmandu is ready to do the same in the city and surrounding areas. We are negotiating about vehicles, food, tents and blankets as well as rooms for storing the goods. I have already sent the team into some places to determine the exact situation. Please pray for us and our relief efforts.

Deben mentioned that there are constant aftershocks in Kathmandu, numbering well over 60 when he wrote. One was magnitude 6.7, a major quake in itself. The photos included in this update were taken by Deben in Kathmandu near where he lives.

GCI is in the process of sending emergency funds by electronic transfer to Deben to give him a greater capacity to provide for the needs of those affected. Your prayers, love and concern are much appreciated by Deben, his family, church team, all the believers suffering in this catastrophic event, and surely by everyone who is a material recipient of the love of God expressed through the aid and service provided by these brothers and sisters in Christ.

GCI Disaster Relief Fund

From time to time we’re contacted about helping members impacted by major disasters like the recent one in Nepal. If your congregation has a heart to help members in this way, probably the best way to do so is to send donations to the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. The Fund was established to help provide members in disaster areas with emergency needs such as food, water, medicine, clothing, temporary housing, home and/or church hall repairs, temporary local pastoral salary expenses and other emergency needs. Monies received into the Fund that are not immediately needed will remain in the Fund to be allocated in future disasters.

In previous years, money from this Fund has been used to help members recover from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, storms and flooding in Bangladesh, an earthquake and tsunami in the Solomon Islands, typhoons in the Philippines and an earthquake in Haiti.

On behalf of all those who have been helped by the Fund, I wish to express sincere appreciation to the congregations and individuals who have generously provided financial assistance.

If your congregation would like to donate to the GCI Disaster Relief Fund, your treasurer can set up a one time or monthly donation through the GCI Online system (http://online.gci.org) by logging in and selecting Church Giving under the Treasurer tab.

If your congregation prefers to send a check, make it out to Grace Communion International, indicating on the memo line that the donation is for the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. The donation should be sent to:

GCI Disaster Relief Fund
Grace Communion International
P.O Box 5005
Glendora, California 91740

New church in Kenya

A congregation in Etago, Kenya (pictured below) recently joined GCI. They decided to do so after its leader, John Musoti, read on the GCI website, our Statement of Beliefs and teachings about the new covenant. As a former Seventh Day Adventist, John had always felt that the Old Testament laws were burdensome, but he did not know what to do.

Kenya 1

After reading our literature, John contacted us. GCI pastors Elisha and Lang’at, who live about 60 miles away, visited John. During a series of three meetings, the group had many questions. Pastors Elisha and Lang’at answered by referring to the simple, yet profound message of the gospel: we are saved by grace and nothing else! After these meetings, the group decided to join GCI. They were then commissioned as a GCI Bible study group under the supervision of pastors Elisha and Lang’at, with John Musoti leading the group’s pastoral team (pictured below).

Kenya 3


For an update on recent events (including an ordination) in GCI-Philippines, go to: http://my.gci.ph/bulacan-church-elder-ordained/.


Use Facebook to grow your church

Social media are powerful tools for reaching existing members and people outside the congregation. To learn about using Facebook as a tool to help build your church, click here.

social media

Don and Sue Lawson

Prayer is requested for retired GCI pastor and district superintendent Don Lawson and his wife Sue. Sue continues to suffer with memory loss and Don, who is Sue’s full-time caretaker must have hip replacement surgery on May 5.

Please pray for both Don and Sue in this challenging time. God willing, they will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary on August 7.

Cards may be sent to:

Don and Sue Lawson
78406 Hampshire Ave
Palm Desert, CA 92211-1954

Death of Marge Bailey

Many of those who attended Ambassador College in Pasadena, California, will remember Marge Bailey, who was employed by the College for about 20 years. Her married name was Alice Carrick. She completed her earthly sojourn on April 1, just short of age 95. She died as the result of a cerebral stroke that had occurred on March 10.

Born in Stockton, California, in 1920, Marge grew up on remote ranches in northeast California near Fort Bidwell and Alturus. In the mid- to late 1940s The World Tomorrow radio program caught her interest and in the fall of 1953 she traveled to east Texas for a church festival and was baptized there. A few years later Marge was hired to work in the Mayfair kitchen at Ambassador College, along with Annie Mann and Myrtle Horn. Later, she was asked to serve as operator of the campus laundry, where she also sewed laundry bags for the students to use when they brought their clothes in for cleaning. Some students used these sturdy, hand-sewn bags for many years following graduation.

After leaving the college in the mid-1970s, Marjorie returned to northern California. While living in Orland and Corning, she served the members of the Chico congregation of WCG/GCI in a variety of ways over several decades. During this time she decided to begin writing a series of children’s mystery books with a ranch setting similar to that of her childhood. She used the pen name Alys Henderson (a form of her first name, Alice, and her maiden name). Two books were published and a third was unfinished at the time of her death.

Marge is survived by her husband of nearly 22 years, Clifford Carrick. Although Marge had no children of her own, she considered the hundreds of young men and women of Ambassador College her “kids.”

Death of Rick Ridgell

Rick RidgellIn past issues we’ve requested prayer for GCI pastor Rick Ridgell and his wife Pam (pictured at right) concerning Rick’s prolonged battle with cancer. We were saddened to learn that Rick died recently.

We are grateful that GCI pastor Brian Carlisle was able to be with Rick and Pam during Rick’s final few days, offering support, prayer and communion. Pam and Rick celebrated their 27th anniversary on the Friday before Rick’s death.

Please join us in praying for Pam, their son Richard and the GCI congregation he pastored in Winchester, Virginia.

Cards may be sent to:

Pam Ridgell
640 Butler Ave.
Winchester, VA 22601

Dewey Peterson

Georgia and Dewey Peterson
Georgia and Dewey Peterson

Last week we asked for prayer for GCI pastor Dewey Peterson. Here is an update from Dewey:

My healing has been going quite well in some aspects, but my lung capacity has been greatly reduced. I went to the hospital recently where they drew two liters of fluid from the area around my lungs. I experienced considerable pain as the vacated space began to fill after the lungs expanded. I believe it will get back to normal in a few days. Thanks for your prayers!

Cards may be sent to:

Dewey and Georgia Peterson
12 Mariners Pt.
Crossville, TN 38558-2771

Arlen Bryant

Please pray for Arlen Bryant, lead pastor of GCI’s church in Cookeville, Tennessee. Arlen had been experiencing troubling symptoms, including diminished ability to speak and memory problems. In a recent scan, doctors found a tumor in his brain. Arlen is now at home, being treated with medication to shrink the tumor awaiting surgery, which is now scheduled for May 7.

Your prayers for Arlen and his wife Jean, and for their congregation are needed and much appreciated.

Cards may be sent to:

Arlen and Jean Bryant
2054 Benton Young Rd
Cookville, TN 38501

Festival 2015 in Italy

GCI in Italy invites you to Festival 2015, coming up in August. To learn more, go to http://www.ccdg.it/joomla/images/stories/pdf/Flyermontegrotto2015.pdf.