GCI Update

Jesus—the complete salvation package

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

joeandtammyNear the end of his Gospel, the apostle John made these intriguing comments: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book…. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 20:30; 21:25). Given these comments, and noting differences among the four Gospels, we conclude that these accounts were not written to be exhaustive records of Jesus’ life. John says his purpose in writing was that “you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). The focus of the Gospels is to tell the good news about Jesus and the salvation that is ours in him.

Though in verse 31 John attributes salvation (life) to the name of Jesus, it’s common for Christians to speak of being saved by Jesus’ death. Though this short-hand statement is correct as far as it goes, relating salvation exclusively to Jesus’ death can stunt our understanding of the fullness of who Jesus is and all he has done to save us. The events of Holy Week remind us that Jesus’ death, though vital, is part of a larger story that includes our Lord’s incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension. All these are intrinsic, inseparable milestones of Jesus’ one redemptive work—the work that gives us life in his name. During Holy Week, and throughout the year, let’s look to Jesus—the complete salvation package.


She Shall Bring Forth a Son by Liz Lemon Swindle (used with permission)
She Shall Bring Forth a Son by Liz Lemon Swindle (used with permission)

Jesus’ birth was not the ordinary birth of an ordinary man. Unique in every way, it was the beginning of the Incarnation of God himself. In Jesus’ birth, God came among us as a human in the way all humans since Adam have been born. Remaining what he was, the eternal Son of God took on a whole human life, from beginning to end—birth to death. In his one Person, Jesus is both fully divine and fully human. In this stunning statement we find an eternity’s worth of significance that merits an eternity of appreciation.

Through the Incarnation, the eternal Son of God stepped out of eternity and into his creation of space and time to become a man of flesh and blood: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Jesus was indeed a genuine full-fledged man, but at the same time he was fully God—one in being with the Father and Spirit. The birth of Jesus fulfills many prophecies and is the promise of our salvation.

The Incarnation did not end with Jesus’ birth—it continued throughout his earthly life, and continues today in his glorified human life. The Son of God incarnate (in the flesh), remains one in being with the Father and Spirit—the fullness of the whole God is present and active in Jesus—making the human life of Jesus uniquely significant. As Romans 8:3-4 says, “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Paul further explains that we are “saved through his life” (Romans 5:11).

The life and work of Jesus are inseparable—all part of the Incarnation. The God-man Jesus is the perfect high priest and mediator between God and man because he partook of the nature of man and reclaimed humanity by living a sinless life. His sinless life helps us understand how he can maintain a relationship with both God and man. While we typically celebrate his birth at Christmas, the events in Jesus’ whole life are always a part of our total worship, including during Holy Week. His life reveals the relational nature of our salvation. Jesus brought together, in his own person, God and humanity in perfect relationship.


The Burial of Christ Carl Heinrich Bloch
The Burial of Christ by Carl Heinrich Bloch (public domain via Wkimedia Commons)

For some, the short-hand declaration, we are saved by Jesus’ death, carries with it the unfortunate misconception that Jesus death was a sacrifice that conditioned God into being gracious. I pray that we all see the fallacy of this notion.

T.F. Torrance writes that with a proper understanding of the Old Testament sacrifices, we will see Jesus’ death not as a pagan offering for the sake of forgiveness, but as a powerful witness to the will of a merciful God (Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ, pages 38-39). Pagan systems of sacrifice were based on retribution, but Israel’s was based on reconciliation. Under Israel’s system, rather than sacrifices and offerings being given to earn forgiveness, God provided them to cover for and remove the people’s sin so that they would be reconciled to God.

Israel’s sacrificial system was designed to make manifest and to witness to God’s love and mercy, pointing to the purpose of Jesus’ death, which is reconciliation with the Father. Jesus death also defeated Satan and the power of death: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Paul adds that Jesus “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26). Jesus’ death is the atoning part of our salvation.


He is Risen by Liz Lemon Swindle (used with permission)
He is Risen by Liz Lemon Swindle (used with permission)

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, which fulfills many Old Testament prophecies. The author of Hebrews tells us that Isaac being saved from death is a picture of resurrection (Hebrews 11:18-19). The book of Jonah tells us that Jonah was in the stomach of the sea monster “three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). Jesus related that event to his death, burial and resurrection (Matthew 12:39-40; Matthew 16:4, 21; John 2:18-22).

We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection with great joy because it reminds us that death is not permanent. It’s a temporary step toward our future—eternal life in communion with God. At Easter we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death and the new life we will have in him. We look forward to the time spoken of in Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” The resurrection is the hope of our salvation.


Jesus_ascending_to_heaven by John Singleton Copley, 1775 public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Jesus Ascending to Heaven by John Singleton Copley (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Jesus’ birth led to his life and his life led to his death. But we cannot divorce his death from his resurrection and we cannot separate his resurrection from his ascension. Jesus didn’t just come out of the grave and live as a human being. Now a glorified human, Jesus ascended to the Father, and it was not until that great event occurred that he finished the work he started.

In the introduction to Torrance’s book Atonement, Robert Walker wrote this: “The ascension is Jesus’ taking of our humanity in his person into the presence of God into the union and communion of the love of the Trinity.” C.S. Lewis put it this way: “In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend.” The glorious good news is that in ascending, Jesus took us up with him: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7).

Incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension—all vital parts of our salvation and thus our worship during Holy Week. These milestones point to all Jesus has accomplished for us through his whole life and whole work. Throughout the year, let’s take in more and more of who Jesus is and all of what he has done for us. He is the complete salvation package.

Holy Week blessings to you and yours,
Joseph Tkach

South Africa camp

SEP bikingLast December, GCI South Africa held a youth camp attended by 42 children, 57 teens, 26 young adults and 58 staff members. Camp activities included worship, Christian Living classes, outdoor sports, dancing, life skills, crafts and camp improvement.

Cycling, the newest camp activity, was widely enjoyed. Many campers, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, had never learned to ride a bicycle before.

SEP connectedThe camp theme, Connected, proclaimed the reality that we always are connected to God, and in that connection we are connected to each other. The theme was preached and explained in morning worship sessions and included in all camp activities. The theme came to a conclusion in a full church service on the last day of camp. The service included the Lord’s Supper led by camp chaplain, Timothy Maguire. During camp, two youth committed their lives to Christ and were baptized.

SEP dancing

SEP worship

Thanks to the generosity of congregations and the mission fund in GCI Canada, many of the disadvantaged campers were fully sponsored in attending.

Converge 2015

Epic Story logoOver 350 people gathered for Converge 2015 at the Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Center in Mt. Sterling, Ohio on March 20-22. The event, sponsored by GCI Generations Ministries, started as a gathering of GenMin camp leaders and expanded through the years to include young people, pastors, ministry coordinators, camp and short-term mission trip leaders and others interested in exploring the mission of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In keeping with the theme of Epic Story, Converge 2015 proclaimed the message that every person’s story gets its meaning and purpose in the Epic Story of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Wm. Paul Young (in the center of the picture below), best-selling author of The Shack and Crossroads, was a featured speaker at Converge 2015 along with GCI President, Joseph Tkach.

Converge 2015

Here are comments from a few people who attended:

  • It was excellent and first-class, on all fronts, from start to finish. I can’t commend or thank you enough.
  • I had an awesome experience with everyone at Converge this year. I really love how it gives our generations, both young and older, a fun, Spirit-filled time to bridge the generational gap. I can’t wait for next year.
  • I had the privilege of attending my first Converge and let me start by telling you Converge was absolutely amazing!
  • Thank you for orchestrating one of the most Gospel-inspiring GCI events to date.

Videos of Paul’s two presentations at Converge 2015 are embedded below. Additional videos and pictures are posted at www.generationsministries.org/converge-2015-highlights.html.

Watch on YouTube at https://youtu.be/CbS3rONpZAA.

Watch on YouTube at https://youtu.be/NvzMazhzU2M.

Next year, GenMin will be holding Converge conferences in two locations:

Converge West
April 15-17, 2016
Encino, CA

Converge East
April 22-24, 2016
Mt. Sterling, OH


GenMin camp recognized

The Rock, one of Generations Ministries’ summer camps, was recently named one of six top Christian camps in North Carolina by Christian Camp Pro (see the post on their website at http://christiancamppro.com/top-6-christian-youth-camps-in-north-carolina/).

Congratulations to the staff at The Rock, including camp directors Dennis and Diana Elliott, and their predecessor Stephen Webb. This is quite an honor for a camp in its third year of operation.

Here is a video showing The Rock in operation:

Watch on YouTube at https://youtu.be/F_VgaXUDEyI.

Free retreats and getaways for pastors

Due to the demands of their calling, pastors often find it difficult to get time away to refresh and renew. Doing so is particularly difficult for bivocational pastors and often beyond the financial reach of all pastors. But help is available!

Thanks to the generosity of various individuals and organizations, there are several places in the United States where pastors and their spouses can find free lodging for times of rest and refreshment. See the Christianity Today article at www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/march/free-or-discounted-getaways-for-pastors.html.

Patty Mitchell

Wayne & Patty Mitchell
Wayne and Patty Mitchell

Wayne Mitchell, GCI lead pastor in Seattle-Bellevue Washington, asks for prayer for his wife Patty who is battling a new form of cancer after recent major cancer surgeries. Wayne and Patty are grateful that the new cancer is small and appears to be contained. Additional surgery is anticipated and the prognosis is hopeful.

Along with his prayer request, Wayne wrote this: “The Lord is so gracious to us. No matter where we go or what we enter into, he is already way ahead of us.”

Your prayers and loving support for Patty and Wayne are greatly appreciated. Cards may be sent to:

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

Dewey Peterson

Georgia and Dewey Peterson
Georgia and Dewey Peterson

Please pray for Dewey Peterson, lead pastor of GCI’s congregation in Crossville, Tennessee. Dewey recently spent five days in the hospital where an arterial blockage was found and temporarily corrected. Bypass surgery is now scheduled for April 3. Dewey is also recovering from a painful bout with shingles.

Please also pray for Dewey’s wife Georgia who also is battling health problems of her own.

Cards may be sent to:

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

Death of Val Leech

Val Leech

We were saddened to learn that long-time GCI-Australia employee Val Leech died on March 30 after a short stay in the hospital. Her death, which was sudden, came as quite a shock to those who knew her.

Val was an outstanding employee of the church for over 40 years, serving in various roles, in the Australian office. She also worked for a short time in the U.S. home office. Val was widely known across Australia and beyond—respected and appreciated as a true servant, always diligent, cooperative and happily willing to help. She had an extensive range of interests, from books to airplanes, and a quick sense of humor. Val was an invaluable part of the life of the church family. “She was a gem,” as a friend of hers said, and will be missed by us all.

Autumn festival in Denmark

Carl Fredrik Aas, GCI’s regional pastor in Scandinavia, recently announced that there will be a worship festival in Denmark this fall with the theme “Christian Journey.”

Information about the festival is found online at http://en.gvks.org/home.