Death of Adrienne Pickett

PickettWe were saddened to learn of the recent death of Adrienne Pickett, wife of Tom Pickett, Pastor of GCI’s congregation in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Adrienne passed away on April 21. She was 71 years old. Her funeral will be at 11:00 a.m. on April 29 at Capstone Church, 4823 W. Loop 820, Fort Worth, Texas. Visitation will be at 6 to 8 p.m. on April 28 at Winscott Road Funeral Home, 1001 Winscott Road, Benbrook, Texas.

Adrienne is survived by her husband, Thomas J. Pickett (pictured with Adrienne at right); their two sons, Thomas David and Andrew; their six grandchildren, Courtney (pictured below), Christopher, Jewelyn, Chloe, Drew and Quinn; and Adrienne’s four sisters: Marilyn Canup, Judith Omasta, Elizabeth Coston and Jacquelyn Russell.

David, Courtney and Adrienne
Adrienne (right) and Tom (left) with their granddaughter Courtney

To leave a message in a guestbook, click here. Cards to the family may be mailed to:

Tom Pickett
1206 Sproles Drive
Benbrook, TX 76039

Participating in Christ’s humility

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joe and Tammy TkachControversy arose following the Super Bowl this year when the losing quarterback stormed out of a post-game press conference. Though some defended him as an ordinarily humble person, others accused him of being immature and arrogant. That got me thinking about humility, so I googled the word and found several definitions. Common to all was the idea that humility means having a modest or low estimate of one’s importance or rank. As Christians, we understand that being humble means refusing to put others down in order to elevate oneself. It means being thankful for the gifts and talents God has given us, and even more thankful for what God has given others (Philippians 2:3 ESV). That being said, humility should not be equated with tearing oneself down, or with low self-worth.

Mocking of Christ by Annibale Carracci Source: Wiki Commons
Mocking of Christ by Carracci (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

As a gift of the Spirit, humility is an attitude of the heart that reflects the reality that we belong to and have our being in Christ. Our life in and with him is not about self-actualization through acquiring better personal skills and competencies. In humility we remember that all good gifts are from God and the goal of those gifts is always love. Therefore, in humility, we love all people as the beloved children of God they are, understanding that they too struggle to live out who God created them to be. With that humble mindset, how can we possibly think of ourselves as superior to others?

As we go through life we will observe limitations and vulnerabilities in others—some will be highly visible; others more hidden. Hopefully, seeing our own limitations and vulnerabilities, we will understand that only God is in a position to judge. Only he knows the struggles others face; only he knows how far they’ve come and how fully they have responded to him. We realize that we see only what is right in front of us, not what has been, what is, and what will yet be.

Humility comes from honestly looking at ourselves with eyes wide-open, seeing that we, like everyone else, are persons on a journey who have not yet arrived. God is not finished with any of us—we are not yet fully ourselves, for our true selves are “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Self-generated attempts at perfection typically are wrong-headed, self-righteous strivings. In contrast, humility concerning our limitations leads to glad affirmation that any good we do is because of what Christ has done for us and what the Spirit is working out in us.

Arrogance, pride and vanity: the antithesis of humility

C.S. Lewis noted that when we are in the presence of God and his goodness, all arrogance, pride and vanity vanish and the result is “to forget about yourself altogether.” According to Lewis, a truly humble person “will not be thinking about humility—he will not be thinking about himself at all” (Mere Christianity, “The Great Sin”). Arrogance, pride and vanity are about comparing oneself to others in order to measure and prove one’s superiority. Vain people think about themselves a great deal. Carly Simon sang about such people in the hit song, “You’re So Vain,” which proclaimed to one (or perhaps more) of her less-than-humble boyfriends: “You probably think this song is about you!”

The Pharisees Question Jesus by James Tissot (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The Pharisees Question Jesus by Tissot (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

With some notable exceptions, the Pharisees thought about themselves a lot, granting themselves special status and privileges while self-righteously criticizing and condemning others. Sadly, there is a bit of Pharisaism in a lot of Christianity. But those who are humble see others through the compassionate eyes of God. Isn’t that what Jesus did in his encounters with the woman at the well, the woman with the issue of blood, and the blind man? Because of Jesus’ attitude toward these “outcasts,” the arrogant, self-righteous Pharisees plotted to have Jesus killed.

The humility of the triune God

Occasionally you’ll hear some people proclaim that God is not humble—that being God, he justifiably seeks after his own glory. But the truth is just the opposite. In the communion of the Trinity each of the divine persons seeks the other’s glory, not their own. Jesus, who is God among us, said, “I do not accept glory from human beings” (John 5:41); and, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me” (John 8:54). My point is this: God, revealed to us in Christ, is the ultimate picture of humility. God’s humility is so huge that he took humanity into himself in the person of Christ. In his divine freedom, God was pleased, for our sake, to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus, and through his death on the cross, reconcile to himself all things in heaven and earth (Colossians 1:19-20). Note how Paul extols the immensity of God’s humility seen in Jesus:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:4-8 ESV)

Our participation

The eternal Son of God demonstrated the humility of God by becoming human and enduring on our behalf the most painful and shameful form of death. Paul then goes on to describe how followers of Jesus are to respond:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…. (Philippians 2:12 ESV)

Paul is not teaching salvation by works. He is noting that we respond to the free gift of salvation by living out the humility of Christ in all our relationships. Salvation is not about us or our accomplishments. It’s about realizing that all we have and all we are is because of God’s love for us. He gave us gifts for building relationships, gifts that enable us to participate in the work he is doing; gifts that enable us to serve, affirm others and love others. What Paul is telling us is that because we are saved, we are enabled to participate in working out the implications of our salvation by diligently using the gifts we have been given to help others see what their Savior has done for them. This call to participation in what God is doing becomes clear as Paul continues his thought:

…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:13 ESV)

We cannot make ourselves more like God—only he can do that, and he does so by changing our desires and actions, by getting us to be more outward-focused and less inward-focused. CAD Director, Greg Williams, addressed this in a recent letter of his in Equipper: “God does not force us to enjoy the gift of salvation and to share the good news with others, but he enables us.”

The incomprehensible greatness of God is seen in the humility of the Trinity. The Trinity is humility in action as seen in these statements from Scripture: “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand”—the Son has come “not to do my will but the will of him who sent me”—the Spirit “will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears.” Humility is central to the divine nature of the Trinity, and Christ has invited us to participate in that nature as we are in communion with him. Along those lines, note this from the apostle Peter:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Here participate translates the Greek word koinōnos, which indicates fellowship, communion, sharing, partaking of, and partnering. As we participate in God’s divine nature, Christ’s own humility is being worked out in us. Peter challenges us to take full advantage of this gift. So, let’s do just that—let us put on the humble mind of Christ, esteeming others better than ourselves. That mind is the image of God that we want to share with others, for that humility points to God’s own glorious character.

Participating with you in Christ’s own humility,
Joseph Tkach

Converge West

GenMin national coordinator Anthony Mullins reports on the Converge West conference held recently in Southern California. For more about Converge 2016, click here.

Converge WestConverge West exceeded our expectations! The Spirit renewed our sense of togetherness and our hope for the future. We were blessed to share the conference with 86 women and men (see picture at right—click to enlarge). We met at the Holy Spirit Retreat Center in Encino, California with Mark and Anne Stapleton serving as our organizers and guides. Here are conference highlights:

  • Emerging trends in ministry to young adults, children and teenagers. The group participated in an interactive session telling stories of celebrations and challenges in ministering to young people. We then prayed and talked together in small groups.
  • Interns. We heard inspiring stories from the six GCI Interns who were attending. There was a sense of anticipation for the future as we heard the joy they have experienced in fellowship and ministry within our denomination. What lies ahead is exciting!
  • BrandonMaking a difference in the school system. Brandon Antwine (pictured at right), who directs our YES Camp in Louisiana, inspired us with a story about launching several clubs within the school where he teaches in order to help change the youth culture in his city. It was powerful!
  • The Year of the Child. Susi Albrecht shared how church renewal and Kingdom work include children. She shared this “truth-telling” quote: “When we look at most churches—their programming, their staff, and their budgets—it appears that children must first become prodigals, then we go about putting together elaborate programs and events to save them.”
  • Celebrate the Grip camp curriculum. Jeff McSwain demonstrated Jesus’ “grip of grace.”
  • Worship. Xiara Lee danced, Jillian Caranto sang, and Dwight Jarron Sanders led as we worshiped the Lord together through their expressions of love for Christ.
  • CW1People on the margins. Susan McSwain (pictured with her husband Jeff at right) shared the story of Mephibosheth as she led a group discussion concerning seeing people who live on the margins of society.
  • Incarnational ministry. Brad Turnage gave inspiring examples of what incarnational ministry looks like.
  • Gospel declaration. On Sunday morning we gathered in a circle to discuss how the gospel informs our ministry to young people. The were inspired, encouraging and full of hope.
  • CW45Communion. Mark Stapleton invited those over the age of 40 to serve the bread and wine to those under 40, then vice versa (see picture at right). The presence of the Trinity was palpable.
  • Offering. We gathered an offering to support two GCI congregations in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya (one is pictured below). GCI Pastor Anthony Gachanja and GCI Mission Developer Kalengule Kaoma shared their desire to host two Youth Camp Seminars within the Refugee Camp in the coming year. Pastor Anthony reported that their churches are “comprehensively needy” and would welcome any financial assistance provided. At Converge West, we talked about how compassion is shown not so much in our service to others, but in understanding our kinship with image-bearers of God around the world. Thanks to the generosity of the group, we collected $2,435.

refugee camp church

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Note: Thank you for your financial support of Grace Communion International. Your support allows GCI to, among many other things, provide resources to support youth-focused ministries and training for emerging leaders at Converge, summer camps, intern training events and other programs that bring young people together from around the world, helping them grow as young leaders and disciples of Jesus. Thank you for sharing so that others are blessed.

Spreading the gospel in Nepal

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

Nepal (see map below, click to enlarge) is regarded as the country with the fastest-growing Christian church in the world. 82% of its over 31 million residents are Hindu and perhaps 3% are Christian. The introduction in 1990 of a multi-party democracy brought a lessening of hostilities towards Christians although it’s still a challenging place to be involved in the work of taking the gospel to the people.

political-map-of-Nepal

In March, my wife, Ruth, and I, along with our Southeast Asian pastoral coordinator, Wong Mein Kong and his wife, Chew Yeng, travelled to Kathmandu to visit our ministry partner there, the Himalayan Gospel Church (HGC), led by Deben Sam. As summer comes to Nepal, Deben has to make the most of the warmer months and takes trips to visit the rural congregations in the mountainous areas along the southern slopes of the Himalayas. So just prior to another of his trips, we had to squeeze a lot into a few days in Kathmandu.

N1On Saturday, March 12, we joined the Kathmandu congregation in their weekly worship service (see picture at right). Saturday is the day off from work for everyone in Nepal and all churches meet that day. About 80 people worshipped in the church’s facility, built on rented land. It consists of a U-shaped structure with a meeting hall, children’s room, kitchen, office, library, other rooms for guests, and restrooms.

Wong Mein Kong and I gave short sermons translated into the Nepali language by Deben’s brother-in-law, Raju, and Pastor Joseph. It was a delight to participate in the service, listen to the singing, and join in the offering which includes fresh food items donated to help the widows and very poor.

N2I had asked Deben if he could arrange a trip to a congregation outside of Kathmandu to expand our experiences and get a better feel for what the Holy Spirit is doing through HGC. We settled on a visit to the town of Manahari, about 120 km (75 miles) to the southwest of Kathmandu (pictured at left). Deben said that there was a new road in that direction that would cut down our travel time to less than 6 hours. I quickly discovered that I had added some built-in assumptions to the term “new road”!!

We left Kathmandu at 6 am “to avoid the traffic” – again a relative term. We wound our way out of Kathmandu on a narrow though sealed road passing through villages perched on the side of steep hills, with spectacular scenery in the morning mists – up to hovering peaks above us and down to rocky river beds hundreds of feet below. There was no safety barrier most of the way.

N3Then we reached the “new” road (pictured at left). It was so new that, in places, it was still being rebuilt, which added some further delays to the trip. The road was rocky with a deep layer of fine powdery dust. The rock was crumbly and subject to landslides, not helped by the earthquakes and after-shocks of last year, still being cleared away. Our four-wheel drive vehicle bounced and slithered around. So did we, inside. Some trucks and motorcycles, and even a few courageous cars were negotiating the road in both directions. I’ve been on some bad roads in my time, but this was a prize-winner!

N4We finally arrived in Manahari just before midday, and met the local pastor and his wife, who support themselves by running a small grocery shop in the main part of the town. The local church was in the process of constructing a building (pictured at left).

We learned that it was to be large enough to accommodate about nine orphans that the church is already caring for, and their guardians. The pastor from a church some distance away had come to Manahari to meet Deben and us.

N6Soon it was time to head back to Kathmandu, and I can’t say I looked forward to that road again. But the driver decided he would take an alternative way. Surely, it couldn’t be any worse, we thought. About 90 minutes out of Manahari, we turned off the established road and, literally, took a river bed instead (pictured at right). It was nothing but a track, but we were not alone—there was a row of four-wheel-drive vehicles winding along the valley, through scrub-land, over rocks, and fording the stream numbers of times. Another marvelous experience – a bonus off-road adventure that gave us a taste of the real Nepal.

On Monday, we visited the medical clinic that serves the very poor that the HGC has been running for about 10 years with support from GCI in the US and Australia. It was established to provide free medical consultations and medicines to people working in the brickyards and on the streets, focusing mainly on mothers and children. It was established simply to be a tangible expression of the love of God for the most disadvantaged of people, but over time some have asked why we offer a free service. A few have become church members as a result.

N8The owners of the original clinic location needed to utilize the site again after the earthquake last year, so Deben had to look for a new location.While he was doing so, Deben took the opportunity to assess its long-term future. To survive in the long term, the clinic needs to be financially self-supporting. So he has moved it into an urban area in the location shown at left.

Convenient to those shopping nearby, the clinic charges for medicines and consultations. It will also serve as a base for a mobile clinic which will take medical services even closer to those in need than before. It is Deben’s plan that eventually the income generated by the clinic will fully support the mobile services for the poor. In the transition, GCI will continue to fund it as we are able.

N9We also visited Deben’s farm (pictured at right) where he provides land so the poor people can raise tomatoes to sell to support themselves and the church. Deben also has a farm animal facility, which financially supports his extended family, including the 15 orphans from rural areas who live with him (pictured below). Deben mentioned that after the tragic earthquake of April last year, he found numerous children in rural areas where there are HGC congregations who had lost at least one parent in collapsed buildings, and that HGC is providing various forms and levels of support for another 80 children.

orphans

On Tuesday, we had the privilege of visiting the Himalayan Bible School (HiBiS) in session. Twelve men and women had been chosen from the locations where his mobile Bible school had conducted sessions last year in rural villages, to attend a three-month intensive course of Bible and Pastoral education in Kathmandu. It runs from February to May each year. Afterwards the participants go home with a small stipend to help support them for nine months while they use what they have learned in support of a local congregation and in community evangelism. Ultimately, Deben hopes to have the resources to hire a few of these graduates for full-time service in ministry in rural Nepal.

School

Nepal is an exciting and exceptionally challenging country in which to be part of Jesus’ ministry. One of the congregations in the northwest that Deben visits necessitates a 12-hour bus ride, followed by a one-hour plane ride and then three days of walking. Even places close to Kathmandu are not easy to reach, and Kathmandu itself is still recovering from the severe earthquakes of 2015, with much greater needs still outstanding in the regional areas. Doors are open everywhere you turn, and ministry has to be a matter of priorities according to the gifts and resources God gives to each part of the body of Christ.

We deeply appreciate the partnership God initiated between GCI and HGC, and the vision, sound management and courage to take up new opportunities that Deben brings as leader of a wonderful team of people. I know they all appreciate your prayerful support of the work God is doing in Nepal. As the former principal of Nepal Ebenezer Bible College, Rev. Manoj Shrestha, explained in an address at Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Michigan) last year, the gospel has reached “the highest point on the earth [Mount Everest in Nepal] from the lowest point on land on the earth [the Dead Sea].”

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Note: Your financial support of Grace Communion International allows the denomination to support Rod Matthews and other Mission Developers so that they can connect with people around the word who are interested in learning more about Jesus’ love for them. Thank you for sharing so that others are blessed.

Having a “front lawn” mentality

front lawn

In churches as in neighborhoods, in order to build community, it’s vital to get outside the building and onto the “front lawn.” This “front lawn” mentality is vital in a post-Christian era when people rarely take the initiative to come inside the church. We must go outside to them and there build community. For a helpful Christianity Today article on this important topic, go to http://www.christianitytoday.com/local-church/channel/utilities/print.html?type=article&id=133798.

Members honored

Celestine (Cella) Olive is a long-time employee in GCI’s home office and a music minister at her home church, New Hope Christian Fellowship (one of GCI’s Southern California congregations). Recently, Cella and her husband Leonard were honored by being elected as “Volunteers of the Year” for the County of Los Angeles. Only 55 of  the 33,000 volunteers working in L.A. County programs received this prestigious award.

Leonard and Cella (at right in the picture below) received their award at an event at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles (the award certificate is shown below—click to enlarge). In the brochure given out at the ceremony, New Hope Christian Fellowship was honored for participating in the Covenant for Kids Program in conjunction with the Department of Children and Family Services. The program brings to church children who are in the foster care system.

V__2016.r

Celestine award2

Dishon Mills

In March, we requested prayer for Pastor Dishon Mills who was anticipating oral surgery. The surgery is now complete and Dishon sends this praise report:

Dishon Mills 2
Dishon Mills

We serve an awesome, wonder-working God! The only word that adequately describes my surgery is miraculous. My doctor said my tooth came out with minimal effort. This is atypical. Once he removed the tooth, he was able to clearly see my nerve, which he said was very unusual in cases like mine. He had no trouble avoiding severing it as he removed the cyst. As far as outcomes, my procedure was as good as it gets. No fractured jaw and no severed nerve.

I am managing my pain well enough and the swelling is not bad. Although my nerve was not severed, it was traumatized by the surgery. The left side of my mouth is numb, but I get a little more feeling back each day. I’m taking it slow. I have to eat like a baby for a week and then I’ll be able to eat like a toddler. I will also have to be careful with my jaw as my bone grows back. All-in-all, I’m doing well.

Thank you for your love and prayers. God willing. I should be back in action next weekend. To God be the glory!

Shepherds, not sheriffs

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joe and Tammy TkachYou’ve probably seen movies and TV shows where the local preacher’s role in the community is more like a sheriff than a pastor. That was the case in the movie Footloose. Amidst snappy tunes and the near-acrobatic dancing of the high school’s senior class, the local preacher, being dead-set against dancing, seemed to have a lock on being the town’s moral policeman. Though eventually he relented (even buying his daughter a corsage for the graduation dance), the point was made—in our world, clergy are often viewed as sheriffs, not shepherds.

Moral police or loving shepherds?

The Lost Sheep by Liz Lemon Swindle (used with artist's permission)
The Lost Sheep by Liz Lemon Swindle
(used with artist’s permission)

In times past, pastors often did function as moral police. Thankfully, those days are largely gone, except (regrettably) in cults that seek to control their members. That being said, I’m well aware that when the frustrations of being a pastor mount up (and they do!), we pastors can feel like the ones pictured in the cartoons below. If we’re not careful, we can momentarily forget that our calling is to participate with Jesus, the great Shepherd, in his ministry that extends to his sheep the transforming love and grace of God.

In the late 1980s, my father Joseph W. Tkach led a conference with the theme, We are shepherds, not sheriffs. He pointed out that pastors are called to be “helpers of their joy” rather than “contributors to their hurts.” He urged our pastors to focus on affirming and encouraging rather than on confronting and rebuking. I extend my heartfelt thanks to all our pastors for helping us make that important transition.

Don’t give in to the pressure

sheriff
(with permission from LeadershipJournal.net)

It certainly is a challenging time to be a pastor. Multiple pressures conspire to discourage if not overwhelm the faith of our members. Those pressures include worldviews hostile to the gospel, including the increasingly strident atheistic minority that rails against anything resembling Christianity. Then there is the desire of media to placate minority viewpoints in order to be politically correct. This frequently leads to media blitzkriegs against traditional moral values.

Some pastors react to these pressures by crying out with indignation about the sins of the nation. Sometimes they cry out about the sins of the members in an effort to get their people “back on track.” But indignant approaches like these are not what God has called us to as pastors. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminded the pastors-in-training at his underground seminary during the days of Hitler, the church already has an accuser—his name is Satan. Another one is not needed!

Helping people change

Certainly we need to be aware of the impact societal trends have on the hearts and minds of our members. We need to realize that they can become discouraged and question their faith and calling. We also need to understand that people slip and make bad decisions that lead them into sin. But this is when people need encouragement, not hurtful exhortation. I ask all our pastors and ministry leaders to continually remind our members of who Christ is and of who they are in Christ. It is in this knowledge of their true identity in Christ that they will find comfort and the desire to change the way they think (repentance), experiencing greater fervency in their communion with God.

preaching2
(with permission from LeadershipJournal.net)

As church leaders affirm, encourage and otherwise build up their members, they participate in what Jesus, by the Spirit, is doing to speak the truth in love, including offering needed correction, and also showing how they may use their spiritual gifts and other Christ-like qualities in God’s service. When we join Christ in that work, we are helping people grow as vital members of his body, the church.

How do affirmation and encouragement help people grow? Largely by providing a positive, nurturing environment in which people thrive spiritually. This is the relational, disciple-making method of Jesus—an approach vital for us at a time when many of our pastors are nearing retirement. We need to help men and women develop spiritually, thus enabling them to hear and obey God’s call to Christ’s service. Because we need many new pastors and ministry leaders to help us on our continuing journey of renewal, I call on all pastors and ministry leaders to make identifying and developing new leaders a high priority. Please keep your eyes wide-open for men and women whose hearts are inclined toward being pastors who are shepherds, not sheriffs.

Barnabas’ example

St-barnabé-veronese-rouen
Barnabas curing the sick by Paolo Veronese
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

When I’m asked to define the model New Testament pastor, I often mention Barnabas. According to the book of Acts, though his birth name was Joseph, the apostles nicknamed him Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). There are multiple examples in Acts of Barnabas reaching out to encourage people who others withdrew from. Barnabas was one of the first disciples to accept Paul (the persecutor of Christians!) as a genuine follower of Jesus (Acts 9:26-27). Later, Barnabas brought encouragement to the gentile converts in Antioch who were being shunned by some Christians because they were not strictly conforming to the Law of Moses. Instead of withdrawing, Barnabas “saw what the grace of God had done” and “encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (Acts 11:23).

Paul, who was mentored by Barnabas, wrote this concerning joining Jesus in being an encourager in the lives of others:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:4-6 ESV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

God’s priority

Based on the Bible’s creation accounts, I think we can say that giving affirmation is central to the way God infuses his creation with abundant life. On each day of creation week in Genesis, God declared the goodness of a certain aspect of his creation. The beautiful, poetic language used in these verses powerfully reminds us that we serve a God who gives high priority to offering encouragement and affirmation. When we join him in that, we participate in his life-giving ministry—a ministry that began at creation and continues today in and through his church.

Thank you sisters and brothers for your dedication to sharing actively in what Jesus is doing, by the Spirit, to extend the Father’s transforming love and grace to his beloved children. Thank you for being shepherds, not sheriffs.

Loving serving as a shepherd with you,
Joseph Tkach