Thinking and living “trinitarianly”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the messages dominating the media are often opposed to what Scripture teaches. It’s rare to see a commercial on television encouraging us to reach out in self-sacrifice to serve others. Instead, the media constantly repeat materialistic, self-focused messages that say Me first! My wants! What I can have! That is one of the reasons I don’t like watching TV commercials. Tammy and I dislike them so much we record everything we watch on TV so we can fast-forward through the commercials.

Scripture teaches us to minister to others in self-sacrificial ways—giving away our time, talents, energy, finances and commitment. But the biblical message of self-sacrifice often is drowned out by the “noise” of a consumeristic culture. I can hear the self-indulgent jingle now: You deserve a break today!—a message often heard as “abandon responsibility and think only about yourself.” It is the opposite of the self-sacrifice lived and taught by Jesus: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25, ESV).

 

Source (used with permission)

Please don’t misunderstand. Self-sacrifice is not about abandoning all desire for good and enjoyable things. I chuckle when someone, having been asked what they have denied themselves in order to follow Christ, reply with a list of sinful behaviors they have given up. Is it really self-sacrifice to refrain from murder or adultery? No, authentic self-sacrifice is grounded in the realization that life isn’t all about the self—it’s about being in relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit. It’s about knowing who God is, and who he is in relation to us and others. It’s about acknowledging the invitation we’ve been given to participate with the Father in what he is doing through the Son and by the Spirit to fulfill his mission for the sake of the world that he loves. Self-sacrifice is about following Jesus’ New Commandment to love others just as he loves us. It’s about being willing to give up whatever is necessary in order to share God’s love and life with others.

Ultimately, self-sacrifice is more about a who than a what. It’s about God the Father sending his Son in the power of the Spirit to show us who God is and what he desires for all humanity. In that regard, we should not miss how Jesus honored small acts of self-sacrifice. Think of the boy who gave up his lunch and more than 5,000 were fed. Or consider the widow who gave her last coins as an offering. We should see these acts for what they are—sacrificing the self to serve others. Such acts reflect the heart and mind of God the Father who, in order to give us eternal life, sacrificed his only begotten Son at infinite cost to himself. The cross of Christ proves that God loves us so much he is willing to suffer loss for our sakes. In his self-sacrifice to serve us, God did not lose any of his dignity or worth. His self-sacrifice is one of the reasons we sing that he is “worthy of worship.”

Source (used with permission)

British systematic theologian Colin Gunton (pictured above) was fond of saying that to properly understand Christian doctrine, we must learn to think trinitarianly:

If you want to understand how God works in our world, then you must go through the route God himself has given us: the incarnation of the eternal Son and the life-giving action of the Spirit. Let me repeat: the Trinity is about life. Irenaeus is the writer of that great sentence, often heard from him: “The glory of God is a human being truly alive.” The Trinity is about life, life before God, with one another and in the world. If we forget that God’s life is mediated to us trinitarianly, through his two hands, the Son and the Spirit, we forget the root of our lives, of what makes for life and what makes for death.

Thinking trinitarianly informs us about God, about human nature, and the nature of the church. When the Bible tells us that we are created in God’s image, it is not talking primarily about an innate human capacity. Rather it is telling us about the form of human existence corresponding to God’s relationship to us. To be authentically human, we are to image (reflect, correspond to) who God is in all that we are.

As an echo of the life of God, the church should reflect the kind of being God is—a being in relation—a communion. Jesus came to reveal what God is doing and what he has in store for us. He came as a true human being and took on human nature—our defective, fallible flesh; yet, he remained sinless. Sometimes I ponder how Jesus did that. It was not from a built-in divine programming, but because he freely and totally relied on the moment-by-moment guidance of the Holy Spirit in his human life. Even while living in human flesh on earth, Jesus’ relationship with God the Father and God the Spirit remained in unbroken communion. As the apostle Paul explained, “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).

Gunton wrote about what it means to be a human person:

Among the great achievements of those who have thought trinitarianly is the concept of the person as a living whole rather than as a mind encased in matter. How it came about is a complicated and difficult matter to describe, but it is one of the fruits of the trinitarian teaching that God is three persons in one being. By thinking about the Trinity, the early theologians came to realize that they had come across an entirely new conception of what it is to be personally. To be is not to be an individual; it is not to be isolated from others, cut off from them by the body that is a tomb, but in some way to be bound up with one another in relationship. Being a person is about being from, and for and with the other. I need you—and particularly those of you who are nearest to me—in order to be myself. That is the first thing to say: persons are beings who exist only in relation—in relation to God, to others and to the world from which they come.

The real truth of human nature is found in Jesus Christ and in him alone. We must see that God’s affirmation of humanity as “good” is fully realized only in Jesus. T.F. Torrance put it this way:

Jesus Christ is the Word by whom, for whom, and in whom we have been created in the image of God, so that in his Incarnation as Immanuel, God with us and for us and in us, he is the secret of our creation and redemption―in him we may now penetrate through all the distortion, depravity and degradation of humanity to the true nature of man hidden beneath it all.

As we follow Jesus, responding to God’s call in our lives, the Holy Spirit leads us in a “Christomorphic” direction—the way of self-sacrifice. Indeed, the true nature and dignity of humanity is established and disclosed in the human nature of Jesus. True self-sacrifice is giving up our autonomous self and self-will in order to more fully live in Christ. Our true personhood, our true dignity, thus lies not in ourselves alone, but in union and communion with Jesus. In Jesus, by the Spirit, we think and we live trinitarianly.

Enjoying the life that is ours in union and communion with Christ,
Joseph Tkach

PS: Because our publications team will be at the GCI Denominational Conference in Orlando, we will not be publishing Weekly Update the next two weeks (August 2 and August 9). Our next issue will be published on August 16. I’m looking forward to seeing many of you at the conference!

Bicycling fundraiser

Friends of Camp Connections (FOCC) recently raised $20,000 (Canadian) in support of Camp Connections, one of two GCI youth camps in Canada. FOCC raised the funds through a bicycling trip that involved the 18 riders pictured below (each had received pledges for each mile covered). Recipients of the funds include various campers including children of refugees who have settled in Canada.

Northern Light Camp

About 40 staff and campers (pictured below) gathered in mid-July at the Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center near Lanesboro, MN, for the 11th year of Northern Light Camp, which is one of GCI Generations Ministries’ youth camps.

Set in scenic southeastern Minnesota along the Root River, the Eagle Bluff staff provided activities such as canoeing, high ropes, pioneer life, pond life, archery, skeet shooting and indoor rock climbing. Additional activities provided by GCI volunteer staff included T-shirt tie dyeing, making pottery, wood turning ink pens and rolling pins, making lariat rope, cup stacking, paracord bracelet making, card playing, hands-on engineering, physics of non-Newtonian liquids (think slime and quick sand!), Frisbee golf, making noodles and home-made ice cream. Worship and messages supporting the theme, “The Journey (a lifelong adventure with Jesus)” were given daily by Charles and Keysha Taylor, Becky Deuel and Doug Johannsen. Camp Director was Troy Meisner.

Mission trip to Mexico

Generations Ministries’ mission organization Crossing Borders (CB) recently completed its 23rd mission trip into Mexico. CB’s missionary team (pictured below) spent eight days building relationships, accomplishing tasks, and living and sharing the gospel.

CB chose “encouragement” as the theme for this summer’s trip—the goal was to bring encouragement to CB’s ministry partners in Mexico who face various crises and other sources of discouragement including illnesses, decreasing church attendance, defection of leaders, property thefts, tight finances, government corruption and threats from drug cartels. To bring encouragement, the CB team devoted one-on-one time to their Mexican ministry partners—listening to their stories and needs, letting them know they are not alone, and praying with them.

For a long time, one of the Mexican pastor’s wives had been saving small amounts of money hoping one day to be able to cover the concrete floor of their humble home with tile. She had finally accumulated enough money, but then her husband had opportunity to be able to make a trip to some very poor churches several hours farther into Mexico to deliver shoebox gifts to the children. Nora donated her floor tile savings so the children could receive the gifts. As it turns out, some CB supporters had donated some funds with the instruction to use them when a fitting opportunity arose—and this was the opportunity. CB replaced Nora’s funds so she could tile her floor, and left-over funds were used to bless their congregation with much-needed supplies.

In another instance, CB became aware that Sister Juanita, the senior-citizen director of a children’s home that CB has “adopted,” had only one door on her 4-door car that would open from the inside (due to broken handles). She had to crawl over the front seat into the back seat, and then exit through the rear passenger door. CB was able to help her get the handles working again. CB also was able to buy supplies for the children’s home, and took Juanita on a shopping trip for clothes and other personal items for herself (she never spends money on herself; always on the kids). In addition, CB purchased and installed new plumbing fixtures, three ceiling fans and three hi-velocity floor fans (there is no air conditioning in the children’s home).

During the trip, the CB team helped out at a “church in the park” for homeless people (pictured above); painted walls and fences at a Christian youth school (the painters are pictured below); visited two children’s homes; purchased items that were distributed during a church outreach event; conducted a Vacation Bible School for 50 children; and lots more.

A highlight of the trip was hosting CB’s 15 ministry partners at an “encouragement luncheon” at a restaurant (see picture below). This was the first time CB’s ministry partners had been together—the joy and friendship was amazing as life stories were shared over the meal. CB team members gave encouraging messages to the group along with bags full of gifts for all.

We are grateful that through CB’s ministry in Mexico, the love of God is being shared, the gospel message is being lived and spoken, and lives are being transformed—the lives of CB’s missionaries and the lives of those being served.

CB’s next mission trip to Mexico is scheduled for December 8-11, 2017. For information go to www.cbmission.org, or call CB director Lee Berger at 903-746-4463.

Death of Bob Persky

We were saddened to learn that retired GCI Pastor Robert Persky died at home early Sunday morning, July 23. Bob was 72 years old.

Born to Arthur and Sadie Persky in 1945, Bob (pictured at right) first heard the World Tomorrow program in 1959, then began attending the Radio Church of God in Houston, TX, in 1960. He was baptized in 1963. After attending the University of Houston, Bob transferred to the Texas campus of Ambassador College, graduating in 1969. He then married the love of his life, Kay Hyde. Shortly thereafter Bob and Kay started a family with the birth of twin sons Ted and Neal. Later they were joined by daughter Livia and a third son, Bradley.

In 1969, Bob entered the employed ministry of WCG, serving first as a ministerial trainee in Indianapolis, IN. Following ordination, he was transferred to pastor a church in Ohio, followed by pastorates in Wisconsin, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida and last in Texas. In 1996, Bob was named a District Superintendent, serving first in Kentucky, then Florida, followed by Texas.

In 2013, Bob retired from the employed ministry of GCI after 49 years of dedicated service as a beloved pastor of churches and a pastor to pastors. In his spare time, Bob enjoyed fishing, hunting and spending time with his family. The study of theology was one of his passions in life.

Bob was preceded in death by his parents and his son Ted. He is survived by his wife Kay, his daughter Livia, his sons Neal and Bradley, his children’s spouses, and his six grandchildren. For information about the funeral in the Dallas, TX, area on July 27, click here.

Prayer is requested for Kay (who has her own health struggles), their children and grandchildren.

Cards may be sent to:

Kay Persky
129 Star Point Lane
Weatherford, TX 76088-6409

Theological alignment seminar

This announcement is from Greg Williams, Director of GCI Church Administration and Development.

We’re looking forward to seeing many of you at the upcoming Denominational Conference in Orlando. Our theme is “We are GCI.” You will hear reports and stories from around the globe that will inspire and inform you about what the Lord is up to in our fellowship. To launch our time together, all pastors and interested members and friends are invited to a pre-conference seminar conducted by Dr. Gary Deddo titled “Theological Alignment.” It will be held on Tuesday, August 1 at 1:00 to 4:00pm in the conference hotel.

Gary Deddo

In the seminar (which includes time for Q&A), Gary will summarize the significant work he has been doing over the past year at the request of GCI President, Dr. Joseph Tkach, leading to the publishing of two essays: “The Church and Its Ministry” and “Clarifying Our Theological Vision.” From my viewpoint, these essays help us to be more aligned in our theology, doctrine and ministry practice. As is says in Psalms 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

So that you can familiarize yourself with the content of Gary’s essays, they are posted online as PDF documents at https://www.gci.org/2017/theologybooklets.

Trip to Papua New Guinea

GCI-Australia pastors Rod Dean and Mark Latham recently returned from a visit to our brothers and sisters in Papua New Guinea (PNG). What follows is Rod’s report.

The trip to PNG took months to prepare to maximize the time there while allowing for the unexpected. Our trip was interrupted by a political demonstration and after arriving we expreienced a severe earthquake. Despite these disruptions, it was a wonderful trip.

Our biggest emphasis this trip was youth and children who make up the majority of the Mt. Wilhelm congregation (pictured above). For the growing number of youth, we introduced our first speaking club (Life Club) with 35 teens and five adults attending. The club is part of an effort to motivate our youth to improve their English and think about their future. This program accompanies our ministry at the high school, youth meetings and talent shows.

The children’s class has been challenging. We have around 70 children on our rolls, and the coordinators and teachers have decided that we need to raise the standards, especially as children approach the age of our study center. We put together a curriculum for the rest of the year and held a meeting with middle school (grades 6-8) parents to encourage them to learn English and read with their children. At present, the middle school has 150 students up to grade 3 and they will be adding a new grade every year, perhaps up to grade 8. Of the 150 students about 80 are disadvantaged and 20 are orphans living on site. There are still clothing needs for the disadvantaged children, and the school is $25 a day short of nutritional food. We plan to bring a supply of clothing on our next visit and the focus of our Ulladulla Charity Appeal will be on the school’s food needs.

I spent the remainder of the trip with the congregation’s leaders and worship team, giving an ACCM preaching intensive, a worship intensive, and a talk on how to approach the Bible. I also introduced reading materials I brought with me, among them, GCI’s Discipleship Series, sermon notes, and Speaking of Life transcripts. Lastly, we had the annual pastoral advisory council meeting in which we shared the importance of accountability. We audited the books and encouraged appropriate counting and storage of money. While I met with the pastoral team, Mark coordinated various work projects, which necessitated walking over the mountain range about five times! Mt Wilhelm now has running water for the showers and flush toilets in the orphanage.

Mark and I are very aware that we were accompanied on the trip by the prayers of the church. I told the church in PNG that we do not come alone. So many people contributed in different ways to the trip—we are truly grateful for their support.

Innovative outreach

Anthony (“Tony”) Caputo, pastor of GCI’s congregation in Lakehurst, NJ, is “practicing what he preaches” about outreach, utilizing a rather innovative approach to connecting with unchurched people in the community where the church meets. Here is what Tony wrote:

As I work as an Uber driver, I try to be friendly and start some conversation. Depending on the passenger and the tone of the conversation, I often mention that I pastor a small church. If the person asks questions or otherwise expresses interest, I invite them to visit our church.

So far, a daughter and her mother have begun attending as a result of one of these invitations. Just recently I picked up someone else who expressed interest in attending. I would appreciate prayers that Jesus will lead me to more such “divine appointments.”