GCI Update

The wonder of the Incarnation

This “From the President” letter is by Joseph Tkach, Chairman, GCI Board of Directors.

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Joseph and Tammy Tkach

Advent, which spans four Sundays (starting on December 2 this year), is a season of preparation for Christmas. During Advent we ponder the marvels of Jesus’ multiple “comings” (advent means coming). One of those marvels is the Incarnation by which the omnipresent God came even closer to us in the person of the God-man Jesus. As Luke proclaims, because Jesus has come, “nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17, NASB). I like Luke’s use of “come to light”—it’s an idiom that points to the reality that with the coming of the incarnate Son of God to earth, things previously hidden about God and humanity are now revealed.

To see physically, there must be a source of light and the same is true spiritually. The light that gives spiritual sight is Jesus—the light of God for the world. The apostle Paul puts it this way:

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6, NASB)

Christ Pantocrator
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Greek word translated face is prosopon from pros (meaning toward) and ops (meaning face or eye). It can also be translated presence. With the advent of Jesus, the everywhere-present though hidden God may be seen (experienced) through the Spirit in a deeply personal, face-to-face way.

Though omnipresent, God cannot be contained by created time and space. Through the Incarnation, God made himself personally present to us in Jesus. The Son of God first came to us through his human birth; since his ascension he is coming to us by his Spirit; and at the end of the age he will come again bodily. Christ has come, Christ is coming, and Christ will come again.

The season of Advent reminds us that God is not limited by the Incarnation. God remains Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and the Son of God remains who he was from all eternity, while assuming a complete human nature. Because of the Incarnation, our uncreated, omnipresent God is present to all created things while remaining God over all things.

As portrayed in the famous icon at right, the Son of God, who was divine before the Incarnation, remains divine even while being with us in the human person of Jesus. As affirmed in the Chalcedonian Creed, Jesus is one person with two natures.

Jesus was, is, and forever will be, fully God and fully human.

My mind boggles contemplating that reality. Though I cannot fully comprehend it, Advent reminds us that God the Son came from eternity and stepped into created time and space to be with us. In Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin puts it this way:

For even if the Word in his immeasurable essence united with the nature of man into one person, we do not imagine that he was confined therein. Here is something marvelous: the Son of God descended from heaven in such a way that, without leaving heaven, he willed to be borne in the virgin’s womb, to go about the earth, and to hang upon the cross; yet he continuously filled the world even as he had done from the beginning! (Book 2, p. 53)

My mind continues to be boggled as I read what Paul wrote to the church at Colossae:

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. (Col. 2:9-10)

As a baby lying in a manger, Jesus was still the omnipresent Lord, sovereign over eternity and all creation. Though he became human, the Son of God remained divine. As the author of Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). While on earth, the incarnate Son of God lived a fully human life. Paul puts it this way:

Being in very nature God, [the Son of God] did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:6-8)

The incarnate Son of God made this great sacrifice in order to reconcile, regenerate and transform within himself our rebellious, corrupted human nature. That transformed human nature is then shared with us by the Holy Spirit who ministers to us the things of Christ.

The wonder of the Incarnation, which we ponder during Advent, truly is beyond our ability to fully grasp. Nevertheless, it inspires our adoration and thanksgiving. Advent, along with Christmas and the other celebrations in the liturgical calendar, reminds us that our omnipresent, triune God reached down to us so that we might be lifted up to him. Thank you, Jesus!

Love and blessings upon you all this Advent season,
Joseph Tkach

PS: Due to the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday next week, the next issue of GCI Update will be published on November 28. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Gary Moore retires

During recent meetings in Charlotte, NC, various GCI leaders who have recently retired, or are about to retire, were honored for their years of service as GCI employees. One of the honorees was Gary Moore, who retired at the end of August from serving as National Director of GCI-Canada.

Gary and Wendy Moore

Following graduation from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, Gary entered the employed ministry of Worldwide Church of God (later Grace Communion International). Over the next 24 years, Gary pastored WCG congregations in the Canadian provinces of Ontario (including a US church in New York State), New Brunswick, Alberta and Nova Scotia. Then in 1997, Gary left the pastorate to begin serving as GCI-Canada’s National Director.

At a celebration of his retirement, Gary mentioned that he feels “blessed and privileged to have experienced the life I have had.” He explained that his journey from a legalistic approach to Christianity to one firmly anchored in the grace of God in Christ has been “a wonderful experience.” In retirement, Gary hopes to continue serving God and his people as long as he has the energy and health to do so. Bill Hall has replaced Gary as National Director of GCI-Canada.

Thank you Gary and Wendy for the many years of service to GCI!

ACCM teachers accredited

Ambassador College of Christian Ministry (ACCM) offers a diploma program in Christian ministry that GCI President Greg Williams has endorsed as a core educational standard for GCI ministers around the world. To provide for wider participation in the program, ACCM director John McLean recently conducted training at GCI’s Home Office in Charlotte, NC, where several new ACCM teachers were accredited to teach certain ACCM courses. As John noted

To be a teacher of the written word of God is a high calling and privilege, as we work together to focus our students on Jesus, the Living Word of God. By doing so, we are participating in what Jesus is doing to build and grow his body, the church, thus advancing the mission of God to the world.

Those participating in the accreditation training came from Canada, Africa, Mexico, Latin America, USA and the Caribbean. According to John, “they all have excellent qualifications, a real heart for learning and teaching, and evident love for Jesus Christ and our fellowship.”

Held over two days, the training courses used an interactive format to encourage group learning. The courses were then augmented by an opportunity for the trainees to facilitate two ACCM Intensives: Jesus and the Gospels, and Christian Leadership.

Here are comments from several of the men and women who were being accredited:

I appreciate this opportunity. Educating and training leaders is the most pressing and urgent need we have in Africa. —Kalengule Kaoma, Africa

It is gratifying to continue learning and to be able to guide others to understand who Jesus is, what he does and to know his life. It is a joy to do so with humility, for the right reasons, feeling the privilege of participating in this work with Jesus Christ. Thank you very much for providing the opportunity to equip us to serve better. —Irma Selena Venegas de Soto, Mexico

Thank you again for the opportunity to participate in ACCM teacher accreditation. I was very blessed to be part of it. I love the ethos of ACCM. The courses are robust, yet accessible. That is something that is personally really important to me, so I am very thankful that an entity like ACCM exists in GCI. I’m looking forward to taking these classes to leaders all over the US with Anthony Mullins. —Cara Garrity, USA

The ACCM teacher certification training was an outstanding laboratory of learning. The ACCM team has created a first-rate Christian curriculum and it was a joy to participate in the courses taught by GCI instructors from around the world. I highly recommend the ACCM educational platform for personal discipleship and for being equipped for ministry. —Anthony Mullins, USA

John McLean (second from left in front row) with the newly accredited teachers

Church celebrates fifth anniversary

Grace Communion Fellowship, GCI’s congregation in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA, recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of its founding in a special worship service (see the picture above). During the service, Lead Pastor Angelita Tabin gave the congregation’s leaders special recognition with prayer and a gift, and children performed special music (see pictures below).

Following the service there was a meal attended by more than 100 people. Following that, there was entertainment, featuring dancers in Filipino costumes (see pictures below). Reflecting on the event, Pastor Angelita, who was integrally involved in planting the church, shared these thoughts:

We celebrated God’s faithfulness to us. Over the past years, we have seen his goodness, mercy and love. He is truly the one who orchestrates everything to make it possible for us to celebrate. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise him all creatures here below, praise Him above you heavenly hosts, praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!”

November Equipper

Here are links to the articles in the November 2018 issue of GCI Equipper:

From Greg: Equipping for GCI’s Next Chapter
GCI President, Greg Williams, looks ahead to the future, noting the role of GCI Equipper in preparing us for what lies ahead.

Healthy Church: Receiving the Offering
Here is an infographic that addresses receiving offerings in church.

Reflections on Stewardship
Santiago Lange addresses the important topic of stewardship.

GC Hickory Relaunch
A conversation addressing the relaunch of GCI’s church in Hickory, NC.

Whole-Life Discipleship: Evangelism in a Post-Christian World
Randy Bloom addresses evangelism—a key aspect of discipleship.

Prayer Guide: November 2018
Here are GCI-related topics to pray about each day during November.

RCL Sermons
Below are links to the sermons for December, which includes Advent Season and Christmas Day. Each sermon (except for Christmas Day) includes a Speaking of Life video and discussion questions keyed to RCL readings.
Dec. 2, 2018 (Advent 1)
Dec. 9, 2018 (Advent 2)
Dec. 16, 2018 (Advent 3)
Dec. 23, 2018 (Advent 4)
Dec. 24/25, 2018 (Christmas)
Dec. 30, 2018

In case you missed them last month, here are the sermons for November:
November 4, 2018
November 11, 2018
November 18, 2018
November 25, 2018

California wild fires

Updated 7:00 pm (Central time zone), November 18.

The recent Camp Fire in Northern California and Woolsey Fire in Southern California are the most destructive in years. As of November 18, the death toll from the Camp Fire approaches 80, with over 1,000 people unaccounted for. Thankfully, all GCI members in the affected areas of both wild fires have been accounted for and found safe. The story is different, however, regarding the homes of some members in Northern California.

Larry and Judy

Larry Van Landuyt, pastor of GCI congregations in Chico and Redding, CA, lives with his wife Judy in Paradise, CA, site of the Camp Fire. He and Judy had little more than hours to pack up family photos and important papers before being forced to drive down a road lined on both sides by flames on November 11. Fortunately, they were able to stay with their daughter in Marysville after evacuating, but it was only by November 13 that they found out that their home and two investment properties along with a vehicle had been totally destroyed in the fire. They had just renovated one of the investment homes to sell. It was scheduled to go on the market this week. Below are before-and-after pictures of the Van Landuyt’s three homes, with the one they lived in on the left. (Click the pictures to enlarge.)

The home of another GCI member in the area apparently survived the fire, but she will have to remain with family in Corning for the time being. Several former GCI members also lived in Paradise, and all have been accounted for. All our members in Southern California (where the Woolsey Fire raged near Thousand Oaks) are also okay. One member couple’s home was in a mandatory evacuation area. Like most everyone in their community, they decided to stay and soak down their home with water hoses. Thankfully, their home was not damaged. Another member couple in a voluntary evacuation area also chose to stay. Thankfully, they too were spared. A single female member was evacuated the first night of the fire and went to a friend’s home. She was there only a couple of hours and had to evacuate again. It appears that the homes in her neighborhood were spared.

Please pray for the Van Landuyts and the many others who will need a speedy response from FEMA and other insurance providers. Larry Van Landuyt believes he and Judy will rebuild. For them Paradise has not been lost. To send Larry and Judy a note of encouragement, email them at larry.vanlanduyt@gci.org or post a comment below.

Johnstons’ daughter

GCI Publications Editor Ted Johnston and his wife Donna request prayer for their daughter Traci Calvert.

Ted, Donna and Traci

Six weeks ago Traci underwent surgery to rid her of large fibroids growing rapidly in her uterus. Following the hysterectomy, it was determined that one of the fibroids contained a rare and aggressive cancer (leiomyosarcoma). Thankfully, the surgery had removed these fibroids intact and a follow-up scan showed no evidence of remaining cancer. However, because this type of cancer often spreads, additional medical treatments are being considered.

Your prayers concerning treatment decisions and Traci’s healing are needed and appreciated. Please also pray for Traci’s husband Troy and their two pre-teen children, Lauren and Jack. It’s a trying time for the whole family. Cards to Traci and her family may be sent to:

Ted Johnston
12289 Venice Blvd.
Foley, AL 36535

Personnel Update

The following announcement is from GCI President and GCI-USA Regional Pastor Randy Bloom.

The Home Office recently announced the addition of two Assistant Regional Pastors to GCI’s church administration team in the United States. After prayerful consideration, one of those appointees, Timothy Brassell (pictured with his wife Donna, at right), informed us that he needs to remain a local church pastor for the foreseeable future. We fully support Tim in this decision. We consider our pastors to be the “frontline” of ministry. Their role is as important as any in Jesus’s ongoing ministry to the world through the church. We highly value good pastors like Tim who are dedicated to leading their churches. In informing us of his decision, Tim said the following, which we very much appreciate and respect, and so want to share:

Many thanks Greg and Randy for being flexible, leaving open to me the opportunity to reconsider becoming an Assistant Regional Pastor. Conversations during the planning meetings held in Charlotte led me to consider more deeply and profoundly my response to the appointment. When I returned home from Charlotte, I drew close to our Father in prayer and fasting. As I did, I was reminded that I am more a pastor and preacher at heart than an administrator. As a result, I have decided that the timing is not right for me to assist GCI-USA in the Northeast region in this way, at this time.

I’m presently transitioning from a large home to a smaller one located in our congregation’s community. Given that factor plus my regular church and family responsibilities, I believe I will serve Jesus in and through GCI best by staying at the local church level for now. Thanks again for considering me for this appointment. I took it seriously and am still awed and humbled by it. I’m in prayer for the two of you and for the whole Home Office team as you help point and direct us to Jesus Christ and his sufficiency for his Church at GCI.

Ordinations

Congratulations to the following men and women recently ordained as GCI elders:

  • Bret Raduban, Philippines
  • Perfecto Osillos, Jr., Philippines
  • Avelina Amores, Philippines
  • Lito Olaguer, Philippines
  • Pam Morgan, GCI Home Office, USA
  • Charles Voyer, Martinique
  • Thierry Myrtil, Martinique
  • Kernani Cheny, Martinique

Wong Mein Kong

Meet GCI’s Regional Director of Southeast Asia (click the image below to download):

Lee Berger

The ministry of GCI pastor Lee Berger to his community (Longview, TX) and church (GCI) was highlighted recently in a local newspaper (click the picture below to read the article).