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God has blessed us!

“From the President” this time is written by Joseph Tkach, Chairman of the Grace Communion International Board of Directors.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach

I write this letter mindful that it’s likely my last contribution to Update as a GCI employee (I retire in January). As noted in an earlier issue, I passed the GCI president baton to Dr. Greg Williams in October.

As I reflect on my years as President of our denomination, many blessings from God stand out in my memory. One has to do with our name—Grace Communion International. I think it beautifully describes our transformation as a fellowship. By the grace of God, we have become an international, grace-based denomination that shares in the communion of the Father, Son and Spirit. I have never doubted that our Triune God led us into and through the miraculous transformation that got us to this place of great blessing. My dear GCI brothers and sisters, thank you for your faithfulness in that journey. Your lives are living evidence of our transformation.

Another blessing that comes to mind is one that many of our long-time members will relate to. Over the years, we often prayed in our church services that God would reveal to us more of his truth. Well, God answered that prayer—and in dramatic fashion! He opened the eyes of our hearts and minds to understand the great depth of his love for humanity, and showed us how he is always with us and for us and, by grace, has our eternal future safe and secure.

Many of you have told me that, over the years, you heard no sermons in our fellowship on the topic of grace. I praise God that, beginning in the mid-1990s, we began to overcome that deficit. Sadly, some reacted negatively to our new emphasis on God’s grace, asking questions like, “What is all this Jesus stuff?” Our answer then (as now) was this: “We preach the good news about the one who created us, who came for us, who died for us and who saved us!”

(Used with permission from Transforming Center)

During this Advent season, I’m focused on the wonder and glory of Jesus’ comings for our salvation: through his incarnation and birth, now by the Spirit, and in his yet-future return. It’s amazing that some who expectantly look for Jesus’ return in glory (often called the “second coming”) refuse to celebrate his first coming, his birth. Apparently they don’t realize that there would be no second coming without the first. Have they not noticed that Luke devotes an entire chapter in his Gospel to Jesus’ birth, and that the Bible nowhere devotes a whole chapter to the timing of Jesus’ return?

Following the Bible’s emphasis on the key events in the life of Jesus, in GCI we celebrate or commemorate our Lord’s incarnation, birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. Though we can’t celebrate his return in the same way (it has not yet happened), we do, during Advent, celebrate the promise of his return, knowing that Jesus always fulfills what he has promised.

As Scripture tells us, our ascended Lord Jesus Christ is now in heaven serving as our High Priest, awaiting his return in glory. As promised, he is preparing “a place” for us (John 14:1-4). That place is the gift of eternal life with God, a gift made possible by all that Jesus has and will yet accomplish. Concerning the revealing, through the Spirit, of the nature of that gift, the apostle Paul, quoting Isaiah, wrote this:

We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (1 Cor. 2:7-10, ESV)

I thank God for revealing to us the mystery of our salvation in Jesus—a salvation secured through our Lord’s incarnation, birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return. All of this is of grace—the grace of God given us in and through Jesus, by the Spirit.

Though I will soon retire from GCI employment, I will remain involved with our fellowship. I will continue serving on GCI boards in the US and UK, and on the Grace Communion Seminary board. I may also teach a course or two at GCS and do some preaching in my home congregation. My pastor Bermie Dizon has wondered aloud if I’d give monthly sermons. I joked with him that all this work doesn’t sound like retirement—it’s more like being retreaded for more miles! As we know, ministry is not a job—it’s a calling, a way of life. As long as God gives me strength, I’ll never stop ministering to others on our Lord’s behalf.

As I look back at the past several decades, in addition to wonderful memories related to GCI, I have many that are related to my family. Tammy and I have been blessed to see our two children grow up, graduate from college, find good jobs and become happily married. Our celebration of these milestones is heightened because we did not expect to reach them. As many of you know, our church formerly taught that there would be no time for such things—Jesus was returning soon, and we’d be taken to a “place of safety” in the Middle East prior to the second coming. Thankfully, God had other plans, though he does have a place of safety prepared for us all—it’s his eternal kingdom.

When I began serving as President of our denomination back in 1995, my focus was on pointing people to the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Even though I’m now retiring after over 23 years as GCI President, it is still my focus and will continue to be. By God’s grace, I will not stop pointing people to Jesus! He lives, and because he lives, we do too.

Advent and Christmas blessings from my family to yours,
– Joseph Tkach, Chairman, GCI Board of Directors

PS: With this issue we say goodbye to Ted Johnston, Update editor-publisher for the past ten years. Beginning with the next issue (January 9), the new editor-publisher will be Charlotte Rakestraw, member of our Media team. I’m grateful to all the men and women who have contributed so skillfully and faithfully to producing Update over the years, including Ted, Deb Paz, John Halford, Michael Morrison, Gary Deddo, Rick Shallenberger, Nancy Akers, Terry Akers, Janet Shay and many others. It’s been a labor of love.

Though Ted retires from GCI in January, he will continue teaching at Grace Communion Seminary and producing The Surprising God, a blog I highly recommend for its easily-digestible articles written from an incarnational Trinitarian perspective. Often quoting the Torrances and other Trinitarian theologians, the topics addressed on the blog include the Trinity, grace, our worship, final judgment, works, election, freedom, universalism and hell.

17 thoughts on “God has blessed us!”

  1. Wishing you, Tammy, and family a meaningful Christmas! May God bless in your retirement years.

  2. In the words of Christian apologist Abdu Murray ( author of Saving Truth)…

    „Christmas without the Resurrection is meaningless and the Resurrection without Christmas is impossible“.

    Joe and Tammy, we know that you will continue to enrich our fellowship in future service.

    Have blessed Advent and MERRY CHRISTMAS !

    1. I am glad you are understanding the mystery that was given to Paul, we will be judged by his gospel rom2:16 I was in the armstrong movement for over 50 yrs still dont have a group
      to fellowship with I live in jacksonville fl my email is jerhunn@aol.com

  3. Thank you for faithfully continuing your servant’s attitude and service. The church meetings have been cancelled here in Hattiesburg and I feel so misplaced and orphaned! It is the first time since I was 25 years old (and now 80 years old) that I have not been in fellowship with others of like faith weekly. I am grateful you have left California for headquarters!
    Prayers and Christian love to you, yours, and servants of God!
    Dr. Bonnie Ivey-Nobles

  4. We will miss you; you and Tammy are so dear to my heart. But you have always taught us that it wasn’t YOUR hand on the tiller but JESUS’ and so we sail on. Please take time to enjoy this retirement with your family.

  5. I am so thrilled you’re going to continue preaching in our congregation. I love your stories. Both of you have a blessed retirement and a merry Christmas as we reflect on our Saviors birth. Without Him, we would have no hope.

  6. Thank you so much for your service in God’s work and your continued sharing of God’s truth to the church. Tony and I both are retired from teaching but continue to work hard in other ways. I know you two will do the same. Peace and Joy to you during this season as we celebrate the incarnation of our Messiah. May God continue to bless you and your family. Love, Tony and Faye Limanni

  7. Thank you, Joe and Tammy, for your leadership and your friendship. You have been very caring and approachable, and I think you have made theological scholarship less threatening for some. The Bible is a wonderful book that helps us to know our Holy Father, the Spirit of Grace and Our Savior, Jesus Christ. Celebrating his incarnation this time of year helps us to understand how much he cares about us. He suffered through a lot that a King wouldn’t have had to, so that we could identify with Him, and so that we couldn’t say, “But God, You don’t know how it is to be human.” And he lifed such a life that we can know that He actually likes us, with all our faults, and gave all so that we could overcome them.

  8. Dear Joe and Tammy, I appreciate the down to earth approach you have given to leadership in our church. I, personally, liked meeting you Joe, our Shepherd Leader in Christ, the Living Head of His flock! Your friend and Brother, Joe Elam. Eugene, OR

  9. Dear Joe and Tammy, I thank you for the many years you served our triune God and following His voice. Thank you for your leadership and giving so many words of encouragement and wisdom in so many articles and videos. Wishing you both many years more of hapiness with your family great and small.
    Jesse Korver

  10. Dear Joe and Tammy, I thank you too for the many years of service, and your down to earth approach, and sharing joy with our 50th anniversary in Netherlands with all our churches. Thank you Tammy for the refreshing Connection magazine for the ladies, we feel connected and Grace Communion exemplified by both your leadershipstyle , and we try our best to pass that on. Many blessings to you and the family and may the drinking of good Bock beer and other tasts give you good joy.
    Frans& Lamberta Danenberg

  11. Thank you Joe and Tammy for your devote leadership in the ministry of Jesus through GCI. Sandy and I hope both of you can enjoy this season of life, retirement.

  12. Joe and Tammy: Congratulations on your 23 yrs, of service and your ACTIVE retirement. You, like Jesus, were “one of us”, never lording it over us but were helpers of our joy, Thanks for being leader and friend and having the courage to continue leading us in the direction of grace. Glad you are staying close by to us in the greater L. A. area. I believe Greg and Susan will carry on in your same spirit. We love you, JR & Hazel

  13. Merry Christmas, Dr. Tkach. I remember the day I met you, and your dad in Pasadena at the Feast in 1987. It was the year the an earthquake struck southern California, and headquarters; then the stock market crashed. Shortly thereafter, Holy Spirit, took the church under his wing, and brought us out of darkness, and into the Light of Christ, and the good news that we have in him – for he is our life. I continue to pray, that Holy Spirit will continue to lead GCI. Thank you for your leadership. Have a wonderful retirement, but never stop sharing, and living the good news!

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