GCI Update

Corporate Prayer

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

In our monthly GCI Prayer Guide for June 2020, we begin with these thoughts – “Togetherness is a theme throughout Jesus’ teachings. Through corporate prayer, we draw closer to one another, reconciling differences, focusing on the same events and opportunities…”

The US has once again been rocked by the horrific incident of excessive force by police that led to the tragic death of George Floyd and resulting in protests turned destructive in more than 30 US cities.

The US is not the only nation where injustice and outrage are a cyclical pattern. It is emblematic of human history and human nature. It is regrettable that we face this unrelenting pattern time and time again as humans treat fellow humans in unspeakable ways.

Considering the recent events, I am asking our church family to lament together for the tragic loss of George Floyd’s life and the deep-felt pain by his family and the African-American community.

Please pray for our cities even as government officials make reasonable appeals and attempts to restore peace for safe assemblies. And may restored peace bring about meaningful dialogue to properly address grievances and bring about positive change.

It is through these opportunities of corporate prayer that we as the GCI family draw closer together, and our hearts are broken for our broken world. I am proud that our fellowship is multi-racial, and we are empowered by the unifying Holy Spirit to display Christian brotherhood and sisterhood in ways that glorify Jesus. In our united prayers we seek reconciliation for our cities and citizens that can be accomplished only by the work of the Great Reconciler.

“Lord may the hate and rage of our world be replaced by the love and goodwill that comes by the power of the Holy Spirit. And as we journey together through this fallen world, make us instruments of your peace. Amen.”

Greg Williams
President Grace Communion International

 

P.S. As members of the National Association of Evangelicals we stand in solidarity of their statement:

Recent events surrounding the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minnesota illustrate severe racial injustices in the United States. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) laments the recurring trauma experienced by African Americans. We condemn racism and the violent abuse of power, call for justice for victims and their families, and exhort churches to combat attitudes and systems that perpetuate racism. We are grateful for law enforcement officers who honorably serve and protect our communities and urge our members to uphold them in prayer. (NAE)

 

 

How Do We Love Despite Increased Risk to Health?

Covid-19 has affected us all in some very drastic ways. One of the biggest challenges is the increased risk to our lives. For months to come, we may face the double risk of getting the disease and the risk of infecting others. This means we may have to live with difficult restrictions on our freedom for quite some time. Here are a few thoughts from the apostle Paul that are helpful as we struggle with a sense of loss of personal freedom.

Paul reminds us that in Christ we are called to be free and goes on to describe what that freedom is like. It is not primarily a freedom to simply pursue our own comfort or happiness. It is a freedom to humbly and lovingly serve others.

Gal. 5:13–14 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

Paul makes it clear that love for the neighbor often means we give up cherished rights. He explains that God’s love helps us properly limit the exercise of our right to certain freedoms by asking ourselves, Will the exercise of my rights be beneficial to my neighbor? 

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God….. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (1 Cor. 10:23-24, 32-33)

The pandemic is giving us many opportunities to apply these principles. Take the wearing of masks as an example. Health authorities tell us that while we get some personal protection from wearing them, the primary beneficiaries are other people. The masks cut down on how many droplets we spread abroad when we speak, cough, or sneeze. So, according to health experts, wearing masks is more about our neighbor than ourselves. Wearing a mask even when we might prefer not to is the kind of situation the apostle Paul was referring to when he wrote: “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (v. 24).

We can apply these principles to other areas – honoring social distancing guidelines; dealing with the temptation to hoard food – to name a couple. Paul reminds us that we Christians have one overriding debt – the debt to share the love of God that has been spread abroad in our hearts.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments…are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom. 13:8-10)

By doing this we can bring glory to God.  And people to God. The sociologist Rodney Stark’s research led him to conclude that one of the main reasons Christianity spread so rapidly in the Roman Empire during the first few centuries was the fact that Christians excelled in putting the needs of their fellow citizens ahead of some of their own needs during the epidemics that ravaged parts of the empire from time to time. It’s now our turn to heed these inspiring words of the Apostle Peter:

My divinely loved friends, since you are resident aliens and foreigners in this world, I appeal to you to divorce yourselves from the evil desires that wage war within you. Live honorable lives as you mix with unbelievers, even though they accuse you of being evildoers. for they will see your beautiful works and have a reason to glorify God in the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:11-12, Passion Translation)

 

 

By Charles Fleming
GCI Board Member

To Sing, or Not to Sing

The following story is from GCI Australia member, Janiece Harper, after her traumatic experience with the bushfires earlier this year.


As my amnesia-dulled mind stumbled back to awareness, the calm voice of my son was repeating as if in a mantra, It’s alright, Mum. You’re in Nambour hospital. I’m with you. You’ve had a shock. There’s been a bad bush fire and …… and… then he named two of my very dear friends who did not survive.

Now here’s the amazing part. Straight away my whole being seemed filled with the rousing hymn, “The Lord is my Light.” This piece by Frances Allitsen, based on Psalm 27, proclaims,  “The Lord is my light, my light and my salvation. Whom, then, shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life….” Was there ever a time I needed strength in every aspect of my being? (Another contributor to my condition was that I was awaiting major surgery.) That hymn, which completely overtook me, my mind and body alike, imbued me with peace and positivity that carried me throughout the trying weeks ahead. Could that be attributed to intervention from our loving triune God? I’m sure of it. Could it be that I was prepared for this traumatic time years before when I was given that song to learn for special music? Most assuredly.

My eldest daughter, Kathryn, afflicted by multiple sclerosis, spent several years unable to see much at all, unable to sit without support, unable to hold her head or her hands steady, unable to sing or to speak clearly or to eat safely. Kathryn, all praise to our Father, is a Christian, as is her loving husband, Glenn. She has told me that her Bible study for all that time was accomplished by her concentrating on the words of hymns she’d learned and special music songs she’d heard me practice. Kathryn had an exceptionally good memory before her debility. Had God prepared for her spiritual sustenance years before, in her youth? Most definitely.

You may have known dear ones who, while suffering dementia, have responded to and even joined in singing hymns familiar to them, hymns they had sung often. I have. It seems that music is one of the last areas of the brain to be lost as the body deteriorates.

So what does the written Word tell us about all this? Is it only those who ‘can sing’ who are so blessed? Let’s read from Colossians 3:15-16.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Could it be that by singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs every day around the house, we are God’s instruments in doing his work of caring not only for ourselves in our current oh-so-mortal bodies, but also for those who share our homes with us?

You might say, “But I can’t sing. No one wants to hear me sing.” Well, let’s go to the book of songs. Look at Psalms 89:195:1-298:4-6100:1-2 for starters. Yes, I know it says, “shout for joy,” but it says that in connection with the singing of songs. Now I put it to you, would you prefer to shout joyfully around the house each day, or rather “make a joyful noise,” as we used to interpret it, as you sing to the Lord?

The music educator and conductor, the late Richard Gill, used to say that when you sing (as everyone should) to your baby, the tune or noise you make becomes the true version of that song for your child. Do not be embarrassed or ashamed. Sing that song your way and make it joyful and from the heart. He said that anyone who can speak, does so with vocal intonations. These intonations can be classed as the beginnings of song. Think of Gregorian chants, for example. Different cultures have very different appreciations of what is music. You don’t need to sound like singers we hear on international media. By singing, you are inoculating the minds of those in your household with words –  without preaching to them. You can just be singing quietly from the heart. There’s no need for always shouting for joy.

Don’t forget that many of the psalms begin with cries from the heart for the Lord’s intervention. It’s ok to sing to the Lord with a broken heart. It leads to the merciful comfort we need, knowing that there is one who loves us, hears us and provides for us in every situation.

You may not be good at remembering all the words of a hymn. I’m not. Does that matter? I don’t think God will mind if you mess up the words, hum or la-la-la a bit. You’ll remember the lines that are important to you in your communication with him. You might even like to change the words of some favourite song or even a hymn to match your thoughts and feelings as you sing from your heart. There’s no copyright on what you sing to yourself or to your family.

Why not give it a try!

Author:  Janiece Harper, Member, GCI Australia

Note:  Janiece Harper is a retired teacher with expertise in special needs, and a dedicated long-time member who leads small groups and visits with and encourages members in the Northern New South Wales district of Australia.

Death of Len Joson

With a heavy heart, we must announce Pastor Valentin “Len” Joson has gone home to be with the Lord fully. He died of a heart attack while going through some medical procedures in the hospital on Wednesday, June 3. Pastor Len was ordained a local elder on April 2, 1988, and has served in different capacities, first as a ministerial trainee in Pampanga, and then pastored churches in the Northern Luzon area. He was also asked to serve as pastor for several churches in Mindanao, after which he served as an area superintendent for many years.

Len assisted significantly in helping leaders understand Incarnational Trinitarian theology through his teaching and by cofounding the Trinitarian Forum. When he retired in 2010, he continued his media ministry until the day before he died.

Pastor Len is a big blessing to many of us, and his death is a huge loss to Grace Communion International in the Philippines. Those days he pastored churches, and times we spent together, visiting churches and training leaders are remembered with fondness, due to his humble and willing servant spirit, and his passion to teach. His legacy remains as an inspiration and a call to live a meaningful life in Jesus. He is a dear brother in Christ, and will certainly be missed by all of us. Thank you, church family, for your love and prayers even while he was in the hospital and more so now, as the family mourns.

Grieving with you all,

Eugene Guzon

 

Cards may be sent to Len’s widow, Jojie, at:

Ms. Jojie F Joson
119 Bel Air Drive, Laguna Bel Air 1,
Brgy. Don Jose, Sta Rosa, Laguna 4026
Philippines

 

Prayers for Fran Baron

Fran Baron, mother of Debbie Wood, both members of GCI Tyler, Texas, suffered a small frontal lobe stroke on May 23. Fran was admitted to the hospital for observation. She has had ongoing issues with atrial fibrillation for several years.

Debbie Wood was a teacher at Ambassador, and both she and her mother Fran are well known and loved by many who attended and were part of the church community in the surrounding area.

Fran was put on a low dose medication and able to be released to go home as she began to show signs of improvement within 24-36 hours. She will be having follow-up appointments with doctors in the coming weeks.

Please keep her and family in your prayers in the coming weeks as they determine the additional needs she has.

If you would like to send her a card please address it to:

Fran Baron
602 Golden Road, Apt 306
Tyler TX  75701

Praise Report for James Newby

Dear church family,

We’re praising our Dad and thanking you for speaking with him about me and my family.

I received a call from the urology surgeon’s office saying he is extremely pleased and hopeful with the biopsy results after my successful prostatectomy on May 8.

In his view, I can be declared cancer-free. The lab evidence indicates that the removal of the prostate and the capsule completely removed the cancer. The testing of surrounding tissues and lymph yielded no evidence of spread.

I will return for a follow up on June 10 for additional blood work and examination.

Rejoicing that Jesus (Jehovah Rapha) has been in this with us and has never left my side.

In the midst of so much turmoil, chaos and evil, we praise Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is on his throne, and he is good, all the time.

James & family

Death of Pastor Joseph Franklin

Joseph Franklin

We are saddened to announce the death of our long-time, faithful Pastor of our GCI Haiti congregations, Pastor Joseph Blaise Franklin. Pastor Franklin died in hospital in Haiti on Sunday, May 17, 2020, after a battle with cancer. He had just turned 83 years old.

Joseph Blaise Franklin was born May 12, 1937 and ordained on January 13, 1989. He served as the church pastor of St. Mark, Haiti from 2009 through 2016 when it closed, and then in Port-au-Prince, Haiti from 2002 until 2019.

I had the opportunity to speak with Pastor Franklin about two weeks before his death, and he was in good spirits and his faith was firmly resting in Jesus Christ. Pastor Franklin is survived by his wife Georgette, their children: Georgette, Joel, Nathanaël and Billy, and their grandchildren. Funeral services were held Tuesday, May 26 in Haiti.

Words of encouragement to the family may be sent via email to Daniel Naval at danielnaval2702@gmail.com.

Regards,
Robert W.T. McKinney

Birth of Everett Dean Williams

GCI President Greg Williams holds his newborn grandson Everett, as his granddaughter and new big sister Emory looks on excitedly
Grandpa Greg Williams with his granddaughter Emory and newborn grandson Everett.

Greg & Susan Williams are delighted to share the good news, that their son Glenn and his wife, Crystal, welcomed their newborn son, Everett Dean Williams into the world on June 3, 2020. Emory Grace now has a baby brother!

Our New Podcast: Gospel Reverb

Check out our newest podcast: Gospel Reverb, hosted by Southeastern Regional Director, Anthony Mullins.
Click the image to listen online.
Click the image to listen online.

In the first episode, “The Struggle Bus,” Anthony sits down with President Greg Williams to unpack four Romans passages from July’s Revised Common Lectionary:

Romans 7:15-25
Romans 8:1-11
Romans 8:12-25
Romans 8:26-39
You can listen on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher and many other streaming platforms. If the podcast resonates with you, please share with your friends, subscribe to the monthly episodes, and rate us on your favorite podcast site.

A.D. 2020

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matt. 11:28-30

A.D. 2020.  Any description would have to include the words pandemic, unrest, social distancing, recession, upheaval, and disconnection.  The first half of this year has left many physically weary, financially burdened, and carrying the heavy emotional and spiritual weights of grief and loss.

But Anno Domini (A.D.) 2020 means, “in the year of our Lord” 2020.  So, let’s look at the year through his eyes.  When we do, we notice brothers and sisters in Christ learning to share the gospel in new ways.  We see people “loving your neighbor” daily and personally rather than generically.  We see brothers and sisters crossing human lines of separation and seeking unity over division.  A much better view, huh?

When we struggle, Jesus calls us to himself and promises to yoke with us, making our burdens easier and lighter. He promises rest for our soul.  He only asks that we come to him and join in what he is doing.

This day, this week, this month, and this year belong to Jesus. Will you join him?

Prayer:  Lord, we lay our everyday burdens at your feet and thank you for inviting us to learn of you and be embraced by you.  Please grant us rest for our souls and empower us to offer that same rest to those who need it today.

Jeff Broadnax

 

By Jeff Broadnax
Regional Director, Northeastern USA

June Prayer Guide

Click the image below to view and download this month’s Prayer Guide.

GCI Prayer Guide