GCI Update

Ascension Day

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

What’s so special about Thursday, May 13, 2021? It is certainly special for Susan and me—it commemorates 37 years of married life. Allow me to thank her for being such a wonderful life partner. Not only has she been a treasure to me, but she has also been a terrific mother, and her greatest joy is being “Gigi” (grandmother) to four precious grandchildren. Happy anniversary sweetheart!

Now what is even greater about Thursday, May 13, 2021 is that we celebrate along with the Christian community the ascension of our Lord and Savior. Forty days after his resurrection on Easter morning, Jesus appeared to his disciples on the Mount of Olives. Knowing this was the day he would leave the earth, he gave parting words to the men who were to become the Apostolic Fathers who would launch the church.

    1. The coming of the Spirit

Acts 1:8a But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…

These men would recall the words from the upper room when Jesus told them that it was good for him to go away so the Spirit of truth would come (which was evident in a powerful way on the Day of Pentecost) (See John 16:7-16.) It was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that not only inspired the Pentecost sermon of Peter, but the Spirit also transformed and empowered the person we know as Peter from disciple to Apostle (consider that less than 50 days earlier, he was denying Jesus).

What would the 3,000 men and women who showed up in Jerusalem 10 days after Christ’s ascension to celebrate Pentecost have expected? I submit that none of them would in their wildest dreams guessed that their hearts would be pricked by the Holy Spirit, leading them to accept Jesus and commit in the waters of baptism. These Jewish pilgrims had no expectation or clue that they would become the founding members of the Christian church.

    1. The sending of Jesus

Acts 1:8b …and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

It is almost stupefying to hear the looming question the disciples posed to Jesus, “Lord is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” It is quite revealing to see the response of Jesus when he made it clear this stage of God’s plan is secure with his heavenly Father, and then to express to them the stage they are to be a part of. Their calling is to testify about Jesus in their city, their region, their country and their world.

Jesus re-centered their focus with his answer, and I bet if the disciples could receive a “Mulligan” (a do-over), their question to Jesus would have been totally different.

    1. Physically gone yet present by the Spirit

Acts 1:9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

The book of “Acts” includes the stories of Jesus through the Spirit acting through his people the church. The section of Acts 2:42-47 is a wonderful list of the actions of those people who were transformed by the indwelling of the Spirit on Pentecost. It shows us an ideal picture of what community in the church can be when a group of people are yielded to the Spirit.

Going back to my marriage 37 years ago in Del Mar gardens in Pasadena, CA (the gardens have been replaced with high-end condominiums), Susan and I exchanged wedding vows and began our lives together. At the stage in the wedding where I was granted permission to kiss my bride, there were several mylar, helium-filled balloons released. One balloon was a giant heart.

Seeing the balloons wafting up into the sky and clouds and eventually out of sight was a very small similarity to what the disciples experienced as they watched Jesus ascend. He went up and up until he was out of sight. As they were gazing upward, an angel encouraged them by saying that as Jesus has ascended, he will one day descend and return to us.

This is the hope we hold on to. This promise enables us to conclude the thoughts of Ascension Day with the hope-filled words “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Anxious for the day,
Greg Williams

 

Prayers for India

The pandemic situation has turned grave for India.  The second wave of Covid has come like an avalanche, with some reports mentioning a triple mutant strain, more infectious, more deadly.  The health system is inundated, made worse with a severe medical oxygen shortage. Some hospitals are unable to handle the number of patients needing treatment and have been forced to close admissions. The number of people being infected has been over 300,000 per day over the past several days.

A big concern for me is Nelson Philips, our team leader in Hyderabad. His symptoms turned serious after testing Covid positive. He currently needs a sizable quantity of oxygen round the clock due to signs of significant lung infection. We are all longing to see a turnaround for him. Several more members are ill, but some of them are turning the corner towards recovery.

We also heard from Amiyo Bacher, who reported severe economic stress for some of our contacts in Bangladesh due to continuing lockdowns. We are hoping to provide some support for immediate food relief.

Danny Zachariah
Pastor, Hyderabad, India

 

GCI Denominational Celebration & Project Hope

Project Hope

Don’t forget to share Project Hope with the kids in your congregation! For more info on the challenge, click here.

Celebration Registration

Registration for the virtual 2021 Denominational Celebration is open!  We will be focusing on the Hope Venue, shaping our worship services to be inspirational experiences that center around our hope in the person of Jesus.

Individual Registration for members and Watch Party Registration for leadership teams to participate and debrief together are both available. Make the Celebration a retreat for your congregation, click here for ideas on how to host a watch party.

Our Main Session Speakers

We are excited to present our GCI Superintendents & 2021 speakers! Each Superintendent will share stories of hope, revealing how the Spirit is moving in their regions. The Main Sessions will also feature an interview by GCI President Greg Williams with each Superintendent. Click here to visit our events page and read the Superintendents’ bios.

LiLY Women’s Conference

Grace Communion Cleveland (Cleveland, Ohio) hosted their 17th Annual LiLY Women’s Conference on April 24, 2021, via Zoom. Zoom has given us the opportunity to connect across the country and internationally. One hundred women registered to take part in the one day conference that highlighted the theme scripture “I Am Doing A New Thing” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Our first speaker was Dr. Kim Carter, who led a session titled “Pray, Pause, and Pivot,” reminding us to be specific in prayer, listen for the purpose in your pause and be prepared to be obedient and move. Session two, “Running in Flats,” was held by Joy Trachsel. We were asked and explored, “What is stopping you from saying yes to God?” The day was filled with praise, worship and communion. The MC for the day was Pastor Tamar Gray. Zoom rooms were used for a “Getting to Know You” session. If you would like to hear the speakers and the worship music please visit https://gccle.church/z.

Mark your calendars for the 18th Annual Women’s Conference, which will be held on Friday, April 22, 2022 through Sunday, April 24, 2022 and is scheduled to return to the Embassy Suites in Beachwood, Ohio. More information to come.

Rosa Hulse
Women’s Ministry Leader
Grace Communion Cleveland

Death of Alan Redmond

We regret to announce that Alan Redmond the pastor of the Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Thunder Bay, Ontario congregations in Canada died on Monday, April 26 after a battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife Carolyn, their children, and grandchildren.

Cards can be sent to:

Carolyn Redmond
3 Matthew Bay
Winnipeg MB R2G 3L1

Devotional: Lord, Help Thou Mine Unbelief

Notice this account of one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances:

Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.” After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!” Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” (John 20:24-28, CEB)

By the Spirit, our risen, ascended Lord is with us always, and through his presence extending to us his peace (shalom), even in the most trying circumstances. Given that reality, I have a question: do we, trusting in Jesus, receive that peace and so live into it? I suppose we’d all have to answer, “sometimes.”

Imperfect as we all are in trusting in (believing in) Jesus, there are times we doubt the reality of his presence. At those times, perhaps we, like Thomas, want a physical sign to prove Jesus is with us. Or perhaps we are like the father of the demon-possessed son who Jesus reached out to help, yet the father cried out to Jesus, “I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24, ASV).

Yes, there are times we need Jesus’ help to overcome our unbelief (the weakness of our human faith). At such times, demanding a physical sign rarely helps. (I say “rarely” since God sometimes does give such signs.) However, most of the time, God reminds us in prayer and through Scripture of Jesus’ faithfulness, inviting us to rely on him to do what we are incapable of doing.

The answer to our weak faith, is not to try to gin up more (just try harder!), and not to insist that God give us a physical sign as proof he can be trusted. No, the answer is to look to Jesus, God’s ultimate sign, and trust him as our representative High Priest to do something quite amazing—believe for us. Yes, Jesus, who in his representative humanity perfectly and fully trusts in God, shares that trust (his faith) with us. And so in times of doubt (which we all experience) we can go to Jesus in prayer:

Jesus, help me in this time of doubt. Allow me to believe that you truly are the risen Christ. Help me see how you are present with me today in this circumstance. Lord, grant me your faith. Grant me your peace. Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief. Amen.

 

Ted Johnston

by Ted Johnston
Grace Communion Seminary faculty member