GCI Update

Life in the Kingdom: Joy and Peace at the Next Level

My dear friend Charles Fleming sent me a personal email after the denominational celebration. He was deeply moved by the kingdom of God theme. Charles is an analytical thinker and he has much to add to the theme of the kingdom. I’ve invited him to share, and before we get to his thoughts, let me go on record and thank him for serving as a regional team member for the Southeast US alongside Anthony Mullins. Thank you, Charles, for your good words. May we continue to seek first the kingdom of God in our pursuit of healthy church and healthy lives.

– Greg Williams, President

 


For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval – Romans 14:17-18

The recent Denominational Celebration fed my soul at many levels. Seeing and hearing of God’s kindness and generosity to his people around the world was a high point. But what has stayed with me longest was the reminder that we are already citizens of the kingdom of God. We are already enjoying some of the greatest blessings that await the entire human family when that kingdom is established in all its glory. In our Covid-weary, disaster-riddled world, I needed that.

It’s been too long since we have had any teaching on the present reality of the Kingdom of God. So, I thank God for inspiring our President, Greg Williams, to devote his keynote address to the subject. As he introduced his message, he called on us to think and talk about the present reality of the kingdom. Here is a sampling of some of what he said.

(As I was preparing for this sermon) “it just kept coming back to me that we need to talk about the kingdom of God and the reality of the kingdom of God… seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness is the priority… the kingdom and what that means.”

He did not just call on us to reflect on our new reality. He set the tone by highlighting three kingdom realities that the apostle Paul says are already available to us – righteousness, peace and joy.

I decided to take Greg’s encouragement to think deeply on the kingdom as a personal challenge. And now I want to take the second step he recommended. I want to talk about it with the hope of encouraging you to similarly think and talk about the kingdom. I gave more thought to what Paul wrote in Romans 14. Here are two things that I found particularly inspiring.

First, I was struck by the fact that the joy and peace Paul is talking about are not just the natural peace and joy we humans experience. Verse 18 shows there are two dimensions to this peace and joy. On the horizontal level we have right relationships with fellow humans. He says that when anyone “serves Christ in this way” the result is he or she “receives human approval.” And what does he mean by “in this way”? In the context Paul is writing in, it is following Christ’s example of accepting and not judging others (vv. 1-4) as well as joining Jesus in giving up personal rights to meet the needs of others (vv. 13-15, 19-23). There is a natural experience of joy and peace when we do the right thing.

But – and this is the truly inspiring part – there is more!

There is also a vertical dimension. What makes this version of peace and joy hallmarks of the kingdom is that the King himself is filled with joy. In verse 18, Paul also said that when anyone “serves Christ in this way (that) is pleasing to God.” What makes Paul declare the presence of the kingdom is that the King himself is filled with joy when he sees his people living true to their calling. And his joy is contagious. We get to experience it.

Living lives of inclusive, sacrificial love leads to the fulfillment – in this life – of promises of joy that Jesus made to his disciples. In one of his parables of the kingdom, Jesus promises the “good and faithful servant” that she or he will enter into or experience the very joy of his or her master (Matthew 25:21). Our ultimate reward is that for all eternity we will participate fully in the joy that Jesus experiences. But we do not have to wait for the resurrection to begin experiencing some of King Jesus’ joy. In John 17, he prayed for us to receive and experience, not just our (horizonal level) human joy, but his very joy even now!

And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you…. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves (John 17:11, 13).

The same can be said of peace. Jesus promised us not just our human-level peace, but an experience of his very own peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27).

My first great encouragement from thinking of this scripture is that when we are under the reign of King Jesus, we even get to participate in his emotions. He gives us a capacity for joy and peace that is beyond our natural, human ability to generate. Oh, how we need that just to keep going in our broken world!

My second reason for being encouraged is that we also get to share that joy and peace with others by participating with the Spirit in helping others know and accept the loving rule of King Jesus. Dallas Willard has a definition for the kingdom of God that captures what Paul says in Romans 14, “The Kingdom of God is God reigning. It is present wherever what God wants done is done.”

The kingdom of God is present wherever what God wants done is done

The kingdom is present whenever we allow the love of God shed abroad in our hearts to move us to serve others. In doing so we are bringing to others an experience of life under the rule of the King of love. It’s as if a new reality flashes into the conscious life of another person. And – wonder of wonders – we get to be loving, walking, talking representatives of that kingdom because Jesus lives in us by his Spirit!

Why should we actively think and talk about the kingdom of God? There are lots of reasons, but here are two. In a world that can lead us to despair and high anxiety, we are “hooked up” with a source of joy and peace that not only sustains and emboldens us but makes us beacons of hope for others.

Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you to take our President’s encouragement as a personal challenge to think and talk about the kingdom of God. Having an imagination shaped by Jesus’ kingdom gives us eyes to better understand the new creation life that Paul says is now ours (2 Corinthians 5:16-21.)

 

By Charles Fleming
GCI-USA Southeast Regional Support Team Member

 

 

 

P.S. If you would like to view the Sunday Worship Service from the Denominational Celebration, click here.

 

 

Update on the Earthquake and COVID in Victoria, Australia

The region in general was spared any extensive damage due to the earthquake. It was certainly a time where the seconds dragged for many people, as structures vibrated, and possessions fell from walls or from shelving. It was the strongest, most prolonged incident I recall. Things could have been much worse. We’re thankful to God that they weren’t.

Lockdown continues for some regions, including greater Melbourne. Speaking with members through the week, comments about the quake were laced with humor, but many are very concerned about the actions of a small group of protesters whose actions place the community at risk of increased Covid infection rates and extended lockdown periods. Additionally, the actions of this minority fail to respect or show gratitude for the devoted self-sacrificing care given by so many health workers.

We are grateful for the law-abiding responsiveness of the vast majority, and prayerfully concerned for our leaders, our health workers and our police, who are doing the best they can during these difficult times. In the church, we’re thankful for the loving concern and prayers of our brothers and sisters.

Randall Bourchier
Church Pastor – Mooroolbark, Australia

Crossing Borders Prayer Requests

Dear CB alumni and friends,

Crossing Borders (CB) mission ministry had to cancel our past three scheduled trips, and our planning team has decided that we will need to also cancel the trip we would normally schedule for December 2021.

As you would suspect, the COVID situation and increased instability at the border area are the major reasons. COVID cases in the U.S. have been reaching new high points, and the conditions in Mexico are worse than in our country. Although the border is open for two-way travel by U.S. citizens, our on-the-border partners tell us it is not yet safe to do so—especially with a group.

We cannot predict exactly what the situation may be like on the border by December, but looking at current trends, our planning team does not feel it is wise to bring a mission team to the border until the situation improves. We have considered a variety of ideas for an alternative mission trip/event, but no idea seems safe and feasible for the current conditions. There is not even a practical way for us to collect the shoebox gifts and get them shipped or delivered across the border under the current conditions.

This is heart-breaking for those of us who regularly plan and attend the mission trips. We will miss seeing our dear friends in person for at least another several months. For those who have faithfully contributed shoebox gifts over the years, we ask you to hold off for this time—but please don’t give up on CB. God willing, we will again be hosting in-person mission trips as soon as possible.

As we have been doing for the past 18 months, our planning team will continue to make extra efforts to remain in connection with our border partners and to communicate encouragement to them—they need it in their tough times.

Prayer Requests & Updates:

  • A storm went through Nuevo Laredo in the springtime damaging the area, which still remains, to some extent, in disrepair.
  • Sister Juanita Lopez runs a home for 20 or so children, who are always in need of supplies.
  • Casa Hogar Douglas, the children’s home that Pastor Rendon and his wife Lupita run, is in need of some major repairs, including a lost roof and fence, and extensive water damage. The Mexican government will not assign them children to care for again until these repairs are made.
  • Pastor Fernando and his wife Nora lost their roof in the storms. They both are facing critical medical issues, including Fernando’s battle with long-haul Covid symptoms. They also have a dire need for a vehicle. Besides pastoring his fairly large church, Pastor Fernando has to work various other jobs in order to make a living, and he needs a new vehicle to do his work.
  • The Rodriguez family is our “adopted family” ever since we built them a home in 2012. We would love to be able to help them build a basic, necessary addition to their home.
  • Pastor Pedro and his wife Lourdes are starting a new church several hours inland from the border. They could use help with stages of construction for the church.
  • Con Mis Manos is a school and home for deaf children and otherwise challenged adults. The students and the very dedicated staff have a special place in our hearts. They are in need of basic supplies.
  • Pastor Ray and his wife Lisa are still living at camp Laredo Stepping Stone on the U.S. side of the border while he continues to pastor his church in Mexico. Their church building needs repairs from storm damage and they are trying to help church and community members in their area with basic needs.

We’d appreciate your prayers for all the folks mentioned as they endure some very challenging times.

The CB team will continue to communicate with our friends across the border and support them as best we can from afar. CB missionaries are anxious to get back to the border and continue our relationships with our ministry partners in person as soon as possible. May God bless you and yours with his amazing grace and love.

Lee Berger and the CB Team

 

Comment Below: Pastor Appreciation

We want to hear from you!

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. How has your pastor engaged, equipped, empowered, or encouraged you? Please comment below.

pastor appreciation

 

Death of Shirley Faulkner

Dexter Faulkner notified us of the death of his dear wife, Shirley, who died in her sleep on September 20, after suffering from cancer for many years. Shirley had recently celebrated her 82nd birthday.

Both Dexter and Shirley were long-time church employees and have many friends around the globe. They were married on the Ambassador Campus 62 years ago.

Dexter sends his appreciation for all the thoughts and prayers for Shirley.

Cards and emails can be sent to:

Dexter Faulkner
7859 Wentworth Street
Sunland, CA 91040
Email: faulknerdh@hotmail.com

Death of Michael Wyatt-Paige

Michael Wyatt-Paige
Michael Wyatt-Paige

It was with sadness that I was informed that Michael Wyatt-Paige, a long-time pastor in the Phoenix area passed away suddenly from an apparent heart attack. Michael was in the middle of a counselling session with an individual at the rehab center where he volunteered when he collapsed and lost consciousness.

Michael was a gentle man known throughout the area for his heart for the broken and marginalized. For a number of years he pastored one of the two GCI congregations in Phoenix, where a portion of his congregation were African refugees. After the close of that church Michael continued to minister to a small group in his immediate community, in addition to regularly visiting home-bound members throughout the Phoenix area. Health issues forced him to spend time with his daughter back east while he recovered from surgery, but recently Michael returned to the Phoenix area to search and care for his son.

Michael is survived by his son Michael Jr. and daughter Sarahita. He now joins his wife LaVerne, who passed away a few years ago.

 

Blessings,
Tim Sitterley
Regional Director/Western US

Devotional – Jesus is Our All in All

As another year in the Christian worship calendar draws to a close, The Revised Common Lectionary directs us to the book of Hebrews. Though this epistle addresses a situation involving Jewish Christians in the 1st century, it offers all Christians in all times important Christ-centered instruction, carefully and methodically making the case that Jesus is our “all in all.” Note the book’s introduction:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

These words get straight to the author’s point: Jesus is God’s ultimate and authoritative revelation—God’s final Word. As God’s Word, Jesus is God, Creator, Priest and King.

Jesus is God. Unlike the Hebrew prophets, Jesus is not a mere man—he is God’s Son, the “radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3a) – a phrase that would be understood by Jewish-Christian readers as a reference to the Shekinah glory – God’s manifest presence in the tabernacle/temple. This statement is saying that Jesus is to God (the Father) what the rays of the sun are to the sun – inseparable – one in the same, though distinct. Here we have an oblique reference to God’s triune nature – one essence, yet more than one person. Jesus, the divine Son of God, is the “exact representation” –the “exact imprint” – of God. Jesus is the exact representation of the very substance (essence) of God. Only Jesus could honestly say, “He that has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). When we see Jesus, we are seeing the glory of God (John 1:14).

Jesus is Creator. As God, Jesus is the one through whom God “made the universe” (Hebrews 1:2b). Not only were all things created by Christ (God’s Word, John 1:1–5), Christ upholds (sustains) all things (Hebrews 1:3b). Jesus is the God of creation and providence who sustains and guides this universe to its divinely ordained destiny.

Jesus is Priest. Jesus is also God’s priest who, alone, provides purification for sins (Hebrews 1:3b). This priestly aspect of Jesus’ ministry is explained in Hebrews 7–10. Jesus not only creates and sustains the universe; he redeems it so that it may fulfill its created purpose – relationship with God.

Jesus is King.  When Jesus ascended to heaven, he “sat down” (Hebrews 1:3b), indicating that his work is complete. His place of sitting is “at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” –the place of greatest honor. This is a dramatic symbol of equality with God the Father, for no created being could ever sit at God’s right hand.

As Hebrews begins, we learn that Jesus is superior to all other servants of God who have ever appeared. It is no wonder that the Father said, at the hour of Christ’s transfiguration, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5).

Prayer:

Father, we thank you for sending us your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you, Jesus, for being our God, our Creator, our Priest and our King. You are for us all of these, we need no others, we worship no others. Jesus, you are, indeed, our all-in-all. Lord, may we join you, by the Spirit, in your worship of our Father. As we come to the end of this year of worship, may we continue to fix our eyes on you, sharing in your life and love. Amen.

Ted Johnston

 

By Ted Johnston, US Southeast Regional Support Team and faculty member  – Grace Communion Seminary

Prayer Guide October 2021

Join us in praising the Father and praying for one another in this season. Click the image below to download and print the October Prayer Guide, as we celebrate how God is working in and among our congregations.