Key Component of Healthy Church – You & Me

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

The church has existed since its inception on the Day of Pentecost in the first half of the 1st century. It has remained and we have assurance from its founder that it will remain until his return. Isn’t it encouraging and comforting to know that we never have concerns about the health and intent of the Head of the church? Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. And when we experience him, he truly saves you and me and we discover that he is better than we could ever imagine or expect.

When we examine the condition of the church in our time and in our setting, what markers do we consider? I hope that we can filter through the Faith, Hope, and Love avenues. This is our GCI mindset and how we see Jesus expressing himself through his body – the church. For the sake of this letter I want us to move back a step and consider: At the ground level the church is made up of individual Christians. By definition, a Healthy Church is made up of healthy church members.

Let’s recall the admonition by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:5-6

5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to pass the test!

Paul wasn’t necessarily calling them out and questioning their conversion. He was challenging them to a higher awareness that Jesus was indeed alive in them. The challenge involved the depth of coming to terms with their weakness and powerlessness, then accepting Christ’s transforming power that comes in relationship and total reliance on him. Christianity is about our dying to self and then coming to new life in Jesus.

Dying to self and life in Jesus is radical and there is no middle ground. None of us like to die to who we think we are. We easily identify with externals – our family of origin, our achievements, our life experiences, our possessions, our titles, our jobs and our money; or lack thereof. Jesus knows that we struggle with letting go and surrendering to his will. This is why Jesus always lifts the heavy end of the sofa (so to speak). In fact, he does all of the lifting and simply allows us to play along (see the photo of my son Glenn to see a similar analogy).

Paul encouraged the first-century church in Philippi by writing,

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:11-13).

Father, Son and Spirit must be active in our lives getting us to the starting place, “the will,” and then the means to walk the Christian walk, “the power.” It is a full and complete dependence on Father, Son and Spirit. In our process of letting go and surrendering, we all come to accept more deeply that we live and move and have our being in God. Our very existence is about coming to know, love and worship this personal triune God who invites us into relationship and participation. Can there be anything greater?

Beloved GCI brothers and sisters, please hear when I say that yours and my greatest pursuit has to be our relationship and identity in Jesus, and if we allow any other thing to come in front of this then it is an idol. It thrills me all the way down to my toes to think about a collective group of mature believers who are completely centered in Jesus and alive in him. I am also a realist knowing that surrender of self is an extended journey that will be traveled for as long as we live on this earth. It is a lifetime of discovering where we are still holding on, and then surrendering to Jesus all over again. What a privilege it is to be on this journey together.

Alive in Christ!
Greg Williams

Spirit-led

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Back in April I was on a group email provisionally planning for a future event. My good friend Pastor Dishon Mills was on the same message. He ended his communication with the statement “This pandemic is making me more deeply appreciate being Spirit-led.”

I have heard others use the phrase Spirit-led, and I think I know what they mean. In this instance, I felt bold, so I wrote back to Dishon and asked, “What does the phrase Spirit-led mean to you”? He was kind enough to take the time to respond.

Hey Greg. I hope you are doing well. Sure, I can share what I believe I understand about “Spirit-led” so far, as I pray for God to continue to bring me clarity. One of our small groups has been studying the book of Acts, and one of the threads we have been following is the ways in which the emerging church discerned the will of God in a dangerous, confusing time. From Acts 15, we gleaned some thoughts about Spirit-led discernment:

        1. Discernment does not happen in isolation, but through Christ-centered conversations amongst a diverse group (diverse with regard to perspectives, backgrounds, gender, etc.) within the church.
        2. When we discuss an issue, we need to give priority to God’s present activity—what God is saying and doing in the church and in the intersection of the church and its community.
        3. Then, we need to look to Scripture for confirmation of what we hear from God and to temper our approach (this may require a shift in perspective).
        4. We establish doctrine, rules, and/or protocols based on what we discern.
        5. (Point added by Greg) Then make the understanding known throughout the church. Acts 15:30 says they were sent out carrying the letter (news) with them.

So, for me, Spirit-led is a communal or relational term because it is through the life of the church that revelation comes. I believe this is true of Christians both individually and collectively. Yes, God does speak to us directly. He brings affirmation, conviction, and guidance to those willing to listen. While this may appear to be Spirit-led in an individual sense, this too is communal and relational. I believe the Bible teaches us that we should not concretize anything we believe we have heard from God until we have the opportunity to run it by trusted Jesus-loving counselors. The Holy Spirit always leads us into relationship. Practically every time I am “spontaneously” sent to minister to someone (i.e. call a member to check-in), I find that my efforts were an answer to prayer. His leading is confirmed in my conversations with brothers and sisters about what I heard God say. Or my bias is exposed in the conversation when I mistake my voice for God’s.

Nicely stated, Dishon. I feel strongly about the Spirit working with us within the community of the church. We are no longer Moses going to the mountain alone —we are the church participating with Jesus and joining in community and relationship. This means lots of discussion and sharing, lots of processing and discerning, and lots of prayers leading to the decision that “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and us.”

May we be the Christ-centered, Spirit-led church that brings glory to the Father!

Greg Williams

Apology

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Due to the heightened racial tension in the US a question has come up “Is GCI considering additional plans/actions for multi-racial outreach and inclusion?” It is without a doubt a matter that deserves proper attention, and in fact, it is not an issue that has been ignored. Please allow me to explain.

Historically, the roots of Grace Communion International come from the Worldwide Church of God. Racial bias in the WCG was primarily based on Herbert Armstrong’s misguided doctrine of British-Israelism that kept non-Israelite peoples (Gentiles—which included all people of color) as second class and therefore inferior.

This heretical and false teaching created division and mistreatment of people of color. Noticeable limitations were placed on Black members and leaders and many suffered from racial slurs and prejudice that were simply wrong.

Under the leadership of Joseph Tkach Sr. and his son Joseph Tkach Jr. there was major doctrinal reform leading to a greater understanding of the New Testament teaching that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, but we are all one in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:28).

The Tkaches commissioned and sanctioned Pastor Curtis May and Greg Albrecht to oversee the Office of Reconciliation Ministries. These men, along with other key pastors, worked tirelessly traveling the country and holding weekend conferences that did much good in acknowledging past wrongs and providing healing for a more positive future.

More recently Regional Director Jeff Broadnax, along with several pastors, interns and members, helped organize gatherings called “Together in Christ.” The idea was birthed out of conversations with our community of GCI interns. Though space for participants was somewhat limited, these weekends allowed for honest discussion and were conducted from the platform that Jesus is the unifying factor for all broken relationships and lives. True human togetherness and unity can be found only in surrendered relationship to Jesus.

“Together in Christ” was intentionally hosted by local GCI churches because this is the space where we should be able to come together with our hurts and differences and find forgiveness and restoration in the presence and power of Jesus. It is my hope that our GCI churches are maturing in Christ and are healthy enough to weather any social challenges or obstacles that come our way, and we can continue to hold “Together in Christ” events to address difficult social matters.

If you are a person of color and never had the opportunity to participate in any of these GCI sponsored events, my prayer is you will have an opportunity in the future. For those of you who have never heard a public apology for any racial slurs or mistreatments you have suffered within our church, let me say on behalf of our denomination: Please accept our heartfelt apology for the individual and systemic discriminatory and racist actions, teachings and culture we openly or ignorantly embraced and allowed. Please forgive us. May we never repeat the sins of the past, and through the power of the Spirit may we value all people as beloved children of God treating everybody with genuine love and respect.”

Together in Christ we can and will go forward!

Greg Williams

P.S. If you have not yet read the cover letter for the July Equipper, I encourage you to do so. My long-time friend and fellow pastor, Charles Taylor does a marvelous job in his article “Know Justice, Know Peace – Know Jesus, Know Peace.”

Empathy

In this Update, GCI President Greg Williams talks about stepping outside of our own experiences to empathize with others, considering the needs of those around us, and the ways in which we can help them. He also offers a glimpse into 2021 with exciting news regarding our newly rescheduled Denominational Celebration.

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)

 

 

Godly Friendship

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

The presidents all around the world have had their leadership tested through the recent global pandemic. I am a student of history and I enjoy reading about the different Presidents and some of the challenges they faced. I am a huge fan of US President Abraham Lincoln for many reasons. Historians characterize him as the best president in all of US history, and certainly he brought the country through a dark and troubled time.

Last summer on family vacation I read a fascinating book by Doris Kearns Goodwin entitled Team of Rivals. This book documents how Lincoln was secure enough and wise enough to work with other politicians who did not always agree with him. In fact, the very men who ran against him in the election of 1860 he placed in highly responsible positions on his cabinet.

In his early life Lincoln suffered great loss. When he was nine years old his mother died from what was called “milk sickness.” His mother was who he attributed his intelligence and inspiration. Her loss was significant. When Abe was 18, his older sister Sarah—who had a large role in raising young Abraham—died in childbirth. Then four years after the death of his sister, his first real love, Ann Rutledge, died from typhoid fever.

Twenty months after Ann’s death, Abe moved to Springfield, IL, to begin his law practice. Because he had never received mentoring and sponsorship from an established lawyer—which was the more typical path into law—Abe was a fairly desperate man hoping that his fledgling law practice would be successful. He was certainly a man who could use a friend and much-needed encouragement. Enter Joshua Speed.

Joshua was a well-educated man—a bit younger than Lincoln—and the proprietor of the Springfield General Store. Instead of selling Lincoln a bed on credit, he offered him the opportunity to become his roommate. Here is what Goodwin said about their relationship.

“Lincoln and Speed shared the same room for nearly four years. Over time, the two young men developed a close relationship, talking nightly of their hopes and their prospects, their mutual love of poetry and politics, their anxieties about women. They attended political meetings and forums together, went to dances and parties, etc.”

It is clear that this hearty friendship with Speed came at a critical juncture for Lincoln. The Bible speaks a lot to the value of friendship. The Proverbs says that a true friend sticks closer even than a biological brother. Joshua was that kind of friend to Abe.

The example of Lincoln and Speed makes me think of the biblical relationship of Jonathan and David.

Jonathan and David’s relationship was characterized by a loving friendship, with their souls knit together in shared values, mutual admiration, and bonded in covenant to one another.

1 Samuel 18:1-4 documents how Jonathan received David into the ranks of the Israelite army, into the palace, into the family as his brother-in-law, and with the deepest sense of true brotherhood. As the story unfolds, we see how Jonathan worked to keep David safe from the murderous attempts from his father King Saul. How remarkable it is for Jonathan to stand in the gap for David in this fashion.

Ultimately, Jonathan’s sister Michal forsook David, but Jonathan held true to his covenantal relationship, which is amazing since David was anointed to become the next king instead of prince Jonathan. Upon hearing the news of Saul and Jonathan’s demise in battle, David expressed this deeply emotional lament:

How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!

Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me;
your love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women.
(2 Samuel 1:25-26 NRSV)

The selfless, spiritual friendship we see on display with Jonathan and David is evidence of God’s presence in the lives of these two men. I would suggest that Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed were also a living extension of the love of God present in their bond of friendship. These examples of brotherly affection, deep commitment to one another and genuine honoring of one another hold out great hope for how relationships can be.

I have been richly blessed with true friends at all stages of my life. For many people in leadership, be they presidents of countries or pastors of churches, they often experience a great deal of loneliness. For any of our GCI leaders who may feel alone and discouraged, I recommend that you show yourself friendly and give attention to forming some meaningful relationships. You will be glad that you did.

In Brotherly Love,
Greg Williams

Discerning God’s Best

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

As President of Grace Communion International, one of my responsibilities is to cast a denominational vision for 542 churches and 230 fellowship groups in 69 countries, worldwide. For almost two years you have been hearing and reading my proclamations for GCI to become a healthier church; more vibrantly representing Jesus to the people we interact with in the neighborhoods where we are present.

In the first part of his letter to believers in Philippi, the apostle Paul offers this short prayer:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

Bible commentator Ralph Martin says, “The fulfillment of the apostle’s prayer will be that his friends have the ability to discern, and then to practice in their Christian living, the really important issues in their corporate life as a believing community.” Read that statement again and let it sink in.

Brothers and sisters, this is where we find ourselves, in a long season of discernment coupled with learning new ministry practices and trying new approaches.

Discernment is defined as sound judgment which makes possible the distinguishing of good from evil, and the recognition of God’s right ways for his people. It is putting on and exercising the mind of Christ so that we join him in his ongoing ministry to humanity. Discernment allows us to understand spiritual realities on practical levels and helps us guard against pitfalls.

I’m encouraged as we continue in the Spirit’s stream of grace and renewal, and I credit the Spirit with helping us discern and define the ministry of Jesus through the lenses of faith, hope and love. The construct of our pastors serving as under-shepherds to the Great Shepherd, and then—through the guidance of the Spirit—having ministry leaders and teams actively expressing the faith, hope and love of Jesus is not only appropriate but is practical and applicable. This healthy church construct provides a solid foundation to allow our congregations to continually discern God’s best for them and to participate in the building of God’s eternal kingdom.

In my travels around the world, I see and experience the love of Jesus in all GCI churches I visit. Our churches are made up of dear, sweet, godly people. I rejoice over this, and yet I also feel the sentiment of Paul when he expresses his desire for the growth of depth of relationship to Jesus and the adjoining thought of discernment to determine what is God’s best for them as they endeavor to bring glory and praise to the Triune God. Determining “God’s best” is an ongoing dynamic process through lots of prayers, conversation, and willingness to explore new ideas and new practices. If we are to be a vibrant church we cannot do “business as usual” we must build out the faith, hope, and love avenues and open lanes for the members to participate as the priesthood of all believers. Operating as an online church through the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to be creative and innovative, and when we can come together in public meetings again, we should continue to operate out of a fresh, creative spirit.

I believe Paul’s prayer established clarity of vision for the church in Philippi and is a good place for us to consider where we are in Grace Communion International today. Growing deeper in grace and knowledge of Jesus and then allowing this to overflow as we participate with Jesus as he moves in the lives of the people around us is what leads to impacting the mission field God has given to each congregation. Our vibrant relationship with Jesus stimulates our discernment to determine what God’s best is for us as we minister to the world around us. Operating in this manner sounds like Healthy Church to me.

Praying for God’s Best for You!
Greg Williams

 

HOPE

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

The “Hope Avenue” of ministry has been our guiding theme this year, and the crescendo was going to be the Denominational Celebration. (In the April 1st issue we shared the news that we will postpone this until the summer of 2021.)

Another initiative that we have been promoting in 2020 is the GCI Worship Calendar. Through the combined efforts of the Superintendents, Regional Directors and Media Team, we were anticipating special gatherings around Holy Week and Easter, and to our shock and dismay much of the world has been on an extended self-quarantine lockdown.

So, what has the Lord been up to? Has he somehow forgotten our plans in GCI? Should I join the laments of the Old Testament Psalmist?

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?’ (Psalm 42:3)

There are a few of our members and their church families who have experienced the loss of loved ones at the hands of COVID-19, so I want to be careful not to move past the reality of grief too quickly. Where there has been loss of life, grief is multiplied when friends and family are not able to gather for a funeral service and celebration of their loved one’s life. Our hearts go out to you, and we lift prayers of comfort.

So where is our God? In the pattern of many Psalms, the grief, mourning and despair are turned to joy, hope and faith when the psalmist recalls what the Lord has done in the past, and how he is with them in the present circumstance. The same is true today. Let me express to you some of the tangible ways I have found hope.

I had the privilege of speaking with our six Superintendents around the globe and I was encouraged to hear their stories of how the pastors and churches in their areas are managing. I’m happy to share that each superintendent and their families are safe and healthy. I also found it interesting to discover how many of us have children who serve in the healthcare field. We seek your prayers for them and the other front-line workers. (Eugene Guzon estimates that in the Filipino members scattered around the world, there are some 170 doctors and nurses.) I am proud that our small denomination has such strong representation in the healthcare world.

The Superintendents expressed how many of their pastors and churches have shared online gatherings—inclusive of Sunday services, small group studies, game nights, youth meetings and the like. Not only do members have access to meetings online with their home congregation, many are accessing neighboring churches in their region, country and across the world. Staying home has spawned a new level of creativity and connectivity that we have not experienced before.

Having personally participated in online meetings for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I was more than pleased to see that the initiative to promote our GCI Worship Calendar is happening. It wasn’t how I envisioned, nor could I have anticipated to what degree GCI would access Facebook, YouTube, Zoom, WhatsApp and other social media platforms, but here we are.

We are finding hope during the pandemic, and why should we be surprised? Hope has a name: Jesus. His name is being proclaimed online and it is incredibly hopeful to see how we are communicating with many people beyond our regular members. May we continue building and forming these relationships.

Our Denominational Celebration is delayed, and yet it will go on. The prayerful planning and hard work that has been done to this point will serve us well as we rejoin the final preparations next year. Hope is still the theme, and I praise our Triune God for always supplying hope even through difficult times.

Always looking to our Hope,
Greg Williams

Now What?

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Holy Week and Easter Sunday have come and gone. I trust your online services from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday to Easter morning were uplifting and shared with friends and family beyond our normal GCI membership. It is quite an ironic blessing to be under the “Stay at Home” orders and still be able to bolster our engagement with people outside the walls of our normal church meetings. Our amazing Triune God works in mysterious ways and he is so good to include us.

He is risen! We have celebrated. Now what?

Allow me to pick up with the New Testament passage from the postcard I sent to encourage our pastors last week:

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures… (I Corinthians 15:3-4 NRSVA)

So here is the “Now what?”

and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe. (1 Corinthians 15:5-11 NRSVA)

For the 40 days from Easter Sunday until his ascension, the resurrected Jesus came and went with some regularity, interacting with individuals, small groups of people, and even a crowd as large as 500 people. He did marvelous works, including restoring Peter and helping “Doubting Thomas” to see and touch his scars, which was underscored by Thomas worshipping and proclaiming, “My Lord and my God.” The crescendo of Christ’s appearances was the giving of the Great Commission, in which he told the original disciples—and hence all followers for all ages—to go into the world with his guiding presence, to share the good news, teaching all things about him, and then to baptize through the name of Father, Son and Spirit.

Paul documents the risen Lord and several key aspects of his involvement over this 40-day period until Jesus ascended to return to the Father. Paul also extends beyond the 40 days to show how Jesus came to him. (Do you recall the “Road to Damascus” experience?) And by the grace of God, Jesus is still coming to humanity—and the “acts” of the church continue.

The “Now what?” for GCI is asking the question, how do we maintain relationship with those he is drawing to himself in March and April 2020 in the middle of a historic pandemic? It is great for us to be encouraged by seeing swelled numbers of viewers in our online services, but what about follow-up? What ways and means are we deepening relationships with these viewers? What practical ways are we extending the love of Jesus? Are we providing means for them to connect with the local congregation? Are we thinking of follow-up after the pandemic has passed? Are we planning ahead for ways to connect with those in our neighborhoods? Do we provide a link to a Facebook page, an invitation to write a message, a means for them to reach out and connect or to be prayed for? We want to use wisdom and discernment in the ways we connect, instead of posting our private phone numbers —perhaps we can reach out through private groups and messaging applications. There are many safe, useful platforms.

The Lord is providing opportunities during the stay-in-place and social-distancing orders we might not have considered. We have included several examples of what GCI congregations are doing. In addition, our Media Team recently started a special Facebook group called the “GCI Creative Community.” This is a great place to share your best ideas and then single-out ideas from others that can also benefit your circumstance.

The Hope Avenue of our GCI ministry has been reworked in a major way with our demand for online services. And now the Love Avenue is being challenged and molded into its emerging form as well.

May the risen Lord have his way with the church!

Greg Williams

 

Living Our Mission

GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams, gives an update on Grace Communion International. He talks about our mission as a denomination and shares the three basic ideas of how we can be more intentional in living out our shared mission.

Video Transcript

Our 2020 theme for GCI is “Hope.” The vision remains the same, Healthy Church. “Hope” is the special focus area for the New Year. We will be writing many articles about the hope we share in Jesus and how this is the hope that the world needs. We categorize the ministries of Jesus under the headings of Faith, Hope and Love, He is the personification of all three virtues. When we speak of the ministry space of Hope, we are focused on the reason the church gathers, to point the assembled church to Jesus; the one who is hope. When the church gathers, we expect that it will be made up of seasoned believers as well as newcomers. And you know what? All peoples who form the assembly need the assurance and certainty that comes in knowing Jesus and encountering him in corporate worship. In July the church will have representatives from around the world assemble to attend the Denominational Celebration in Charlotte, NC. From Wednesday July 29th, Sunday August 2nd we will come before our Lord and rejoice.  As I prepare myself to address the participants, I find myself studying Paul’s letter to the church at Rome.  The first part of Romans chapter 12 talks about our reasonable act of worship is to surrender our lives to the living God and then fully utilize the gifts he has placed in each one of us. He builds from this platform and speaks to the matter of “one-to-anothering.” A phrase that he often writes about. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another Because of hope, or we can just as easily say “because of Jesus”, we can “one-to-another” well. We can love as caring siblings; we can honor others by esteeming them over ourselves; and we can be of the same mind because the mind of Christ abides in each of us. This will be a time to rejoice as we rally around Jesus and the sure hope we have because of him.    C.S. Lewis viewed “Hope” as a theological virtue. He goes on to say: “This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” Church let’s become fully grounded in the hope of Jesus and I hope to see many of you in July. I am Greg Williams keeping you updated on the life of the church.