Devotional: This is Love

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:10-12

We’ve all made mistakes. Accidentally knocked something off a shelf in a store or gotten in an argument that landed us in hot water in school or work. If you’ve been fortunate in those moments, you’ve had a parent, friend, or supervisor who was willing to stand up for you when you were falling short.

It’s not the easiest thing to look past the heat of the moment when we fall short. Perhaps we’ve had thoughts like, “How could I be so _____?” You fill in the blank. It can be easy for us to let our faults define who we are in our minds. Thankfully, if we’re blessed to have good friends or coworkers, they can remind us (and those who could punish us) that our mistakes are not who we are.

Praise God that he sees beyond our sin and loves us. Let us be reminded that our God is the God who chooses to take upon himself the sin and death we earned and give us his own life.

In this way God gave us an example of what love is.

So how do we apply this to our lives?

We should do the same in loving others even when it’s difficult.

Let us pray.

Great God, thank you for your perfect love and sacrifice that bought my freedom. Help me live into the truth that is your love for me. Guide me as I love those around me in my daily life.

Amen.

 

 

By Andrew Rakestraw
GC Next Leader, Southeast US

 

 

Devotional: Restoration and Revival

We are at a time now where we pray for God’s blessing to add new life and younger members to the body of Christ, and especially to our fellowship. Several verses in Psalm 85 resonated with me. In verses 4 & 6, we read, “Restore us again, God our Savior…Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?”

As Tim Keller writes in his devotional in The Songs of Jesus: “This psalm is a blueprint for how to respond when your church community declines…. We must also cry out to God in prayer that he ‘show us’ his unfailing love (verse 7). Revivals always involve a fresh ‘seeing’ of the Gospel of grace – grasping it theologically and knowing it experientially. Finally we must wait on him, listening faithfully to his Word” (page 208).

We have experienced a spiritual revival in GCI, and we rejoice in Jesus our Saviour. There has been a “fresh seeing of the Gospel of grace.” We have been waiting on God and listening faithfully to his Word. Despite the enormous problems associated with this pandemic, we haven’t seen a major turning to God by our populations yet.

This prayer is certainly needed at this time. Restore us again, revive us again! Despite all the problems that we see around us, God is still on his throne, and no evil is beyond his capacity to work out to his purpose and glory in the long term. We wait patiently on him.

Paul’s prayer in Eph. 3:14-21 is one that can be a regular part of our prayer life as well:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

This is the way to true revival and restoration: relying on God and his Spirit to fill us with his love, so that we stand strong in the faith, and that we live worthy of the high calling he has given to each of us. Our heartful prayers are heard on high, and God will answer in his time and way.

Prayer: Our Father, we thank you for your grace and love, and leading us to Jesus. May your Spirit restore us again, renew our hearts, and revive us each day, to your honour and glory. Amen.

 

By Bob Regazzoli, Pastor
Carina, Australia

When the answer is “no,” leaving us weak, then what?

Recently my lovely wife Alberta passed. We were married for 25 years, 46 days. God’s answer to numerous prayers for her healing was “no” and instead he graciously delivered her into eternity, where she is now experiencing no pain. Yet, her passing has often left me very sad and weak. The apostle Paul shared an important God-breathed practical mindset regarding weakness with us in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

“…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I [Paul] will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Since many of us are members in Grace Communion International, grace is a part of our name and DNA. Sometimes we have been challenged over the years with weaknesses in the midst of personal challenges or denominational change. Maybe even pain!

Such was the case recently: to honor my wife’s wishes, I needed to travel by plane and auto to do a graveside service with family in another state. God graciously supplied not only the strength to do this, but also an out-of-town brother, retired pastor Glen Weber, who drove about twenty hours over three days to accommodate this. I am functioning with one eye and could not have done this on my own.

I was in pain and God supplied both strength to me and a brother (and others) to lighten the pain which God has guided me to also do for others over the years. We are in this together, so I gently leave all of us with this question: whose weakness is God directing you and me to, to strengthen and lift up today with his strength?

Prayer: Almighty wonderful Triune God, thank you for all the heroes you have put into my life before and after the passing of Alberta. Alberta was certainly my hero and a favor from you (Proverbs 18:22). Thank you for the Body of Christ and your called-out ones who participate with you and lift up those who are weak. May each of us be your arms, hands and legs passing along your love, hope and faith to those in need. Thank you for always being our strength. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

By Tom Ecker, Retired GCI Pastor

Prayer Guide August 2021

“Prayer is awe, intimacy, struggle—yet the way to reality. There is nothing more important, or harder, or richer, or more life-altering. There is absolutely nothing so great as prayer.” ― Timothy Keller

Join us in prayer as we come together this month asking for hope and strength and thanking Christ for the purpose we find in him. Click the link below to download and print the August Prayer Guide, as we celebrate how God weaves us together into a beautiful tapestry.

Devotional: Struck Down, but Never Destroyed

My wife and I enjoy feeding birds in our backyard. One of their favorite foods is black sunflower seeds. They attract numerous different birds, who sometimes seem to spill as much as they eat. What they spill or drop out of the various feeders, the squirrels and chipmunks get on the ground. The various creatures are thorough in devouring the seeds, so we were surprised when one seed sprouted and we had a sunflower growing. I told Cheryl we’d let it grow and then see if the birds would eat the seeds once the flower had matured.

I was disappointed one morning to see that the sunflower stem had been knocked or blown over. There went my plans as at that time, there was only a small bud, and no flower. Imagine my surprise to see the flower emerge from the bud and begin to grow.

I thought of Paul’s statement to the church in Corinth.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

The bent stem didn’t stop the growth process of the sunflower. There was enough stem left to give the flower the nourishment it needed to survive.

Covid has knocked a lot of people down. Like many others, I have struggled with feelings of depression and despair as I’ve been prevented from visiting pastors and churches. I’m fortunate that I have family near, but many haven’t hugged kids, parents, grandchildren and grandparents for months. Those who are high risk have barely ventured outside their homes. Many of us have lost family and friends to Covid. It’s easy to feel abandoned and struck down. Jesus understands this. That’s one of the reasons he inspired Paul to write these words. Because we do carry around in our body the death of Jesus (he died and we died), we also carry the life of Jesus. He is our hope, he is our strength.

It is because of Jesus that we can be pressed, but not crushed. We can be perplexed as to why things happen, but because we know Jesus is never surprised, he is never caught off guard, he never loses control, we have hope in despair. We can be persecuted, but he promises we are never abandoned. We can be struck down, but he assures us we cannot be destroyed because he achieved victory over the destroyer.

We are sometimes knocked down, like my sunflower. Jesus allows that. We might wish he wouldn’t, but then we’d miss out on so many learning opportunities, so many chances to be encouraged by Jesus and by others, so many chances to encourage others by our faith. I like what theologian Cherith Fee Nordling, recently said about Jesus. “I’m not always running in to make it all better,” Jesus tells us, “sometimes I’m just present.” How have you felt his presence during the season of Covid? How are you feeling his presence today?

Prayer: Father, Son and Spirit, make your presence known to me. Help me to see your hand in my life. Help me to be comforted by your presence. Help me to share your presence with others, so they, too, may be encouraged. In your powerful name, Amen.”

 

By Rick Shallenberger
Regional Director US, North Central

 

 

Devotional: Waiting

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1 NLT

The bougainvillea plant was removed from a large pot and replanted near the trellis over our new patio. It was in shock. One of its thick roots had snapped when it was violently pulled out. I wondered whether it would survive the radical loss of its leaves as they yellowed and fell silently to the ground. I held on to the hope that its branches would one day cover the trellis with bright red and green leaves.

I looked for tiny green buds along its branches, for signs of new life, and I waited. I dug around the trunk and gave it nourishment and water regularly. I waited, continuing to hope that hidden deep within her there was still life. I waited wondering whether it was putting all its energy into new roots.

Just as we cannot see the repairs and restoration happening in a transplanted vine, we cannot always see what God is doing in us as we wait in liminal space. Disruptive changes and losses happen regularly in life: a worldwide pandemic, divorce, the loss of a job, broken relationships, and illnesses. These troubles have the potential to leave us in shock, grieving and wondering if life will ever be the same again. Waiting in liminal space can seem interminable. It can be disorienting, and confusing.

Two of Jesus’ prayers tell me he knew the pain of loss and waiting in liminal space. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed to the Father, “if it is possible let this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” His ability to pray under the enormous sorrow and anxiety of what he would face, speaks to his habitual way of praying. And so, he taught his disciples to pray: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In Jesus we have someone who doesn’t just know about our sorrow; he feels it with us and sees us through it.

When I remember how dead this vine seemed and yet how beautiful, vibrant, and productive it is today, I am encouraged to have hope in God’s power to redeem. Nothing happens to us outside of God’s good purpose for us. While we wait, we can give God access to the deep places within by praying honestly about our feelings and asking him for the patience and trust to wait.

His redemptive power can be seen in the treasures we discover in the waiting: a new revelation of who God is, a course correction, strength to endure or a gift of compassion, all graces given for our healing and for the sake of a hurting world.

Prayer:

“I surrender ________________ to you.” I cast all my fear and anxiety and insecurity upon you, trusting that you will do your part, trusting that you will show me what my part is (if any), and trusting that all things will work together for good–because I love you, and because I am called according to your purpose.

Please give me the wisdom to know your will for me, the willingness to accept it, and the courage and strength to wait patiently. I need your help in each of these ways, for I cannot do any of them on my own.[1]

 

 

By Carmen Fleming

 

 

 

[1] Adapted from the “Daily Prayer of Surrender” Author unknown

Meet Kairis Joy Chiaji

“If I could teach anyone anything, it would be that their value is inherent. It doesn’t have to be earned because it’s already been determined. We get to spend our lives finding things to do that match it.” Check out this month’s GCI Profile to get to know Kairis Joy Chiaji, Pastoral Team Member of GCI congregation, Living Grace Fellowship, in Sacramento, California. To read her full profile, click the image below.

Prayer Guide July 2021

“Prayer is continuing a conversation that God has started through his Word and his grace, which eventually becomes a full encounter with him.” ― Timothy Keller

Join us in prayer as we come together this month asking for clarity and renewal and thanking Christ for new hope each day. Click the link below to download and print the July Prayer Guide, as we celebrate how God is working in and among our congregations.

Devotional – The GOAT

I was having a conversation with my grandson about one of basketball’s
superstars when he commented that “he’s the goat.” What? I thought – “he
hasn’t been the player who lost the game for the team or stunk up the gym.” In the lingo of my day, “the goat” was the guy who blew the game.

He brought me up to speed at that time with the new terminology that the
goat is the GOAT, G-O-A-T, the “Greatest Of All Time.” It’s an acronym in our vocabulary of surging “acronym speak.”

In the sporting world there can be enjoyable arguments of who is the GOAT.
So, what about the world of humanity?

Among every human who has ever lived or is alive, man, woman, billionaire, CEO, dedicated humanitarian, powerful politician, caregiver, social worker, lawyer, marquee celebrity, technological wizard, arbitrage strategist, doctor, nurse, generous philanthropist, Nobel Prize winner, theologian, philosopher, evangelist, real estate developer, recovering addict, military hero, famous inventor, award winning entertainer, farmer, teacher, hall of fame athlete, union steel worker, The Best Dad Ever, The Greatest Mom Ever…there is Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

Hands down, Jesus is the GOAT because he is simultaneously the living Son of God and Son of Man whose humility and love is unmatched!

Get to know him. Get to love him. Get to walk with him. Get to serve with him. Get to “wanna be like” him. Not only is Jesus the “Greatest Of All Time” – He is also your SAFE, “Savior And Friend Eternally.”

John 3:16-17, Philippians 2:5-11, Ephesians 1:17-23, Colossians 1:9b-22, John 15:12-15, 1 John 4:7-12, John 20:30-31

Lloyd Briggie

Devotional: 14 Days in the Arms of Jesus

In September 2020 I experienced a health crisis that sent me to the emergency room. After tests and medication, I was recommended for non-cancerous prostate surgery. During the tests, the doctor mentioned that the radiologist noticed cysts on my liver. After recovery from the prostate surgery, I sought out the appropriate doctor regarding my liver – which turned out to be the local transplant center where they specialize in liver issues.

After another battery of tests, I was again recommended for surgery – this time on my liver for a 3-inch cyst (non-cancerous) on the surface of my liver. On February 19, I entered the hospital for the surgery to remove what turned out to be a cyst the size of a grapefruit or larger – most of it had been hidden from the CT scans and ultrasound tests. The surgery went very well and because I was in good shape and already up walking the next day, the doctor said I would be going home sooner than the predicted five days. However, near the end of the second day, I experienced serious complications, which led to me spending the next fourteen days in the hospital – including a night in the intensive care unit and four days in the cardiac unit when my heart went out of rhythm due to the stress on my body.

That all sounds like bad news…but here is the rest of my story. Paul wrote that when Jesus ascended, he took captives and gave gifts to his people. Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:

‘When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’”

As we understand the vicarious incarnation of Jesus, the captives he took to the right hand of the Father were all of humanity. I believe that he then gave grace (v. 7) and gifts (v. 8) to all of humanity – “his people.” Not all people know this, so therefore they don’t live out the spiritual gifts fully. On the other hand, Jesus said that there is no good but from God. Any good we see around us – even in unbelievers – is God manifesting himself through humans.

From the moment I entered the hospital, I noticed the “spirit” and attitude of the people serving me – doctors, nurses, even custodians. They were all so caring and concerned – encouraging me, explaining how they were going to help me and even apologizing when they were going to hurt me (which was more often than I would have liked!). I saw Jesus! Ephesians 4:8 became very real to me, as I realized Jesus told the disciples he must ascend (partially because he could only be one place at a time), so that he could send the Holy Spirit and gifts (and therefore be everywhere humans lived).

We all would like to see Jesus snap his fingers and miraculously heal us instantly, but he rarely (although occasionally) does. I believe that instead he put his healing spirit in millions of human beings. People who choose the medical profession because they want to help people get better are living out the healing spirit of Jesus. In my fourteen-day stay, I had over seventy medical professionals come into my room. There were only two who I felt were “only doing their job” (and they may have just been having a bad day!), while all the others seemed like Jesus walking into my room. This may be surprising to read, but I only prayed for myself once or twice during that time because I truly felt Jesus was in my room multiple times a day! I was experiencing his healing power and his love over and over throughout the day. Meanwhile, I tried to be the best patient possible and represent Jesus back to them (calling them by name, having pleasant conversations and being agreeable even when in distress).

When I walked out of that hospital, I truly felt like I had never been closer to Jesus Christ. I felt overwhelmed to have spent “14 Days in the Arms of Jesus”!

Prayer: Father, we are blessed to know that from before the creation of the world, you had already prepared a plan to bring healing and wholeness to the whole of humanity, whom you knew would turn away. Thank you for the incarnation of Jesus, which includes his ascension so you (and he) could send the Holy Spirit to move in our lives. Always in the arms of Jesus, through whom we pray! Amen.

 

Glen Weber

Glen A Weber
Central Regional Support Team/Retired GCI Pastor