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Devotional—More to Say

Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. John 13:23 KJV

Have you, like me, read this and felt a twinge of jealousy? The disciple John was so close to Jesus as to hear his heartbeat. Don’t we long to look up into Jesus’ face and ask him, “What is the next right thing to do?”

Now we turn our attention to Trinity Sunday, where we recently heard John 16 preached. In our Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) passage, we heard Jesus say, “I’m going to tell you everything you will need to know with certainty.”

No, he didn’t say that. Instead, he promised the guidance of Holy Spirit.

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you. (John 16:12-15 NIV)

Jesus invited us into the sacred mystery of being taught by Holy Spirit. Even to his first-century disciples who were physically with him, Jesus declared that there was more. Even they needed the promise that there is more to come.

Jesus has called us into a relationship of trust with his Spirit of truth. Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. Do you believe it?

In this season after Pentecost, how are you attuning to Holy Spirit? How are you intentionally practicing being present to Spirit and listening for guidance?

Prayer
Loving God, we bow our hearts to embrace humility and curiosity to your leading. We open our palms to let go of grasping for certainty and reliance on our own reasoning. We are grateful that you’ve revealed yourself as triune God. We desire to believe that Jesus is the perfect representation of Father, and Spirit only testifies to Son. Help our unbelief. May we be so attuned to Spirit’s leading that we hear the heartbeat of Jesus. Speak, Lord; we’re listening! We love you. Amen.

Elizabeth Mullins
Media Publications Assistant, Update Editor

GCI Prayer Guide—June 2022

“Praying is letting one’s own heart become the place where the tears of God’s children merge and become tears of hope.”—Henri Nouwen

Join us in prayer this month as we thank God for community and ask for continued healing and unity. Click the link below to download and print the June Prayer Guide, and check out what’s happening in our fellowships around the world. #weareGCI

Devotional—What Does This Mean?

In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Several days later at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit dwelt among the believers, and they began to speak in different languages.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” (Acts 2:5-8 NASB)

Some witnesses to the event ridiculed the disciples. But many were amazed and perplexed by this unprecedented occurrence, and they asked this very important question, “What does this mean?” (2:12).

What does this mean? That miracles are signs pointing to Jesus. The miracle at Pentecost pointed to Jesus Christ and his redemptive work for humanity. The passage says that as the disciples spoke in different languages, they proclaimed the mighty works of God (2:11).

What does this mean? That God is faithful to fulfill his promise to bless the nations through Abraham’s seed. The spread of the gospel across the known world is attributed to this event by many scholars. Visiting Jews who became believers at Pentecost would later travel home, even to regions outside Jewish territory. The gospel message would begin to reach the Gentiles.

What does this mean? That salvation is not limited to a specific race but is for all humanity. The love of God crosses geographical, racial, generational, and cultural borders. In GCI, we see a glimpse of that—we are one family across different countries, with different languages and cultures, but we are partakers of the same salvation through Jesus. In this, we see the heart of God for all people.

Prayer
Thank you, God, for including all humanity in your work of salvation. Give us the clarity and empowerment so that we can participate in Jesus’ ministry, in and through the church, for the proclamation of the gospel. Amen.

Aron Tolentino
Pastor, GCI Manilla, Philippines

Devotional—Ascension

Acts 1:8-11 NIV

8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After [Jesus] said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

For forty days after his resurrection, Jesus had been with his disciples. When it came time for Jesus to go to his Father and no longer be physically present with his disciples, he ascended bodily in a cloud into heaven as they watched.

So, why didn’t Jesus just disappear? He had appeared to them behind locked doors and then disappeared from their sight before. And, why the cloud?

In both the Old and New Testaments, a cloud is the symbol for God’s presence and God’s glory. In Isaiah 19:1 we are told that God rides on a cloud—it’s his “vehicle.” It is biblical imagery that helps our human minds picture and grasp things that are—on their own—beyond human comprehension.

The cloud imagery in Acts 1 tells us that Jesus is God. It also tells us that he is the Son of Man (the special heavenly human of Daniel 7:13). Acts 1 tells us that Jesus, who is bodily resurrected, bodily ascends to heaven thus opening a place in a side of the created world that otherwise would be bodily inaccessible to humans, a place in the life of God for humanity.

The apostles were eyewitnesses to this bodily ascension of Jesus. He was no longer in their physical presence but, through the Spirit, he would still be present with them. As Jesus assumed his kingship and high priestly role in heaven, his prophetic role would continue through the Spirit in the lives of his disciples, the Church. They were to go into all the world, preach the gospel, seek and save the lost, make disciples and in so doing participate in the ongoing ministry of Jesus on the earth.

At God’s appointed time, Jesus will return bodily in the same manner in which he left. He will come again in a cloud and every eye will see him. But, until that day, his ministry continues on the earth through the Spirit in the work of the Church. There is much left to do.

Therefore, we should not stand around gazing up to heaven wondering “how can I figure out when Jesus is coming again?” We have work to do. Just as the apostles did, we continue to participate in the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ.

Be assured, Jesus will come again, and he will park his cloud on the Mount of Olives and all creation will rejoice. Until that day, let each of us actively continue to participate in the ongoing ministry of Jesus. Let us seek and save the lost and make disciples by living and sharing the gospel.

Prayer: Father, thank you for sending Jesus. We very much look forward to the day when you will send him to us again. Jesus, thank you for coming and for sending us the Spirit. Spirit, thank you for coming and making Jesus present to us. Bless us as we continue to be about the Father’s business and participate actively in the ongoing ministry and mission of Jesus until he comes again. In Christ’s name, Amen.

By Dan Rogers
Pastor, GC Las Vegas, Nevada and Regional Support Team – West, U.S.

Devotional—New Life

Luke 24:13-35

On the same day the empty tomb was discovered, two disciples are walking and discussing Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Jesus joins them. When they do not recognize him, they share with Jesus, “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. (Luke 24:21).”

They were blind to the beautiful and powerful truth of the risen Christ walking alongside them.

As we continue in our journey with Jesus into Eastertide, we will have “But we had hoped” moments. As experienced on the road to Emmaus, we will find that Jesus will continue to reveal truth about himself and prove to be faithful to us.

During Easter we celebrate new life in Christ – it is not merely a day but a season in the worship calendar that continues through Pentecost. As a practice to help us notice the transformation Christ is offering us, create two columns to journal through this time.

In your first column list your “We had hoped” moments. Think of longings and expectations that you have experienced, both for yourself personally and for your experiences in Christian community. Is there a something you have had to leave behind? Is there an unmet longing you are hoping he will fulfill?

In the second column, share your “buds of new life.” Here, list the new life that Jesus is birthing in your life this Easter season. How do you see his hand in your life personally? Perhaps it’s a new habit, an opportunity to start a new relationship (or an entirely new chapter in an old one), new hopes, new dreams. What desires for Christian community is Jesus forming in your heart?

Prayer:

Jesus, you are faithful to your word, even when circumstances blind us to the reality of your presence with us.

In your perfect love for us, you conquered death and rose from the grave. The resurrection was not just an event, but an invitation to be raised into new life with you.

Our lives are being shaped and transformed by your presence and power, O Risen Christ. This Eastertide help us to process the beauty of life that follows death. Amen.

By Michelle Fleming
GCI Elder & Communications Director

 

Devotional—Resurrected for All

Is it any wonder as Jesus walked down the Mount of Olives on his last trip into the city, he stopped and wept? He was going there to die for all of humanity, and most would reject him—and most still do.

But here’s the good news! Reject him or not, Jesus is the Lord of All and he was resurrected for all. And that’s why we celebrate. Not just because he was resurrected for you and me, but because he was resurrected for every believer and nonbeliever, for every slave and free, for every Jew and Gentile, for every man and woman. Easter reminds us that Jesus—the Son of God—our Redeemer and Savior—went to the cross for all and was resurrected for all.

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ shows the profoundness of God’s love. Some call it reckless, some call it preposterous, some call it radical, Paul said it comes across to others as foolishness. Why would God die for people who don’t even acknowledge his presence? For the same reason he died for all those who do acknowledge his presence—because God loves all his children; Jesus came for all.

The apostle Paul is talking about the resurrection of Jesus when he says:

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22

All will be made alive! Loved ones, what if we lived like it was true? Let’s make Easter more than a season of celebration; let’s make it a season of change.

Thank you, Father, Son, and Spirit, that Easter changed everything! Praise God that here is no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. Jesus, you have made us one. Help us to see this truth more clearly. Help us to respond accordingly—with a bit less judgment, a bit less animosity at times, a bit more compassion, and a lot more understanding. God, help us to follow the new commandment—to love others as you love us. Amen.


This devotion is an excerpt of the Equipper sermon for April 21, 2019.

 

GCI Prayer Guide—April 2022

“To fail to pray, then, is not to merely break some religious rule—it is a failure to treat God as God.” ― Tim Keller

Join us in prayer this month as we thank God for loving and listening to our longings. Click the link below to download and print the April Prayer Guide, and check out what’s happening in our fellowships around the world.

Devotional—In the Grave

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress. Tears blur my eyes. My body and soul are withering away. I am dying from grief; my years are shortened by sadness. Sin has drained my strength; I am wasting away from within. I am scorned by all my enemies and despised by my neighbors—even my friends are afraid to come near me. When they see me on the street, they run the other way. I am ignored as if I were dead, as if I were a broken pot. … But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, ‘You are my God!’ My future is in your hands. Let your favor shine on your servant. In your unfailing love, rescue me. Psalm 31:9–12, 14–16 NLT

There was a point in Jesus’ human existence when he said to the Father, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” Gone with his last breath were all the dreams, plans, and daily joys of that life that once was. As those about him watched the breath of life leave his body, they saw a chilling change occur—his body took on that singular appearance of lifelessness, now cold and still, that comes with death.

We can only do one thing when faced with grief, loss, sorrow, or death—rest quietly for a while in the grave with Jesus while waiting, trusting, and hoping in God’s love. In God’s good and perfect time, we will arise to a new existence, one that will be forever altered, but filled with an incredible hope. For all of life is “in Christ”—a genuinely human life full of his tender concern, care, presence and peace, no matter what we may temporarily experience. This transition to new life may involve risk—we must choose to leave the darkness and embrace the bright sunlight. It may involve setting aside what has us bound—we don’t need the graveclothes any longer. And it may even involve moving some stones—we may need God’s resurrection power to bring us to a new place we cannot come to on our own. But “in Christ,” we will live again.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sharing even the depths of our sorrow and loss with us, having given your Son freely even when it might have cost you everything. Thank you, Jesus, for joining us in death and loss, while giving us a hope for new life we can cling to. Precious Spirit, infuse our hearts again with your resurrection life, enabling us to wait, trust, and hope in the midst of our grief and sorrow, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.

By Linda Rex
Pastor GC Nashville & Cookeville, TN, US

Devotional—The Lost Son

Luke 15:11-32 NIV

20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

The scriptures are filled with wonderful stories, poems, historical accounts, and prophesies, but there is one story that really speaks to my heart. It’s the story of the “Lost Son” or the “Prodigal Son” found in Luke 15:11-32. This is not just a story or a simple parable, but it reveals the deep things of God. Remember Jesus is the one sharing this story. This is critical, because Jesus came and put on flesh for a few reasons, but one of the crucial ones was to reveal the Father to humanity. Jesus tells his disciples that no one has seen the Father – except the Son (John 1:18). Jesus is telling this story specifically to reveal the Father’s heart, character, and unconditional love for his children – ALL his children.

In this story a man has two sons. The younger son decides he doesn’t want to wait for his inheritance upon his father’s death. Instead, he demands his inheritance now. He then goes off to spend his inheritance on wild living in a foreign country. Things do not go well for this son – and that’s putting it mildly. In time, the son gets sick of his wayward life and decides to go home. In his brokenness, he is willing to forfeit his sonship and serve as a lowly servant to his father. Well, to make a great story short, he arrives home only to find his father waiting and hungering for his return. This selfish and sinful son is lovingly accepted back into the family and restored to full sonship. The amazing part of this story is that Jesus is telling all of us that our sins do not separate us from the Father—except in our minds and hearts (Colossians 1:21). Jesus has made a way for all of mankind by living a perfect life in our place, then willingly to trading his life for ours. We can accept this unbelievable offer from Jesus, but we cannot add to it. He is the Alpha and the Omega and everything in between. Salvation is found in no other name under heaven.

Lord, let us trust completely in you and your love. Help us to stop trying to be lord of our lives and trust in your will and timing. We love you and thank you for your amazing and unconditional love. Help us to see others around us with this same kind of love and help us to not look at anyone from a worldly point of view because of what you have done for all of us!

By Mike Rasmussen
Superintendent of North America & Canada