We Are GCI Series | Billy Cooley

We Are GCI Series is a collection of videos where various GCI leaders and members are highlighted.
In this episode, GCI Pastor, Billy Cooley, shares a little about himself and why he likes to serve in GCI and in what ways he connects the most with God.

Along About Midnight

Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners could not believe their ears.
Acts 16:25

Your faith is not yours alone. When you believe, it helps others believe. It helps me believe. This might be most true when the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ is on display in the face of personal adversity.

Paul and Silas were singing their praises at midnight to the astonishment of the other captives. These brothers of the faith had just been beaten with rods, the flesh had been torn on their backs, and if that wasn’t enough, they had been publicly humiliated. The last thing you expect is for gospel karaoke night to break out in the prison! It was remarkable and it had a remarkable effect on others as people came to faith in Jesus, most notably the jailer and his family.

Faith in the face of adversity is liberating. It stands as a powerful witness to the goodness of the Triune God. This does not mean we don’t cry out to God in anguish while we suffer, but it does mean we know suffering is not the final word in our lives. Jesus is the first Word, the final Word and his resurrection is the resounding word that hope abounds. Despair and darkness cannot lay claim to victory, Jesus is the Victorious One!

Sing your song of victory, loved one, and let it be heard because our Lord is in the ongoing work of setting captives free!

Prayer: Lord, by your Spirit, may your praise ever be on our lips, even during the darkest night.

Anthony Mullins headshot

 

By Anthony Mullins
Southeast Regional Director, USA

A Deep Well

“A person’s thoughts are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out” (Proverbs 20:5, GNT).

Have you ever considered the effect that a well-used bucket could have on your relationships?

The proverb above describes our purposes and motives as water in a deep well. Many of our deepest thoughts are rarely shared with others, yet they are often the driving force behind who we are and how we behave. Reasons for this lack of sharing can be many: natural reticence, lack of trust, past hurts, the belief that no one cares anyway or sheer lack of opportunity. Like the water, the deepest parts of us are not freely available, but thankfully this proverb has a second part.

In response to the metaphor of a deep well, the proverb offers hope. “But someone with insight can draw them out.” This implies that like drawing water from a well we need to take our bucket and deftly and gently drink from the depths of another person. Practically, it requires a skilled combination of time, listening and good questions, so that we can more fully understand and appreciate those with whom we rub shoulders.

God seats us in Christian community because we need to both hear and be heard by other human beings, but the benefits of understanding and applying this proverb are not just for Christians.

How many misunderstandings could be avoided if we took the time to explore, ask questions and listen to others before forming an opinion? How many deep, lasting and healing friendships could be forged if we all took the time to truly consider one another? What would be the impact on the relationships with our children if we drew out their deepest thoughts with consideration and skill?

Prayer: Father, thank you for your continual and ongoing teaching. Give us the wisdom to come alongside and take the time to really love and know those whom you have brought into our lives. Amen.

By Gill Khoury
Pastor
Red Hill, South Africa

We Are GCI Series | Danny England

We Are GCI Series is a collection of videos where various GCI leaders and members are highlighted.
In this episode, GCI Pastor, Danny England, shares a little about himself and who introduced him to GCI and in what ways he connects the most with God.

A Follow up to Readiness

In our last issue, we published an article from GCI President Dr. Greg Williams entitled Readiness. We received quite a bit of feedback including the question below. GCS President Dr. Gary Deddo graciously wrote the following response and agreed to publish it for the clarity of our readership.

Question:
I just read the article “Readiness” in the GCI Update and that brought up a question in my mind. I was told that a person can repent AFTER death and receive salvation. I do not understand that in what I read in the Bible. Is that a belief of GCI? If so, how does that differ from universalism?

Gary’s response:
Thank you for your query. No, GCI does not teach that persons will necessarily be given a chance to repent after death. Nor do we teach that all persons will necessarily receive their salvation, that is, universalism. We do not find any biblical teaching that affirms such an idea. Rather, much biblical teaching assumes (entails) that God’s grace will be sufficient in any person’s lifetime, mainly through the faithful working of the Spirit and by the Word of God.

There are several forms of universalism. One form is that all will be saved whether or not anyone repents, turns to Christ for forgiveness on the basis of his atoning work of the cross. Another form is that everyone sooner or later, in this life or the next, will repent and turn to Christ for forgiveness on the basis of his atoning work of the cross and so in that way all will be saved or receive their salvation. There is a difference in these universalisms. But GCI teaches neither.

Those who pursue such universalisms do so, it would seem, on the basis of logical inferences (which are never logically or theologically necessarily true) which they believe follow from the biblical truth that Christ died for all and that God is merciful, both of which GCI does teach, along with much of the Christian church. They cannot see how God could be merciful if persons were not given other “chances” on the other side of death. So, they make the unwarranted logical inference that God necessarily must do so.

However, such a false logic overlooks the fact that God, being the merciful Lord at work by his Spirit on the basis of Christ’s completed earthly work, could give all the “chances” (opportunities) needed in this life to every person. There is no need to speculate about second “chances” after death. In the merciful providence of God, death is never an arbitrary limit, an unanticipated accident from God’s vantage point.

All that needed to be done and could be done can be accomplished by God and through the Holy Spirit in a person’s earthly life, even if in the last nanoseconds of a person’s life while they are unconscious.

There is no reason to believe otherwise and biblical reasons to believe so. We cannot limit God’s faithfulness to the pragmatics of ours, which is indeed limited by all kinds of circumstances such as mental illness, accident, geographical/cultural distance, and death. So, if death is not an arbitrary limit to God and his grace, no speculation as to second chances after death is needed in order to uphold God’s mercy and grace and the biblical fact that God sent Jesus Christ out of love for the world and that he gave his life to “take away the sins of the cosmos.”

But given this, while we might hope that all will receive their salvation, there is no biblical guarantee that all will necessarily receive this freely given gift of God, and there are many warnings that it is somehow possible that some might reach a place of no turning back and never enter the kingdom of God, receive their Savior and Lord and his salvation. While there are very strong warnings of this sort, GCI does not follow another false logical inference that some people necessarily must be eternally separated from the immediate presence and complete blessings of God. The warnings indicate a true even if unwanted possibility, but not a necessity. Warnings are given not to indicate a desire for the warned-against outcome, but to contribute to its prevention. God warns because he loves us and had provided everything for us in Christ and by the Spirit so that we have no excuse for repudiating his grace. If there are those who manage to do so, it will not be due to a limit to God’s grace.

I hope this is helpful to you,

Dr. Gary Deddo
President, Grace Communion Seminary

Be Still

a man sits on the edge of a path surrounded by traffic and busy city streets

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still. Amidst the hurry, flurry and worry of modern life – be still.

But we are always on the go – productivity rules, the demands never cease. You know how the conversation goes: “How are you doing?”. “Oh, I’m extremely busy.” This is the cultural expectation. Pretty soon life revolves around what we are doing and have yet to do. Our pressures, stresses, and urgent demands. Oh yes, we may talk to God once in a while – especially to ask him for help, his blessings, success, and the like. But “be still”? Maybe next week, next year.

It can be challenging to get off the treadmill and find a still point. Guilt, fear and anxiety break in. What we “should” be doing. And there’s usually a cacophony of noise, distractions, and interruptions.

That’s why learning to be still is a spiritual discipline. It takes intentional focus, choice and time. It means making room for devotional times. Just us and God. Not to withdraw completely from the world, but to better enable us to reengage in the world and contribute to community. It takes devotion to pay attention to the things that really matter – to contemplate the marvel, majesty, glory and love of God. What could be more wonderful to contemplate than who God is, revealed to us in Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, help us find our rest in you. Help us escape the tyranny of hurry, flurry and worry, and in the midst of life, help us find time and space to contemplate you. May we be still, and see you for who you really are.

John McLean Portrait

 

By John McLean
Superintendent
Brisbane, Australia

 

Devotional – Abide in Me

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

As ideal as it may seem to live near a good winery, imagine nesting yourself right in the middle of a vineyard. Attaching yourself to the vine, living among the branches and watching the fruit grow. It’s a dream come true for those of us who love wine.

This is also the definition of a healthy Christian life. The first and most important thing is to make sure you are firmly attached to the vine—and make sure that vine is Jesus and not a man or a group. Second, live among the branches—spend time with others who are also firmly attached to the vine. Third, watch the fruit grow—in you and in others. Finally, leave the comfort of the nest to reach out to others—sharing the love and life of Jesus with others—knowing your home is always attached to the vine.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me always see you as the true vine. Help me desire to stay attached to you at all times. And when my desire wanes, help me desire to desire. Thank you for being the vine that gives life; thank you for abiding in me. Lord, as you grow in me, help me share your love and life with others. In your name, Amen.

 

By Rick Shallenberger
Regional Director, USA North Central

We Are GCI Series | Reuben Rios

We Are GCI Series is a collection of videos where various GCI leaders and members are highlighted.

In this episode, GCI Pastor, Reuben Rios, shares a little about himself, why he likes to serve in GCI, and in what ways he connects the most with God.

Devotional – His Voice

Acts 8: 26-29 reads: “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian… This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Then Philip explained the meaning of the Scriptures to the Ethiopian.

This passage tells us a lot. First, Philip was available to hear the voice of God. And it is evident that the Lord, the Holy Spirit, wanted to use Philip to preach the gospel to this Ethiopian. Here, the Holy Spirit gave very precise directions to Philip, entrusted him with a very particular mission. And on the way, the Spirit spoke again and told Philip to approach the Ethiopian’s chariot. Philip again obeyed the voice of the Spirit.

We all want the Lord God to send us, to speak to us clearly in very special ways. Indeed, he has already spoken to us in the Bible and has revealed to us the most important thing: the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. But we always have questions when executing and carrying out his will. Many times we do not know exactly where to go or what to do.

Once a pastor friend told me that as we preach the gospel, the Lord God gives us a green light and we must keep moving forward unless God himself intervenes and changes the course. The risk is to go where we want and not where the Lord wants to send us. This passage has made me ponder what characteristics were in Philip that the Lord chose to speak to him. Or does the Holy Spirit just send anybody? I want the Lord to speak to me about very specific things in ministry. I want to be receptive to his voice.

In this example, the Spirit led Philip to minister to only one person. The Holy Spirit had been working with the Ethiopian preparing him for this encounter with Philip. Sometimes we may want great and important missions. But I ask the Lord Jesus to help me be willing to go even in small missions. The important thing is for me to be in his will. We need to be attentive to the voice of God, to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We need to know he does speak to us and sends us.

So this is my frequent prayer: Lord give me such a heart to listen to you, tell me what are you doing in my community, in my neighborhood, with my congregation, how can I participate in your work, where do you want me to go, what do you want me to do, who do you want to meet me with? What words do you want me to say? I am available for you, send me. Give me a heart receptive to your voice. Amen.

Hector Barrero Portrait

 

By Hector Barrero
Pastor
Bogota, Colombia