Meet Matthew Arquero

“I truly feel like I matter and that I have something to offer. There’s a communal willingness to learn and recontextualize new ideas that I also don’t see very often in other spaces. Essentially, I choose to participate with GCI in ministry because I feel valued, and I want to cultivate and share that same type of love with others.” Check out this month’s GCI Profile to get to know Matthew Arquero, member of Cornerstone Community Church, our congregation in San Diego. To read his full profile, click the image below.

Devotional – Wonders of Epiphany

John 1:1-14

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

How fitting it is that Epiphany follows Christmas. In Jesus’ earthly ministry, being near did not always equate to being known. In fact, it sometimes meant being misunderstood, ridiculed, and rejected. But if we allow Jesus to make himself known to us as he makes himself near to us, everything changes. We begin to see in him life, a life that is the light of all humanity, that is not overcome by darkness, that gives light to everyone. Epiphany invites us to respond to the nearness of Christ with a devotion to knowing him as he reveals himself to be.

During this Epiphany season, I invite us to sit together at Jesus’ feet and learn his ways, the contours of his life, the sound of his breath, the dance of his light. As we grow in relationship with Jesus, I wonder if we would begin to see all things anew, illuminated by his light. Would we see everything, as corrupt as it may become in this present evil age, as touched by his hand in its creation and touchable again in redemption? Would we come to know his light intimately enough to see it even in the dark? Would we come to recognize him in unexpected places? To receive him in places we once thought barren? Would we become bolder disciples, exposing to the light parts of ourselves we’ve long kept hidden or witnessing to the light in places we had believed beyond hope? I believe we would.

Church, let us by the power of the Holy Spirit be grown again and again into those who recognize, receive, and bear witness to Jesus.

How is Jesus making himself known to you personally and corporately today?

Holy God, thank you that you not only draw near to us in your incarnation, but you reveal yourself to us in Christ’s ongoing ministry. Guide us that we may know you more each day, each hour, each moment, and that we would be transformed by knowing you.

 

By Cara Garrity
GCI Development Coordinator

Devotional – Highly Favored

Greetings, Highly Favored One

Mary’s initial response to Gabriel wasn’t any different than any of us would have responded. Luke tells us she was greatly troubled at the greeting. Another way of saying this would be, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. What makes me highly favored? What do you mean, the Lord is with me? Mary was struggling with her identity as a beloved child of God. Does that sound familiar?

Mary had heard the lies that God would not and could not love her unless… Unless she kept the Jewish Holy Days, unless she kept the Sabbath, unless she loved God with all her heart, soul and strength, unless she loved her neighbor as herself. Mary, like most good Jews, focused a lot on behavior, attitude, approach and service. She didn’t see herself as special; she didn’t see herself as highly favored. After all, what had she done?

We too hear the “You are not…” lies of the enemy that keep us from believing we are who God says we are – beloved children. The lies point to our failures, our weaknesses, our fears and anxieties, our sin, and they tell us God can’t possibly love someone as wretched as we are. The lies tell us our sins are bigger than God’s forgiveness. They try to convince us that God’s grace is only for a few and his forgiveness depends on our behavior and attitude and approach to him. The lies tell us Christ only died for a few who are called and the rest of the world is outside his grace and love.

Christmas brings a different message. The Son of God entered the world of sinful, wretched humanity because he loves sinners. He became the Son of Man because he knew we were stuck in the “You are not…” lies and the only way to get us to believe we are the highly favored ones is to take all the lies upon himself and show them for what they are. He came because you are highly favored. He took all your sins, weaknesses, fears and anxieties, and failures upon himself. He took them to the cross and destroyed the liar, so that we could believe the truth.

God calls you his highly favored one. You are forgiven. You are adopted. You are included in the communion of the Father, Son and Spirit. You are redeemed. You are reconciled. You are included in his plan. You are loved. Live in the truth of that love.

During the Christmas season and the season of Epiphany, allow the light of the truth to shine in and through you. Ask God to remove any remaining doubt of who you truly are – a beloved child of God. Be the light you were created to be. Share the love that has changed you.

Mary came to see the truth of her participation in God’s plan and she “burst with God-news; she danced the song of her Savior God” (Luke 1:46-55 MSG). “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me.” Her song is your song. You are blessed when you know who you are in Christ. Maybe one day your song of praise will be recorded as a blessing to others.

Prayer:

Jesus, thank you for revealing to me the truth about who you are and about who I am in you. Forgive me for my disbelief; help me to daily grasp the truth of my true identity and live in that truth. As you live in and through me, may your light shine so I have opportunity to help others understand their true identity. Thank you for making me one of your own. The Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is your name.

Amen.

 

Rick Shallenberger

Devotional – I Can’t Wait Until the World Changes…

When is the last time you really sat and thought about “change”? Do you want the world to change? Do you want a political, religious, or social ideology to change? Or do you simply wish the restaurant closest to your home would change their menu? It seems we can all sit down and have a serious conversation about the “things” that we wish would “change.” Have we ever considered that when we hold onto what we wish would change, we may be doubting what we as Christians would call “God’s love”? Let me explain.

When Jesus spoke intimately to his disciples, he told them that “apart” from him (severed from him) “we can do nothing” (John 15:5). The context of the passage is speaking of one who is “bearing fruit” through “abiding” in Jesus. What does it mean to bear fruit? Have you ever considered that it may mean we have to change? Change what, you may ask…the answer is everything must change. This brings us to the word “abiding.” What if we used the words “depended on,” or “believes in,” or “intimately relates with and trusts” in place of the word abide? That political or social or ideological reality that is driving us crazy must be experienced in this life as we “abide in Jesus.”

Have we ever considered that change for us as humans means that we must learn something that we don’t already know, accept it, and then apply it in our lives; in other words, we “change”? Or we must accept that what we thought was right may not be right at all. So, we must unlearn while we learn something new. All of this happens as we abide in Jesus.

Let’s take it further. If he stated that we can do nothing unless we abide in him, could it be the ideas about change mentioned above actually cannot happen according to God’s will in our lives unless we relate to, trust, believe, depend on completely, with all our heart and mind, in the abiding relating of Jesus? This may be the case.

So, as we think about the changes we wish to see in others and in the world, let us be reminded that they too, those “other” people, can do nothing unless they are abiding in Jesus. And, we have no control on when the “light bulb” comes on in another’s life. Accepting this reality may be the hardest thing we have to accept and change in this life.

PRAYER: Lord, give me the faith to believe that you are in charge and intimately wanting all to be saved. Even the ones I fear, and I believe to be the enemy. Let your love dwell in me, Holy Spirit, because I accept that if I don’t trust that your will is based in love, I can do nothing.

 

Mark Mounts

 

By Mark Mounts, Pastor

Devotional – In a Moment of Time

Do you ever get flashbacks from your past?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the past. My wife, Averil, was on the Wawa Ontario Facebook page and someone posted a photo of the 1964 grade 1 class at Sir James Dunn elementary school.

Apparently, someone found it in a shed and posted it on Facebook to see if anyone could identify the students in the photo. I instantly recognized many in the photo as I was one of those students (third row from the bottom, third person from the left).

Talk about a flashback!

As more and more Facebook users look at that photo, more people are being identified and if the person has their own Facebook page, it is interesting to see where they ended up now that they are in their 60s.

Looking at that photo is like seeing those 6-year-olds frozen in time.

But time goes on, doesn’t it? It never stays still.

I was reminded of this fact when I read this passage from Hebrews:

“Furthermore, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever” (Hebrews 7:23-24).

While the high priests of Jewish fame could not continue to represent the people because they were trapped in time and own their mortality, the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is able to make intercession for us for all time.

As one who depends on him, I find encouragement from this truth, especially when time is such an enemy in our lives.

Prayer: Jesus, give us a glimpse of your reality and give us an ability to rejoice that you are Lord even of time.

 

 

By Bill Hall
National Director, GCI Canada

Prayer Guide November 2021

“To walk with Jesus is to walk with a slow, unhurried pace. Hurry is the death of prayer and only impedes and spoils our work. It never advances it.” ― John Mark Comer

Click the image below to download and print the November Prayer Guide and join us in praising the Father for the incredible work he has included us in, as we join together in corporate prayer and communion.

 

Devotional – No Excuses

Earlier there were a lot of priests, for they died and had to be replaced. But Jesus’ priesthood is permanent. He’s there from now to eternity to save everyone who comes to God through him, always on the job to speak up for them. So now we have a high priest who perfectly fits our needs: completely holy, uncompromised by sin, with authority extending as high as God’s presence in heaven itself. Unlike the other high priests, he doesn’t have to offer sacrifices for his own sins every day before he can get around to us and our sins. He’s done it, once and for all: offered up himself as the sacrifice. The law appoints as high priests men who are never able to get the job done right. But this intervening command of God, which came later, appoints the Son, who is absolutely, eternally perfect.” (Hebrews 7:23-28 MSG)

“No Excuses” can have a lot of meanings, many of which point to the negative thinking that keeps us from embracing our whole self. Our team can beat their team, no excuses! You promised you would do this, no excuses! There was plenty of time to study for this test and you still failed, no excuses! But what if we redeem this phrase, or rather, we recognize God’s redemption of “no excuses”?

Instead of believing ourselves to be failures when we give excuses, as if we have kept good things from happening because of our excuses, what if we remember Jesus’ perfect success for all humanity? Jesus is our High Priest, and the author of Hebrews reminds us Jesus has “done it, once and for all: offered up himself as the sacrifice” (emphasis added). There is no excuse that can overpower, reverse, break, or destroy what is complete in and through Jesus. Are you tired, stressed, sad, or angry? Jesus has still done it and is still “absolutely, eternally perfect” AND right by your side. You’ve missed church because it didn’t feel right? Jesus has still done it, is still “absolutely, eternally perfect” AND is calling you to participate with him. The bigger your excuse, the stronger you may experience God’s nudge to join him in his work. The moment (however many we need in a day, week, or year) we recognize that our excuse doesn’t stop God and doesn’t have to stop us is the moment we experience Jesus’ triumph over our imperfections and his strength in our weakness. The next time you have an excuse for not doing something, don’t count it as failure, but as an opportunity to rely more fully on God in the midst of your heartache.

Precious Lord, we thank you for the knowledge and reminder that you have done it all! There is nothing we can do to mess up your perfect plan and redemption, which is complete in Jesus Christ. No lie or excuse told to us from the enemy can keep us from participating with you. Strengthen our hearts and minds to more fully give even our excuses into your hands. Amen.

 

By Carrie Osborne, Pastor – Chillicothe, OH

Devotional – The Reason

Once, we too were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But—

When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. – Titus 3:3-7, NLT

People often ask why we are the way we are. Why we allow people to do things to us and still forgive them? Are we weak? Are we people pleasers? Are we insecure? No! The contrary is true: we choose to turn resentment into forgiveness, hatred into love, fighting into peace because we have been there, done that and saw that it does not pay. Moreover, when we came to our senses and changed our ways, God graciously forgave us.

We were in every way as sinful and evil as those people are to us, but we were forgiven because of God’s mercy. How dare we withhold that mercy from others? The same kindness and love God showed to us when we were the offenders is what we are to show to those who wrong us.

Dear Lord Jesus, please help us to be a conduit of your love and mercy. Help us to extend what we have received from you to others. Lord, let it be a witness to the world and a sweet-smelling sacrifice to you. Please receive our thanksgiving in Jesus’ name, amen.

 

Margaret Musekwa

 

By Margaret Musekwa, Webmaster
Riviera, South Africa