Ordinary Time?

In the GCI Worship calendar, we are now under what is called “Ordinary Time”—the time between Pentecost and Christ the King Sunday. It’s a time that celebrates the mystery of the church and the mystery of Christ living in us. The word ordinary can sound boring, simple, and non-energetic, yet most of our days would fall under the category of ordinary time. We don’t celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and special events every day; most of our year is spent living a rather ordinary life—however that looks to each person. This doesn’t imply the rest of the year is less important, less effective, or less essential. It is during this “ordinary time” that our work is done, our projects are completed, our day-to-day life is... Read the article

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Know Justice Know Peace — Know Jesus Know Peace

I asked Charles Taylor, GCI Pastor in Miramar, Florida, to take this column and share notes from a sermon he gave on racial injustice. The point of his sermon was that in the midst of the real suffering and deep pain of racial injustice, we hold to the truth that God is real and he is there for us and in us. He will strengthen and comfort us as he brings his justice. To this I say Amen, and thank you Charles for the following article. Have a blessed month. Rick Shallenberger Know Justice Know Peace - Know Jesus Know Peace by Charles Taylor We are at a time of crisis in our country—people are still suffering over the loss of loved ones during the coronavirus epidemic. Our hearts, prayers, and sadness go out to those who... Read the article

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“Where is Your Faith?”

Many sincere questions have been asked by Christians during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Have we failed to trust God to protect us?” “Didn’t Jesus promise the gates of hell would not prevail against his church?” “Why did we allow government to shut our church down?” “Aren’t we going overboard with safety concerns—requiring masks and gloves, and not hugging each other? There is a lot of information in the news and on social media about Covid-19. Depending on where you are in the mix, you can believe this pandemic is a conspiracy from a foreign country to show our weaknesses, that the pandemic is being used as a political tool, that we are treating the disease wrong, that masks cause more danger than good, that wearing a mask... Read the article

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A Church Deployed

The pandemic gives us unique and imaginative ways of sharing God’s love and life with others. You ever notice how often things don’t go exactly as you planned? Along with that, certain life events seem to come at “the worst time”—at least from our perspective. My daughter was pregnant with our 2nd grandchild when she called with news that weighed heavy on my heart. “Dad, Chris is being deployed and will be gone a minimum of six months.” “When does he leave?” “Just after the baby is due.” My heart just sank. What a horrible time for the military to take my son-in-law. What were they thinking? There had to be a better time. I found myself thinking the same thoughts these past several weeks as I’ve spent more time... Read the article

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“Remember Me”

What did Jesus want us to remember? I’ve watched a number of people die over my lifetime. Some died quickly, some were tortured by disease and suffering for months, even years. I’ve watched family members fight cancer and other diseases, and I’ve seen bodies shrivel from the effects of disease. I’ve lost six siblings, my parents, most of my aunts and uncles, a few cousins and all my grandparents. And I remember each one. I remember many great conversations, some fantastic adventures, numerous laughs, some tears, incredible stories. I love telling stories to anyone willing to listen—the stories help me remember. I don’t share the suffering, the pain, the anguish and the final moments before death. I remember, but those... Read the article

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One Body, One Voice

Imagine the body of Christ all speaking the same thing at the same time. What a powerful message that would bring to the world. My daughter, son-in-law and grandbabies attend a local church that is only a few miles from their home. My daughter often asks me what my sermon is about and 8 times out of 10 it is the same scripture and similar topic being presented at her congregation. She finds this fascinating; I find it affirming. This is the work of the Holy Spirit and the beauty of using—dare I say it—the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). Have I lost you yet? Stay with me, please. Some find the idea of using the RCL as akin to cheating, or worse, not following the lead of the Holy Spirit. I used to be one of those. I used to... Read the article

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Faith + Hope + Love = Healthy Church

These three remind us Jesus is the center of the center. During my years in ministry, both as a pastor and a denominational leader, I’ve been exposed to a number of discipleship pathway slogans used to motivate and inspire us to healthy church. These include: Believe, Belong, Become; Inward, Outward, Upward; Cultivate, Plant, Reap; Win, Build, Equip. I am likely missing a couple. All of these pathways work in some cultures and ministry environments, while not working in other cultures and environments. Some come across as works-oriented; others as more faith based. We chose Faith, Hope and Love Avenues because they are scriptural and because they work in all cultures. Allow me to share some other reasons how Faith, Hope and Love lead... Read the article

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Focusing on Hope

Where do you turn when you are feeling hopeless? There have been a number of times in my life when I felt hopeless. The first time I remember was when I was 12 and two of my sisters were killed in a car accident. My family and I were in New York, miles from home, when this tragedy struck. I was shocked and confused and didn’t know where to turn. It wasn’t until we returned home and went back to church that I started healing as friends and church members surrounded our family with love and support. Over the years I’ve lost three other siblings and both parents—and some of those losses gave me a sense of hopelessness, angst, fear and even anger. Other members of my immediate family went through the same sense of grief, and I was... Read the article

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All About the Light

Keeping Jesus the center of the center. I never understood total darkness until I was in the middle of Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, way below the surface, no exit in sight, and they turned the power off. They only left if off for half a minute, but it was enough. In darkness, not only do you lose all sense of direction, but you lose all sense of presence. I did not know where I was in proximity to others. I knew two of my children were near because they were squeezing my hands, but I lost sense of where my wife and third child were. It was the eeriest feeling I recall having. It wasn’t until the lights were turned back on that I realized I had been holding my breath. It was a powerful demonstration of the glory of light. Without... Read the article

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The Three “Comings” of Jesus

Advent: Jesus then, Jesus now, Jesus in the future Want to know a secret? I used to think Advent was all about Christmas, and the four common themes of Advent—Hope, Peace, Joy and Love—were symbols reminding us what Jesus brought to this world. While there is truth to what I used to believe, I have come to see that the season of Advent is much more. Advent is derived from Latin and means “to come” or “the coming.” It is a time of waiting with expectation, anticipation, longing and preparation. It reminds us the world yearns for deliverance—a deliverance provided only by the Messiah. It is a time to celebrate that light has come into a darkened world, that hope has arrived in the form of a child, that peace is in our future. ... Read the article

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