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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It’s a new year again, and that means many people are making New Year’s resolutions. Often, these are about personal health – especially after the excess of the holidays. People around the world commit to exercise more, eat fewer desserts, and generally try to start the new year on the right foot. Although there’s nothing wrong with making these kinds of resolutions, for Christians, there’s something missing from this equation.
These resolutions have everything to do with human will-power, and, because of that, they often fizzle out. In fact, experts have tracked the success of New Year’s resolutions, and the findings aren’t encouraging: 80% of them fail by the second week in February! We as believers are especially aware of how fallible human beings are. We are familiar with the feeling, as the apostle Paul puts it in Romans 7:15 NIV, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” You can hear Paul’s frustration with his own lack of willpower, even when he knows what God asks of him.
Thankfully, we Christians don’t have to rely on our own resolve. We can turn to something much more effective than willing ourselves to change: we can turn to prayer. Through Jesus Christ, and the indwelling of his Holy Spirit, we can come confidently before God our Father in prayer. We are able to bring him our fears and anxieties, our joys and our deep concerns. It is human to look to toward the future, and to have hopes for the year to come. But instead of making resolutions that soon fade away, I encourage you to join me in committing 2018 to prayer.
Nothing is too small to bring before our loving Father, but, unlike New Year’s resolutions, prayer isn’t just for ourselves. We can also use prayer as an opportunity to bring the concerns of others before the Lord. I have a number of prayers for Grace Communion International this upcoming year.
I’m praying for continued growth and support across all GCI regions, that God will bless and expand our churches and ministries the world over. I’m praying especially for the cross-country move our US home office is undertaking early this year, from Glendora, California to Charlotte, North Carolina! I’m praying that it will be a smooth, peaceful, and productive change. I’m also praying for the changes in church leadership GCI will undergo, as I begin my own transition to retirement, and pass the presidential baton to Greg Williams. I’m thankful to everyone who is involved in these significant undertakings. I know many are already praying for these significant concerns, and I ask for your prayers as well.
The privilege of prayer for the new year encourages me greatly. You see, I can have my own aims and expectations for 2018, but I know I’m pretty powerless to make them happen. But I also know that we worship a loving and all-powerful God. Only one chapter after his cry from the heart over his own weak will, Paul offers us encouragement in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God is at work in the world, and his all-powerful, loving will is for the good for his children, no matter the circumstances.
Some of you may have had a wonderful 2017, and may look ahead with anticipation. Others of you may have had a heavy year, full of struggle and setback, and fear that 2018 will only hold more of the same. No matter where this new year finds us, God is right here, ready to receive our prayers and supplications. We have a God of unending love, and no concern is too small to bring to him.
Thank you for your prayers for and support of our precious church throughout the UK and Ireland (Gracecom). People give in many ways – from their time, talent, and treasure. We are very grateful for the support of believers who have committed to spreading the good news of the gospel, and who understand the transformative power of prayer.
I’m amazed that God welcomes our petitions, our celebrations, and our sorrows in close conversation with him, and gratefully ask that you join me in praying for our fellowship in 2018 – praising God for his faithfulness, and committing our future to him.
In prayer and gratitude,
GCI Auckland 50th
by Rex Morgan who pastors the GCI church in Auckland, New Zealand, and manages the GCI New Zealand office
Fifty excited people attended the 50th anniversary of GCI’s Auckland congregation on November 4 – 50 years to the day after its inaugural service. The event was held at the Mt. Eden hall where we have been meeting regularly for services the past 15 years.
After three baptizing tours in the early 1960’s, Graemme Marshall came to live in New Zealand in 1967. On September 7 of that year, the first WCG Bible Study was held in Auckland. The first Church service took place on November 4, 1967. Fifty years later, lots of memories came flooding back to mind as members past and present enjoyed renewing old acquaintances and comparing stories. There was plenty of “mix and mingle” time. I read out messages of greeting from members unable to be present, including one from Rod Matthews. His message encouraged the attendees to “look around at one another, think of those who went before use and recall that we are but a party of a spiritual body so much bigger, immortal, as yet unrevealed, but flowering plants in the garden of God. We celebrate together this golden anniversary milestone on a journey as yet unfinished but with a sure destination.”
Other brief addresses were given, reminiscing on incidents and lessons gleaned during half a century history. Then we watched a video from GCI President Joseph Tkach. Following (picture on the right) that an anniversary cake decorated in our theme colours of purple and gold was cut by five members present at the inaugural service: Barry Nottingham, Rex Morgan, Jeannette Findlay, Noreen and Robert Thompson.
I noted in my address that 50th anniversaries are referred to as “golden anniversaries” – a reminder to us of how God is refining our character into spiritual gold for his everlasting temple at the centre of the New Jerusalem, which is described as being made of pure gold. It was a wonderful day of golden memories. No one wanted to leave.
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