Monday Reverb – 16January2023







We easily give applause when we experience something wonderful in our lives. And sometimes it can leave us speechless when we encounter the same overwhelming feeling when we grow to know God to greater depths.

Psalm 40:1-11 • Isaiah 49:1-7 • 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 • John 1:29-42

This week’s theme is a call to faithfulness.

  • The call to worship Psalm expresses thanksgiving to God for his faithful deliverance.
  • The Old Testament reading from Isaiah recounts the calling of the servant to be a light to the nations.
  • The text in Corinthians records Paul’s introductory remarks to a letter calling a wayward church back to faithful obedience.
  • In the Gospel reading from John, we have Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist who bears witness to Jesus as the Lamb of God, which calls others to follow him.




Faithful to the End

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 (NRSVUE)

Today, for the Second Sunday of Epiphany, we have the opportunity to read someone else’s mail.  It comes from a letter written to the church in Corinth, and it’s a juicy read.  If it weren’t part of the canon of scripture, I suspect we would blush a bit at the thought of peeping into a private letter written to another church.  After all, it’s none of our business what’s going on in the church down the road, right?  But the Holy Spirit has inspired this letter not only to be read in this one particular church, but to be included in the Bible for all churches to read.  And, it turns out to be a selected reading for Epiphany.  So, we can conclude that whatever it contains sheds some light on who God is as revealed in Jesus Christ.  So, let’s take a peep.

Today’s text includes Paul’s introductory remarks for a letter of correction sent to the church in Corinth.  I can’t think of many people who like to be corrected, but I think it’s safe to say that even fewer like doing the correcting.  Paul is in the position that he must confront this congregation in Corinth on a vast array of issues.  These issues seem to be stemming from a fair amount of accommodation to the culture around the church.

The city of Corinth was a crossroads of Greece for commerce.  The city was near an overland route for seafaring boats to be rolled on logs as a shortcut to save time sailing all around the Peloponnese peninsula.  Corinth had become a diverse city with many different peoples and their deities.  Corinth was also known to be morally corrupt.  Perhaps we feel safe to air out the issues of a church from the past in a city that is no longer around.  But, if we are honest with ourselves, this description of Corinth sounds embarrassingly similar to nearly every city in western society.

The problem with the church in Corinth unfortunately was the culture of the city was showing up in the life of the church.  Surely that is not the case for our church, right?  Well, we don’t have to answer that.  Thankfully, we can address the issue of succumbing to cultural pressures from the safety of a letter written to someone else, admitting that it is also written for us today.  And, let’s face it, we would be naïve to think this letter doesn’t hit its mark in our own congregations in one way or anotherSo, maybe as we read Paul introducing his first letter to the church in Corinth, we can open our ears as if he is writing to us.

Paul, who had planted the church in Corinth four or five years earlier, sets out to address 11 specific issues the church in Corinth is dealing with, ranging from divisions, sexual morality, lawsuits, worship wars, marriage, and women’s role in the church, just to name a sampling.  That’s a lot of issues Paul will have to cover.  We may feel a bit of comfort being able to scratch off a few of the issues in Paul’s list that do not pertain to us.  Whew!  But, some of them may hit their target.  More than that, the issues all stem from the same problemPutting our faith somewhere other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  With that said, I don’t think we can find too much distance between our brothers and sisters in Corinth and those of us hearing this letter in our current location.  Let’s see how Paul chooses to introduce such a letter.

As we go through these nine short verses you will notice that before Paul speaks a single word of correction, he mentions the name of Jesus Christ eight times – at least in the translation we are using.  That gives us a clue as how Paul intends to address the issues troubling our churches and each of us individually.  For Paul, it appears that whatever list of problems we may be challenged with, the answer to each and every one is always the same — Jesus.

Let’s see how Paul begins:

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. (1 Corinthians 1:1-2 NRSVUE)

Paul first identifies himself as one who is called to his role as an apostle of Jesus Christ, and states that this calling is by the will of God.  He also includes Sosthenes in the address.  Paul is not speaking on his own.  This positions Paul’s letter to be read with the understanding that these issues Paul is going to address are primarily between the church and God.   They cannot dismiss his correction as a simple personality conflict or use some other scapegoat.  It’s far deeper than that.  We may be tempted to dismiss many of our conflicts with others, especially those called to speak God’s word to us, as mere personality conflicts. “We just don’t see eye to eye,” or “He just doesn’t like me for some reason.”  It’s our propensity to justify ourselves when faced with correction.  Paul’s introduction doesn’t allow room for such maneuvering based on personalities.

Paul then identifies this church as the church of God that is in Corinth.”  The location of the church is secondary to their true identity.  They belong to God.

  • With all the problems facing the Corinthian Christians, Paul still refers to them as sanctified…and called to be saints.”   This means they had been set apart for God’s purposes.
  • They were called along with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”   Their calling was a shared calling among all the churches.
  • Even with all their struggles and challenges, God’s call to them remained, and they still had a place and purpose in the body of Christ.

It may be for us as well that we need the reminder that our personal congregation or denomination does not stand in isolation.  We belong to the body of Christ, which spans the globe as well as history.  What we do in our little corner of the globe as a congregation affects the witness of the entire body.   No church or individual believer is called to walk alone.

Now, Paul will begin to address the Corinthian church more directly and personally:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind — just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you – so that you are not lacking in any gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:3-7 NRSVUE)

Paul speaks “Grace … and peace” to the church and goes on to say he is thankful for them.  His thankfulness is not grounded in what the church has to give, but in what it has been givengrace.  Paul does not want them to remain in their state of disgraceful living, but rather receive the grace already theirs in Jesus Christ.  The correction he speaks to them throughout the letter will be Paul’s way of holding them to grace.  Often when we hear the word “grace,” we may be tempted to think that someone is making an exception to their way of living.  But this is not the grace we see in Jesus Christ.

God’s grace extended to us in Jesus did not just look at our sins and say, “Oh, I’ll make an exception in this case, and just overlook your sin.”  That’s not a grace that does us any good at all.  Jesus did not come to “overlook” our sinsHe came to destroy our sins and to remove them as far as the east is from the west.  So, when Paul brings up all the issues that need to be addressed, he is actually holding them to grace.  He is not treating them as if their sins are trifle matters.  To do so would be to treat them as trifle objects of God’s love.  God loves us enough not to let us continue in our sins.  His grace moves to remove the sin and deal with it for good.

He goes on from here to confirm their calling by pointing out their gifts of grace.  He speaks truth into their lives by reminding them that theydo not lack any gift.”  Paul can point to the reality that God has been at work in their lives.  And on that ground, Paul can be thankful that God is not done with them, and God will complete what he started.  That can be an encouraging reminder to us as well when we look at our lives and see a list of issues we are still struggling with. If we can see God’s work in our lives at any point in the past, (and even if we can’t see it, others often can), we can be assured that he is still working and will not quit.  This motivates us to learn to cooperate and not resist the work he is doing.

Paul concludes his introduction with further encouragement:

He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by him you were called into the partnership of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:8-9 NRSVUE)

Paul wraps up his introductory remarks by focusing their attention on Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the one who will “strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Again, Paul is reminding us that Jesus is the one who will see our calling through to the endJesus never loses sight of the goal or purpose of where he is taking us.  Even if our lives start looking more like the surrounding culture out of which we have been called, Jesus calls us back to himself.  He will not be satisfied with our self-satisfactionHe intends to make us perfect.

He concludes this introduction to this letter to the Corinthians with the reminderGod is faithful; by him you were called into the partnership of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  It’s God’s faithfulness that gets the last word.

As we view this passage in the season of Epiphany there is a message of answering God’s call in our lives that will lead to seeing and experiencing the triune God more fully.  The old saying stands true, “obedience unlocks understanding.”  As we faithfully respond to God’s call in all the various ways we hear it, we can be sure that we will be opening ourselves up to receive the blessings of knowing him moreWe grow in seeing and experiencing God’s faithfulness to us.  He comes through every time.

But, if we continue in disobedience, favoring our way of doing things or settling for the approval of our culture over the approval of God, then we will not have the privilege of seeing God’s faithfulness to us.  Our actions don’t mean he is not faithful, but it does mean we will not experience the freedom that comes with living out of that faithfulness.

There’s an illustration told that captures this experience quite well.  There was a man who had to cross a frozen lake.  As he is trying to cross the lake, he is fearful the ice will break, and he will fall through.  So, he crawls slowly across the frozen lake, making painfully little progress in his journey.  But then he sees a wagon carrying a load of timber pulled by a team of horses gallop past him on the ice.  It was then he realized the ice would hold, and he was able to walk in freedom.  So it is with us.  It is not our faith in the ice that keeps us from falling throughIt is the unbreakable ice holding us up that enables us to walk in freedomEvery step of obedience in our walk with the Lord will be one more step that lets us know the ice holdsHe is faithful to us, and we grow by putting our trust in his faithful hands.  Soon, we too will be galloping unhindered in our journey with him to the other side of the lake.  God is faithful to the end.



GCI President Update | January 2023

Faith, Hope, and Love in Action
Greg Williams 

GCI President, Greg Williams, shares how in 2023, GCI will focus on our theme of “Faith, Hope, and Love in Action.” We will be emphasizing moving from ministry concepts to active participation with Jesus in ministry. We rely on Jesus to guide us in being effective ambassadors to our neighbors.


Dear Family and Friends,

Happy 2023!  We are beginning an exciting new year with new hopes and new possibilities.

In 2022, we promoted the theme of “Compelled by Love.”  We understand that it is the pure love of Jesus that allows us to see others being included in his sacrifice and love.  We teach a universal atonement in that when Jesus died, all humanity was included in his spilled blood.  Therefore, the reconciliation of mankind to the triune God was made available to “all” in Jesus.  God is not counting our sins against any of us.  When he looks at us, he sees Jesus standing in our place for us.  This is the good news we identify as the gospel.  And this is our mission:  to live and to share this gospel.

As we look ahead to what 2023 holds — in GCI, this means moving into Year Two of our 3-Year Plan — we ask how does this mission play out for our six global Regions of GCI?  We share the same vision of “Healthy Church” that is reflected in the same structure of “Team Based–Pastor Led” with the ministry Avenues of Faith, Hope, and Love.  So where do we need to focus on?  Leadership is part of our focus.

Fleshing out the clear role of the Pastor to build his/her team – with called and competent leaders who can champion the ministry Avenues of Faith, Hope, and Love – is a must to further our movement toward Healthy Church.

As each Superintendent leads their Ministry Directors to train, educate, and coach on these important steps forward, we realize that each region is working at its individual pace as the Spirit is guiding.  And that’s okay.  The critical factor is that we are all progressively moving in the same direction – and that direction is always keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and growing in our participation in his ministry of faith, hope, and love.  Eugene Peterson was right when he said, “It’s a long journey in the same direction.”  And that direction is always toward Jesus.

Year One in our shared global plan was focused on learning the ministry concepts and developing a common language.  Having visited almost all GCI regions in 2022 and participating in pastoral conferences, I was pleased to see how the concepts are being grasped and talked about.  We are out of the starting block.

In Year Two, our GCI theme for 2023 is “Faith, Hope, and Love in Action.”  This is moving the concepts into action.  It is our faith goal that as we better understand the ministry of Jesus conceptually, that we follow through with better participation.

Allow me to explain what I mean by better participation.  It’s one thing to know that it is the commission of the church to make disciples, and it is altogether another experience to participate with Father, Son, and Spirit in actively making disciples.  This is where the Love Avenue comes in for us to become intentional about engaging and building meaningful relationships with those who don’t yet know Christ.

Then as new people are coming along, it is imperative that our Hope Avenue is vibrant.  Every Sunday gathering needs to be a time of inspiration in worship of Jesus, experiencing the power and presence of the Spirit, as believers come together corporately.

Following up on where the Love and Hope Avenues have helped us reach new believers, the action of the Faith Avenue will then help them learn how to walk with Jesus and find their place in the life of the church.  The Apostle Paul describes a progression of moving from the milk of the word to the meat of the word.  This is a relationship with the Savior that is maturing in understanding and relianceGCI’s role is to help others become committed followers of Jesus.

The hope that I cling to is that GCI will make disciples who will make even more disciples.

The effectiveness of how the church is operating in the Faith, Hope, and Love Avenues has a major impact on how the mission of Making Disciples is fulfilled.  I believe you can see just how critical it is for GCI to move from knowledge to practice.  Faith, Hope, and Love in Action mean that we are focused on Jesus and relying on him to channel his faith, hope, and love into us, so we more effectively operate as his ambassadors to a broken, hurting world.

To speak candidly, I fully realize that not all our churches are the same.  Some are smaller and aging and in their twilight years.  By the grace of God, some are experiencing renewal, and yet others are celebrating their history and closing their doors.  Please know that this is the cycle of the church and that your denomination still loves and cares about you deeply.  There is no judgment or hard feelings.

For the smaller churches, you will be hard-pressed to build out the Faith, Hope, and Love Avenues to the scale that you would like.  Please don’t feel bad about this.  Continue to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and think about ministry through the lens of Faith, Hope, and Love, and participate as you are able.

I have advised our Superintendents and their team of leaders to identify the congregations that have the greater capacity of size, adequate funding, opportunity in their neighborhood, and teachable leaders who are willing to try new methods, and we begin there.  You have heard the expression that “life begets life” – so, this is our long-range thinking.  If we can help the healthier churches among us to become even more vibrant, then these renewed congregations have the potential to become mother churches that give birth to daughter churches – bringing new followers to Christ.  This will be an incredible marker to indicate that our shared vision of Healthy Church is being fulfilled.

Let me pray for us.

Father in Heaven, Lord Jesus, and Holy Spirit, we are at the beginning of a New Year on our calendar.  We thank you for being faithful in our past and especially for our shared journey in GCI.  You have brought us such a long way and have never left us or forsaken us.

We stand here now as we roll our calendars forward to 2023.  We stand in the faith, hope, and love of Jesus and we collectively ask you that we can better join you in your purpose of drawing all men and women to yourself.  That your Kingdom can grow from a small seed to a huge, expansive bush where all birds can be gathered and find refuge and peace.

Thank you, Spirit, for unifying our fellowship with a shared plan that has a common vision, common structure, common strategies, and a plan full of faith goals that can only be fulfilled as you build the house.

Father, we humbly ask that the Faith, Hope, and Love of Jesus would become even more alive and tangible among our churches and members.  May the light of Jesus shine brightly through our people, and Lord add new members as it pleases you.

In a year’s time, may we look back on 2023 and see the amazing ways that you answered this prayer.

In the mighty name of Jesus!


I’m Greg Williams, updating you about the life of the Church.




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top