Monthly Letter from Joseph Tkach — November 2013

Posted by colin on November 20, 2013 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article

November 1, 2013

 

Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach  

Grace Communion International - Living and Sharing the Gospel

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,With Thanksgiving Day approaching, I feel that it is important for me to take a moment and say, “Thank you!” Your faithful generosity has continued to touch us here at GCI. We also know that Jesus was touched by hearing words of appreciation. In Luke’s account of the life and ministry of Christ, he tells us of an encounter with ten lepers. I’d like to explore that incident with you. It has some encouraging lessons for all of us who have made giving and sharing a part of our lives.

We find the story in Luke 17, beginning in verse 11: “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’”

Today, leprosy, or Hansen’s disease as it is now called, can be easily treated. But in Jesus’ day, it was a lingering death sentence. Lepers were outcasts, forced to live on the fringes of society. They were dependent on charity for their every need. These tragic men did not ask Jesus to heal them – but just to have pity. They were asking for any assistance he could give. Jesus did more than give pity. “When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14).

In the rare case of someone recovering from leprosy, it was necessary for him or her to be pronounced “clean” by a priest. So, although perhaps somewhat puzzled, the ten lepers did as Jesus had told them. On the way, they were healed. We don’t know what happened next to most of these people. However, Luke tells us that “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well’” (Luke 17:15-19).

Another translation reads: “Your faith has made you whole,” showing that the leper who turned back to thank Jesus received more than just a physical cure. Just like then, people still turn to God for help when in need. Heaven is deluged with prayers – for healing, for peace, for good weather at a picnic, for a parking spot on a crowded street, as well as for one’s favorite football team to win. While those prayers may be asked in faith and sincerity, for some, that is as far as it goes – until the next time they face a desperate situation.

Sadly, there is not much of a relationship when people view God like a bank’s ATM machine. They expect it to give them what they want, when they want it. Like the nine lepers, they don’t intentionally take God’s blessing for granted, but that is what it amounts to. And as a result, no deeper relationship is developed.

That is what made the tenth leper so unusual. He went back to Jesus and thanked him. The Greek word translated “thanked” in verse 16 is eucharisteo. It implies more than just being aware that we received something we wanted – it implies personal appreciation. The giving of a gift, and the gratitude that comes in response, helps strengthen personal relationships.

Because God is love, he loves to bless us, even if it only results in a fleeting “ATM-like” relationship. But what he really is looking for is an ongoing relationship based on more than just getting an occasional prayer answered. He offers us a “communion” of working together in a close, loving relationship that will last for eternity. It is interesting that the word “Eucharist” (the sacrament which symbolizes our relationship with God and each other) is derived from this Greek word Luke used to describe how the leper who came back thanked Jesus.

Have we ever thought of ourselves as being like that leper who came back? While he may not have understood exactly who Jesus was, he felt the need to return and give thanks. Jesus told him that his faith had not only led to his leprosy being cured, but had also made him “whole” or complete.

Our resurrected Savior is still at work, bringing the human race to the understanding of all God has intended for them, so they may become “whole.” He makes that knowledge known through human instruments and their resources. The world we live in today is hurting, and so many are like those outcast lepers, pleading with God to have mercy on them.

As we minister with Jesus, I thank you for becoming who God created you to be and for yielding to the lead of the Holy Spirit. Many of you have expressed to me personally how grateful you are for God’s transforming our denomination from top to bottom. I thank you for your friendship, and for partnering with us in order to further the ministry he has given us. It is joyful to be counted among the thankful ones!

In closing, I would like to remind you of one of my favorite verses from Colossians: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17,  ESV).

Thank you, my dear friends and coworkers, for being so willing to lend a helping hand.

Sincerely, in Christ’s service,

 

 

 

Joseph Tkach President – Grace Communion International

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