The Power of Together

Over the years, I have found that it is not uncommon to refer to the annual Church conference as “a Feast.” I have noted myself and others making the same association. Of course, the conference is not mentioned in the Bible as a commanded observance like the Feast of Tabernacles. However, there are several similarities that make it easy to draw this comparison.

Those who attend the conference gather together, in person if possible, to discuss doctrine, review the past year, and make plans for how we will perform the Work for the coming year, among other operational details of the Church. Thought and conversations are dedicated to matters that are spiritual. We take a great deal of time to carefully consider how we carry out the commission we have from God to preach the Gospel and feed the flock. In addition to the Work carried out during our meetings, we get to spend a lot of time together as brethren. We enjoy meals, leisure activities, and sometimes a modest adventure with one another. Like the Feast of Tabernacles, it is a time when we have a chance to focus our attention on the most important aspects of life and revive our energy for the year with brethren that we don’t normally see throughout the year. It’s no wonder to me that I so easily call the conference a “Feast,” given the similar focus on the Work of God and joy of camaraderie.

Coming home from the conference this year, I am contemplative of how valuable it is to spend time with brethren beyond the structured time of conference meetings or of Sabbath services. Only by spending time with another person are we able to have the kind of common experience that builds a relationship. A simple conversation about life, or even sitting quietly together, can have the power of building a bond of friendship. Being with one another helps us to understand the context of each other’s life in subtle ways that build empathy and deepen our capacity for love. As Christian brethren, the potential for building a meaningful relationship with others of like mind is great because we have the same purpose that drives us.

The instruction we have in Hebrews 10:24-25 carries tremendous meaning, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Reflecting on this passage, we not only see the importance of assembling together, but we can also see the purpose. It is far too easy to become weary as we battle against the influence of the world that stands opposed to the righteousness we strive to live by. To carry on day after day without the support from others can become a grueling task. To say it plainly and simply, we need one another for encouragement to hold fast to love and righteousness.

Assembling together on the weekly Sabbath and annual Holy Days is the commanded and ideal way to both give and receive the support we need. Yet, we are a Church with members spread out over long distances, which makes attending weekly and annual Sabbath services in person not always possible. We also understand that physical ailments may make it prohibitive to attend in person as well. Given any real limitations, we ought to carefully consider if we are taking advantage of the opportunities to be together when possible. If we are physically limited in our ability to gather together on the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days, we can still connect in other ways. A simple note or phone call to someone when we’re thinking about them can be extremely uplifting, and it doesn’t take much commitment.

The fact is, we all need encouragement to endure until the end. Life is hard, and it doesn’t seem to get much easier when we consider the circumstances in the world around us. We can take heart in reading Paul’s encouragement to the Thessalonians, “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Onwards!

The Feast of Unleavened Bread 2023 is behind us, but it should not be forgotten.  As we do every year, we focus on keeping physical leaven out of our homes and bodies, making sure that we don’t consume it during those seven days, while at the same time being cognizant of sin in a spiritual sense, how we are to try our best to abstain from committing it.  But this mindset shouldn’t be limited to just during this time.  

In a recent sermon titled, “Sin of Omission” by Eric Rank, he spoke about how sin is possible through neglect, and how we are supposed to turn away from sin.  If we become negligent in our responsibilities, then it will be easier to give in to sin.  Once we recognize we are sinning, that is the precise moment when we need to change, ask God for forgiveness, strive to do better, move forward, continue to live righteously and try our best not to sin. 

Paul who was human just like us tells us this in Romans 6:1-4:  “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

What we are to do is put sin behind us.  Being properly baptized by receiving the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by God’s true ministers is the only way we can ultimately receive the gift of eternal life and be a part of Christ as begotten members in God’s Family.  Because we know this, as Paul mentions in verse 6, “our old man was crucified with Him” and “we should no longer be slaves of sin.” He says later in verse 14 that sin shouldn’t have dominion or authority over us since we are not under the penalty of the law but under the benefits of grace, since we have obtained forgiveness. 

Having the Holy Spirit work in us is vital, and we can’t be careless in this power God has given us which we are able to use at ANY time, to help us when we go through trials and struggles.  Paul understood this very well, and that is why he wrote about everything he went through, which was also for our benefit, so we could understand and thereby use the knowledge with faith and diligence to continue to live righteously. 

It may be easy to lose track of our focus and drift away, going backwards and off course.  When we are at that point, the challenge is to do the opposite and we must seek God and His help to lead us back in the right direction.  Once we start to let go, it can be easier to give up, and the time will come when God will have had enough.  He tells us in Jeremiah 15:6, “‘You who have forsaken Me,’ says the LORD, ‘You have gone backward. Therefore I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you;  I am weary of relenting!’”  We need to make sure this doesn’t happen to us. We will always be confronted with sin and its desire is for us, but it is up to us to rule over it (Genesis 4:7).  We are not supposed to go back into the world from which we have come out of but continue to live a spiritually unleavened life that will lead us to our destiny, for Christ says, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Examining Oneself

Why would Paul admonish us to conduct a self-examination prior to taking the Passover?

He says in 1 Corinthians 11:28: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”

It is important to stop on occasion and analyze our progress as Christians and our relationship with God to maintain the goal of walking in the footsteps of Christ, our perfect example, who never sinned, and to understand that sin acts as a barrier in our relationship with God.

It is a perfect time to do that prior to taking the Passover which we are admonished to take in a worthy manner, according to the instructions from God through Paul.

Since even a little sin will corrupt the individual just as a little leaven leavens the whole lump, we have to be cognizant of this fact and make a genuine effort to get rid of sin and replace the void left from that removal with righteousness.

It is amazing how a little sin can become not that big a deal in our minds; yet, we must deal with it or it will deal with us. A stain on a carpet might be delayed in being cleaned up because we may think it is not a major issue. The longer we put it off, the more it is accepted. Later, it just becomes part of the decor. We must never allow sin in our lives not to be dealt with, so that it just becomes a decor.

Sin by itself will not just disappear on its own. Satan is smart enough to know that if he can get us to just compromise a little bit with God’s laws and not deal with it, he has taken hold of us. Realize that he would like all of us to fail in our journey into the Kingdom of God and to become born-again members of the God Family.

Killing us physically does not remove salvation from us, but failure to put sin out without repenting and getting rid of it can be our ultimate downfall.

At times, little sins can go unnoticed until we do a complete analysis. I remember a minister in the 80s, relating to my wife and me that during the Days of Unleavened Bread, he and his wife were sitting in their living room.

Years ago, some houses had a ledge to put small ornaments and knickknacks about a foot from the ceiling and about eight inches to a foot deep. They were sitting there, looking at the figurines and ornaments and something caught both their eyes.  It was the top of their wedding cake with a small man and woman on top dressed in wedding clothing which had been up there for years. The thought came to mind that they never checked it since at times the top is made of cake and the cardboard or wood is sometimes decorated with the figurines on top. They took it down to check it and to their dismay, they found it to be cake, with leavening in it which had been there in full view since they were baptized. This is like sin, which might be in front of our eyes, but we sometimes fail to see it.

The importance of examining ourselves thoroughly cannot be stressed enough, especially at this time of year. Let us therefore ensure we conduct that examination, clean ourselves up by repenting of our sins, and partake of the Passover in a worthy manner.

How Courageous Are You?

In our Current Events section of Update #1062, dated March 17, 2023, we published an article by the New York Post of March 11, 2023, under the following headline: “US Government as ‘Obstructionist’ as China?”

In the article, we quoted Kentucky Senator Rand Paul as follows: “I think it will be more difficult for them [the government and the health experts and scientists] the next time they try this [impose restrictions], because the evidence is pretty much in. None of the things they did to slow down the spread of the disease worked… In the end, everybody got COVID whether they stood on stickers six feet apart from each other or not.”

He continued: “People need to resist… When the government tells you, you can’t go to church, your government says, you can’t go to the gym, your government says, you can’t go to a restaurant or you can’t go to a hotel — we need to resist that.”

But how are we to resist?  Surely not by violent means, and Paul did not even suggest that. And further, WILL it be more difficult to convince people to follow the “restrictions” which will be imposed, no doubt, when the next real or imagined pandemic hits?

In the Current Events of this week’s Update, we are publishing an article by the Dossier which was released on or about March 14, 2023, under the headline, “Covid Hysteria… Courage vs. Cowards.”

In the article, the author writes:

“When I look back at the times of Covid hysteria, I think most about… what separates courageous people from cowards. These past three years served as a good reminder that true courage is an isolating experience. It is both difficult to possess and retain… Cowardice, unlike courage, is encouraged, rewarded, and it comes easily.

“In the face of a government declared ‘national emergency,’ so many decided to take the coward’s route in the form of compliance, submission, and even taking to targeting the regime-declared ‘enemies’ of society. To be a good citizen, all you had to do was sit down, shut up, wear your submission mask, shutter your family business, carry your movement pass with you, and be up to date on your experimental pharmaceuticals. In exchange, society rewarded the coward class with opportunity, public praise, and a Good Citizen stamp of approval.

“After all, it is an enormously difficult task to swim upstream. It is much easier just to blend in… Courageous people stick to their principles despite the vast majority of the population — and even those closest to them — declaring them a problem, or something much worse. Courage is unique because it is almost impossible to be courageous and popular at the same time…

“When the forces for tyranny rear their ugly heads for the next manufactured crisis in the not so distant future, courageous citizens will once more be called upon to thwart their ambitions.”

In this context, I want to focus in this Editorial on our duty as true Christians to attend the worship services of God’s Church, in person, whenever possible, including the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days and Festivals. This also means for properly baptized Church members to attend in person, whenever possible, the annual Passover evening with the footwashing ceremony and the partaking of bread and wine as symbols for Christ’s broken body and His shed blood. It takes courage to do so, when the government tells you that you must stay home and that you must not assemble with others of like mind to celebrate and observe those most holy occasions. Make no mistake, the government will try again, and your courage will be tested.

This is what we wrote in our free booklet, Obeying God Rather Than Men, under the headline, “What the Mark of the Beast Means For Us Today”:

“True Christians understand that the Sabbath and the Holy Days must be kept, and that they must not instead accept the mark of the beast by worshipping on Sunday and pagan holidays, and by refusing to worship on God’s weekly and annual Sabbaths. 

“But how does this play out in practice when the government prohibits Christian churches to meet and assemble on the Sabbath? They might not even place this prohibition under a religious mantle, but they might give some other reasons, such as the outbreak of a pandemic that would require people to stay at home. The weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days are commanded biblical holy assemblies or holy convocations (compare Leviticus 23). We should ask ourselves whether refusing to follow God’s command, because the government says so, would be pleasing to God (compare Hebrews 10:25; the Living Bible states: ‘Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near’)…

“In this day and age, we have the means of broadcasting sermons live over the Internet to the homes of Church members, which we can resort to on a temporary basis, when physical person-to-person meetings and assemblies with the brethren are not possible. But what happens if a government would prohibit such services as well? How far would we go to follow governmental rules which would prohibit religious services in any manner and of any kind?

“Christians in the early Church were forced to meet in secret, in catacombs, in order to escape the fury of the Roman government. When they were caught, they were severely punished, but they were willing to obey God rather than men.”

They were courageous enough to follow and obey God, even if that meant punishment, incarceration, and worse. Would we be willing today to follow their example, resist governmental restrictions and obey God rather than men?

Be A Forgiver!

The Apostle Paul writes: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). One of the ways in which we can “live peaceably with all men” is to not live with resentment against others.

We bear a great responsibility before God as His emissaries of Christianity, and central to our role is that we must be willing to forgive. Here is what Jesus taught in this regard:

“‘For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses’” (Matthew 6:14-15).

We have all seen people who seethe with bitter resentment and who hold grudges sometimes for years. That kind of mental state is overpowering and dangerous, because it, like a cancer, can supplant righteous character. Oftentimes, animosity between people grows because steps are not taken to quickly resolve contentious issues. Jesus gave the following admonition for how members of the Church of God should deal with offenses, but the principle applies broadly:

“‘Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother’” (Matthew 18:15).

Where does the responsibility fall in being a forgiver? Quite obviously, in the example above, it took the part of both the offended and offender to work out the problem. That is the way The Parable of the Lost Son is represented, also, but note how willingly receptive the Father is toward the return of his now repentant son:

“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

If we are to be a godly forgiver, let’s not make it hard for others, with whom we may have problems, to approach us. Rather, we need to remember how openly God receives us when we often turn to Him asking for His forgiveness of our sins, for this is what He promises: “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

Passover is ahead of us, and we are instructed to examine ourselves beforehand (1 Corinthians 11:28). One way to do so is to consider how well we are doing at being a forgiver of others. From the most minor of offenses to the greatest ones we encounter, are we able and willing to forgive?

Because of the supreme and selfless Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf, we have found and continue to find forgiveness with God.

Let’s be like God the Father and Jesus Christ—let us be a forgiver!

We Are Challenged but Never Hopeless

Most of us at some point in life have suffered an injury or an illness that left us feeling compromised and vulnerable. Possessing a sense of independence is important to being a productive and positive person.  It is this independence that is the essence of who we are and how we perceive ourselves. When we are dependent, we are still the same person whom God created, but we may think differently of ourselves. There is nothing inherently negative in the need to depend on others, and humility is a valuable lesson. There are however degrees of dependence and being in control of one’s mobility and decision-making which is important to our well-being.

When we have a surgical procedure, we are most often anesthetized to the point of absolute vulnerability. We are dependent on the surgeon and the team to breathe for us and monitor our heartbeat and respiration. Although we are unable to take care of our own basic needs, we are not alone. Similarly, Christians living with Alzheimer’s may not be aware of their surroundings, and they may no longer perceive God in the way they did prior to their illness. Nonetheless, God is still present with them, and is aware of the challenges that they face.

There is clarity on this point in Psalm 139:8 in which we read: “If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” God is with us and imbues His children with talents and abilities, and while our physical state can impact those skills, we may still be aware and present. People who are in a coma are treated by their caregivers with the belief that the person can still hear and will have memories if he or she eventually awaken from this state.

The ability to heal the brain and body is strongly dependent on a person’s connection with God and to those around them. In 1 Samuel 2, and in verse 6, we read: “The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up.” Even when we are seemingly so dependent on medicines and machines, we are still solely dependent on God for our life and recovery. God is aware of all that we face. Even as we lie still and perhaps unconscious, He is in control.

For the baptized member of God’s Family, we know that God’s Holy Spirit of power is with and in us as an extra measure of strength even as we undergo various trials, including illness and surgery. We pray for sick brethren for healing and God’s mighty intervention.  We are in God’s care, and we are subject to His Will.

The first use of anesthesia for surgery was back in 1846. Despite progress in the use of such medicines, much about the brain’s activity while under anesthesia is still a mystery. We know that our brain does not turn off under anesthesia, but the connectivity between parts of the brain is heavily impacted. A study with the Harvard Medical School illustrated that under anesthesia the brain quiets, and the segments no longer communicate with each other. In such a state, a person cannot be conscious or functional. Christians in that state however are still connected with God, even if they are incapable of prayer at that moment. Family, friends, and the brethren pray for the person and God is fully aware that His son or daughter is undergoing a trial. The lack of consciousness does not mean that the person is alone.

In Romans 8, and in verses 26, and 27, we learn how Jesus Christ, through His Spirit, assists us when we are vulnerable: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” In those moments when we are ill, or in an altered state of consciousness such as in a coma, or under anesthesia, when we are physically at our weakest, God is there, and Christ, through the Holy Spirit, intercedes for us. We long for the future Kingdom of God when we can be with Him and His Son. In the meantime, we are subject to the limitations of our mortal existence.

Our relationship with God however is not altered by illness or consciousness. We may feel lost and alone, but we are not. In Jeremiah 32, and verse 40, we see the explicit promise that God has made with His people: “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.” God will not leave us, and He intends that we never leave His care. It can be difficult to remember this when we lie in a hospital bed, or are confined to our homes or even within our minds. We may lose hope, but need to remember that we can ask for God’s intervention and pray for one another.

It may help us to remember that even Jesus Christ agonized that the Father had forsaken Him (compare Matthew 27:46). He did suffer unspeakable pain for us as He accepted the sins of mankind. God however had not abandoned Jesus, except for that brief moment on the cross, and He resides for eternity with the Father. Likewise, we are not hopeless; we have God’s promise and the Sacrifice of His Son to rely on. We may lament our physical reality in this lifetime, but we can trust that God hears our prayers, and He will do what is best for us.

Foundation for the Future

Recently, one of the email chains I get was talking about change. The email was about how to make change last. In the email, the writer was quoting a friend of his who is a very successful New York Times Best-Selling self-help author. The quote from this author went like this: “I don’t believe most people actually ever change all that much. That may be strange to hear coming from someone who has dedicated their life to helping people change, but I don’t think most people actually change.”

How true this is. So many people in this world want change. And yet, they can often attempt to make a change and then end up reverting back to where they were before.

The author of this email goes on to state the following:

“It’s not because they can’t. It’s because they don’t know what they don’t know. This ‘knowing’ deficit falls into 2 categories…

“1. Most people don’t know what’s actually possible for them.

“Most people have a hard time being able to imagine what’s actually possible for their life experience. They feel ‘good enough,’ and can’t imagine what feeling ‘great’ even is – or that it’s possible for them. They come to accept the malaise. The potential for life remains perpetually on hold as they fall into the norm that Thoreau once accurately described… ‘The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.’

“2. Most people don’t understand how change actually works

“We think that the way we find greater peace, meaning, freedom, joy and purpose is by focusing on making external changes and quick fixes. The real transformation comes from fixing the foundation. You won’t live differently until you see the world and yourself differently. Sure you can muscle through a diet for a couple of months, but unless your internal operating system changes (your beliefs and sources of meaning) at some point you’re going to find yourself right back at the starting line. This is how it is for everything. External transformation starts with internal transformation.

“Lasting change is an inside-out job.”

As we view this from a Christian perspective, how true this really becomes. When we are called by God and we start to understand the Truth, we are expected to change. Yet, how deeply do we integrate Christian changes into our lives? When we start to make great changes in our lives, we feel invigorated and have a sense of relief. We are zealous and on fire. But as time starts to take its toll in a Christians life, and things start to creep back in or trials and tests happen, that “malaise” can start to set in. The future that we once looked forward to can grow dim and seem increasingly out of reach. The hope for the future, for the Kingdom of God—that which helps to propel us forward—can become dull.

In order to do these things properly, we must allow Christ to be our rock—our true foundation. How do we do this? How do we make sure that we are changing as Christians? We need to be overwriting our carnal operating system. The old person needs to go and needs to be replaced—but with what?

Christ plainly tells us that we must build our foundation—who we are inside (and this takes continual effort, dedication, perseverance, care, watchfulness, searching and changing throughout our lifetime) in order to make it through this life.

In Matthew 7:24-29, we read: “‘Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.’ And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”

What actions is Christ talking about? What changes are God and Christ looking for within us? Will those things–if we put them into practice in our lives, (because it takes action)–allow us to be able to stand on the rock as we go through life’s trials (rain, floods, winds)?  The answers are in the previous verses, in chapters 5-7. Notice the headings in the New King James Bible:

  • The Beatitudes
  • Believers Are Salt and Light
  • Christ Fulfills the Law
  • Murder Begins in the Heart
  • Adultery in the Heart
  • Marriage Is Sacred and Binding
  • Jesus Forbids Oaths
  • Go the Second Mile
  • Love Your Enemies
  • Do Good to Please God
  • The Model Prayer
  • Fasting to Be Seen Only by God
  • Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
  • The Lamp of the Body
  • You Cannot Serve God and Riches
  • Do Not Worry
  • Do Not Judge
  • Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking
  • The Narrow Way
  • You Will Know Them by Their Fruits
  • I Never Knew You
  • Build on the Rock

There is a TON of content in these three chapters, things that we can all take action on. If we want to change as Christians, we have to be willing to do the internal work that it takes. Oftentimes, we can get stuck in the knowing—and yet not actually digging in and dealing with the things that matter in this life.

In preparation for the Passover, Paul warns us all to really think about who we are on the inside—the person who cannot be hidden from God. In 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, he gives us good insight: “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”

To examine ourselves and to take action on those things that are wrong is the ticket. We all fall short in some areas. That is why we are admonished to examine—to seek them out. God is willing and fast to forgive our sins when we see a sin and repent of it. When we are in this mindset of seeking out how to build better on the rock—how to fortify and make ourselves stronger—we will be making good changes in our lives.

Obsolete

This week, my son’s music teacher gave him a CD recording to help him learn some music that he plans to perform. He brought it home, not knowing exactly what to do with it. Even though CD technology doesn’t seem that old, we simply didn’t have a CD player readily available for him to play it. In fact, I had to do a little digging in the basement to find a device in our home that is capable of reading CDs so his recording would play. It made me think about how quickly the things that we use become obsolete.

Just as CDs have been superseded by streaming music services – and ironically vinyl records – we see other advancements pushing aside stalwart technologies. Electric cars now dominate automaker-marketing campaigns. Battery-powered bicycles prevail on the bike paths, leaving the human-powered pedal pushers in the dust. LED lightbulbs fill the shelves at hardware stores, replacing the tried and true, but inefficient, incandescent bulbs that haven’t changed much in the past 150 years. Even though these are current examples, it’s quite common to see the old replaced by the new.

Advancements have been a human endeavor from the beginning. However, new technologies only provide us with new ways of doing the same old things. Streaming audio services and Bluetooth earbuds serve the purpose of enabling us to listen to music. Yet, people have been able to listen to music since the first person on earth enjoyed another person singing to them. We are told by the industry that electric cars are supposed to make traveling easier, but traveling has been possible since man first sat on a horse. As Solomon reminds us, “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘See, this is new’? It has already been in ancient times before us” (compare Ecclesiastes 1:9-10). Even in the ancient times during which Solomon lived, he could see that modern inventions are only an illusion of advancement. But, man in his pride believes that inventions that cause obsolescence are the measure of “progress”.

The attempt to make progress through the replacement of ancient things expands beyond technology and gadgets. Today we see how quickly the Truth of the Bible is jettisoned aside to usher in a more modern interpretation of so-called morality. To cite a simple example, more and more nominal Christian churches are placing a perverted spin on marriage, ignoring the clear Biblical doctrine that it is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. The desire to adapt the interpretation of the Bible to fit the norms of modern culture is no advancement. Rather, the practice of selectively applying Biblical instruction to be convenient for human desire only corrupts the perfect Truth of God. The Word of God needs no replacement because it will never be outdated.

We are fortunate to have access to God’s perfect instruction to guide and direct us every day of our lives, regardless of our circumstances. “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” (Proverbs 30:5). We can, and must, apply that pure Word of God in our lives if we want to fulfill our potential. There is nothing better that will come along in the future, because the Truth is enduring, perfect, and stands the test of time (compare Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:23). Technology may try to bring us more worldly convenience with each passing day, but we can be satisfied today with the perfect Truth of the Bible, knowing that it will never be obsolete.

The News Should Sharpen Our Christian Focus

Occasionally, I may buy a newspaper but, generally, I scan the news on the internet.   It is usually full of negative stories about the worst excesses of man, whether in war or just with “normal” every-day activity.

How many times have we heard people ask where is God in all of this?  It is as if they expect a supernatural force to always come to our aid, irrespective of our behaviour.

I decided to look at one day’s news and see how mankind was faring.  Of course, living in the UK, most of the news items I looked at were mainly, but not exclusively, problems that were applicable to this small island state.   However, much could be said in a pretty similar vein about what is also happening in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand who make up much of the ancient nation of Israel.  They were given such marvellous blessings but also promises of retribution for non-compliance (see Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28).

These nations have enjoyed many blessings over a long period of time, but that now seems to be ebbing away.

On this one day in late January 2023, when I looked at news items, what did I find?

One headline screamed: “I’m a psychologist and these are 13 reasons why people DON’T want to get married anymore – and why staying single makes you happier.”   This is part of the desire of many to get rid of marriage and the family.

Another was: “Police investigate sign threatening to ‘decapitate TERFs’ at Glasgow rally as JK Rowling mocks ‘temporary blindness’ of politicians posing near it.” The rally was against the use of Section 35 to block new gender legislation and fears law makes it easier for predatory men to access female areas.  According to Vox, TERF stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminism.” The movement includes several self-professed feminist groups who are fighting against the inclusion of transgender women in the feminist movement.

This shows more problems with those wishing to change from male to female and vice versa; actions that are in direct conflict with the Bible.

I read a further headline which stated: “Shame of the Met (Metropolitan) Police’s 16 crooks in uniform,” which highlighted that the majority “had been for sexual offences or for violence against women.”   These were dreadful offences perpetrated by those who are paid to protect the public.

There was more to follow. “Shocking rise of ‘something for nothing Britain’: Over half of households get more from the State than they pay in tax…”   This showed the nonsense of paying people more to stay at home than get a job.   This article went on to say that “Two years of furlough, with the Government paying people to sit at home doing nothing, convinced millions that work was an optional extra and the State would provide their every need.”   Ian Duncan-Smith, a former leader of the Conservative Party, opined that “Lockdown changed the psyche of the British people.  For all those years, we told them you can’t get something for nothing, and all of a sudden they did.”

I won’t continue with other headlines as I am sure that the point is made that the UK is in severe decline which brings me to a further attitude generally displayed.  The Word of God is derided, and yet when calamity strikes, the plaintive cry from many asks the question as to why God, if there is one, allows all of this.   We can transgress God’s Laws and His Way of Life and still expect things to go swimmingly, which seems to be their mantra.   I am reminded of what Anne Graham, daughter of Billy Graham said after 9/11 when asked, “Why Did God Let This Happen?”  She gave an extremely profound, thorough and insightful response from which I will, very briefly, quote.

She said: “I believe that God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman that He is, I believe that God has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand that He leave us alone?

“‘Dear God, Why didn’t you save the little girl killed in her classroom? Sincerely, Concerned Student’… AND THE REPLY ‘Dear Concerned Student, I am not allowed in schools. Sincerely, God.’

“Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out.  I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’”

It is hardly surprising that when a nation, in general, turns its back on its Creator, there will be repercussions.   We sow the wind and reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7).  One commentator said that:

“Today, we can see the truth of Hosea’s proverb in many ways. Those who live in unrepentant sin can expect to suffer the consequences of their sin—consequences that both ‘fit the crime’ and exhibit a stunning intensity. Also, this statement by Hosea is a clarion call to avoid idolatry. Anything that steals our trust in the Lord, lessens our devotion to Him, or anything that controls us can be considered an idol and should be abolished from our lives.”

To use a hackneyed phrase, “We can’t have our cake and eat it.”   But that is precisely what man wants.

There is coming a time when the headlines I mentioned earlier will be dwarfed in comparison.   As the UK, the USA and the other English-speaking nations continue in their antipathy towards God and His people, great trouble lies ahead.   The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord make up 3½ years of trouble never previously experienced, as we read in part of Daniel 12:1: “And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time.”

The writing is very definitely on the wall and we must look to God for protection during that time.   He promises that to His people who remain faithful to the end, and we must make sure that that includes all of us.

Which of the World’s Standards Should We Observe?

To put it another way, are there worldly standards that we should not observe?

Thinking about this world and the life we live in it, there are many standards that can affect our life and how we live it. As a retired engineer, I know of many engineering standards that are intended to keep us safe and protected from injury. These cover things like building and bridge design and transport safety for airlines, roads, cars, railroads and many other areas.

There are also medical standards which doctors are required to follow. Unfortunately, humans are not standardized; we have many differences, and what may be effective for one patient may not be effective for another. But as long as a doctor follows the standards as laid down, he is immune from censure, no matter how effective and helpful or dangerous and inappropriate those standards are, and what the outcome for the patient is. However, any doctor who goes against the decreed standards for the benefit of his patients has the potential of being dismissed from his profession, even though deviating from those standards would have been the right thing to do.

Community standards for social media platforms have also been brought to our notice lately, especially since the social media platform Twitter has a new owner who has revealed the illegal censorship with the help and at the direction of government departments. They have been requiring social media platforms to hide truths that they did not want us to know for various political, economic or other reasons. The excuse usually given for this censorship is that the comments or truths did not comply with the “community standards” of the social media platform. These so-called “community standards” are not publicly defined or even applied impartially.

Various religions also have their standards. The Catholic Church previously did not accept homosexuality and transgenderism in their congregations, according to the immutable teaching of the Church on sexuality as stated in their catechism. However, over the recent past, the number of attendees has been dropping; so, in order to try to increase attendance, the chief bishop in the Diocese of Limburg, Germany, has mandated for all church leaders in his diocese to accept those who were previously banned because of un-natural sexuality, without any requirement for repentance. So, this prior standard was observed until it was not convenient due to the change in public morals, and it is now being ignored in at least one part of Germany.

Food standards have recently been changed in some countries—and especially throughout Europe—to allow what was previously considered a contaminant, i.e. various kinds of insects, to be now used as a source of protein and as an alleged attempt to reduce global warming. Apparently, according to proponents, insects do not use as much water as livestock and do not emit the same level of pollutants, but many scientists have pointed out that eating insects may be dangerous to our health.

So, in our lives, which standards should we observe, and which, if any, should we not follow? And, more to the point, how do we tell the difference? There is certainly a way to determine this, and God has provided the way.

Of course, when we look at God’s Word, the word “standard” or “standards” is used but refers mainly to the banner under which the tribes of Israel assembled. In some cases, it refers to the banner representing the whole house of Israel as opposed to other nations. So, God’s standards are not described as such.

But then, we know that God certainly has given us standards by which we should live. They are called commandments (or laws), judgments and statutes. And each of these is mentioned well over a hundred times in the Bible.

God instructed the children of Israel how they should live at the time just preceding their entry into the land He had promised them. Deuteronomy 30:15-16 shows us the benefits God intended if these standards were kept: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.”

Previous to this, in Deuteronomy 4:5-6, God explained that His Statutes and Judgments, if they were kept, were for the people’s wisdom and understanding in the sight of other nations: “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” Deuteronomy 4:8 continues, “And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?”

So these are the standards God expects us to abide by in our lives today.

There is one particular biblical writer who made constant mention of the laws, statutes and judgments of God in a totally positive light. This, of course, was David, and his writings are mainly in the book of Psalms. In Psalm 1:2, we read the alternative of a sinner: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His Law he meditates day and night.” He meditates to understand the application of God’s commandments. In other words, he continually seeks to understand how he should live by God’s standards. And he finds them a delight.

Psalm 19, also written by David, is very revealing of his attitude towards God’s Ways. In Psalm 19:7-11, we note David’s attitude: “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.”

We see the words, “delight,” “perfect,” “sure,” “right,” “pure,” “clean,” “true,” “righteous,” “sweet” and “great reward.” This is how David, a man after God’s heart, held onto God’s Way of Life. All his descriptions are totally positive. And when we consider that these commandments, statutes and judgements are God’s standards, then the answer to the afore-mentioned question is that we can compare the world’s standards with God’s standards and where there is no conflict, then the world’s standards can be lived by.

However, to answer the initial question of what worldly standards we should not observe or comply with, we note that the world’s standards, especially in the area of morality and in the area of food, are changing and moving away from God’s standards. In these cases, we must always put God’s standards first and live by them, rather than the standards of the world.

©2024 Church of the Eternal God