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.

Friendships

“He who has friends like these doesn’t need enemies.” Or, in other words: “Who needs enemies with friends like these?” Have we heard these statements before? For instance, when a relationship is destroyed through the clash of personalities and opposing wishes?

However, we all have the need for companionship and friendship. Quality friendships are an important part of our lives. Needless to say, we are not to maintain friendships with people who tempt us to sin. If we want to be friends of the world, God’s love is not in us. What I am addressing here is true friendship that is pleasing to God.

The foundation of a strong friendship is to care more about others than about oneself. Sincere love is how to keep a friend.

More than anything else, unfounded jealousy undermines the willingness to help and ruins our friendship because it goes hand in hand with evil desire, that takes advantage of the other person instead of showing sympathy and compassion. Lack of trust also affects friendships and the willingness to be open and to share with each other.

Furthermore, unhealthy gossip soon wears out friendly relationships. We all certainly know people who constantly badmouth others – sometimes even those whom they call their friends.

It upsets me when I hear that someone is talking badly or falsely about me behind my back. I know, of course, that when such things happen, they should be ignored. There’s a saying: ”Sticks and stones may break my bones, but things being said about me can never hurt me.” However, it is not easy to dismiss what others have said about you. Scripture says: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).

Gossip, insults, and false claims destroy relationships, as Proverbs 18:19 tells us, “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle.”

Let us then ask ourselves how often inappropriate words may slip from our lips which we later regret. We can ponder a statement or question through our countless brain cells in the blink of an eye.

On the other hand, we might be “trying too hard” to make or keep friends. If we are too accommodating (always agreeing with someone just to win or not lose their friendship), then we won’t be ourselves, and the other person may have the impression that we are trying to hide our own feelings.

It is true that we should be proactive in making friends. It might be quite difficult to make new friends if we are just waiting for someone to release us from our closed-mindedness or isolation. However, it is important not to beg or creep after someone just to be liked. We certainly cannot rush into relationships in an attempt to make an impression.

Neither can we strengthen friendly relationships by sugarcoating them. This term means giving excessive praise with ulterior motives. Sincere commendation, on the other hand, is a genuine sign of appreciation that is not meant for personal benefit. In fact, we can make a person feel good throughout the day by saying an appropriate word of sincere commendation or appreciation, but flatteries are useless and can even hurt because they are without true meaning.

It is also essential for successful friendships that we listen with sincere attention. This involves not only kind silence but responding to what others have to say in a way that makes them know we consider their ideas, feelings, and experiences as being important.

In fact, we can utilize conversations with others to build a genuine friendship. This involves paying our undivided attention to the person we are talking to, without interrupting when not necessary, and supporting his or her feelings with commendation, encouragement, and hope – but we are to act in the right way, without flattery. During the conversation, we could try to guess what the other person is feeling by placing ourselves in his or her position.

1 Corinthians 13 tells us to have a positive attitude toward our friends, always assuming the best at first instead of thinking evil, but that does not mean we should rejoice in iniquity which they may commit in breaking the law.

We must continuously cherish our friendships. Disagreements are perfectly normal. If friends never disagree, it could be a sign of indifference. People with their own points of view will disagree. However, if these opinions do not violate God’s commandments; they should not cause a friendship to break up. If two people feel an intimate sense of sympathy or loyalty, their relationship will survive any constructive conversations with divergent views.

Building a friendship takes time and commitment on both sides if we want to turn it into a success. Caring more about the other person than about ourselves is what characterizes a friendship. We are especially successful when we are a loving and generous companion – one who always cultivates a friendship and strives to make others happy. Remember what Christ said: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). And the highest and greatest commandment is to love God and our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40).

Initial Translation: Daniel Blasinger

The Chance of a Lifetime

“If only I could win the lottery”… I’m sure many of us have told ourselves this and perhaps have even bought a ticket or two hoping that we would be the lucky ones to win the jackpot, especially when the prize is extraordinarily high.  We think about what we could do with all that money, how our financial problems will be solved, how we can help our families, the brethren and the church, and so on.  “If only we could win the lottery,” so we might say, and hasten to add, “IF that is what God wants…”

The odds of winning the lottery are very small and almost impossible when looking at the percentage.  Here in the U.S., it is estimated that 1 in 292 million has a chance to win the Powerball jackpot by getting all 6 numbers correct as well as the Powerball number.  In the past 7 years, there have been incredible jackpot amounts of over a billion dollars due to the fact that lottery officials adjusted game rules and ticket prices to pump up the top prizes.  So far, the largest jackpot was at $2.04 billion on November 7, 2022.

In an article by cbsnews.com, it was stated that “the likelihood of one person winning it all is vanishingly small. Statistically speaking, a Powerball player has a far better chance of being attacked by a grizzly bear at Yellowstone National Park — about 1 in 2.7 million, according to the National Park Service — or of finding a blue lobster in the ocean (1 in 2 million).

“The best number-picking strategy is to have no strategy at all. A computer randomly generates the winning digits… better to use a random ticket number generator — also known as quick picks — because those machines better match what the Powerball might do.”

There have been stories of winners who were not prepared to have so much money, leading to bad decisions, and the pressures and stress were far too large.   Their lives were not as glamorous as they were hoping for and still remained unhappy, if not worse.  Money could not buy them happiness.  Trying to live a quiet and peaceful life is hardly the case, as they are now the center of attention and everyone wants a piece of their pie.

Again, for those of us who haven’t won, we tell ourselves, “If that was only us, what we would do with that money and how happy we would be, how we would do things differently.”  Is that what God wants? Perhaps we think we are prepared to take on the challenge for we have the knowledge and insight on how to handle our wealth in a wise way, using biblical principles and God’s blessings (compare Proverbs 10:22; 21:20).  Unfortunately, many who are not prepared would find themselves in a mess.

Winning the lottery is most likely not our destiny, but something far more significant is, and if we want to compare percentages to how many people in the world are truly converted and have been set aside by God for His purpose of salvation, it is most likely only a fraction of a percent.  At the time of Noah, the percentage of those who were saved from physical destruction was far less than the possibility of winning the lottery today.

The opportunity for God’s people right now to be saved and to ultimately receive the greatest gift of all is predestined for us (compare Ephesians 1:3-6).  But this is ONLY the case IF we keep God’s commandments.  We do this and we are 100% guaranteed to be in His Family as born-again members and to have everlasting life (Matthew 19:17).

It will not be the odds of winning a lottery that will give us ultimate happiness; rather, it is the certainty of belonging to the very few in the world who have been called now for the potential of achieving everlasting life and being in the God Family which is a far greater blessing than anything this world has to offer.

Happiness Is a Choice!

At first glance, this headline might appear as a harsh statement and representation of impossibility, but with a more profound approach, the fact that each person makes his own decision to be happy or not, leaves no room for doubt.

When I reflect on my childhood and adolescence, I remember that this world was seemingly spinning much more calmly and at a much slower pace, and there was much greater joy in little things than in the big things that the world offers us today.

Today, we live in a time of breathtaking speed. Through the Internet we have a tremendous and relentless flood of information, which is getting bigger and bigger. The time pressure to solve tasks is becoming more and more urgent, and the time span of the deadlines are getting closer and closer. People are expected to be available for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Industry runs 24/7, and employees do not have a balanced work-week any longer. Meanwhile, even small businesses are converting their structure to the 24/7 strategy. Quantity has overtaken quality, and this hamster wheel is inevitably becoming more and more unbearable for humanity. Many people who must work and live in this hamster wheel are losing their quality of life as a result.

Whether it is divided families, the sadness of lonely people, negative stress, burnouts, dissatisfaction, or depression due to worldly developments – all this will increase more and more, and mankind is merely functioning instead of being able to enjoy life.

As a result, kindness and love of neighbor drift further and further apart, and people will become more and more sensitive and far more susceptible to negative influences. All this and much more are circumstances designed by Satan, the ruler of this world. Through his vile and ugly attacks, he has placed the entire, clueless world under his most abysmal, sinister and filthy spell, but it is our duty to escape all of it and be obedient to God, so we can BE HAPPY.

Quality of life begins with being happy and content with what you have, with what God gives you, and not with being dissatisfied concerning what you do not have. Solomon, the wisest man after Jesus Christ, leaves us the following verses on the blessing of the “Fear of God and Wisdom”, as the revised Luther Bible 2017 says in the heading:

“Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding; For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, And all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who retain her” (Proverbs 3:13-18).

This is what God wants to give us by His grace – simple happiness and peace in Jesus Christ and God the Father.

On February 16, 2010, I found an article on the Internet about a millionaire. His “new philosophy of life”, which led him to liquidate all his possessions, seems quite a bit too extreme, but the basic idea is very interesting:

“A Millionaire Is Giving Up His Possessions.

‘I used to be rich, but only now am I becoming wealthy,’ [he] told the…magazine ‘Chrismon.’ ‘Wealthy is a person who can do something positive with his possessions. I realize that the less money I have, the more possibilities I have. Because something finally starts to work in my head again: Why am I on this planet? What do I really want? I just felt more and more fear, the more I had: Fear of losing something and then not being able to afford some things – that I didn’t need anyway.’”

Even though this man is by no means called by God at this time, he has literally done, what Christ once said to the rich young ruler who asked Him what to do in order to inherit eternal life. Christ spoke of the Ten Commandments, which the rich man had supposedly kept from his youth: “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’ But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:21-22).

Of course, Christ did not really want the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions, but it was a test, since Christ saw that he loved the goods of this world too much. And Christ tells us plainly that no servant can serve two masters: “… for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [which comes from Satan]” (Luke 16:13).

The point is to find our quality of life, to have inner peace, to be happy and content, to cast all our cares on God and love Him with all our heart, our mind, our devotion, and our strength, and to surrender our lives to Him unconditionally. There is no room for compromise that violates God’s commandments!

It is also never too late to change something in one’s life. It really doesn’t matter what age we are. It is not too late for anything, no matter how old we are. Whether you are between the ages of 30 and 60, or between the ages of 60 and 90, is irrelevant; the lapse of time is the same, only that different circumstances may be present.

I found an interesting article on the Internet on this topic. The German „Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend“ (Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth) posted an article on its platform on July 16, 2020, according to which an elderly lady in her 73rd year had caught up on her high school graduation.

Of course, we must not forget that we need to continue earning our living, especially in order to be able to pay God’s tithes as well as other monetary offerings to finance the Work of God, but it is NEVER too late to learn new things and find happiness therein.

Whether you want to graduate from high school or college, choose a new career – whatever change you want to make to improve your quality of life and happiness, or whatever your heart may desire – do it, but do it with God and trust Him to give you the strength and the mind to do it.

Nowadays, God does not offer many people the opportunity to be freed from their sins and to repent, to be baptized, and to walk the new Way of Life with God. But today, if we are called to come out of this terrible world, we should listen to the call of God and submit to Him.

If we want to handle everything only with our own mind, we will surely be shipwrecked now and then, and in the worst case, we might fall into depression and leave the Way of God. It is important that we open our hearts to God, that we trust Him and that we are conquerors in difficult situations.

Changing one’s way of life for a better quality of life, no matter how old one may be, is not shameful, and it is never too late.  It is only too late when we have died and cannot do anything anymore.

Even Paul, who often endured persecution and suffered from a disease that was not cured, was happy in Jesus Christ and God the Father:

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

This blessedness can only come from God if one remains faithful to Him and lives in His commandments and statutes. This includes truly loving one’s brethren. We will not find a more loyal, honest and better friend in this world than in the Church of God. We must manifest the “new” commandment given to us by Christ in a sincere way and live it with faithful sacrifice and devotion: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Why do you think we sing in our Church services this classic hymn to God with a joyful heart: “Blest and happy is the man Who does never walk astray….”?

We must be constantly aware that one day many will come to an end with the love of God in them and with the love for God and the brethren. Many will betray one another, at an evil time that no one desires, but even in this scenario, we have to escape and wait in bliss until the end comes, until Christ comes back to earth and ends all injustice.

Each one of us is his own unique individual, with the gift granted by God to make his own decisions. In doing so, one can follow Satan, who inspires one to do the works of the flesh, namely, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like (cf. Galatians 5:19-21).

Or we can allow God to lead us with His power, the Spirit of love, and show in our lives the fruit of the Spirit, namely, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (cf. Galatians 5:22-23). Then we will live a joyful and content life in happiness; thankful for each called friend we have made and will continue to make; and we will love God the Father and Jesus Christ with full devotion, remaining faithful to them for eternity.

“Therefore keep the words (the commandments) of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do” (Deuteronomy 29:9).

Initial Translation: Daniel Blasinger

The Burden of Sin

A mule is used as a beast of burden when it is loaded down with goods or merchandise, as is mentioned in Genesis 44:1: “And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, ‘Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack.’”

The phrase, “as much as they can carry,” refers to their donkeys (see verse 3). There are limits to what an animal can carry.

The more you add on, the more the animal has to work to keep going and the heavy load slows them down. There is an expression: “The straw that broke the camel’s back,” which means you can load a camel to the point where just adding the weight of a straw pushes the weight beyond the critical point and the camel’s back is broken.

At the other end of the scale, the more weight you reduce, the faster the animal can move, and it can climb up trails and paths more easily.

Sin has a similar effect on us if we do not deal with it. It becomes a burden on us, slowing us down in our spiritual growth and in our driving distance between us and God.

Satan, the first being to sin, did not make the effort to change, repent and realize he was doing wrong. Now he is in the position where he will not repent, being hardened by sin, so that he cannot repent. He is corrupted beyond repair, having committed the unpardonable sin. We have to be careful not to fall into such a state by adding on to sin, by failing to repent and by asking God daily to wash us in the blood of Christ for our sins and have our plate cleansed daily; lest we pile on the sins to the point where it breaks our backs spiritually speaking and hardens us to the point we don’t want to repent and thus commit the unpardonable sin from which there is no return.

Christ used prayer to maintain a close relationship with God and His prayers were heard and He was totally submissive to God His Father. As a result, He never sinned even though He was tempted in all things, as Hebrews 4:15 tells us: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

He set the example for us by maintaining a close relationship with God. As we do sin, we must also confess them, repent of them and leave them behind.

As we move forward in the coming year, let’s ensure we do not add the burden of sin in our lives which creates walls and distances us from God.

We will undoubtedly face trials and tests but we have to keep our eyes on the reward and not get bogged down with sin, always seeking to have our sins forgiven when we confess them before God and have them, upon repentance, cleansed by the blood of Christ.

It is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom, so let us show our appreciation by removing the burden of sin from our lives.

Prophetic Predictions for 2023

When considering all that happened in 2022, one can hardly believe that it could even get much worse in 2023. But it surely will. At the same time, we must be careful with premature predictions, only because we would love them to happen so that the return of Jesus Christ can occur sooner rather than later.

In its article of December 31, 2022, Politico listed numerous false predictions which were made in 2022, including that Russia would NOT invade the Ukraine; that there would be a strong defeat of the Democratic Party during midterm elections through a “red wave” or even a “red tsunami”; that a federal indictment of Donald Trump in 2022 was imminent; and the most outrageous one of them all, that “gas prices in the U.S. will average $2.88 per gallon in 2022.” This false and preposterous statement, divorced from any reality, was made by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on December 7, 2021.

Politico listed three main reasons for false predictions: (1) You might misread eventsbecause you missed something that proved important”; (2) you engage in “wishcasting” by basing a prediction less on a sober reading of what is likely to happen than on what you’d personally like to happen; and (3) even though you are aware that what you’re publicly predicting is quite unlikely, but are in a position of leadership and feel the need to project confidence, lest your supporters lose enthusiasm. In regard to this last reason for false predictions, Politico quoted Nancy Pelosi proclaiming in October that Democrats would not only hold the House, but expand their majority.

These cautionary remarks are not limited to political predictions. They apply to religious predictions too. To make those predictions are tempting, and we all have had our share of doing them. The reason being, we know the general framework of events which are prophesied to happen, but we may not know the  exact timing or the identity of individuals who would fulfill certain prophesied events. However, in our desire to see prophetic events occur, we may prematurely declare what we expect to happen.

I dare to say that true ministers of God do not make any prediction which they know is false. They are sincere, but they might be sincerely mistaken. Think of the many times when we felt strongly that Christ would come back in a particular year. We looked at events which seemed to convince us of a certain conclusion, looking at the parable of the fig tree, but the predicted year came and went, and Christ had still not returned. It should not have surprised us when considering that not even the Son of God knows the time of His return.

Or think of the times when we were just about certain as to who the beast had to be. Some of these candidates have died in the meantime; others are still alive, but it does not seem that many of them would qualify for that prophesied “position.”  When the beast manifests himself on the world scene, God’s people will know… but not necessarily before then.

Now, former Pope Benedict XVI has died. He had become the first pope, in 2013, to resign since Gregory XII in 1415. As BBC News wrote, “there had been speculation that Pope Francis, who himself has been suffering ill health, had been contemplating stepping down, but was reluctant to do so if it meant there would be three popes in Rome.” Now, predictions are being made that Pope Francis will resign as well, and another pope will take his place. Surely, so the predictions go, this pope must be the last one. To add to this, “prophecies” by Nostradamus are being circulated claiming that 2023 will witness the resignation of the current pope and the arrival of a bad pope or a kind of “antichrist.”

Other “prophets” have declared that the last pope will be black and adopt the name of Peter. We need to be careful not to jump on these “predictions.” First of all, Nostradamus’ proclamations were extremely vague and many times wrong. Furthermore, Nostradamus and other “prophets” were in no way godly inspired; if there was any inspiration, it would have been Satanic. And demons, even though they might know the future, are lying spirits—one can never be sure when they lie or when they, on occasion, tell the truth.

What God’s Church needs to do is watch. In due time, God’s people will understand exactly when and how prophesied events will unfold, and who the key players are. God might also give some of His servants special insight into prophetic events and details, which might not be specifically mentioned in Scripture, but which would be in line with prophecies contained in the Bible (Compare Amos 3:7-8; Isaiah 44:26; Revelation 19:10). But we must wait for God, and don’t act hastily and fall into the trap of prematurely proclaiming what is going to happen, let’s say in 2023, even though the Bible may be less than clear on a given point. It is not wrong to speculate, in light of biblical prophecy, but it is important to emphasize that it is speculation, and nothing more.

As some of you will recall, I was certain that Donald Trump would be reelected and occupy the White House in 2020, and I said so publicly. I should not have done that because even though all indications pointed to that outcome, events occurred which were unexpected. I did not foresee the strong possibility of a rigged election; the involvement of the FBI and the mass media to suppress the truth about the Hunter Biden laptop scandal which, if it had been released, would most certainly have prevented Joe Biden from becoming elected, and some other factors. But this shows that unexpected developments can alter what seems to be so clear and certain.

On December 29, Newsmax published the following article by Dick Morris, former presidential adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years, and political strategist:

“Two serendipitous things happened and just dumped into Trump’s lap issues that will make him president again. First, the Twitter Files exposé is one of the most shocking examples of government censorship and collusion with the FBI and Big Media ever. Second, there’s the big spending, budget-busting omnibus bill Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., backed, effectively castrating the new Republican House majority… So Donald Trump has two great issues to ride: free speech and fighting McConnell… This is Donald Trump’s fight — one he’ll win, and with it, the White House in 2024.”

This sounds pretty persuasive, but let us not forget that some of Dick Morris’ past predictions turned out to be awfully wrong. He predicted that Mitt Romney would win the 2012 election in a “landslide”; that Hillary Clinton would win against Barack Obama in 2008; and that Obama would not run again in 2012. When it comes to Trump’s predicted victory in 2024, we just need to wait and see.

One thing is certain. God cannot lie. He has told us in general and specific terms what IS going to happen… but He did not tell us the exact time or specifically and in detail, how certain events would come to pass.  And don’t forget, God can delay and accelerate prophesied events. The wisest course of action for anyone is this: Live as if you had your entire life still ahead of you, and live as if the end of your life and the end of the world were to occur tonight. And don’t waste too much time with studying and uttering “predictions” for 2023 which may or may not come to pass.

Turn Now from Evil

The other day, I was at our local library and snow was expected.  Two employees were discussing closing early. As the one with the authority walked away, the other remarked: “Remember, use your powers for good!” We’ve heard this phrase: “use your powers for good,” typically in a light-hearted manner and most often in the superhero storyline.

People enjoy seeing underdogs overcome evil. It is satisfying watching a porch pirate or an internet scammer receive his or her due. While we are not meant to deliver retribution, it is hard to watch evil and selfish people rise to power and corrupt cities, states, and nations; we want David to overcome Goliath.

God gave us the capacity to learn and develop our skills, and we are capable of significant accomplishment. If one studied the early actions by the Nazi command in WWII, one could see the role that radar and codes had in triangulating points in England to be bombed. In this way, the German Air Force could run raids regardless of weather or darkness.

The codes the Nazis used were complex and had so many combinations that breaking them proved to be nearly impossible. Mathematicians and others were at work at Bletchley Park, 50 miles northwest of London, attempting to break the codes.

Though fascinating, our focus is on the evil that inspired the work of creating the codes that would be used to destroy British military targets and level cities rich with history, culture, and people of all ages. It was a time that evil was establishing a foothold in Europe and had eyes on conquering the rest of the world. This behavior is clear to us in the book of Isaiah, chapter 5 and verse 20, and we read: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

History is tainted by human perception, but provides some understanding of a moment in time. World domination and the eventual annihilation of a group of humans was not clear when Hitler rose to power in the mid-1930’s. The pursuit of excellence in industry, the arts, and technology is often the screen for more nefarious goals. As Hitler came on the scene, the nation was still recovering its economic footing following WWI. A leader who could galvanize people to action would have been welcome. However, understanding his deeper motivation was difficult in the early days of his role as Chancellor.

Evil can be masked and characterized in ways that people can be drawn to it and embrace it willingly. This was the case with Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin in that era. Of course, in our time, we are witnessing the rise of evil in so many ways, and it is not limited to government.

As Europe came increasingly under Nazi control, it became clear that revitalizing Germany was no longer the primary goal.  The military leaders could no longer deceive themselves into thinking that Hitler was nothing more than a strong leader. I suspect many Russian troops found themselves in a similar dilemma with their recent attempts to invade Ukraine. However, in time they too understood that the same treatment would be given to their homeland by the opposition, just as it occurred in WWII. War is evil and killing begets more killing.

In Galatians 6:7-8, we read: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” No manner of rationalization can alter this truth.

We know that God did not create us to be evil. This is the motivation of Satan; given the carnality and free will of mankind, we seek to do at times what we understand to be evil. God however wants us to obey and follow Him. In Ephesians 5:8-9, we see what God wants for us: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth)….”

Similar skills and expertise that led to the use of the codes and radar to kill, led to the creation of a replica of the code machine at Bletchley. This work began to turn the tide of the war; however, it did not end the evil and killing. The code breakers were using their skills for good, but war is immoral on all sides. We see this lesson in Romans 3:10:  “As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one.” And the point is enhanced in verse 23 of Romans 3: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Though we may believe our cause is just, unless it is God’s Will and in obedience to God, it cannot be just. Any action that leads to more killing is wrong and is not pleasing to God. He did not imbue us with skills to use for evil purposes. For example, God chose David to lead His people, but He was not pleased with David’s tendency for violence. It was God’s Will that allowed David to defeat Goliath, but in 1 Chronicles 22:8, we see how God viewed David’s war-like focus that he continued to pursue: “… but the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight.’” Psalm 11:5 provides a blunt warning to all: “The Lord tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”

It may be tempting to see evil receive its due, but this is in God’s hands, and we need to focus on using our talents and abilities to honor Him with all we do. Remember, let’s all use our God-given skills for good and turn from evil whenever we confront it.

©2024 Church of the Eternal God