|Live Services||"Kings and Priests"|
|Editorial||"Let There Be….Hope!"|
|Q&A||Q: Does the Bible allow or prohibit birthday acknowledgements and celebrations?|
"Kings and Priests"
Dave Harris will give the sermon this coming Sabbath. The sermon is titled, Kings and Priests.
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at the appropriate time, just click on “Connect to Live Stream.”
"Let There Be….Hope!"
by Norbert Link
From time to time, we may think that all is hopeless. When ancient Judah was in captivity, they could not see that there might still be in store for them any hope for a better life. God, however, inspired the prophet Jeremiah to write, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).
God offers all of us hope. In fact, the entire physical creation, presently subject to decay, is awaiting “in hope” our transformation to glory (Romans 8:20-21). Do we have the same hope that even — in a figurative sense — God’s creation has? Are our actions motivated by that hope — even and especially in times of trials and perceived “hopelessness”?
Paul was inspired by that hope — the “hope of the promise” that “God raises the dead.” (Acts 26:6-8). Even in times of suffering and persecution, Paul “rejoiced” in the hope of the glory of God — the hope to obtain God’s glory (Romans 5:2). Paul even gloried in his trials, knowing that they would ultimately produce even more “hope” (Romans 5:3-4). He was, of course, talking about the right kind of hope — a hope that does not disappoint, because God’s love is abiding in us (Romans 5:5). It is because of the love that God has for us, that we can have hope for a better future.
Paul knew that God only wants the best for us. If God allows us to go through trials, He does so because He loves us, knowing that we have need of correction (Hebrews 12:5-6) and perseverance (Romans 8:24-25). God loved us so much that He was willing to give His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us so that we could obtain the hope of eternal life (John 3:16). With that kind of love, we know that God only wants the best for us, and we also know that God would never allow us to be tested beyond what we are able to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Paul also understood that today’s light and brief sufferings and afflictions are not worthy to be compared with the future weight of eternal glory to be revealed in us (2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 8:18). So, he wrote Titus these encouraging words: “Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ…, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word [of the hope of eternal life] through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior…” (Titus 1:1-3).
Let us continue to develop in our lives that unshakable and sure hope of a brilliant and unimaginable future. At the same time, let us try, as much as we can, to share this message of hope with others. Let us follow Jesus Christ, the “hope of [our] glory” (Colossians 1:27) to go on in order to reach our final destination. Christ is waiting for us — let us continue to eagerly wait and hope for Him. When He returns, He will give us “the hope of the promise of eternal glory” — an unspeakable hope that far transcends our present life (compare 1 Corinthians 15:19).
This Week in the News
JUST THE BEGINNING
In a timely news report written far ahead of its time, the Bible in Matthew 24, verses 6-8, records the following:
“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
As war with Iraq begins, people gather around radios, televisions and, now, computer screens to monitor events as they unfold in real time. This event of spectacle received the name, “the CNN Effect”, after the Gulf War when reporters were able to give a running commentary of that event.
Virtually all regular programing is giving way to the war. It should not be overlooked that only in the most recent times has technology made it possible for all to “hear of wars and rumors of wars” to the extent we now do. In this same context, Revelation 11 speaks of “two witnesses” who prophesy in Jerusalem in an approaching future time. At the end of one thousand two hundred and sixty days, they are murdered. In verse 9 of this chapter, it states that, “Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will SEE their dead bodies three-and-a-half days…” Although this is a prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled, we have now arrived at a time in human history in which it is possible for this to happen!
The news of this week–in the light of prophetic events forecast so long ago–finds its chilling fulfillment in almost breath-taking circumstances! Words like deadline; imminent; impending; ultimatums, on the brink; and, time running out, all point to our most current war which pits America and its allies against Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial reign. However, far beyond a “good versus evil” scenario of former days and earlier international conflicts, this war has effectively reshaped political alliances.
From the online edition of BBC News for March 19, 2003: “Germany’s Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, said his country ’emphatically rejects the impending war’ and added that ‘there is no basis in the UN Charter for a regime change with military means.’ ” Continuing, “His French counterpart Dominique de Billepin echoed the sentiment, saying those who believed terrorism would be eradicated through war on Iraq ‘run the risk of failing in their objectives.’ “
In addition, this article quotes UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as warning the US and UK that “under international law, the responsibility for protecting civilians in conflict falls on the belligerents”.
In another report, this from www.msnbc.com, March 19, 2003, “Russian foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said there was no proof Iraq threatened the United States and that the Security Council had been brushed aside.”
In a somewhat unexpected move, Robin Cook, Leader of the House of Commons, resigned from Tony Blair’s cabinet because of his unwillingness to support his country’s participation in the Iraq conflict. BBC News (3/17/03), reports this interesting perspective from Mr. Cook: “As President of the Party of European Socialists, of which the Labour Party is a member, it troubles me that I know of no sister party within the European Union that shares our position.”
Meanwhile, the cost of this war and its follow-up is estimated in amounts ranging into the hundreds of billions. This will come atop an economy in the US fraught with precarious issues that in themselves lack any immediate resolve.
At its core the run up to this war along with the war itself and its aftermath, will have vastly greater consequences for the United States and its closest allies. The world that emerges after this war will see nations banding together in order to withstand America with more than words.
SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, has the world community mobilizing against this latest deadly foe. In an article from msnbc online edition (3/19/03), Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson “…said authorities are working to prevent the spread of the illness within the United States. He told senators Wednesday morning the Bush administration wants to spend $100 million to prepare for a possible outbreak of the disease in the United States.”
This disease is receiving a worldwide travel alert and is classified as highly contagious. There is no known treatment or cure at the present time, and the death rate is especially alarming.
Keeping pace with the unusual weather patterns of extremes, the Rocky Mountain states of Colorado and Wyoming received record snowfalls this week. Airports, schools, businesses and major highways were all closed because of the heavy snowfall. Even with the inconveniece, most people were expressing gratitude for this mixed blessing. The entire area has suffered from several years of drought. The needed moisture will at least replenish severely low reservoirs that threatened to place most of the area into very strict water conservation policies.
Q: Does the Bible allow or prohibit birthday acknowledgements and celebrations?
A: The Bible specifically mentions two birthday celebrations of kings, ending with the deaths of certain individuals (John the Baptist and Pharaoh’s chief baker, compare Mark 6:21-27 and Genesis 40:20-22). There is another possible reference to birthday celebrations in Job 1:4: “And his [Job’s] sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.” The German Menge Bible explains that this is a reference to the “birthdays” of the sons (A similar expression is used in Job 3:1, referring to Job’s day of birth). The children’s conduct prompted righteous Job to “sanctify them,” for he said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” (Job 1:5).
Job’s reaction is interesting. He did not feel that the children HAD sinned by celebrating their birthdays, but that they MIGHT have sinned. On the other hand, we do not find any Biblical record that righteous people celebrated their own birthdays — nor do we find that Jesus Christ celebrated His birthday and that He told His disciples to celebrate it.
A birthday celebration with its accompanying elaborate parties and the giving of expensive gifts tends to emphasize the attitude of get and vanity — rather than the way of give which Christians are to follow. God’s Word condemns the glorifying of oneself. Compare Galatians 5:26: “Let us not be desirous of vainglory.” (AU). It appears that Job was concerned that his children might have engaged in selfish and vainglorious conduct during their birthday celebrations.
On the other hand, there is a difference between elaborate birthday celebrations and the acknowledgment that someone has become a year older. Obviously, the date of one’s birth is not pagan (regardless of whether one recognizes and counts by the Hebrew or the Roman calendar). It is not wrong and does in fact obey the command to honor our parents, to call, visit or send a modest gift to our parents on the day of their birth. Likewise, there are certain milestone years in the lives of young persons that can be acknowledged, such as reaching the age of 14, 16, 18 or 21. (For instance, the Jews have traditionally acknowledged the fact when a boy turns 14.) Also, in ancient Israel, young men being twenty or older were considered old enough to go to war, and a census was held to record the ages of the people (compare Numbers 1:2-3).
The distinction between simple acknowledgements and elaborate celebrations of birthdays may not always be that clear. God has given us a spirit of a sound mind (compare 2 Timothy 1:7), and if we are honest with God and ourselves, we will learn how to better please Him in everything we do (compare Ephesians 4:13). As long as the principles stated herein are adhered to and problems such as the danger of supporting vainglory and vanity are avoided,
acknowledgments of certain birthdays of special people close to us are individual decisions.
However, we must keep in mind that we must not violate our own conscience in this regard, as everything “not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
How This Work is Financed
This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank
Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.
While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.
Donations should be sent to the following addresses:
United States: Church of the Eternal God, P.O. Box 270519, San Diego, CA 92198
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United Kingdom: Global Church of God, PO Box 44, MABLETHORPE, LN12 9AN, United Kingdom