United Church of God

Home Office Weekly Update: January 25, 2024

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Home Office Weekly Update

January 25, 2024

From the President . . .

Greetings brethren,

Last night we started a new series of online Bible studies from the home office.

After completing a chapter-by-chapter series on the book of Isaiah, we began a new series on the book of Nehemiah. We will be studying the many lessons that not only pertained to the time it was written, but also apply to all of us living in today’s age—we who have been called by God for a specific purpose.

In the book of Isaiah, which was written 200-plus years before the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, God declared that Judah would be conquered by Babylon and that a man named Cyrus would deliver them and send a contingent back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.

The book of Ezra, which is a companion book to Nehemiah, addresses the challenges faced in rebuilding the temple—including the difficulties and distractions the Jews encountered along the way. It begins with the decree of a man—prophesied by name in Isaiah hundreds of years before! Cyrus, king of the first Persian Empire, issued a decree to liberate the Jews so they could return to Jerusalem and accomplish their God-given mission (Ezra 1:1-4).

It’s an amazing fulfillment of prophecy for this to happen and speaks to the fact that whatever God promises, He does, in His exact time. It is also a reminder that God has a plan for this world and all of us, and events will happen precisely as He has said. Our job, Christ said, is to watch, pray and grow close to Him and to become like Him, so that we may be part of the firstfruits who are with Him when He returns.

Beyond the beginning of Ezra and into Nehemiah, we see that along the way in doing God’s work, many distractions and distractors appear on the scene—some subtle and some very obvious—as the people in the land do not want the temple to be rebuilt. Ezra and Nehemiah are quite direct in rebuking those distractors but press forward with the work they were given to do. They never lacked faith that God would give them all the resources they needed to complete the job (Ezra 4:3-4).

After the temple is rebuilt, there is a lull in the action. When Ezra returns to Jerusalem several years later, He is astonished—perhaps better translated appalled—at the level of sin the Jews have allowed to infiltrate them. They have intermarried with the women of the land and “let the world in.” They had become lax and complacent in their relationship with God and become like the people around them (Ezra 9:2-4).

As the book of Nehemiah begins, Nehemiah inquired about the state of the Jerusalem rebuild, now several decades in the process. He was distressed when he heard how things were in disarray. The walls of Jerusalem had been broken down and the gates burned (Nehemiah 1:3).

The situation in ancient Jerusalem came to this: God “sought for a man among them who would make a wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it” (Ezekiel 22:30).

No longer was it a city that lived the Word of God and was energized by that commitment to Him. The world had been let in and along with it their ways, which interrupted the total rebuilding of the temple and city.

But, Nehemiah stood in the gap and was willing to put his life at stake by asking the king for permission to go back and do the work that was started (Nehemiah 2:1-6). King Artaxerxes gave permission and support for Nehemiah to go and do the work. And he did—with zeal and determination, with his eyes only on God and on the job he was sent to do!

The walls were rebuilt in 52 days and, like Ezra before him, once the physical rebuild was done, the spiritual restoration of the people could begin.

This has a powerful connection for us today. God is building a spiritual temple in us individually and collectively. We must submit to Him as He directs that building, with full faith, commitment, energy and zeal. When we do things His way, by His authority, He, as our Provider and Sustainer, promises to provide all we need to get the job done (Ephesians 4:16).

Strategic Planning

Here at the home office, we’re in the midst of strategic planning and budgeting for the next fiscal year. We are asking ourselves: What do God and Jesus Christ, the Head of this Church, want us to do? Are we seeking truly His will and the doors He opens (or will open) as we truly care for the people around the world He has called and will call, and as we actively preach the gospel “in all nations,” as well as a clear warning message to the house of Jacob (Isaiah 58:1)?

We all must be sure not to become complacent in our efforts. Have we just settled into a routine that is comfortable, unwilling to move away from it? Do we have the zeal and sense of urgency required to seek, then do, God’s will?

As we are in the months leading up to Passover, it is a time of deep introspection. Have we become complacent, lazy, just “coasting” through life? The Laodicean attitude noted in Revelation chapter three can come upon us so subtly. It is possible to drift away without realizing it. We will, if we allow ourselves to sleep, nap or be deceived by the clever, cunning and subtle distractions of this world (Hebrews 2:1).

Please pray for the Work and our fellow brethren. Pray for all of us that God will direct us individually, and as His Body, to become what He wants and to do what He wills. It is time to turn to Him with all our hearts, minds and souls, and commit ourselves to His will.

We certainly live in dangerous, deceptive times. Our prayers are with all of you, that God will keep us alert, awake and growing closer to Him—actively, consciously using His Spirit to become more like Him with each passing day.

Have a great rest of the week and Sabbath, everyone.

In Christian love,
Rick Shabi

Tithe and Offering Receipts

The home office is making a change to the number of donation receipts that will be mailed each year. We are changing from a quarterly receipt to a semi-annual receipt. Going forward, receipts are scheduled to be mailed by the end of January and July. Return envelopes will be included with the receipt for those who have requested them.

Agape Love Series Part 8—“Love Is Not Provoked”

This week’s study is titled: “Love Is Not Provoked.” Is there such a thing as righteous anger? Not being provoked does not mean you don’t get angry.

You can listen to it online at ucg.org/sermons/love-is-not-provoked-agape-love-series-part-8 or download it to your favorite mobile device. All 11 parts are available as a sermon series at ucg.org/sermons/sermon-series/agape-love.

—Peter Eddington, Operation Manager, Media and Communications Services