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Letter from Donald Ward, Chairman: April 9, 2018

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Letter from Donald Ward, Chairman

April 9, 2018

I trust that each one of you experienced an inspiring Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. And I pray that we are individually and collectively equipped to triumph over sin. The Feast of Unleavened Bread should have prepared each one of us for total victory in the days that lie ahead. We examined ourselves through God’s Word before taking the Passover and repented of our sins. We washed one another’s feet, symbolizing our willingness to lay our lives down for the brethren just as Jesus gave His life for us. We have left spiritual Egypt with clean hands and hearts. We have feasted on the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Our spiritual temples should be prepared for the Feast of Pentecost.

On the Sunday after the weekly Sabbath within the feast of Unleavened Bread, the wave offering was presented to the Lord. This ceremony marked the beginning of the 50-day journey toward the Feast of Pentecost. The 50-day period between the wave offering and the Feast of Pentecost is one of the most interesting times, and often trying times, that is recorded in the Bible. Historically it is a period of contrast in which some gained the victory, while on the other hand some stumbled and failed.

Ancient Israel left Egypt with a high hand after witnessing the mighty miracles that God performed to set them free. Their first great test on their journey came on the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread as they were hemmed in on four sides with Pharaoh’s army closing in on them. They murmured and complained to Moses, and so Moses cried out to God. And God said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to go forward.” So God parted the Red Sea, and Israel walked through on dry land. Then the sea swallowed the hosts of Pharaoh, and they were drowned in the sea (Exodus 14:10-31 Exodus 14:10-31 10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 And they said to Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? why have you dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? 12 Is not this the word that we did tell you in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. 13 And Moses said to the people, Fear you not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will show to you to day: for the Egyptians whom you have seen to day, you shall see them again no more for ever. 14 The LORD shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. 15 And the LORD said to Moses, Why cry you to me? speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward: 16 But lift you up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the middle of the sea. 17 And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honor on Pharaoh, and on all his host, on his chariots, and on his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honor on Pharaoh, on his chariots, and on his horsemen. 19 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: 20 And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. 21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the children of Israel went into the middle of the sea on the dry ground: and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left. 23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the middle of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked to the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, 25 And took off their chariot wheels, that they drove them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians. 26 And the LORD said to Moses, Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come again on the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen. 27 And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the middle of the sea. 28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. 29 But the children of Israel walked on dry land in the middle of the sea; and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left. 30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the sea shore. 31 And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did on the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.
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According to the apostle Paul, the crossing of the Red Sea was their baptism—signifying their final demarcation from Egypt, which is symbolic of sin and death. They were now to live by faith and always look to God for their deliverance. In like manner, we have been baptized and raised to newness of life to live the resurrected life of faith and trust in God. We must crucify the old man in the watery grave of baptism and mortify the flesh.

After Israel crossed the Red Sea they sang the victory song of Moses: “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:2 Exodus 15:2The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
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, King James Version throughout). Note carefully the phrase, “I will prepare him an habitation.” It was God’s great desire from the beginning to dwell with humankind and be their God. His dwelling place is holy and undefiled by sin.

Even though they sang the words of building God an habitation, they went three days journey into the wilderness and found no water, and the people murmured against Moses and Aaron. By the time they reached Sinai on their 50-day journey to Pentecost, the children of Israel had murmured against Moses and Aaron several times. According to Jewish tradition, God spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel on the day of Pentecost—50 days after the wave offering was to be offered. God had to practically drag Israel to Sinai. But despite their murmuring and complaining, God gave them His perfect, immutable spiritual law. And even as God spoke the words of the law they cried out asking Moses to speak to them because they were terrified by the voice of God.

Shortly after receiving the law, Israel entered into the terms of the Old Covenant. God then told Moses to build Him a sanctuary patterned after the heavenly sanctuary so He might dwell among them. When the tabernacle was raised up, God’s Spirit filled the tabernacle. God’s Spirit was with them—but not in them. As a nation they rebelled against Him and quenched His Spirit numerous times. By the time the 10 spies were sent to survey the promised land they had tempted God 10 times. So as a result of their continued lack of faith, they were sentenced to 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

Jesus was crucified on Passover and resurrected during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He appeared to his disciples after His resurrection and commissioned them to “make disciples of all nations, and teach them to observe all things” (Matthew 28:19-20 Matthew 28:19-20 19 Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
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). During a 40-day period he appeared to them on at least three occasions. Yet, just as Israel had to be dragged to Sinai during the period of time from the Feast of Unleavened Bread to Pentecost, Christ had to do the same thing with the apostles (John 21:1-6 John 21:1-6 1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed he himself. 2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, I go a fishing. They say to him, We also go with you. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, Children, have you any meat? They answered him, No. 6 And he said to them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
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; Luke 24:44-49 Luke 24:44-49 44 And he said to them, These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, 46 And said to them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things. 49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father on you: but tarry you in the city of Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high.
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; Acts 1:3-11 Acts 1:3-11 3 To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said to them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power. 8 But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven.
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So what about our habitation? Will we be ready for the day of Pentecost? Often times after the Feast of Unleavened Bread things may seem to get worse—even though we have examined ourselves, repented of our sins and exercised faith in the sacrifice of Christ. You need to be aware of the fact that we are entering a historical period of trial and testing.

As the apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:31-39 Romans 8:31-39 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. 34 Who is he that comdemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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, God through Christ has made it possible to overcome every obstacle that Satan can put before us. The apostle John writes, “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4 1 John 5:4For whatever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.
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, New King James version). Faith encompasses all areas of Christian living. In simplest terms, faith can be defined as believing God and doing what He says. So many people want to isolate faith and reduce it to small areas of life in which the outcome is uncertain. For example: Will God heal me? Will I get a job? Will I be able to make the mortgage payment? Will I … ad-infinitum. They do not view faith as a total way of life.

We must not be like ancient Israel or the Pharisees who measured faith and righteousness by outward appearance. The Pharisees were careful to fast twice a week; observe the Sabbath in such a way that they made it into a grievous burden; pay tithes of mint, anise and cumin—yet they neglected the weightier matters of the law: judgment, mercy and faith. They were justified in their own mind. After all, they did everything righteously because they did everything according to their traditions, but while ignoring the Word of God. They were obsessed with traditions that focused on outward appearance.

All of this they confused with godly judgment, mercy, faith, righteousness and character. Faith to them revolved around self-will. They could will themselves to keep the Sabbath very strictly, fast often and pay tithes. But these things can be done by any strong-willed person. But the things of the Spirit cannot be accomplished by self-will alone. The inner man must feast on the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth every day of his life. Jesus states in John 6:63 John 6:63It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
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, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” And the apostle Paul writes: “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 2 Corinthians 4:16For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
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). We will faint spiritually if we fail to renew the inward man daily!

Just as Jesus was ready to triumph over Satan’s temptations by being being filled with the Word of God, so must we too be ready. When Jesus was confronted by Satan’s great temptations He overcame them by relying on the Word of God: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God … [For it is written] you shall not tempt the Lord your God … For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
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; Matthew 4:7 Matthew 4:7Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.
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; Matthew 4:10 Matthew 4:10Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.
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In the days that lie ahead we must put on the whole armor of God so we will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. We must keep the big picture burning brightly in our minds and hearts. And never forget, we can be more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.

We are now marching toward Pentecost and the promised land. We must gain the total victory over sin and death. We look forward to singing the victory song of Moses in the Kingdom of God: “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints” (Revelation 15:3 Revelation 15:3And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are your ways, you King of saints.
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