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Letter from the President: May 22, 2017

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Letter from the President

May 22, 2017

The day of Pentecost is almost upon us. Every year we are commanded to review, rehearse and observe it for a powerful reason. This day holds deep personal meaning for you and me. I hope you will dedicate some time to thinking about how it was on this day that the spiritual Church of God was founded through a supernatural miracle that was so incredible that it exceeded the ability of human words to describe it! The promised Holy Spirit was generously poured out upon the assembly of Christ’s disciples in power. It was indeed a glorious and singular day in human history.

We see that it was Jesus Christ’s intense desire that His followers stick together and be united together in purpose and action.

Just before the miracle occurred, the New King James Version poetically records that the disciples were assembled together “with one accord” (Acts 2:1 Acts 2:1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
American King James Version×
). What does that mean? Is that just a label or a hopeful thought? Allow me to share my thoughts and prayers about this day and what it truly means to be “of one accord.” They center on what Jesus passionately prayed for concerning His followers shortly before being tortured and killed.

In that passage, Jesus is actually praying for us today! “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word [including you and me]; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us , that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one , and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20-23 John 17:20-23 20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout).

And so, we see that it was Jesus Christ’s intense desire that His followers stick together and be united together in purpose and action.

The apostle Paul illuminated that desire further in writing about the Passover: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion [Greek koinonia —deep fellowship] of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body ” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
American King James Version×
).

I invite you to consider how the Vision Statement of the United Church of God is drawn directly from what is called the “unity chapter” of Ephesians: “The whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies , according to the effective working by which every part does its share , causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16 Ephesians 4:16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love.
American King James Version×
).

Unity represents the outcome of having a shared purpose and vision, a purpose that we all actively work toward! To achieve it, we must get in harmony with Christ’s prayer and diligently, as individuals, strive to all support and advance that collective purpose as one body in one accord .

Let’s also consider how Paul prefaces this. He urgently directs us today to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1 Ephesians 4:1I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation with which you are called,
American King James Version×
). How do we do this? “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Ephesians 4:2 Ephesians 4:2With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love;
American King James Version×
, New Living Translation).

And here’s Paul’s chief call to action: “ Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace” (Ephesians 4:3 Ephesians 4:3Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
American King James Version×
, NLT).

Why does Paul write this? Because there is “ one body and one Spirit … one glorious hope for the future … one Lord, one faith, one baptism … one God and Father” (Ephesians 4:4-6 Ephesians 4:4-6 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
American King James Version×
, NLT). This directly reflects the substance of Jesus’ prayer for each of us!

Peace is not simply the absence of conflict. Pursuing and supporting our great purpose as a spiritual assembly—preaching the powerful gospel of the Kingdom and preparing ourselves for entry into that Kingdom as the very children of God —requires great effort and work by each of us. When we do so, when we are so minded and motivated, we have peace and unity!

Peace is the glue that creates a spiritual bond. Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 Matthew 5:9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
American King James Version×
). We have to be willing to wage spiritual peace rather than war in our daily lives. Of course, the waging of peace represents a more difficult challenge. It is far easier to tear down than to build up. But it is worth the effort. With God’s help, we can overcome the baser parts of our nature. We can put out anger, envy and pride—the mental and spiritual states that lead to words that hurt and harm.

This condition of unity, of being of one accord, is something we cannot take for granted. This critically important spiritual condition must be cultivated, forged and rigorously maintained.

When Paul asked the Philippians to “fulfill my joy,” how did he expect that to happen? He explains in detail that we are to “be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:2 Philippians 2:2Fulfill you my joy, that you be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
American King James Version×
). How do we get here? “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3 Philippians 2:3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
American King James Version×
). A critical focus? “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4 Philippians 2:4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
American King James Version×
).

It is easy to write and read these precepts, but it requires effort and focus to achieve them. The Greek congregation at Corinth had some problems. How did Paul direct them to resolve them? Commanding them with the very authority of Jesus Christ, he said that everyone should “ all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10 1 Corinthians 1:10Now I beseech you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
American King James Version×
).

As we approach the day of Pentecost, let’s rededicate ourselves to our wonderful purpose, let’s all do our part to be a truly unified Body, a united Church for those whom God is calling.

I pray you will all have a wonderful, satisfying, triumphant and enriching Pentecost where we remember the establishment of the royal law of God, the promise of the Holy Spirit and the outcome of being of “one accord”—true Unity of the Church.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.