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Personal From the President: February 11, 2021

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Personal From the President

February 11, 2021

What Can God Do Through Believers?

As this world continues to experience more political infighting, increased tensions in Asia, talk of sanctions in Russia and the Middle East, and more discouraging news across the globe and in our home cities, what can we as disciples of Jesus Christ do? Our stated mission is to be “preaching the gospel—preparing a people.”

As our people—faithful members like you who are reading this column—continue preparations for serving in the Kingdom of God for all eternity, what is our collective and individual part of preaching the gospel that announces that Kingdom?

As the Bible shows, members indeed hold a vibrant role delivering the most important message on this planet!

Here’s a biblical example: during the early days of the Church in the first century, Stephen, one of the first deacons selected and ordained (Acts 6:5 Acts 6:5And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
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), was unusually “full of grace and power.” Tragically, he suffered death by stoning as a result of preaching the gospel.

Instantly, the execution of Stephen spawned an eruption of violence against the early disciples. “There arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1 Acts 8:1And Saul was consenting to his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
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, English Standard Version).

But God had a purpose and a plan! In the chapters that follow, we see how these scattered brethren served to begin the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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, where “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world” (ESV).

Further on in Acts 11, we read of a most unusual situation. Instead of going underground as they fled persecution in Jerusalem, the early disciples talked openly of the gospel! They literally served as “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14 Matthew 5:14You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
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, ESV) at personal risk.

Here’s the account: “the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews” (Acts 11:19 Acts 11:19Now they which were scattered abroad on the persecution that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but to the Jews only.
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, New Living Translation).

Then something remarkable happened: “some of the believers who went to Antioch . . . began preaching to the Gentiles [Hellenists] about the Lord Jesus” (verse 20, NLT).

As these disciples moved hundreds of miles north, possibly on the Via Maris coastal trade route (“the way of the sea”), God took them to a major international center of commerce (population about a quarter of a million), a place of connected trade routes and home to a large Jewish community.

What happened? “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21 Acts 11:21And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord.
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, ESV).

They didn’t dive below the local radar to escape violent persecution. Instead, uprooted from Jerusalem, these spiritual refugees laid a foundation that would make a dramatic impact on the spread of the gospel of the Kingdom of God!

The new assembly in Antioch quickly expanded to the point where it attracted the attention of the apostles still in Jerusalem, 300 miles to the south. The apostles then sent Barnabas to this congregation, exploding with growth, where he firsthand “saw the grace of God” (Acts 11:23 Acts 11:23Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would hold to the Lord.
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, ESV).

To help handle this expanding group of “a great many people” (verse 24), Barnabas traveled 150 miles west to Tarsus to recruit a young Paul to help. After returning, Barnabas and Paul “stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people” (verse 26, NLT).

It was in Antioch where the disciples were first called Christianos in Greek, which literally means “follower of the Messiah” or “follower of the Anointed One” (which has since been anglicized into “Christian”).

So, we have a powerful example of how God’s purpose can directly involve everyone in our spiritual assembly. The Bible shows us how God brings us all together under our living Head, Jesus Christ.

As Paul writes to us, we “are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-21 Ephesians 2:19-21 [19] Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; [20] And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; [21] In whom all the building fitly framed together grows to an holy temple in the Lord:
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, NLT).

With Jesus Christ as our living Leader and our Elder Brother in God’s Family, we are blessed with faithful shepherds who serve in Christ’s ministry as “the helpers of our joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24 2 Corinthians 1:24Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith you stand.
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) who support us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24 Hebrews 10:24And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works:
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, ESV).

Just as we saw with the true Christianos in Antioch, I hope we can comfortably speak openly of our faith among those in the world (1 Peter 3:15 1 Peter 3:15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
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). I confidently hope others see Jesus Christ living within us (Colossians 1:27 Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
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), that we can so “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 Matthew 5:16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
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, ESV).

As you likely have seen, we in Cincinnati have been working directly with the Farmers to Families food distribution program at the Church’s main facility. Here we have unique assets: with nearby interstate access, a warehouse and logistical capacity to serve a direct need.

As a result, the United Church of God has been able to help provide fresh produce, dairy and other foodstuffs free of charge to needy people in our nearby communities in Ohio. We co-sponsor this effort with our Beyond Today television program so we can appropriately fulfill Matthew 5:16 Matthew 5:16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
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. If we are inspired to do good works, we want them to glorify our Father in heaven!

You have likely often read of the good works that the Church’s Good Works program and LifeNets International do in a similar vein. We hope to do more here and are always looking for opportunities.

We do recognize that we’re not all in a position to do this in the same way or on the same scale. But wherever we are, I do hope that we can follow Proverbs 3:27 Proverbs 3:27Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it.
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from our hearts: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (ESV).

You may have also noted that we have recently added a link on our home page titled “Find the Way,” which is right next to our webcast link. On the “Find the Way” web page, we currently provide links to current articles, Beyond Today programs and other content.

We receive many visitors to our home page annually, which can help people start to better sample the rich content we host. As appropriate, you can copy that “Find the Way” link and share it on your Facebook news feed or other social media outlets. We are considering other opportunities, and I ask you to pray for our success.

It all helps us advance to a place where we can be like the true Christianos—the followers of the Messiah—in ancient Antioch. What can God do through believers like you? He can do great things!

Myanmar Report

We have brethren in various areas throughout Myanmar and have been greatly concerned about the recent military coup. At our home office focus meeting this past Monday, Aaron Dean, International Advisor, gave us a report of current conditions in Myanmar. He shares some of this information in an update this week posted at ucg.org/members/news/update-on-members-in-myanmar-february-11-2021.

We have worked with Myanmar leaders by bringing them in 2019 to our Pastoral Development Program in Cincinnati and our Leadership Training Program in the Philippines.

You can get a glimpse of the Feast of Tabernacles in Sakhangyi, Myanmar, in 2019, as well as an Inside United podcast in November 2019 with Davidson Lay Beh, who gives a history of the Church in Myanmar:

A special request

One final note: Connie Seelig, our long-time guru in our mail processing center, is planning a well-deserved retirement. That is wonderful for her, but it will leave a critical position open for us. The soon-to-be-open position of mail processing manager deals with many complicated and confidential operations. The job description appears below. Since it is so vital to our operations and outreach, I am asking for special prayers for wisdom and direction in filling this position. If you are interested and believe you fulfill the position requirements, please contact the Church at the email address in the job description.

Please see the full announcement and job posting at ucg.org/members/news/media-and-communications-services-job-opening-mail-processing-manager

Finally, we’ve had a major snowstorm here in Cincinnati earlier on Tuesday. Our Ambassador Bible College students built a huge snowman, shown in the photo above!