Resources for the members of the United Church of God

Personal from the President: February 25, 2020

You are here

Personal from the President

February 25, 2020

Streaming Service from Cincinnati this Sabbath

We would like to introduce our Beyond Today viewers, readers, donors and coworkers to our weekly church services. They have already become acquainted to us through our media. Now, we invite them to take a step further and join us in worship. We also invite all who have no specific church to attend to join us. We will be promoting this service through our communications such as the weekly eNews and other letters, including our subscriber letters.

This service will be directed equally to the audience in Cincinnati as well as including and speaking directly to the thousands of people online. When we held our first online-only services in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we had upwards of 9,000 people online. It will also be available immediately after its live presentation at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Our first service will be this coming Sabbath, Feb. 27. You can find it on the home page of UCG.org as well as the “live service” on the United Church of God app.

The first service will feature a sermon by Darris McNeely in which he speaks about Christ’s parable showing the condition of His Church prior to His coming. The Parable of the Ten Virgins is part of the Olivet prophecy where He answered the question, “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 Matthew 24:3And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?
American King James Version×
). In this sermon he will look at what Christ says to the Church about preparing itself for the final push to the Kingdom. Are the times telling us it is time to awake? Some of the answers are found in this timely parable.

I will precede this message with a short feature in which I will speak about the Doomsday Clock that is now set at 100 seconds to midnight. Scientists, using criteria such as nuclear risk, environmental and technical disruption, speak about the impending end to civilization. The good news is that the same metric of 100 seconds is also one showing the nearness to the Kingdom of God coming to this earth.

Preparing for Your Best Passover Yet (Part 2)

How can we make this the best Passover of our lives? Last week we reviewed the awe-inspiring stature of Jesus, the prophesied Messiah, and how He gave His very life as the sacrificial Passover Lamb for all humanity. Even though you and I don’t now see our Savior physically, you love him and “you believe in him and rejoice with joy” (1 Peter 1:8 1 Peter 1:8Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
American King James Version×
, English Standard Version).

Here is part 2.

As I noted last week, we deliberately examine how we live as a critical part of preparing for the Passover. God intends that this be highly personal between you and Him (John 17:21 John 17:21That 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.
American King James Version×
). Paul prayed that you would be given “spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God,” even to the point where “your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called” (Ephesians 1:17-18 Ephesians 1:17-18 [17] That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: [18] The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
American King James Version×
, New Living Translation).

Each year the Holy Day seasons commit us to a fresh cycle of continuous spiritual improvement (Matthew 5:48 Matthew 5:48Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
American King James Version×
). Each Holy Day helps our hearts to “be flooded with light.” The Spring Holy Days are especially tightly knit together. They complement each other deeply, resetting our lives.

Starting before Passover, we recommit to daily surrendering every corner of our lives to God the Father and Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Honestly examining our heart helps us re-size ourselves spiritually. As Paul wrote, we can freshly understand and yield to the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
American King James Version×
, ESV).

This understanding motivates us all the more.

God helps us avoid a trap of self-deception when we observe His Holy Days. We can be blind to personal flaws that are obvious to others; but God, who sees everything perfectly (Proverbs 15:3 Proverbs 15:3The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
American King James Version×
), continues to direct us toward life-giving change (Romans 12:1-2 Romans 12:1-2 [1] I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. [2] And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×
).

As we renew our relationship to Jesus as our Passover, we reignite our commitment to overcoming sin, to being spiritually victorious (Revelation 2:7 Revelation 2:7He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the middle of the paradise of God.
American King James Version×
). The rewards for this commitment are many, both spiritual and physical. As the very children of God (1 John 3:1 1 John 3:1Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.
American King James Version×
), we desire to be like Him. As we obey Him in love, God rewards us even more than would our human fathers!

We exercise serious care in this examination process. We know that there exist direct potential consequences if we do not (1 Corinthians 11:29 1 Corinthians 11:29For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
American King James Version×
). We humbly discern and deeply appreciate what our Savior did for us. We use the spiritual tools God gives us to measure—even judge—our behavior and thoughts against His standards. The result? We benefit by building our spiritual house on the Rock (Matthew 7:25 Matthew 7:25And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell not: for it was founded on a rock.
American King James Version×
).

We know that if this process is somehow neglected, God loves us to the point where we will be “disciplined so that we may not be condemned” (1 Corinthians 11:32 1 Corinthians 11:32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
American King James Version×
, ESV).

What is the standard that Jesus set for us as His disciples? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30 Mark 12:30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment.
American King James Version×
, ESV, emphasis added throughout).

Magnified by the open door for reconciliation through Christ’s sacrifice, the Passover focuses us on learning to love God. We in turn are to “be imitators of God, as beloved children . . . and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2 Ephesians 5:1-2 [1] Be you therefore followers of God, as dear children; [2] And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and has given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling smell.
American King James Version×
, ESV).

Through taking a spiritual inventory in preparation for the Passover, we set ourselves up for a great reset to last the year long. We immediately and actively put to work what we’ve learned from the direct engagement of our heavenly Father and Elder Brother. We experience new value in prayer and meditation, spiritually deleavening our lives.

In this upcoming Passover season, we will be reminded that yeast, like sin, is everywhere. If one leaves out freshly made dough overnight, the unseen microscopic yeast in the air will leaven it. The point? Sin, like leavening, is pervasive—even inescapable.

Partaking in the symbolic process of deleavening renews an important spiritual lesson for us. As we find bread crumbs and leavened pieces in unexpected places, we physically see that sin, like leaven, spreads in unusual ways. We are warned that, if left unchecked, it can become “the leaven of malice and evil” (1 Corinthians 5:8 1 Corinthians 5:8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
American King James Version×
, ESV).

In the days ahead, let’s be openly and frequently asking God: “What do I need to know about myself? What do I need to change?” Directly ask God to help you become a better Christian, producing spiritual fruit as you follow Jesus the Messiah.

Paul gives us a highly useful standard for this. In the book of Galatians, he lists for us both the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. You can conduct a spiritual inventory here that can serve you well in this upcoming season. I want to add that a fast can really help you focus and is highly recommended.

Here’s a sobering thought: ever wonder what can keep you out of the Kingdom of God? Paul specifically warns us with the answer in Galatians. These traits are nothing short of deadly: “sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties” (Galatians 5:19-21 Galatians 5:19-21 [19] Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, [20] Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, [21] Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×
, NLT). We must honestly review these carefully and prayerfully, asking God to remove these from us and spiritually heal us.

On the other side, Paul tells of the behaviors, emotions and state of mind that bring many blessings. We are indeed the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19 1 Corinthians 6:19What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?
American King James Version×
) and this should—and will—describe the fullness of our lives: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, [23] Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
American King James Version×
, NLT). Like a young tree, the fruits may be small at first. But God is patient!

In the section of scriptures that we often read on Passover evening, Jesus declared: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser . . . every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2 John 15:1-2 [1] I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. [2] Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
American King James Version×
, ESV). God pays close attention to those who love and obey Him, and all that He does has a direct purpose for you and me. That is an unbreakable promise!

As you prepare for the Passover this year, bind these inspiring words of our Savior to your heart: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15 John 10:14-15 [14] I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. [15] As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
American King James Version×
, NLT). What does Jesus have in mind for you? “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (verse 10).

Each day leading up to this coming Holy Day season, ask God what He wants you to do today. Then ask Him to help you do it. Ask Him how you can better walk your daily life with His Son, your Elder Brother. It seems simple, but it will have profound results.

This season, be a believer. Believe in Jesus Christ your Savior, believe what He says, believe in what He does, believe in His role in the coming Kingdom of God and everything that this means—and experience your best Passover yet!