We live in a world that is coming apart morally and spiritually. It is natural for us to become angry and condemning. We can be filled with consternation about what we see in society, just as it was in ancient Jerusalem before their city was destroyed and the nation went into captivity. People who cried and sighed over all the abominations in that society were marked for protection (Ezekiel 9:4 Ezekiel 9:4And the LORD said to him, Go through the middle of the city, through the middle of Jerusalem, and set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the middle thereof.
American King James Version×).
Part of the Church’s mission is to “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1 Isaiah 58:1Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
American King James Version×). We do so through Beyond Today media.
But, an old Chinese proverb also states that it is “better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Shedding light in a world of gloom is also important and very much a part of our work.
Last week, we asked our ministry to preach positively on the subject of marriage in the coming weeks as part of lighting a candle in the darkness.
This past Sabbath, I heard such a sermon by Peter Eddington on this subject that clearly explained what we need to know about the God-ordained role of the sexes and the meaning of marriage. This message reinforces the reason for heterosexual marriage—despite what laws in various countries may say otherwise, or even penalize for preaching about. I suggest that you play this sermon in your church services.
The sermon files can be found in the Downloads section at ucg.org/sermons/gods-reason-for-only-heterosexual-marriage.
Volcano and Tsunami in Tonga
Also, this past Saturday, Jan. 15, the island nation of Tonga suffered catastrophic damage from the massive underwater eruption of a volcano that devastated the archipelago and triggered a tsunami.
We have had a church and brethren in Tonga for decades. Our Church in Sydney, Australia, has been supporting our brethren there for many years. I have just received a report from Sydney pastor Matthew Sieff that I would like to share with you:
“It has been several days since the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano erupted in the midst of the Kingdom of Tonga. The full effect of the subsequent tsunami on the many islands of Tonga is still largely unknown. This is because of a disruption due to the telecommunications link that was damaged, cutting off Tonga from the rest of the world. Undersea cables were severed by the tsunami and it will likely take two weeks to repair, according to news reports. The only views of the area so far are via satellite and from pictures taken by reconnaissance aircraft. These have shown a layer of dark ash on buildings and covering the ground in the Tongan capital, Nuku'alofa. This is where members of the Church live. The volcano is about 65 km from the capital and there is some concern it could erupt again. It had been erupting on a smaller scale over the weeks prior to the most recent and devastating explosion.
“The volcano itself only sits 100 meters above the surface of the ocean. Below the waterline, it is 1800 meters high and 20 kilometers wide. This is part of why the explosion was so large and the spread of shock waves were felt halfway around the world. The plume of ash at the time of eruption has been measured to a height of 20 km with a 260 km diameter. There are spectacular satellite pictures on the Internet showing the eruption in real-time.
“Even though the activity of the volcano has significantly decreased, and the tsunami warning has been canceled, the present concern is that volcanic ash could cause an issue to the drinking water if it gets into the supply. Some reports have stated that all the homes on one of the small Tongan islands have been destroyed, and four people died. Other islands have experienced extensive damage to houses and buildings. Another report says that about 100 homes on the main island of Tongatapu have been damaged and 50 homes destroyed. It has been estimated that Tonga will require a massive cleanup once the fullness of the damage is assessed. Many could be left homeless until homes are restored. A few years ago, a cyclone swept through Tonga and it took some time for repairs to be completed and life to return to normal. This is because it is a slow process importing and shipping new building materials to Tonga from other countries.
“The Tongan brethren (the Osika Family) have a property on the main island and near to the capital. They have faithfully been a part of the Church for many years. Frank Osika is a deacon and the father of the family. He lives on the property with his wife, three sons, and first daughter. They have enough land to grow their own food. Hopefully, the tsunami hasn’t washed away the current crop and soil. Apart from the family home on the property, they have built and used a very nice hall for Sabbath services and the Feast Days. The hall had been repaired after the cyclone swept through. At this point, we don’t know how the family is doing or what condition their property is in. Again, this is because communicating with anyone in Tonga is not yet possible. Frank’s second daughter, Priscilla Osika (who lives in Beijing), says she spoke to her family on the phone just before the communications went down. She hasn’t been able to reach them since, and relies on news reports to stay informed. She says satellite phones would work, but only a small number of people in Tonga have them.
“Australia and New Zealand have begun sending naval supply ships to aid in the recovery of Tonga. The supplies will include water and a desalination plant. The international airport runway in Tonga will take days to clear before being usable.
“Priscilla sent the following request last Sunday after she had contact with her family: ‘I would like to ask for a prayer request for my family and Tonga. After calling home, they told me of some of the conditions and state they are in. It is raining stones, the skies have darkened so quickly—when usually it would get dark at around 7:30 p.m. They also said they can smell the smoke and fumes. Water levels are rising, and the town has already begun to flood. I am not so sure of much of what is happening at the moment, but I do know that prayer to God for His help and protection is needed. I kindly ask for the prayers of the Australian brethren for my family in Tonga.’
“We ask everyone to beseech our loving Father in heaven to be with the Osika family during this time of upheaval. Your prayers are appreciated. Updates will be sent out when we know more.”
I would like to conclude with one of my favorite biblical passages when reflecting on where we are and who we are.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:18-24 Romans 8:18-24  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
 For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.
 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope,
 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.
 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for?
American King James Version×, English Standard Version).