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Personal From the President: May 20, 2021

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Personal From the President

May 20, 2021

The Iron Dome, Gaza and You

Spawned by a variety of recent conflicts—including some on the ancient Temple Mount in Jerusalem itself—the simmering tension between the Palestinian Hamas terrorist group and Israel erupted into violent flames on May 10. Iranian-backed Hamas militants, who have controlled the Gaza Strip adjacent to southwest Israel for well over a decade, abruptly hurled a barrage of missiles at Jerusalem. A high-tech lethal exchange ensued. Hamas has since escalated the continuing salvo to a total of 3,750 rockets fired at a variety of Israeli sites, many aimed at civilian centers.

Fortunately, as you may have read, the vast majority of the Hamas-fired rockets were intercepted by Israel’s sophisticated “Iron Dome” missile defense system (at a cost of $40,000 per missile). Israel retaliated with its own offensive missiles, bombs delivered by Israeli warplanes and artillery fire on Hamas targets. Many Hamas buildings, secret tunnels and more have since been laid waste.

Tragically, as I write, 227 Palestinians (60 of them children) and 12 Israelis have died. The situation intensified to include Lebanon on the 19th, with rockets fired into Israel from sites near Tyre.

The conflict has drawn severe global criticism of Israel, with Turkish autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declaring that “Israel must be taught a lesson” in a discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin. China and other nations sponsored United Nations resolutions condemning Israel, but the Biden administration blocked them, affirming that Israel has the right to defend itself.

As tensions continue to run high, many—including President Joe Biden—urgently called for a cease-fire, including France, who is expected to formally call for a ceasefire at the United Nations. Many fear further destabilization and possible broadening of the conflict. It’s no secret that Russians, Americans and other nations have active troops and military deployments nearby, all bristling with formidable weaponry.

What does this conflict have to do with you and me? Many of us are emotionally tired and drawn out from a year of pandemic. Many of us are simply worn out.

Without context, the news of fresh war, death and more conflict can only sap us more.

Thankfully, the Bible holds an encouraging answer.

We do have unbreakable truth that we can and must hold fast. We read it in the second chapter of Daniel:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him” (Daniel 2:20-22 Daniel 2:20-22 [20] Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: [21] And he changes the times and the seasons: he removes kings, and sets up kings: he gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: [22] He reveals the deep and secret things: he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.
American King James Version×
, English Standard Version, emphasis added throughout).

Daniel proclaims the hard fact that God is and will remain in control of world events! The New Living Translation adds this: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable” (Hebrews 4:13 Hebrews 4:13Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
American King James Version×
).

Note that nowhere does the Bible state or suggest that God “sometimes has influence” or “on occasion” intervenes when He somehow “can.”

What is the encouraging truth? God is deliberately and actively working out His purpose, which is firmly and truly focused on “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10 Hebrews 2:10For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
American King James Version×
, ESV) in the coming Kingdom of God. We understand that God allows certain things to happen that will serve His purpose. We know that God has allotted a set period of time for humanity—to whom He allows free will—to actively demonstrate profound human incompetence in effectively governing this world.

Further, while the Israelis have developed and put in place an extensive “Iron Dome” missile shield that protects civilians and cities from grievous harm, we have a “spiritual Iron Dome” that protects you and me! As Jeremiah declares: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:7 Jeremiah 17:7Blessed is the man that trusts in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
American King James Version×
, ESV). We further read in the Psalms: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1 Psalms 46:1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
American King James Version×
).

How fortunate and blessed we are in the Church of God to have and to understand this precious truth!

In this world of political and religious upheaval, we do have an important task before us. We as a spiritual assembly are charged to proclaim the powerful gospel of the Kingdom of God. As Jesus Himself directed: “you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere . . . to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 Acts 1:8But 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.
American King James Version×
, NLT), “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20 Matthew 28:20Teaching 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.
American King James Version×
, ESV).

Further, as global events appear to heat up, it remains vital that we all heed the warning inherent in the parable of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25. That familiar parable notes that “as the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept” (Matthew 25:5 Matthew 25:5While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
American King James Version×
, ESV).

So, what are we to do collectively as a church and individually as disciples of Jesus Christ? Deliberately not speaking in a veiled parable, Jesus makes it plain for us: “stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36 Luke 21:36Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×
, ESV).

While we can never somehow “earn” our salvation, Jesus is clear that we must continually be on a path of spiritual transformation, with this as a reward: “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God” (Revelation 3:12 Revelation 3:12Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God: and I will write on him my new name.
American King James Version×
, ESV), and “to him I will give authority over the nations” (Revelation 2:26 Revelation 2:26And he that overcomes, and keeps my works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
American King James Version×
, ESV).

Until Jesus comes, there is no real hope for lasting peace in the Middle East. The Hamas covenant itself asserts that Israel is “vicious” and must be wiped from the face of the earth. Read the disturbing details for yourself on the Yale Law School website: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp

No political solution—however well-meaning—can ever resolve all human conflict. But as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to follow Paul’s direction: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18 Romans 12:18If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.
American King James Version×
). We are indeed to be lights in this darkening world (Matthew 5:14 Matthew 5:14You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
American King James Version×
), living in such a way that people can see Jesus Christ living within us. Our positive behavior eloquently demonstrates that God’s way of life works, confirming the gospel message!

One day Hamas, Gaza, the Iron Dome and other temporary human political institutions will vanish from memory (Isaiah 65:17 Isaiah 65:17For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
American King James Version×
). Until then, despite what we may read or hear in today’s increasingly godless world, let us hold fast as believers and doers of the Word, “that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13 Ephesians 6:13Why take to you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
American King James Version×
, ESV).

ABC Continuing Education Program

The Ambassador Bible College Continuing Education Program took place at the home office May 10–14. We had 28 students who participated in classes ranging from “Highlights From the General Epistles,” to “Why We Follow the Hebrew Calendar,” to “Studies from 1 Corinthians,” and more.

COVID-19 restrictions were still in place, so students wore masks when needed and maintained distancing as appropriate, but that did not dampen their spirits or lessen the pleasure of being able to enjoy this program again. Each day began with breakfast and included six hours of instruction, with a lunch provided at mid-day.

Although there were some “first-timers,” many of the students have participated for several years. They traveled from as far away as Florida, and several stayed and celebrated Pentecost with the Cincinnati congregations. Most of the participants are retired, making a strong contrast to the young adults who normally fill the classroom. It is always sad to see the graduates leave in May, but having old friends come in for Continuing Education classes brings renewed happiness.

The purpose of ABC Continuing Education is to allow Church members who are not able to attend the nine-month program to sample some of the academic instruction that has always been the central feature of Ambassador College. However, most participants say that the opportunity to spend more time with old friends—and to make new ones—is also a strong attraction.

Restrictions on meetings across the United States have prevented ABC faculty from conducting weekend ABC samplers for local congregations, but they hope to resume that program as soon as practical.

We pray for you and your families in these unsettled times. Let us be thankful for our powerful and personal God who hears our prayers!