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Personal From the President: September 2, 2021

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Personal From the President

September 2, 2021

This past week, Beverly and I traveled to the Atlanta area for the memorial of our longtime, loved, respected pastor and friend Ken Martin who served actively in the ministry for 55 years. He died less than a week after giving his last sermon in Macon, Georgia. Several hundred people were present and connected online to show support and give honor to Ken Martin and his beloved wife Barbara and family that included six children.

Feast Status Report

With fewer than three weeks until the Feast of Tabernacles, registration is now at over 8,600—which is on schedule. We have organized fewer sites this year compared to normal years since there were still travel restrictions in place. However, even with the eruption of the Delta variant of COVID-19, we have only had to cancel four or five of our planned sites around the world. We have about 30 sites for 2021, compared to the normal 60.

Please check the website for your Feast site for information about any local health and safety protocols. Each coordinator is closely watching trends in the state and city of their Feast site, with the goal of our members’ safety. We want all members to thoroughly know what to expect when they arrive at services so members can make decisions based on their comfort level of interacting with crowds and the public. Members should take individual responsibility for investigating potential risks to their own health, whether it is at weekly Sabbath services, the Feast or other routine outings such as going to a grocery.

If someone has Feast-related questions, please write to USFestival@ucg.org. Please pray earnestly that the Feast of Tabernacles proceeds without incident.

New Beyond Today Recordings

Three new Beyond Today television programs were recorded on Wednesday. Steve Myers presented “Incredible Angels,” Darris McNeely presented “Ephesus: The Church That Lost Its Love” and Gary Petty presented “Christians Thriving in a Non-Christian Society.”

Rejoicing in the Precious Truth of God

Accident? Or divine emphasis?

The oldest known physical fragment of the New Testament—possibly as old as AD 125—features the “truth” discussion between Jesus and Pilate from John 18:37-38 John 18:37-38 [37] Pilate therefore said to him, Are you a king then? Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice. [38] Pilate said to him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, I find in him no fault at all.
American King James Version×
. In this passage, Pilate probes Jesus about His purpose on the earth and then asks the famous question: “What is truth?”

This intrigued me, since we discussed in the recent Council of Elders meetings a more thorough application of the Church’s vision statement based on Ephesians 4:15 Ephesians 4:15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
American King James Version×
: “but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.”

For a world in its current shape, tottering on the edge of a cosmic abyss, no question could be more profound! Research published in journals like Biblical Archaeology Review note that the fragment may have been copied at a time just a few decades after the apostle John’s death and his authorship of the books of John and Revelation. Can the existence of such an authoritative fragment on “truth” hold a powerful reminder for all who have eyes to see?

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we in the Church of God hold the marvelous gift of truth from God Himself. As Jesus declared to His disciples in the first century, “truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:17 Matthew 13:17For truly I say to you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them.
American King James Version×
, English Standard Version, emphasis added throughout).

In many respects, the New Testament serves as an illuminating and eloquent commentary on the truth revealed in the Old Testament. Isaiah declares to us that “The LORD was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious” (Isaiah 42:21 Isaiah 42:21The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable.
American King James Version×
, ESV).

That’s exactly what Jesus did in His first-century ministry, as we read in Matthew: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20 Matthew 5:17-20 [17] Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. [18] For truly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass, one stroke or one pronunciation mark shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. [19] Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [20] For I say to you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
American King James Version×
, ESV).

All Old Testament prophecies and teachings ultimately reflect and point to the coming of Jesus as the Savior of humanity and future King of Kings in the coming Kingdom of God. The apostle John reveals: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 John 1:14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
American King James Version×
).

Of course, we understand that we as humans cannot keep the law perfectly, nor can we somehow “earn” salvation by keeping it as a service of works. As Paul emphasizes to us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 Ephesians 2:8-9 [8] For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast.
American King James Version×
).

Importantly, that does not change what Jesus said about those who try to “relax” the standard of the commandments, including the keeping of the weekly seventh-day Sabbath and the annual Holy Days. The commandments and teachings—embodied by the Word of God—guide our behavior. They tell us how to worship God. They provide incredible insight into both past and future trends. They give us sustaining comfort when we’re in painful trials and tribulations. They show us how to succeed, even in this earthly existence. They guide us on the spiritual pathway to transformation and how to put on the new man (Ephesians 4:24 Ephesians 4:24And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
American King James Version×
).

They embody a tremendous divine gift of precious, freely given truth!

As we rapidly approach the Holy Day season—especially the soon-to-be-upon-us Feast of Trumpets, when we celebrate the return of our Elder Brother and Savior, Jesus Christ, as the coming King of Kings—this truth is worth some careful thought and meditation. The Greek word for truth (transliterated aletheia) appears 25 times in the Gospel of John and several other times in John’s letters. He was obviously inspired to address this.

For us to embrace this life-giving truth, we must follow Jesus’ direction and believe. As Jesus declared a few days before His ultimate sacrifice as the Passover Lamb, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46 John 12:46I am come a light into the world, that whoever believes on me should not abide in darkness.
American King James Version×
, ESV).

The bedrock belief that we must all hold is an unwavering belief in God. In this same section of John, we clearly read: “Jesus cried out and said, ‘The one who believes in Me, does not believe only in Me, but also in Him who sent Me’” (verse 44, New American Standard Bible).

We read the importance of this in the book of Hebrews: “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 Hebrews 11:6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
American King James Version×
, ESV).

Let me conclude with this thought, returning to the biblical fragment I mentioned earlier. As we near the Feast of Trumpets next week, perhaps we can consider why God preserved a very important fragment of scripture, one wherein its full content records Jesus answering Pilate, His words ringing across the centuries: “You say that I am a King. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose, I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37 John 18:37Pilate therefore said to him, Are you a king then? Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.
American King James Version×
, ESV).

Regarding Jesus’ last Feast of Tabernacles observance (John 7:2 John 7:2Now the Jew's feast of tabernacles was at hand.
American King James Version×
), we read this: “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:31-32 John 8:31-32 [31] Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; [32] And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
American King James Version×
, ESV). And, as we joyously believe and proclaim, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (verse 36).

May our Father richly bless us all next week, when we will assemble in truth to anticipate the glorious time when we shall all hear that “cry of command” and “the trumpet of God,” when we will indeed be spiritually transformed and meet our Savior, even as He returns to a world that desperately needs Him! (1 Thessalonians 4:16 1 Thessalonians 4:16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
American King James Version×
).