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Update from the President: April 4, 2019

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Update from the President

April 4, 2019

Cincinnati Marriage Enrichment Weekend

The Cincinnati congregations held a Marriage Enrichment Weekend entitled “Let’s Grow Together” this past weekend, March 29-31. The event began on Friday evening with a social and fellowship. Sabbath and Sunday were filled with five seminars and two split sermons.

The seminars were adapted from “The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted” by Dr. Gary Chapman. Seminars included Communication 101; Understanding & Expressing Love; Initiating Positive Change; Making Sex a Mutual Joy; and How to Share Things that Bug You. The split sermons were on Forgiveness and Becoming One Flesh. The seminars were presented by husband and wife teams and featured small group discussion, video clips and interactive dialog with the audience.

Fifty-two couples attended and we were all encouraged by their enthusiasm. Several couples had feared they would feel beat up or like inadequate spouses, but they were pleasantly surprised and felt encouraged and inspired to enrich their marriages. It was a delightful weekend packed with Biblical, practical ways to make a good marriage even better. If “better” is possible, is “good” good enough?

We enjoyed all the interaction and becoming better acquainted with other couples in the Church.

Death of Camilo Reyes in Bakersfield, California

We were notified and saddened about the death of longtime pastor Camilo Reyes this past Sunday morning, March 31. He had been in poor health for some time. I was able to talk with his wife, Aggie, later in the day. She commented about how she was able to talk to Camilo on Saturday night and that he smilingly spoke about going to sleep and not being in pain anymore. They parted with expressions of thanksgiving and love one to another. Aggie added that Camilo was a good husband who loved God and was close to Him in prayer.

The Passover and Forgiveness—an Important Consideration for You

As we advance as a church and individually toward the Passover, we  all  should be focused on positively reviewing our lives (1 Corinthians 11:27-28 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 27 Why whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
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). This helps ensure that we renew our commitment to  fully surrender  every part of our lives to God the Father and Jesus Christ. As we examine ourselves, we renew an attitude that can accept personal change and to again “put on your  new  nature, created to  be like God —truly righteous and holy” (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×
, New Living Translation, emphasis added throughout).

As part of this, we must be  forgiving one another . Neglecting this will create a barrier between ourselves and God.

I personally experienced an example of truly extraordinary forgiveness that I want to share with you. Through the Rotary Club that I attended in Indiana, I met a remarkable and successful man of the Jewish faith named Hart Hasten. He had written a book titled  I Shall Not Die! , which was taken from Psalms 118:17 Psalms 118:17I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.
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. This man exhibited an astonishing degree of forgiveness, despite losing most of his extended family in the Holocaust.

As a young child, Hart Hasten was forced to escape from Nazi-occupied Poland to Kazakhstan, where his family barely survived starvation, persecution and deprivation. Despite these severe challenges, he was determined to fulfill Psalms 118:17 Psalms 118:17I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.
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: “I shall not die,  but live , and declare the works of the Lord.”

Once the war was over, Hasten returned home and was shocked to learn that virtually the entire Jewish population of his hometown—including all members of his extended family—had been brutally murdered by the Nazis in the horrific concentration camps.

Hart Hasten invited me to have lunch with him, since I had mentioned that my family came from the same part of Poland that he was from, which is now Ukraine. Through the afternoon we shared our family stories. My father’s family went through a very similar immigrant experience. We both lived in a Displaced Persons camp following the end of World War II. He, like my family, arrived penniless in America and coincidentally we both settled in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Despite the fact that he and his family were wronged, and wronged terribly, he was able to forgive and move on! He told me that he felt the great need to forgive; he needed to rid himself of the overbearing mental burden of unforgiveness. He told me story after story of atrocities committed to his friend’s families, including lethal medical experiments conducted by German doctors. This challenged him to make a conscious decision to let go of unthinkable thoughts of revenge.

The late Elie Wiesel, himself a well-known Holocaust survivor and author of 57 books, wrote of Hasten: “His memories of uprootedness and suffering have led him to choose a life not of anger and bitterness but of compassion and generosity.”

After arriving in the United States, Hasten and his family went on to achieve a high degree of wealth and influence. Hasten started a major foundation. He and his family made large contributions to further education and helping others. This includes establishing the highly regarded Hasten Hebrew Academy in Indianapolis, a place coincidentally where many Church of God teenagers have taken Sunday administrations of the SAT or ACT tests. The Hasten family today is well known in Israel and has held direct positive relationships with a number of Israeli prime ministers and other high-ranking officials.

According to Hasten,  none  of this could have been possible, except that through the help of God, he was able to forgive those who had done great harm to him and his family. This was a moving testimony!

With this as a backdrop, I know that forgiveness remains  a formidable challenge  for some within the Church of God. We know that God is love (1 John 4:8 1 John 4:8He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
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, 1 John 4:16 1 John 4:16And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.
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) and that as part of putting on that new man, that new nature, we are instructed by Paul to “be imitators of God… and  live a life of love , just 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.
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, New International Version).

An important part of loving the Lord your God with all of your might and loving your neighbor as yourself—the two great commandments as defined by Jesus Christ Himself (Matthew 22:37 Matthew 22:37Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
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)—is practicing forgiveness. For somebody who desires to be a part of the Body of Christ, forgiving others is mandatory. Yes, sometimes it’s difficult to forgive—yet we must at least start the process, humbly asking God for the power to complete the task!

We must not hold resentment, grudges and anger, nor be vengeful towards our brothers and sisters. Whatever the slight or offense was, we must be ready to surrender our bitter thoughts to God.

The Bible is very clear about managing offenses against us. As Jesus Himself firmly stated, “ If  you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father  will  forgive you. But  if you refuse to forgive others , your Father  will not  forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14 Matthew 6:14For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
American King James Version×
, NLT). Read this verse in any translation you like—they all say the same thing.

Thankfully, even when we  have  been hurt or wronged, God gives us power to forgive. But we must first make the effort, however tiny. We must first admit to God and confess (James 5:16 James 5:16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
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) this resentment or lingering anger—however seemingly justified—and ask for help and healing, for His grace, coming with humble confidence to the throne of grace “that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 Hebrews 4:16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
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).

As Paul directs us today, “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (Romans 12:21 Romans 12:21Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
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, NLT).

As the Passover approaches, please review the story of Stephen in Acts 7. Ask God to reveal to you how Stephen, his body being pummeled by heavy, lethal stones, was able to forgive and ask for the forgiveness of those putting him to death (Acts 7:60 Acts 7:60And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
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).

And I would especially urge you to prayerfully and humbly review the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:2-35 Matthew 18:2-35 2 And Jesus called a little child to him, and set him in the middle of them, 3 And said, Truly I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever shall receive one such little child in my name receives me. 6 But whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! 8 Why if your hand or your foot offend you, cut them off, and cast them from you: it is better for you to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9 And if your eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: it is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. 10 Take heed that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say to you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12 How think you? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine, and goes into the mountains, and seeks that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. 15 Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be to you as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Truly I say to you, Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the middle of them. 21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus said to him, I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. 23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened to a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought to him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But for as much as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that you owe. 29 And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and sought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay you all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said to him, O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you desired me: 33 Should not you also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
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and what happened to that servant. Meditate on why Jesus would state “So My heavenly Father also will do to each of you if each of you,  from his heart , does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18:35 Matthew 18:35So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
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). Great benefits, great blessings await those who truly forgive—from the heart!

Most offenses we experience are nowhere near the magnitude of what some have had to forgive. I marvel when I hear the stories of people who have had to forgive those who murdered their families, such as the story of Hart Hasten. Their dead will never come back to them in this life.

This Passover and beyond, make the effort to humbly surrender and turn any resentment over to God. Let us remember  the necessity  of fully forgiving and take to heart these words of Paul: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14 Colossians 3:12-14 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfection.
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, English Standard Version).

Grace and peace be with you all during this important season.