ABC Classes Begin
Ambassador Bible College welcomed its 21st class this past week. On Sunday we had a get-acquainted picnic at the home office. On Monday we held an all-day orientation and classes began Tuesday. Over the past few years, the incoming classes have developed acquaintances with each other through the United Youth Camps program and social media groups prior to coming so that many who arrived here were not meeting total strangers. We have one more student yet to arrive from South Africa.
This coming weekend we will again hold our annual Leadership Workshop weekend for brethren (recommended by their pastors) who are interested in learning more about further service in the Church. It begins Friday evening, August 30, and continues through Monday, Labor Day. Lectures will be tailored toward discipleship and service.
The latest edition of United News went to press yesterday. The featured article is about the start of Ambassador Bible College. There is always plenty of Church news from around the world, but we also feature spiritually-based articles in a section called “The Good News.” One of the featured articles is a continuation of a series by Don Hooser on the Ten Commandments. It covers the seventh commandment against adultery.
From Malawi, the latest entry in Nick and Megan Lamoureux’s blog (https://outofvermont.travel.blog/ ) is particularly interesting. They mention some Portuguese-language connections from neighboring Mozambique. The A Bova Nova magazine (equivalent to Beyond Today ) has been shipped this month for these people. They also give a pictorial report about the recently completed youth camp for Malawi youth at our new festival grounds at Nkhwazi.
We had a visit from three Cincinnati-area ministers who wanted to tour our home office. One of them has helped us find outlets for community service over the years. They were quite impressed with our facility, particularly our media studio. We will be recording three more Beyond Today television programs this coming Wednesday and they said they will be coming to sit in the studio audience.
Please continue to pray for our brethren and ministers. Some have very serious health trials. We should all be praying for one another, asking God for His kindness, mercy and grace to be extended. I thank you for your prayers for me, for our pastors and for all of those working at the home office.
Plant the Seeds of Peace—Reap a Harvest of Righteousness
Today, I’d like to continue in our series on the fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5. Next on the list is peace .
We all want peace. We want to be at peace in our personal lives. We want peace in our marriages and families, in our country and the world. People will do and have done just about anything to find peace. Royal families intermarried to assure peace. Orators have given endless speeches about peace and sculptors have erected monuments to peace. Probably the most dramatic one is the bronze sculpture “Let Us Beat Our Swords into Ploughshares” at the United Nations. The Soviet government presented it to the UN during the height of the cold war in 1959. Interestingly, attribution was not given to Isaiah 2:4 Isaiah 2:4And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
American King James Version×from which the depiction was created.
Throughout history, man has spent huge outlays of resources on fortresses and armaments to ensure peace. Nations have united in leagues and unions, but that has proven to be ineffective for lasting peace. After devastating wars, the rhetoric has been “never again.” But inevitably war erupts again and again. Peace is like a mirage. We envision it and want to get there, but as we get closer, peace vanishes. Even the Church, which teaches God’s peace and is to be a purveyor of peace, is not immune to cycles of conflict resulting in divisions and heartbreak.
Last year, countries around the globe poured a staggering $1.6 trillion into buying or developing weapons of war. Depending on how one defines “war” (from major combat to skirmishes), at virtually any time there are 10 open wars, revolutions or limited military excursions mercilessly burning up lives and resources, even as you’re reading this.
Young people in Hong Kong continue to defiantly stand up to China, openly inviting the intolerant wrath of an autocratic leadership—where will that go? In Afghanistan, war-weary Americans look to negotiate an uneasy peace with the Taliban. India recently stepped in and quashed continuing dissent in the unstable region of Kashmir, cutting off contact with the outside world. And global watchers carefully follow escalating drone attacks in Lebanon as Israel inches toward open warfare with Iran, a nation whose leaders have solemnly vowed to annihilate the Jewish state.
Indeed, as Almighty God thundered through the prophet Isaiah: “The way of peace they do not know , and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace” (Isaiah 59:8 Isaiah 59:8The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whoever goes therein shall not know peace.
American King James Version×, English Standard Version, emphasis added throughout).
What about us? We in the United Church of God do know the way of peace. But we must do more than just “know.” As we approach the fall Holy Day season, a marvelous time when God will usher in an amazing and breathtaking time of peace, it is good for us to review, ask for, re-embrace and practice peace, a spiritual gift that the apostle Paul listed third in his summary of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22 Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
American King James Version×).
For certain, peace represents one of the rarest commodities in the world today. It is no wonder Jesus Himself declared: “Blessed are the peace makers , for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 Matthew 5:9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
American King James Version×). Millions, even billions, of people love peace, but peacemakers are not nearly so common. Some two decades later, James, the younger brother of Jesus, dramatically magnified this teaching: “those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18 James 3:18And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
American King James Version×, New Living Translation).
We in the Church are incredibly privileged to understand the mystery of peace as revealed through God’s Holy Day plan. We humbly know why peace initiative after peace initiative fails, despite every good intention.
We know that one of the foremost reasons peace never lasts on this globe is because the world and its peoples are not at peace with God! To experience real peace, one must first be at peace with Almighty God. The apostle Paul stated this so well about our relationship with Christ: “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation” (Ephesians 2:14 Ephesians 2:14For he is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
American King James Version×).
So, again, what about us? Are you and I truly at peace with God? Do we humbly yield every corner and aspect of our lives, saying, believing and living the greatest commandment? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” 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.
American King James Version×, ESV). That’s a description of total commitment!
While we all want peace, the reality is that peace can be tough to sustain. It must be actively pursued. God warns us about the dangers of resentment, of bitterness, of strife. After a tiring day or a week of trials at work or life, we may be short-tempered. When our guard is down, that’s when it becomes far too easy to accuse, to harshly evaluate, to take someone else’s moral inventory, to sow doubt, to cause open division. Once one has slipped into this deadly attitude, it becomes far too easy to judge and condemn. This is a bad spiritual place to be.
That’s when people start really getting hurt. Peace vanishes and is replaced by bitterness and angst. As James warns, it is far too easy to “become judges with evil thoughts” (James 2:4 James 2:4Are you not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
American King James Version×, ESV). If we don’t take great care and relentlessly seek the spiritual gift of peace, our words can become “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8 James 3:8But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
American King James Version×, ESV). Unchecked, what the Bible calls “our tongue,” our miraculous capacity to speak, ends up in a situation where “we bless our Lord and Father, and with it [our words] we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (verse 9).
In such situations, peace flees. In such situations, our holy assembly suffers. But there is an alternative. There is hope!
To combat this, we must continually ask for, apply and stir up the gift of the Holy Spirit. When we’re humbly yielding to God, when we’re submitting to the power of the Holy Spirit for change, the peace that passes all understanding appears as spiritual fruit.
What does the spiritual fruit of peace look like? People being led by the Holy Spirit don’t harshly criticize. They don’t allow bitterness to take root. They are interested in and energetically planting good deeds and thoughts for a harvest of righteousness. They believe the best. They give people the benefit of the doubt. While pragmatic, they are full of optimism. They are busy pursuing peace (1 Peter 3:11 1 Peter 3:11Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
American King James Version×)!
As we approach the fall festival, let us be peace makers . How? Let’s embrace what God revealed to the apostle Peter: “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 1 Peter 4:8And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
American King James Version×, NLT). We are all imperfect, so let us all be merciful.
If—and when— we do this individually and collectively, what can we confidently expect as the outcome? “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 Philippians 4:7And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×, ESV).
Let us all reap the fruit of peace!