We are on our way to Santiago, Chile, in the southern hemisphere. It’s the middle of a hot summer there with much, much warmer temperatures than we left back in Cincinnati (30 degrees below freezing)!
We look forward to meeting the Chilean brethren on the Sabbath, and we will hold a two-day ministerial and leadership conference on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday evening, we will have a Bible study in Santiago with an interactive session. On Sunday beforehand we will share in Garrett Fenchel and Nicole Roig’s wedding.
Later in the week Mario and Caty Seiglie, along with Bev and myself, will visit a Sabbatarian group in Obera, Argentina, that we are helping serve with our ministry. Please pray that all goes well and that we stay healthy.
You can follow our journey online at http://v2.travelark.org/travel-blog/victorkubik/22 .
In other news, Lewis and Lena VanAusdle have moved to New York City where they will serve a densely populated area offering unique challenges—along with incredible opportunities. They will be living in Brooklyn and will be situated conveniently to most of the brethren in the New York City area. Church services are held very near to the JFK airport. They look forward with eager anticipation to this assignment.
In Malawi, Brennan and Michala Hilgen are helping to serve the Lilongwe congregation. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for their service and initiatives. They have just finished the layout of our first booklet, This is the United Church of God , in the local Malawian Chewa language. They write a very informative blog about their experiences at https://becomingmzungus.wordpress.com/ .
Living in Babylon
In the past month we have had a concentration of instruction about “living in the world, but not being of the world.” This was the theme of Cincinnati’s Winter Family Weekend. This subject drew a lot of good discussion about the practical application of this maxim.
Cleveland elder Andy Lee was the featured speaker at the WFW with his sermon: “In the World, But Not of the World: Living a Godly Life in the Modern World” (https://www.ucg.org/sermons/in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world-living-a-godly-life-in-the-modern-world ). He explained why God allows us to remain and work in a less than desirable environment. What would be the point?
Mr. Lee heavily relied on the example of Daniel and his cohorts in Babylon. They worked and lived among people in Babylon, a name now synonymous with an evil society far removed from God. The way Daniel and his friends lived speaks loudly to us today. It encourages us to follow their example of not only coping with the setting in which we live and work, but also fulfilling a purpose of shining a light of an enduring standard of conduct, leading to godliness and man’s ultimate destiny.
Jesus, in His final prayer to His Father before His crucifixion, made note of the fact that His followers were not called out to live separately in an ideal environment, but to actually be immersed in the society from which they were called, but not to be part of it.
Notice how He prayed: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 14:14-16 John 14:14-16 14 If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
15 If you love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
American King James Version×). Christ also prayed that the Father would provide protection from the “evil one,” Satan, who is seeking to deceive and destroy us.
What’s the purpose of mingling with unbelievers? Most of us work with unbelievers for a big part of our day. Our neighbors most likely believe quite differently than we do. It’s only at weekly Sabbath services where we do fellowship with people of like mind—as a respite from the world’s environment.
Over time, we notice people around us and what they’re like by what they say and do. We become accustomed to what they talk about. At the same time, they notice us! They, too, note our demeanor and temperament and how we react to all the goings-on in life.
What will be carefully noted is how you appear. So, how are you dressed and how do you project your persona? What is it about you that is memorable to outsiders? What movies do you recommend? How do you speak about our nation’s leaders? What is the tone and voice of your speech? How do you project yourself on social media? How do you react to setbacks? What demeanor and poise do you radiate? Are you like everyone else who sinks into what the world has its mind on, or is your thinking and your values a cut above?
The apostle John states without equivocation what the problem with the world is, along with an admonition to us: “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever” (1 John 2:15-17 1 John 2:15-17 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God stays for ever.
American King James Version×, New Living Translation).
You don’t have to portray a self-righteous “holier than thou” attitude or preach against the evils of the world and religion. Doing so will turn people off quickly. But, by how you habitually conduct yourself, people will start to notice and think about what makes you what you are. Then, perchance, you will be approached about why you are the way you are. I like how one elder once defined spirituality in a sermon: Spirituality is how you do physical things.
The subject of living in Babylon was further addressed by Peter Eddington in a sermon titled: “How to Live in Babylon” (https://www.ucg.org/sermons/how-to-live-in-babylon ). It is this month’s featured sermon on the church’s sermon page. It will also appear as an article in the next issue of Beyond Today .
Mr. Eddington also drew on the example of Daniel and his compatriots who refused to bow down to an idol, refused to eat or drink certain foods and openly prayed to God. Because these faithful individuals served with faithful integrity and provided much needed skills in the cabinet of the Babylonian government, their faith was noted. It even brought about proud Nebuchadnezzar’s admission to the power of Daniel’s God after his humbling of seven years of mental incapacity: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (Daniel 7:37 Daniel 7:37
American King James Version×). Nebuchadnezzar had no doubt about Daniel’s “religion,” so to speak.
Jesus encapsulated this Christian attribute in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16 Matthew 5:13-16 13 You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his flavor, with which shall it be salted? it is thereafter good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
American King James Version×). That is exactly what happened to Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon.
Here is a warning to you and me: When a church stops being a light in Babylon it becomes a fading church—it becomes irrelevant. It is no longer a witness as Jesus Christ said His disciples should be. Can you imagine how different the story of Daniel would have been if he had decided it was not worth being a light in the king’s court?
Let’s take our Christian responsibility to heart and truly be witnesses of a way of life that can lead to change in the lives of others, as was exemplified by Daniel.