United Church of God

Update from the President: June 16, 2017

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Update from the President

June 16, 2017

This past Sabbath, Bev and I visited the congregation in Atlanta, Georgia, and appreciated being with the many brethren we know. Jerold and Mary Ann Aust were visiting there also, as their grandson Jordan along with another young man were honored for their high school graduations.

While in Atlanta I attended two days of Rotary International's annual convention. There were 40,000 member delegates from 200 countries who were present. The featured speaker was Bill Gates, whose foundation has contributed several hundred million dollars for the eradication of polio, which is now down to only five known cases in the world. I met professional people from Zambia whom I have known from visiting there, along with many others. Garrett Fenchel, the son of Matt and Lisa Fenchel, worked one of the booths at the conference promoting literacy in Guatemala.

I attended breakout sessions dealing with youth exchange programs, human trafficking and grant writing. Rotary has helped LifeNets with over $150,000 for our overseas work with vehicles, bore holes, rehabilitation equipment for children, school construction and even paid for one of our visits to Africa.

The convention was an enriching experience. It was heartening to see people so passionate about helping others and it made me appreciate even more the gospel that we preach—one that has eternal outcomes, not just benefits in this life.

On our way home from Atlanta, we stopped by Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, which will be a Feast of Tabernacles site this year. We looked at some of the housing as well as the Conference Center. It's a beautiful area. We plan to spend half of the Feast there and the other half at Jekyll Island.

This week three new Beyond Today television programs are being recorded. They are: 

  • "Angels: God's Messengers and Spirit Army" by Darris McNeely
  • "Shocking Teachings of Jesus: You Are Gods" by Steve Myers
  • "Confronting Anxiety" by Gary Petty

Elder Ken Skorseth and his wife, Dianne, are in flight to New Zealand where they will help Dan and Linda Porteous with the congregations while Dan's health strengthens.

The Sin of Lying

When I was in the third grade, my father gave me a subscription to the trademark yellow-bordered National Geographic magazine for my birthday. He wanted me to see beyond my immediate world to a much greater realm. From that time in 1955 to the present, my family and I have not missed an issue of the National Geographic magazine except for the three years that I was without much money in college. NG opened my eyes to this planet in the way my father wanted it to in the fields of geography, archaeology, anthropology, biology and much more.

However, lately, NG has meandered into the world of ethics and morality. And, while using scientific and empirical methods of investigation and measurement, they ignore the very real factor of godly absolutes to behavior and the cause and effect of conduct. Such is an article "Why We Lie" in the latest June 2017 issue. Follow this link to read this article: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/06/lying-hoax-false-fibs-science/.

The NG story purports to show that lying is a natural part of life. Some may falsely and dangerously derive some sense of ease or justification from this. The NG author points out that social science researchers and neuroscientists understand that unchecked lying—the telling and sustaining of false witness—is today recognized as "a deeply ingrained human trait."

The author doesn't try to assert that lying is somehow a good thing. But he confirms a dreadful truth: "Lying, it turns out, is something that most of us are very adept at. We lie with ease, in ways big and small, to strangers, co-workers, friends and loved ones."

No one is immune from it. It makes no difference whether one is a scientist, a journalist, a business professional, a college student, a spouse, a city worker, or even, yes, a Christian. Most everyone lies, sometimes several times a day. Sometimes the lie is a small "white lie," made to try to make someone feel better. Sometimes it appears as deliberate deceit or self-deception, papering over important issues. Sometimes it is an elaborate and complicated series of lies, such as what convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff cooked up to bilk billions of dollars from people. Lies are mixed with truth to produce the internet phenomenon widely recognized today as "fake news."

We all need to understand and remember that telling a lie is often not a simple thing. Sometimes people become deluded. They get to the point where they don't even know that they're telling or passing on a lie. Others lie deliberately to advance their careers or social standing. A good deal of research exists that shows that people inflate or outright lie about their accomplishments and past achievements on social media profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook.

If lying is so bad, why does it happen?

Those of us who have a spiritual orientation know full well that lying is so terrible that it is one of the acts specifically condemned in the Ten Commandments. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" is how the ninth commandment reads in the King James (Authorized) version (Exodus 20:16). Throughout the Bible, lying is condemned as sin. In fact, an ominous verse declares that for those who never repent or change from habitual and willful lying, their prophesied fate lies in eternal destruction in the fearsome lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). That fact should get everyone's attention! But, even that doesn't stop people. Large or small, lying still happens everywhere, every day.

Where does this lying come from?

Jesus Christ reveals to us that Satan himself is the father of lies. As Jesus told the Jews, Satan "was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him" (John 8:44). Satan delivered the first effective lie recorded in the Bible when he deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden.

What do people lie about?

As we come out of this world (2 Corinthians 6:17), this is important for us to realize so we can avoid it! Do you or I fit any of these following categories?

Summing up recent research, the article notes that 22% of people lie to cover up a personal transgression. About 16% use lying and deception to gain financial benefits or an economic advantage. Another 15% of all lies are told for personal advantage—to create benefits beyond money. About 14% of lying is centered on avoidance, of making a way of escape. About 8% of lies are told to bolster a positive image of ourselves. The reminder of lying is split up between making people laugh (telling tall tales), trying to hurt people, trying to simply be polite and not hurt someone's feelings, and other miscellaneous reasons.

While it may seem small and innocent at the time, lying manifests terrible costs to society and life. It hurts church members. Lying and deception destroy trust, the social glue that makes things work better in human society. Lying annihilates relationships. Lying costs billions of dollars in business, government and organizational life. And worst of all, when one starts lying to oneself, even more terrible things can happen.

The author also recognizes that given current trends, humans don't have much hope: "What then might be the best way to impede the fleet-footed advance of untruths into our collective lives? The answer isn't clear."

The answer may not be clear to secular social scientists, but for those of us who have yielded to God and His way of life, the answer is abundantly clear!

Lying is part of human nature. It is not part of God's nature. "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight" (Proverbs 12:22). We can delight God through the transformation of our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2). The transformation process involves our awareness of and the confession of our weaknesses. Think before you speak. Is what you're saying really the truth? If not, it's a sin to say it.

The capacity and ease of telling a lie is something that every Christian must fight against every day for the rest of his or her life! The Bible clearly states that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23, emphasis added throughout). This represents a powerful reason why the prohibition against lying appears directly in the Ten Commandments.

God gives us the means to overcome and be victorious against this insidious human trait if we ask Him to help us with awareness and developing good habits of saying only what is true.

If we lie, we should immediately repent and seek forgiveness. We should face the fact that Christians—people actively attending congregations within the Church of God—can fall prey to this spiritual malady. As the apostle Paul instructs us: "Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds" (Colossians 3:9).

It is indeed encouraging to note that the Greek word often translated "overcome" in the book of Revelation can also be translated "victorious." That means that with the help of God through His Holy Spirit, we can overcome and be victorious in all things, including casting off the damaging and hurtful trait of lying. It's tough work, but it's worth it! As John writes in Revelation, "All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it" (Revelation 3:12, New Living Translation).

Let us never weary of overcoming and seeking that eternal victory!