Beyond Today Video Recordings
Three new Beyond Today television programs were recorded yesterday. The programs were “The Rapture Versus the Bible” with Steve Myers, “Three Surprising Facts About Angels” with Darris McNeely, and “God’s Plan Through the Festivals” with Gary Petty. These will be aired in August on WGN-America as well as through all our online and streaming outlets. It was a wonderful day of recording these fine new programs.
We had a completely full audience and had to bring in extra chairs—over 60 people were present. The audience included brethren, Beyond Today magazine readers and four special guests who represented the Northern Kentucky hospitality industry, with whom we have worked for years. The four ladies, Susan Smith, Danielle Sanchez, Amy Oberjohn and Shawna Dunaway recognized many of our people from events such as women’s weekends, Feasts and GCE meetings that we’ve held at various facilities over the years. We plan to hold the 2020 Winter Family Weekend at the Marriott Riverside.
Our Kentucky visitors stayed until 5:30 p.m.—long after everyone else had left! They took photos of themselves on the set, took booklets home, and really seemed to appreciate being here.
75th Anniversary of D-Day Today
The storming of the beaches in Normandy, France, by Allied military forces in 1944 was an event that led to the relative peace that we have today. Our parents were part of that “greatest” generation that had an incomprehensible duty placed on them. Ninety percent of those soldiers fighting in the first wave to gain the beaches of Normandy died in battle. Darris McNeely poignantly describes his father’s role in the first wave of soldiers landing on Omaha Beach on this day 75 years ago and gives perspectives of this event in biblical prophecy. You can read it right here at https://www.ucg.org/beyond-today/beyond-today-magazine/d-day-75-years-what-should-we-learn.
Podcast with Natasha Teague
In this week’s podcast, we talk with UCG employee Natasha Teague, who discusses her first-hand coping with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that spewed out radiation equivalent to 200 Hiroshima atomic bombs. The nuclear reactor was 50 miles from her home. The recently-concluded five-part HBO series Chernobyl received the number one spot TV ranking for a mini-series of this type. Natasha also describes what it was like to live in the atheistic Soviet Union and how she came to conversion.
Tragedy at Tiananmen: Spiritual Lessons on the Speed of Changes
How fast can things change? Thirty years ago, almost to the day, from enthusiastic beginning to tragic end, unexpected developments in the People’s Republic of China raced at lightning speed, bringing breathtaking consequences. The ancient nation of China, almost smothered to death by Mao Zedong’s oppressive Cultural Revolution, appeared to be breaking out in an astonishing way.
In April and May of 1989, the atmosphere in China almost totally pivoted. It was like a Communist revolution in reverse. Concerned that recent reforms and advancements in once-outlawed freedoms would be again repressed, thousands of students and young residents of Beijing took to Tiananmen Square, the vast plaza outside the Forbidden City. Once the playground of emperors, Tiananmen Square briefly became a center of vibrant hope, as a torch-bearing 33-foot high “Spirit of Democracy” statue rose above the crowd.
Then, early in the morning of June 4th, as a global audience watched in horror, hopes for fledgling democratic reforms were bloodily smashed. Hundreds, perhaps thousands (the full number is not known), of students were massacred by the People’s Liberation Army as the Chinese government declared martial law. A now-legendary photo of an anonymous protester humbly facing down a line of armed tanks—today simply called “Tank Man”—flashed across front pages and TV screens across the world. Under attack by an army of some 300,000 mobilized soldiers, students fled the Square as many were cut down. The brutal repression extended across the country to other cities where students had likewise assembled in protest.
Thirty years ago, Ilike many of you—was engulfed by horrible feelings of this event. I still remember exactly where I was that Sunday morning when I heard the news.
There are some important lessons for us in the United Church of God on this 30th anniversary of what is known as the ‘89 Democracy Movement. The first consideration is just how fast things can unexpectedly move in this world.
When I was a student at Ambassador College in the United Kingdom in the late 1960s, China was a poverty-stricken nation of some 818 million people. (Today China’s population has nearly doubled to 1.34 billion.) Its leaders, notably Mao Zedong, were generally considered to be second class in stature to the leaders of the Western world and the Soviet Union.
But, the speed and degree to which that has changed is literally mind-boggling. As the New York Times pointed out, China’s transformation is unprecedented [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/18/world/asia/china-rules.html]. From an almost Third World backwater nation, China has vaulted—in barely two decades—to a near-dominant global economic power. Its unprecedented Road and Belt Initiative increasingly ties together nations on every continent, bringing vast numbers of peoples under Chinese commercial and economic sway. In my recent travels to Zambia and Malawi, the presence of the Chinese is obvious and overwhelming as they dominate, for example, copper and other mineral mining, road and airport construction, agriculture and much more. With endless loans to these countries that will never be paid back, they are setting up these poor nations for certain default and ultimate Chinese ownership and control.
What is China’s stature today? As the Times stated: “China now leads the world in the number of homeowners, Internet users, college graduates and, by some counts, billionaires. Extreme poverty has fallen to less than one percent. An isolated, impoverished backwater has evolved into the most significant rival to the United States since the fall of the Soviet Union.” China now is less worried about catching up to the West. Instead, it wonders how to pull ahead.
If someone would have told us this while I was in college, it might have provoked an unbelieving laugh. Further, almost none of this was basically anywhere to be seen when I first visited Canton in the People’s Republic of China in 1993. I remember being totally surprised how many people rode bicycles. When a light turned green at an intersection, it was almost comical to watch hundreds of adults and business people furiously pedaling out into the intersection.
But by the time I returned to Beijing and Shanghai in the year 2000, life in China was totally different. Just seven years later, the bicycles were largely gone, replaced by seemingly endless lines of personal cars. Tall buildings were under construction almost everywhere.
On both trips, I was also struck by the fact that the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising was essentially censored—to the point where it didn’t happen. I stood in Tiananmen Square in March of 2000, and it was full of local people and tourists. There was nary a whisper about what so brutally occurred there 11 years previously—like it never happened. To this day in China, Internet search engines are censored. They will not pull up information about the Tiananmen Square June 1989 event, the Spirit of Democracy statue nor “Tank Man.”
However, in Hong Kong today, things are a little different. As you may have read in the Wall Street Journal or elsewhere, that the Chinese government permitted an orderly recognition there. Some 180,000 Chinese took part. We have a United Church of God congregation in Hong Kong. To them, what happened in 1989 is still very real.
How fast is “fast” in global affairs, and why is that important? The Bible is full of warnings about not being caught unawares. Consider what Jesus declared for our benefit concerning the times we live in. As we read in the New Living Translation: “Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth” (Luke 21:34-35 Luke 21:34-35  And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come on you unawares.
 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
Peter instructed the disciples of Jesus to be “preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13 1 Peter 1:13Why gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
American King James Version×, English Standard Version). In this instance, this refers to the moment when the Kingdom of God is established—the moment of our astonishing transformation into spirit beings who will live for all eternity!
Making available and delivering this powerful message of the Kingdom and what it means for everyone in the world (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×) is our charter as a church, our sacred commission. We are called to be witnesses of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 Acts 1:8But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.
American King James Version×). God is calling many sons to glory, but billions of the people in the world are completely unaware of this glorious future (Hebrews 2:10 Hebrews 2:10For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
American King James Version×)!
Finally, as I mentioned in my recent letter to all of you (https://www.ucg.org/members/news/update-from-the-president-may-30-2019), the Day of Pentecost is a strong reminder that we should all be praying that, as He did for the apostle Paul, “God would open to us a door for the word” (Colossians 4:3 Colossians 4:3 With praying also for us, that God would open to us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:
American King James Version×).
We live in serious, unstable and fast-moving times. No person knows when Jesus will return and the day when the Kingdom of God will be set up (Mark 12:32 Mark 12:32And the scribe said to him, Well, Master, you have said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
American King James Version×, Matthew 24:36 Matthew 24:36But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
American King James Version×). But we are warned, as we should warn the world: “you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming an hour when you do not expect Him” (Matthew 24:44 Matthew 24:44Therefore be you also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes.
American King James Version×).
Fast-moving events like Tiananmen Square and the near-miraculous growth of China should help us have a sense of determined and deliberate focus. Accordingly, this Pentecost season and beyond, let us renew our labor in prayer, asking God to guide us and show us what we are to do, what doors we should seek and how best we can serve Him and His divine purpose. Let us all be about our Father’s business!