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Update from the President: June 7, 2018

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Update from the President

June 7, 2018

This is Ambassador Bible College Continuing Education week at the home office, as 42 students from all over came together for five days of classes starting Monday, June 4. While some have returned year after year, quite a number are new. We provided classes ranging from Genesis to Daniel, 1 Corinthians, Hellenization of Christianity, Ephesians and much more. We always enjoy our visitors; I have been touched by the appreciative comments about the Church and the Work from our attendees.

It is also BT Week! The last  Beyond Today  programs to be recorded in the old studio were completed today. New recording will pause until after the Feast of Tabernacles when we expect our new studio to be functional. We recorded our 360th program today. Here is the list of programs that are geared to the fall airing schedule: “When God Remembers the Dead,” “Am I a True Disciple?” and “The Day of Atonement and the Gospel.”

Also, Gary Petty presented a streamed  Beyond Today  Bible Study on the Book of Judges last evening.

A new ministerial trainee has arrived at the home office, where he will train. Ryan and Nissa Hall, along with their three children, have moved here from Atlanta.

The home office is a great training area for future pastors as they can work in a diverse congregation of 300 people, plus Ambassador Bible College, providing a great opportunity for various pastoral functions and demographics.

Lewis and Lena VanAusdle have been in town and we discussed their new assignment in New York City as well as their previous one in Lilongwe, Malawi. I made a podcast with them that is posted at https://www.ucg.org/members/united-news/inside-united/inside-united-podcast-episode-085 .

There are several new podcasts with a number with ABC graduates who recount their past year here. Listen to past episodes at http://www.ucg.org/members/united-news/inside-united.

In Youth Camp news, Camp Cotubic in Ohio begins next week, as well as preteen camp Piney Woods in Big Sandy, Texas. I just spoke with Don Ward, who is looking forward to 40 campers and 30 staff for the Sunday through Wednesday camp. Much of the camp will be held at the East Texas church building. A highlight will be fishing at the lake at Wards’ home a short distance away, as well as swimming in their pool.

Our  United News  staff met this week to discuss the placement of articles for the June 27 press date. It is the issue that will feature high school and college graduates. The front page will feature ABC Graduation, Camp Cotubic (which will have ended just before press date) and Good Works.

We are evaluating and prioritizing new Good Works proposals and will give final approval soon. I thank our director, Lena VanAusdle, who has so whole-heartedly managed the Good Works program. I also thank the committee that considers the projects and offers their input.

This week we released two very well-developed and creative products. One is the  Compass Check  for youth which is a quarterly biblically-based magazine for young people of the United Church of God. The name,  Compass Check , describes youth pointing their spiritual compass toward God. The feature article delves into details about how God calls those born into the Church (who are not first called as adults) and what those differences mean for you, your family and the Church. You can view the entire magazine in PDF format at: https://www.ucg.org/members/compass-check/compass-check-summer-2018 .

Also, a most creative short film produced by Jamie Schreiber was just released that answers the questions of what God’s job requirements are for us: “And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 Micah 6:8He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
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). The video is titled Paper and can be seen at https://www.ucg.org/ucg-films/ucg-short-film/paper .

You can see all 12 short films produced at: https://www.ucg.org/ucg-films/ucg-short-film .

God’s Plan for Your Immortality

Who would want to live forever in a negative world of death, destruction and never-ending anguish? A lot of people, apparently.

While researching an upcoming article on human-driven artificial “immortality” that will appear in the next issue of  Beyond Today , I was struck by how many people—particularly the mega-rich—drive themselves at a near-insane pace to find some way to extend their lives. Looming death and the fear of losing everything energizes many to consider almost any alternative to winking out of existence. Despite the ever-present bad news of the day, people still want to live forever.

In considering this, I marveled at the comfort and confidence that we in the holy assembly of God, the church of God, possess concerning the future of humanity and the future that God has in store for each of us.

As I read in preparation for this upcoming article, I found it amazing that the scope at which the focus on extended human life—even the possibility of artificial life extending for centuries—is quickly advancing. Medical science has already put in place age-delaying and age-reversal technologies, some more efficient than others. Millions, even billions, of dollars are being invested in this desperate race against time.

As you may already know, increasing numbers of scientists and technology professionals believe that it may one day be possible to replicate, store and transport our entire brain digitally. As fantastic as it sounds, advances in neuroscience and 3-D printing have led some to predict that things will possibly come to a point where a new fit and healthy body can be created through specialty 3-D printing, then loaded with stored memories, personality and knowledge from a future super-capable digital “cloud.”

I was shocked to read that some social historians now call for a focus on accelerating development from present day “homo sapiens” (as humans are known biologically) to a future “homo deus”—a literal “man god.” But, as you will read in the  BT  article, only a select few will possibly ever attain this artificial “god-like” status. Of course, as we in the church know, the whole concept of man becoming “god” on man’s terms is not new.

It is good for us in the church to remember that a few thousand years ago, at the Tower of Babel, the collective mental and physical creativity and innovative powers of humanity were then cresting for the first time. Humans were marvelously teaming together to advance quickly in technology, transportation and all forms of achievement. But it was not in God’s time or in His plan that humans would accelerate innovation back then.

Sometimes the story is so familiar to us in the church that we may inadvertently read over important details. In Genesis we see that the leaders of these ancient innovators boasted, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky” (Genesis 11:4 Genesis 11:4And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach to heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad on the face of the whole earth.
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, New Living Translation).

But God recognized that “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them” (Genesis 11:6 Genesis 11:6And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
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, emphasis added throughout). God stopped this ancient major effort at rapid collaboration cold. God confused their speech into different languages and the combined technology and innovation effort collapsed.

God recognized the incredible ability of humanity to rapidly advance, particularly if conditions were ripe. We see this phenomenon taking place over the last few centuries, where once-dormant advancements accelerated to blinding speed, eventually taking humanity—in less than a century—from a horse-and-buggy age to nuclear power and space exploration.

How comforting and confidence-building it is to see that God has a plan, and that He is carefully driving that plan to fruition!

How comforting and energizing it is for us that we know that God has a much better plan of immortality that includes new bodies and relationships that go far beyond the flawed promises of science. Under God’s plan, this corrupt world won’t be immortalized!

How marvelous that we can all face death, whatever our stage in life, with confidence, knowing that we shall be resurrected incorruptible, the very Children of God forever! We can know that death remains a fact of human reality. But we in the church also have the mighty hope and knowledge that Jesus Christ has paved the way for us. Jesus was resurrected and “is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20 1 Corinthians 15:20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.
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).

As people brought back and given a new, glorious existence, we will then have a different nature as well as an immortal body. Paul describes this in his grand finale to the resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God… Behold I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:50-52 1 Corinthians 15:50-52 50 Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
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).

This is the incredible hope, the incredible human potential, that you and I have. This is why we can have peace that passes all understanding in a world that is exhausted by bad news. This is the expressed love of God—an awesome gift of salvation and immortality—that God has in store for you and me!

We in the church are blessed without measure with this marvelous knowledge. Let us rejoice and give thanks, as God has an incredible gift of immortality for each of us!