October 28, 2010
What’s ahead for the Church of God? As we settle in after the Feast of Tabernacles, what should we be looking forward to and achieving over the coming months?
As baptized members, all serving the Great God, Paul gives us this direction: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2, emphasis added throughout). Later on, he magnifies this direction, raising the bar to the highest level: “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).
As we go through our daily tasks, are we looking for and earnestly seeking the direct guidance of Jesus Christ, the living Head of our Church? Is our true focus on serving God through Jesus Christ and accomplishing His purpose for us?
The Bible reveals that we all are self-willed. At the very beginning of human history we see our ancient ancestors—Adam and Eve—exercising that self-will in making the wrong choice: taking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, even though it was directly forbidden by God (Genesis 2:17). A few thousand years later we see God again calling His people to yield their wills to Him, even as Moses commanded the ancient Israelites.
On that epochal day, Moses made it clear both for ancient Israel and for us today: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life…that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
Brethren, do we today choose life? Are we yielding our human wills to God and making Him truly the center of our lives? This total commitment is what Jesus described as “the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:38).
As frail humans, we often find it difficult to truly surrender our human will to that of God’s. Even Paul himself faced this very challenge: “For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Romans 7:15). But Paul knew the answer, which applies to us today. We can confidently go through the Temple veil that was torn (Matthew 27:51) and enter the place of the Holy of Holies, joining with Paul to ask and receive the answer: “Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).
Through His own experience as God in human form, Jesus intimately knows what pulls and challenges we go through. Through the grace of God He stands ready at every moment to give us precious divine strength and unite us with God Himself!
What are we to do in this delivered state? When we are reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Christ, what is our role? The dual mission of the United Church of God—based directly on the Word of God—makes it clear: We are to be dedicated to preaching the precious gospel of the coming Kingdom of God, and we are to be daily—minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour—preparing ourselves to serve for all eternity under Jesus Christ Himself!
We begin this daily process by spiritually renewing ourselves, dedicating each and every day in prayer to the divine purpose of God, and yielding ourselves to His will. Seeking His will and doing it, offering ourselves as “living sacrifices,” is what Paul—under inspiration of the Holy Spirit—defines as our daily “spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1, New International Version). The rewards of doing this are great! As we do this daily we find the true meaning of what Jesus taught: “Come to Me, all you who labor… Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest… For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Yielding our human wills to that of God is critical for our salvation. It is the first step in obedience, which is contrary to the way of this world. It requires true humility, a direct gift from God. That in part is why we fast—which we should be doing frequently, not just on the Day of Atonement. We must be right-sized in thought and action, and the physical hunger and weakness of fasting helps put us in the right spiritual frame of mind. Without food and drink we would soon cease to exist. We are dependent on God’s daily blessings—on Jesus Christ sustaining the physical laws of the universe—to continue to live in this physical life.
Consider this critical spiritual fact: Even as we believe ourselves to be seeking and doing the will of God, we can inadvertently fall under the powerful but subtle influence of our adversary and begin to deceive ourselves. Unless we are truly humble, we can fall prey to wrong thinking and not even be aware of it.
Notice the example that God gave us through Samuel the prophet. God chose Saul to be king of Israel, and Saul initially thought himself to be so unfit for the task that he hid himself when the time came to recognize him as king (1 Samuel 10:21-24). But as time went on, Saul changed. He began to mix his own thoughts about what was “right” with the direct instructions from God, which diluted his ability to be used as a true servant. It finally all came to a head when Saul diverted—however slightly or greatly—from specific commands of God.
Samuel, as the Bible records, was horrified, even though a casual reader might think “What was the big deal?” God had ordered Saul to go up against the Amalekites and destroy every vestige of their existence. Saul conquered the Amalekites, but not in the way God directed. He won the human battle, but lost the spiritual war, as Samuel cried out: “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?” (1 Samuel 15:19).
Samuel pointed out the cause. When Saul was first anointed king over Israel, he was truly humble before God. “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel?” (verse 17). But something changed. Despite knowing the direct commands of God, Saul changed them to what he humanly thought was better. His human reasoning thus led him to “do evil in the sight of the Lord” (verse 19).
As Saul sought to justify his actions, Samuel cut him off: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice… For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (verses 22-23). The net result? God rejected Saul as king and deposed him!
This underscores the spiritual danger before us in our daily lives. Peter warns us: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Even though we may think that we know the will of God, we must be on guard against self-deception. James, the human half brother of Jesus, brings this home: “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless” (James 1:26).
But God, through Christ, gives us the victory! On a daily basis—complemented by regular fasting and times of intense prayer to seek the almighty will of God—God will open our eyes and give us incomprehensible spiritual strength to overcome and become more like Him (Revelation 3:12). As we go through the autumn and winter months (in the northern hemisphere) approaching the spring Holy Days, let us rededicate ourselves to seeking “those things which are above.
Let us all—individually and collectively—choose life, that we may all live and that our Church may accomplish its purpose, according to the good and perfect will of God.
Thank you, brethren, for your continued prayers and for asking God to direct and guide all of us! All of the dedicated ministers and employees here at the home office in Cincinnati send their greetings and love to all of you.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,
October 26, 2010
Beyond Today on WGN America – Record High Response Recorded
Beyond Today television program “Will I Go To Hell?,” which aired Sunday, October 16 on cable superstation WGN America, produced the highest response so far. A total of 1,001 responses were recorded as a result of this program at the excellent cost per response of $11.99.
After airing programs for just 15 weeks on WGN, 10,285 telephone and Internet responses have been generated—at an overall $17.50 cost per response. We are very pleased and encouraged by these fine results and we hope you are too.
As time goes on and more viewers become familiar with our programs on WGN, we expect response to continue growing. In the meantime, our young, creative media staff members are working very hard to improve each program. Interviews, film clips, special video effects and improved graphics are helping make each program stirring, attractive and inviting.
Additionally, presenters, Darris McNeely, Steve Myers and Gary Petty are driving themselves to prepare messages that are not only informative but relationship-building with our viewers.
We encourage you to watch (or record for later viewing) each Beyond Today program and urge others in your congregation to do so as well. Please also continue praying for God’s ongoing and continual blessings. With His guidance and direction, we know lasting success is not only possible but expected.
Peter Eddington—Operation Manager, Media and Communications Services
October 26, 2010
The Beyond Today television program is now in its fifth year of airing in Canada. We’ve recorded over 13,000 responses since the first program aired in May 2006.
Responses have come from three sources: phone calls from viewers of the program on Vision TV™ and the Grace Television Network™ (formerly The Christian Channel), the beyondtodaytv.ca and beyondtoday.tv Web sites, and the mail.
The bulk of the responses—nearly 75%—have been phone calls. Internet responses account for 25.2% of the responses and the mail responses accounts for 0.1%. Only recently has our mailing address been featured on the program. In our first year we averaged 33.9 responses per week increasing to 66.5 responses per week in our fourth year. The average number of responses in our fifth year is approaching 100 per week.
One viewer saw the program recently called God’s Sabbath Rest. The viewer was brought up to believe Sunday was the Sabbath and was astonished and intrigued that the Sabbath is actually Saturday. A subscription to The Good News as well as the booklet Sunset to Sunset: God’s Sabbath Rest has been sent to the viewer.
Beyond Today can be seen across Canada on Sunday at 7:30 a.m. PST/10:30 a.m. EST on the Grace Television Network™ and at 7:00 p.m. PST/10:00 p.m. EST on Vision TV™.
Edwin van Pelt—Treasurer and Office Manager, UCG-Canada
October 23, 2010
The November-December issue of The Good News is now completed and off to the printer, to be printed and mailed in the next two weeks.
In recent days we’ve seen the headlines about the record number of Americans receiving food stamps and the 44 million Americans now living in poverty. The official unemployment rate stubbornly hovers near 10 percent, while the actual rate is much higher since so many have given up looking for work. Many others have had to settle for jobs that pay much less or had their hours or wages cut.
All this takes a terrible toll on families and relationships. Sadly, some couples can’t deal with the additional pressures and their relationships crumble into divorce. Will we use times of hardship to strengthen our marriages, or will we give in and let pressures drive us apart? You need the sound advice you’ll find in this issue!
Other articles discuss the purpose and importance of marriage, how following biblical laws could solve many of our economic problems, the growing threat to European stability from Muslim immigrants, the danger of letting ourselves (or our children) get swept up in celebrity culture, and the revealing origins of two upcoming holiday celebrations—Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For our teen and young adult readers in particular, our youth article for this issue focuses on life’s choices—written by a man whose poor choices led him to spending most of his life in prison.
We hope you’ll enjoy and benefit from this issue, and we deeply appreciate the faithfulness and generosity of our members who make it possible to share these wonderful truths straight out of God’s Word. As always, we hope you’ll join us in praying that this seed will fall on fertile ground and others will be blessed to learn these truths!
Scott Ashley—managing editor, The Good News
October 21, 2010
For the past several years brethren and congregations have participated in the Good News subscription brochure program as a means of helping preach the Gospel in their local areas. In 2009 members distributed nearly 20,000 brochures in restaurants, supermarkets, motels, hospital and clinic lobbies, hairdressers, senior centers, libraries, convenience stores and many other locations.
Distribution of bi-fold and tri-fold brochures has been a cost-effective means of introducing new readers to the Good News magazine and our booklets. Brochures cost less than 4 cents each to print and distribute. Over recent years, subscriber response has reached an excellent 3.7 percent at only $2.43 cost per response.
You are welcome to order a supply of brochures and displays for distribution in your area. Click on the attached graphics to see a larger sample of some of the topics being advertised. The brochure titles include:
- Why Does God Allow Suffering?
- Are We Living in the Time of the End?
- The Middle East in Bible Prophecy.
- Marriage & Family-The Missing Dimension.
- The Debt Trap.
Please contact John LaBissoniere at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (423) 562-9400 or (888) 369-9940 for your supply of brochures and displays.
John LaBissoniere—Brochure Distribution Manager, Media and Communications Services
[The following message was sent to all UCG elders and home office staff.]
October 20, 2010
Dear Fellow Ministers,
I gave a sermon last Sabbath to be played in all congregations by the end of October. The title is, “Fiery Trials and the Testing of our Faith.” I pray this message will be helpful and motivating.
The sermon is 51 minutes in length and is available on our sermon video page for viewing and downloading in several formats at http://www.ucg.org/sermons/2010/fiery-trials-testing-of-our-faith.htm . Simply download it onto a laptop computer to play at services or burn it to a DVD. A hi-res MPEG-4 version is included as well as other file sizes and types. We have included a link to instructions for converting the sermon for burning onto a DVD.
Thank you for your faithful service to the brethren,
October 19, 2010
When we produced our first Arabic-language booklet, we received several messages saying, “Hey, what about Chinese?!” Well, we’re very excited to announce that our Hong Kong United Church of God congregation has made a ground-breaking effort in this regard.
The Hong Kong congregation recently established a new UCG Web site online at www.ucghk.org. They engaged a local Web design firm to build the site for them, with the written content coming from our official UCG literature and Web sites. But, and here is the news: the difference, and the reason for building the site, is that in addition to English, it’s also in Traditional and Simplified Chinese characters! The view is to provide the gospel message to the Chinese-speaking world.
We have started translating the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs found on www.ucg.org) and other selected, short pieces of literature for initial Chinese translation. All the content has been professionally translated and reviewed by members in Hong Kong, and is approved under the supervision of UCG senior pastor for Asia, David Baker.
Sitting behind the Web site is a content management system that allows us to easily upload the FAQs and literature once we have them in all 3 languages. We’ve also setup Google Analytics so we can monitor traffic, time on the Web site, bounce rates, etc.
Now that the site is setup, we want to ramp up the amount of literature and information on it, and make sure we get the gospel message out in Asia and Southeast Asia in a greater way. Articles from the latest issues of the Good News magazine are now being forwarded to the Hong Kong congregation Web team for translation into Traditional and Simplified Chinese for the site. As time progresses, our literature library of proclamation and doctrinal material in the Chinese language will expand dramatically.
Despite being such a small group in Hong Kong, the local congregation is able to fund this project, but their time to spend on the project is challenging and they are still gaining valuable experience.
Please pray for the success of this very important effort to preach the good news of the Gospel of God’s Kingdom in this culturally rich, yet often spiritually poor, region of our globe.
Peter Forster—Project Manager, Hong Kong UCG Web Site
Peter Eddington—Operation Manager, UCG Media and Communications Services
15 de octubre de 2010
Queridos compañeros ministros y hermanos:
Tradicionalmente, después de la Fiesta de los Tabernáculos todos regresamos a nuestras congregaciones inspirados y refrescados, listos para crecer en la visión espiritual de la venida del Reino de Dios. Para la gran mayoría de nosotros, este año no ha sido diferente. La Fiesta de los Tabernáculos 2010 ya ha terminado, pero es un recuerdo agradable e inspirador, que espero nos sostenga con celo para seguir creciendo espiritualmente a lo largo de la temporada de Fiestas Santas primaverales en 2011.
Desafortunadamente para algunos, el período inmediato después de esta experiencia tradicionalmente gozosa ha sido muy turbulento. En un momento en que se supone que debemos estar experimentando el resplandor de la satisfacción y la confianza en la obediencia a los mandamientos de Dios, ahora debo abordar un asunto muy importante. Les escribo esta carta a ustedes con el corazón oprimido, pero con absoluta confianza y fe en Jesucristo como cabeza de esta Iglesia. Todos estamos siendo duramente probados en este momento, por el conflicto que estamos teniendo en el ministerio de nuestra Iglesia, la Iglesia de Dios Unida.
Permítanme ir al grano respecto al objetivo de esta carta: unas cuantas personas muy vocales han planteado problemas imaginarios acerca de la actual administración y el Consejo de Ancianos, sobre todo en foros de Internet. Estos falsos problemas se basan en cartas recientes publicadas por Melvin Rhodes y por mí acerca del día sábado y sobre el ayuno. Una de nuestras cartas, publicada poco antes de la última temporada de festivales, confirmó la santidad inviolable del día sábado, y además se refirió a cómo una familia en Chile estaba buscando consejo y resolución para un tema específico y poco común relacionado con la observancia del sábado.
Esta familia, perteneciente a la Iglesia, ha sufrido niveles escalofriantes de calumnias, sobre todo en foros de Internet. Los temas específicos (que deberían haberse mantenido confidenciales, de acuerdo con el proceso tradicional seguido por la Iglesia) fueron errónea y trágicamente elevados de un nivel personal a un nivel público por algunas personas. Algunos estaban tratando de incluir a la fuerza estos asuntos personales dentro de un contexto organizativo, para lanzar acusaciones contra la Iglesia misma. Debido a que se había cometido una trágica violación a la confidencialidad, esto comenzó a convertirse en un problema mayor y en un ataque directo a la Iglesia, y por eso publicamos nuestra carta sobre el día sábado para tratar de ayudar a aclarar las cosas.
Nosotros hemos sido llamados a ser pacificadores (Mateo 5:9) y a someternos a Jesucristo como la Cabeza Viviente de esta Iglesia. Si por incluir el relato de esta familia (o por el título mismo de la carta) causamos alguna confusión acerca de cómo la gente debe observar el día de reposo, les ofrecemos nuestras disculpas. Para ser absolutamente claro, nada de lo que concierne a las enseñanzas establecidas de la Iglesia acerca del sábado ha cambiado, ni se está planeando hacer ningún cambio. Además, teniendo en cuenta los procedimientos establecidos en la estructura de gobierno de la Iglesia, es imposible que la administración o el Consejo de Ancianos puedan hacer algún cambio doctrinal por sí mismos.
Dado que la familia mencionada ha buscado el consejo y la decisión final de los líderes de la Iglesia, la cuestión específica seguirá el proceso tradicionalmente aceptado. Para ayudar a restaurar el respeto y la debida confidencialidad de ese proceso, Melvin Rhodes y yo retiramos con anticipación esta carta que fue mencionada más arriba.
Cabe mencionar que además de ser pacificadores, parte de la responsabilidad de esta administración es defender la fe. En honor a esa responsabilidad, debo señalar que algunas personas, sobre todo en foros de Internet, desgraciada y lamentablemente ahora están torciendo el contenido tanto de esa carta como de otra que publicamos sobre el ayuno y la búsqueda de la voluntad de Dios.
Algunos han alegado abierta y falsamente que de alguna manera estas cartas contienen pruebas de los comienzos de un cambio doctrinal. ¡Nada podría estar más lejos de la verdad!
Permítanme decirlo claramente: ¡algunos de los comentarios en Internet que se me han hecho llegar carecen de la más mínima urbanidad y respeto, y no representan en absoluto lo que enseña la Iglesia acerca de la conducta cristiana! Por un lado, el Internet nos ofrece una gran capacidad de alcance para predicar el evangelio de la paz y hacerlo disponible de manera gratuita a millones de personas. Por otro lado, el Internet ofrece la misma capacidad para hacer gran daño, permitiendo a ciertas personas que dicen ser miembros o ministros, fabricar mentiras descaradas y verdades a medias, burlándose de Dios y de su Iglesia al publicar comentarios de fácil acceso, y que atentan directamente contra la valiosísima obra que hemos sido llamados a realizar. Desafortunadamente, esto me recuerda lo que Pedro describe y que estaba ocurriendo entre unos pocos en la Iglesia del primer siglo: “Atrevidos y contumaces, no temen decir mal de las autoridades superiores” (2 Pedro 2:10).
Los rumores y acusaciones que vuelan por todas partes, especialmente en Internet, afirman que este conflicto es una vez más acerca de la doctrina, como lo fue en 1995 cuando comenzó la Iglesia de Dios Unida. Algunos están diciendo que yo, como presidente, y que otros ministros en el Consejo de Ancianos, queremos cambiar algunas de nuestras creencias doctrinales fundamentales.
Para aquellos que ya se han olvidado, permítanme recordarles que yo me mantuve muy firme en 1995 cuando Unida se estaba formando, a causa de los conflictos doctrinales en ese momento. Yo fui parte de la junta directiva de Unida durante sus primeros cinco años y ayudé en el desarrollo de nuestros documentos de gobierno: nuestra Constitución (que incluye nuestras creencias fundamentales), los Estatutos y las Reglas de Asociación. Estos se basan en la santa Palabra de Dios, la Biblia.
Después de 32 años como ministro de tiempo completo en la Iglesia de Dios Universal, me retiré de ella, al igual que la mayoría de ustedes, con el fin de obedecer a Dios y guardar el sábado y los Días Santos. Permítanme asegurarles que mi compromiso de amar y obedecer a Dios y guardar sus mandamientos no ha cambiado—¡y nunca lo hará! Amar, obedecer y servir a Dios y su pueblo es el propósito de mi vida y de mi ministerio. Ya he les dicho a ustedes y a todos los hermanos que debido a que yo soy humano e imperfecto, voy a cometer errores, pero esos errores no me harán apartarme de Dios ni de sus leyes santas y justas.
Aquellos de ustedes que tienen oídos para oír, tengan la seguridad de mi compromiso con Dios, su Palabra, su Iglesia y su Obra. ¡Hice aquel compromiso con él más de 51 años atrás, cuando me bautizaron, y voy a mantener ese compromiso con él hasta mi último aliento!
Pero a pesar de esta prueba que nos encontramos experimentando, contamos con la suprema confianza de que Cristo conoce nuestros corazones. ¡Como líder de su Iglesia, él sabe cómo conducirnos a través de este juicio hasta la victoria! Incluso ahora mismo, estamos empezando a ver la profundización y los frutos de la proclamación del precioso evangelio de la Iglesia en la televisión nacional de Estados Unidos, en el canal WGN América (en inglés). Más y más nuevos contactos están surgiendo como resultado, lo que refleja una verdadera curiosidad espiritual y una inspiradora hambre por la verdad de Dios. A medida que entramos en la temporada de otoño, cuando la televisión aumenta su audiencia, oramos y esperamos ver más respuestas de este tipo.
En la medida que estos contactos progresan gracias a nuestra literatura, la expectativa lógica es que esta gente pronto quiera saber cómo es la Iglesia por dentro. ¿Qué van a encontrar? Mi oración es que encuentren personas que practican una forma de vida revelada por Dios y por Jesucristo, lo que refleja “la supereminente grandeza de su poder para con nosotros los que creemos” (Efesios 1:19, énfasis nuestro).
Ministros y hermanos, en la Fiesta de Tabernáculos reciente hemos captado la visión y hemos experimentado una vez más un poquito del Reino de Dios. Miremos individual y colectivamente más allá de cualquier prueba presente, reiterando con celo renovado nuestro compromiso para buscar a Dios y someternos a su voluntad, con los “ojos de vuestro entendimiento, para que sepáis cual es la esperanza a que él nos ha llamado, y cuáles las riquezas de la gloria de su herencia en los santos” (Efesios 1:18).
¡Hoy día, protejamos nuestros corazones y mentes, y bajo la guía amorosa de Cristo, pongamos en práctica las palabras del apóstol Pedro: ”procurad hacer firme vuestra vocación y elección” (2 Pedro 1:10)! Que Dios nos ayude a todos a superar esta prueba presente y que nos lleve a un profundo arrepentimiento, para que él pueda terminar, a través de nosotros, la maravillosa obra que nos ha encomendado.
Atentamente, su hermano en Cristo,
October 15, 2010
Dear Fellow Elders and Brethren,
Traditionally after the Feast of Tabernacles we all return to our home congregations inspired and refreshed, ready to grow in the spiritual vision of the coming Kingdom of God. For the vast majority of us, this year is no different. The 2010 Feast of Tabernacles may now be history, but it is a pleasant and inspiring memory, one that I hope will sustain us with zeal for spiritual growth all the way through to the Spring Holy Day season in 2011.
Unfortunately for a few, the period immediately following this traditionally joyous experience has been one of disruption. In a time when we are supposed to be experiencing the afterglow of satisfaction and confidence in obeying God’s commands, I must now address a matter of importance. I write this letter to you with a heavy heart, but with absolute trust and faith in Jesus Christ as Head of this Church. We are all being severely tested at this time by the conflict we are having within the ministry of our Church, the United Church of God.
Let me come to the point of this letter: A highly vocal few, particularly in online forums, have raised imaginary issues about the current administration and Council of Elders. These false issues center on recent letters published from Melvin Rhodes and me about the Sabbath day and about fasting. One of our letters, published shortly before the Festival season, confirmed the inviolate sacredness of the Sabbath day, but also discussed how one family in Chile was seeking counsel and resolution for a specific and nonroutine issue regarding Sabbath observance.
That church family had endured a shocking level of slander, particularly in online forums. The specific issues (which should have remained confidential according to the traditional process followed by the Church), were wrongly and tragically elevated by some from a personal to a public level. Some were trying to force these personal issues into an organizational context and hurl accusations against the Church itself. Since that tragic breach of confidence occurred and began to take on a larger element of a direct attack on the Church, we published our Sabbath letter to try to help set the record straight.
We are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and to submit to Jesus Christ as the living Head of this Church. If by including the family’s account (or through the title of the letter) we inadvertently caused some confusion about how people should observe the Sabbath day, then we offer an apology. To be absolutely clear, nothing concerning the established teachings of the Church about the Sabbath has changed, nor is any change being considered. Further, given the established procedures set forth in the Church’s governing structure, it is impossible for the administration or the Council of Elders to make any doctrinal changes.
Given that the family has sought counsel and resolution from Church leaders, the specific issue will follow the traditionally accepted process. To help restore the respect and confidentiality due that process, Melvin Rhodes and I earlier withdrew that particular letter as previously announced.
Now, in addition to being peacemakers, part of the responsibility of this administration is to be defenders of the faith. In attending to that responsibility, I must point out that some others, particularly in online forums, are now unfortunately and sadly twisting the content of both that letter and another letter published about fasting and seeking the will of God. Some have openly and falsely alleged that somehow these letters contain evidence of the beginnings of a doctrinal shift. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Let me speak plainly: Some of the online comments that have been forwarded to me are devoid of any civility, much less representative of anything the Church teaches about Christian conduct! On one hand, the Internet brings us the powerful capacity to preach the gospel of peace and make it freely available to millions. On the other hand, that same Internet offers the capacity for woeful hurt, enabling people who claim to be members and ministers to fabricate outright lies and half-truths, mocking God and His Church in easily discoverable content that directly undermines the precious work we are called to perform. This unfortunately reminds me of what Peter described as taking place among a few in the first-century Church: “They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries” (2 Peter 2:10).
The rumors and accusations flying everywhere, especially on the Internet, are that this conflict is once again about doctrine, as it was in 1995 when United began. Some are saying that I, as president, and that other ministers on the Council of Elders, want to change some of our foundational doctrinal beliefs.
For those who have forgotten, let me remind you that I stood strongly in 1995 as United was forming because of doctrinal conflicts at that time. I was on the governing board of United for the first five years and helped in the development of our governing documents—our Constitution (which includes our Fundamental Beliefs), Bylaws and Rules of Association. These were all based on God’s Holy Word, the Bible.
After 32 years in the full-time ministry of the Worldwide Church of God, I left, as did most of you, in order to obey God and keep the Sabbath and Holy Days. Let me assure you that my commitment to love and obey God and keep His commandments has not changed—and never will! Loving, obeying and serving God and His people is the purpose of my life and ministry. I have already said to you and all the brethren that, because I am human and imperfect, I will make mistakes, but they will not be mistakes of departing from God and His holy, righteous laws.
Those of you who have ears to hear, be assured of my commitment to God, His Word, His Church and His work. I made that commitment to Him over 51 years ago when I was baptized, and I will keep that commitment to Him until my dying breath!
But, even as we experience this current trial, we possess supreme confidence that Christ knows our hearts. As the Leader of His Church, He knows how to lead us through this trial and on to victory! Even now we are beginning to see deepening and encouraging fruits of the Church’s proclamation of the precious gospel on national TV using WGN America. New contacts, reflecting real spiritual curiosity and an inspiring hunger for God’s truth, are coming with more frequency. As we move into the fall television season when viewership increases, we pray for and expect to see more of these types of responses.
As these contacts progress through our literature, the logical expectation is that these people will soon want to see what the Church looks like on the inside. What will they find? My prayer is that they will find a people practicing a way of life revealed by God through Jesus Christ, mirroring “the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:19, emphasis added).
Ministers and brethren, we caught the vision and experienced a taste of the Kingdom of God once again in the recent Feast of Tabernacles. Let us individually and collectively look beyond any current trials, renewing with fresh zeal our commitment to seek and yield to God’s will, with “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling” (Ephesians 1:18).
Today, let us all guard our hearts and minds, and under Christ’s loving guidance “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10)! May God help us all through this present trial and lead us all to a deeper repentance, so that He may finish, through us, the wonderful work He has given us to do.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,
October 15, 2010
UCG Literature Surpasses 10,000 downloads from Apple iBookstore
Last month we reported that UCG booklets are now available for download from the Apple iBookstore. So far 11,498 ebook copies of the Church’s literature have been downloaded to a reader’s iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. This averages to more than 300 downloads a day in the past month!
The number of initial downloads has passed our expectations. It is really exciting to know our literature is being accessed on these newer mobile devices. This week three more booklets have been made available for download within the iBookstore: Is There Really a Devil?, Is the Bible True? and How to Understand the Bible. We will continue to add more literature to the iBookstore over the upcoming weeks and months.
The top five booklet downloads from the Apple iBookstore are as follows:
- Jesus Christ: The Real Story – 1,364 downloads
- The Book of Revelation Unveiled – 1,228 downloads
- What Happens After Death? – 1,022 downloads
- Why Does God Allow Suffering? – 941 downloads
- The Middle East in Bible Prophecy – 846 downloads
Aaron Booth—Internet Managing Editor