Pre-Pentecost Member Letter from Dennis Luker
June 6, 2011
What was it like in the early days of the Church that Jesus founded? “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done” (Acts 2:43, New International Version). The first few weeks following the beginning of the Church on the first Christian Pentecost—when members and ministers were filled to the full with the promised Holy Spirit of God—were indeed special.
Are we filled with awe today? Given the dynamism and focus that we are now experiencing, I can’t help but see and feel that spiritual energy within the United Church of God. It is an incredible privilege to be part of the true Body of Christ, the holy “ekklesia”—called-out ones—of God! We can lay claim to this tremendous blessing, which is both humbling and exciting.
As we approach the day of Pentecost, the second season representing God’s great plan for all humanity, it is my privilege to see what happens when members and ministers truly and humbly yield to the Leader of this Church, Jesus Christ. I personally am filled with deep gratitude following the recent General Conference of Elders, as I believe that God has blessed and strengthened us. We see increasing responses to our Beyond Today television program, growing numbers of visits to our all-new website and new prospective members who are calling, writing and e-mailing for first-time visits. We see wonderful things happening in God’s Church and work.
Can you imagine what the apostles Peter or Paul would think today if they saw their writings, accounts of their travels and recorded experiences available in multiple languages and formats in virtually every corner of the globe? The awesome tools that God has given the Church, particularly in the deep resources of our all-new website at UCG.org, would have been considered nothing short of miraculous even just a few short years ago.
If you stop to consider it, the amount and quality of revealed truth contained on the UCG.org website—including materials researched and written over periods of years—is nothing short of staggering. And it’s all free and easy to access in multiple formats at any time of the day or night. Coupled with the traditional, powerful outreach we have on television and our increasing forays into other types of media—with multiple thousands of booklets and materials being downloaded each month—this new website holds the promise of growing faster than we may have ever considered. We can say with humble but powerful confidence that the gospel—the good news—of the coming Kingdom of God and everything that this means is indeed being preached in much of the world by the United Church of God!
With this potential before us, we must continue to devote ourselves to spiritual growth. Reflecting the words of Christ just before his death as our Passover Lamb, the apostle Paul urges us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). The Greek word that Paul uses here for “transformed” is the same Greek word that is used by the Gospel writers for “transfigure” in the vision of the transfiguration of Jesus. As Matthew recorded it: “His face shown like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (chapter 17:2).
While our final transformation will occur at the return of Christ, we are to be on the path toward transformation at all times. It is good as we approach Pentecost, the time when the precious Holy Spirit of God was given to those whom God had called (John 6:44, Acts 2:1-4), to consider that this transformation is a gift from God. If we are willing, humble and yielding, God will do the work within us! Our minds will begin to be changed and our thoughts will begin to reflect the thoughts and mind of God. With that mind—the mind of Christ—we will be motivated to obey the royal law of liberty and produce good works! That is nothing short of a miracle that we cannot and should not ever take for granted.
Jesus said that the world would know us by our fruits (Matthew 7:16-17) and that our love one for another—the kind of deep, forgiving and powerful love that can only come from receiving the Holy Spirit—would openly set us apart (John 13:35).
As we approach the Day of Pentecost, we are deeply grateful that none of our brethren within the United Church of God have suffered loss of life or extensive damage as a result of the violent weather recently in the United States. But we have heard accounts of others within the extended Church of God community who have suffered physical loss. We should be praying for those who have suffered and we should be praying for our continued protection. As we see violence grow, whether in the turbulent Middle East or as played out in unusually harsh tornados and damaging winds, we should pray with renewed energy and focus, “Thy Kingdom come!”
With the arrival of Pentecost is also the arrival of camp season for the youth of the United Church of God. The first summer camps in the United States are already setting up, and different camps offering different activities—from wilderness skills to traditional camp outings—will be taking place over the next 60 days. Wherever the UCG camp, you can be certain that at the camp culture will be the “Zone,” the place where God’s truth and its application is taught and demonstrated for the young people of the Church.
Believe it or not, with the beginning of camp season also comes the time when planning and preparations for the annual Feast of Tabernacles begin to ramp up. By the time you read this, it will be barely four months until the Feast of Trumpets! Victor Kubik and his team at Ministerial and Member Services are already at work with preparations for this final Holy Day season of the year.
In closing, let’s remember to desire and pray earnestly for the literal fruits of God’s Spirit during this season of Pentecost. Even if the global economy crumbles, we can have confidence that God will deliver us. Our focus needs to not be on the events and fears of the world, but on overcoming and producing the spiritual fruits of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:23).
Thank you for your prayers and your commitment. May the fruits of the Holy Spirit of God be richly within you all during this exciting time of Pentecost!
In Christ’s service,