Pre-Passover Letter From Dennis Luker
March 21, 2012
An early spring has engulfed the home office area in the northern hemisphere, bringing with it the anticipation of the biblical spring Holy Day season and the beginning of the annual observance of God’s plan for humanity.
It is very interesting that during this time three high-profile ancient Middle Eastern artifacts have made big news in the archeological world. A long, multi-year trial in Jerusalem ended earlier this month, clearing professionals of forgery charges related to three important finds: an ancient piece of sculpture that some experts believe comes directly from Solomon’s Temple, a tablet fragment from the 9th century B.C. that also could have been associated with Solomon’s Temple, and finally an ossuary (bone burial box) that many believe is directly associated with James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ and the author of the book of James.
The first two are significant and exciting because if they are indeed authentic, they may serve as additional extra-biblical proof of the events described in the Old Testament during Solomon’s time. The third, the James ossuary (dated from the time of Christ), had attracted the most attention, in part, because it includes an inscription in Hebrew stating, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” Over the past few years this news of a possible direct physical connection to Jesus has served to raise considerable fresh interest in both the book of James and in James’ role in the early New Testament Church.
As we in the Church know, the book of James emphasizes the “royal law” (James 2:8) and the “law of liberty” (verse 12). In the book, as James clearly teaches, and just as his older Brother Jesus taught, Christians are expected to obey God and produce good fruits, which James refers to as “works” (James 2:14-18, 26). The apostle Paul singled out James, confirming him as “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). Paul also notes that Jesus appeared to James privately after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7).
While we do not seek to venerate ancient artifacts (Exodus 20:3-6), they can be useful to reinforce the biblical message and raise awareness of the accuracy of its teachings. With that in mind, consider this: In referencing the “royal law,” James cites Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus, the Son of God and the living Head of the Church today, stated that this was the second of the two greatest commandments, the first of course being: “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37; Deuteronomy 6:5).
Now, as we approach the spring Holy Days and the Christian Passover, you have probably already begun the process of preparing for these days. As Paul taught, to properly fulfill the potential for spiritual growth during this time, “Let a man examine himself and so [prepared] let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28). The biblical message is clear. Lest we wrongly come before God in “an unworthy manner” (verse 27), we are to diligently and humbly prepare in advance, renewing our commitment to God and rededicating ourselves to His Son, Jesus Christ, and His way of life (2 Corinthians 13:5).
So how do we prepare and “examine ourselves”? Clearly we know that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and that were it not for receiving God’s grace through the sacrifice of Jesus—the very event we are to remember during the Passover service—we could not be heirs with Christ in the family of God.
As we prepare for the Passover and continue to grow in our Christian life, are we more concerned about the welfare of others over ourselves? Do we have self-centered thoughts that need to be replaced by the thoughts of God? Has our speech improved? Has unwarranted criticism, foul-speaking, gossip and harsh talk vanished from our lives? If not, James warned, “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, emphasis added).
Are we learning how to love one another, as Jesus directly instructed just prior to His crucifixion? Can people see this growing love in us for our fellow brethren (John 13:34-35)? Are we more forgiving and less judgmental? As James emphasized: “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). Reflecting on what He said, James wrote, “The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18). Those words are rich with meaning, as that peace comes from receiving wisdom from God (verse 17), which is pure, gentle, willing to yield and full of mercy and good fruits.
Today, many good things are happening in the church, and I sincerely thank you for your prayers. As you can read in United News and elsewhere, many new opportunities are opening to us as we continue to grow spiritually and please God. Please pray that God will open the minds and hearts of many others as His Word goes forth in an ever more powerful way, and that they will help in supporting God’s work.
In conclusion, as James wrote, those of us who yield to God and become doers of the work will be blessed in what we do. May we all yield to the authority and guidance of the true Leader of this Church, Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb, and seek to know and do the will of our living God!
You brethren are in my prayers as we approach the Passover. I pray that your preparation for and observance of the spring Holy Day season will be rich and spiritually rewarding.
In Christ’s service,