The Solution to Fears of War in the Middle East
[The following letter by Dennis Luker, president of the United Church of God, was sent to Church membership September 19.}
September 19, 2012
As we in the home office busily finish up final details for the much anticipated Feast of Tabernacles, tensions mount amidst fears of fresh war in the Middle East, even while this letter is being prepared for you. What a contrast! Just as we read and hear anew the biblical words and passages about soon-coming peace and prosperity in the Kingdom of God, the news is filled with fears of regional conflict, perhaps even the beginnings of global conflict. While many intently follow what the British newspaper The Telegraph calls an “armada of international naval power massing” in the Persian Gulf, we are urged to redouble our efforts in spiritual preparation, being alert and avoiding being caught up in “the anxieties of life” (Luke 21:34-36, New International Version).
Unlike what God gives us, the world does not yet have the serene strength that comes from the truth. Millions, perhaps billions, of people toss and turn at night, worried about what the next day may bring. At the same time we in the Church have these powerful and comforting words: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32). What a blessing! Ours is the sure knowledge and unbreakable promise that God’s plan is to deliver us. Our soon-to-come inheritance is a never ending time of unprecedented splendor, all focused on an eternal relationship of service with our Elder Brother and soon coming King. To continue our journey toward this Kingdom, we have but to continually yield and turn our lives over to God, following the leadership of the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.
As we watch world events unfold during this annual biblical season, we know that “the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). This is the time of revealing when God will complete the incomprehensible and wondrous task of “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10). How deep and profound is this? The apostle Paul tells us that even now the physical world “groans and labors with birth pangs,” awaiting the time when it “will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:22, 21).
I am personally grateful that this year’s Feast season comes at a time when we are finishing up our year-long round of Kingdom of God Bible Seminars. Many have told me how these seminars serve as an excellent jump-start in helping us refocus, deeply recalling why we were called in the first place: to preach the gospel and prepare a people!
The vision for the Church comes alive in activities like these, with “the whole body [of the Church] joined and knit together…working by which every part does its share” (Ephesians 4:16). While ministers may have provided the heavy lifting on the main presentation, members had the equally critical role of “being witnesses” of God’s way of life (Luke 21:13; 1 Peter 3:15). I had the privilege of speaking at the New York City Kingdom of God Bible Seminar, one of the more than 160 separate seminars being conducted in this public series. When unseasonal heavy weather came and even a rare tornado touched down near the site where the seminar was being held, it wasn’t difficult to think that opposing spiritual forces were not pleased that the gospel of the Kingdom was being carried to New York!
Despite any physical and spiritual opposition, the seminars are indeed bearing fruit. Just like in the earlier days of the Church, new people are now coming to services in many areas, and some baptisms are taking place. The total attendance and impact will be compiled in November after all of the seminars have taken place across the world. As one minister said, “People now know where we live!” God’s Church—His “called out ones”—is out in the open!
As we participate in the Feast of Tabernacles, heralding through our observance the future coming Kingdom, let us truly refresh and renew ourselves spiritually, drinking deeply of the biblical truths we will again hear and read. For some it will be the first Feast, a time of the joyous enthusiasm of the spiritual “first love” (Revelation 2:4). For others it may be the 10th, 20th, even 50th or more observance of this festival season.
Whatever milestone it is for you and wherever you observe it, keep the Feast with joy and purpose! As history records, there have been times when the early Christians were openly condemned for keeping God’s Holy Days. At least one religious leader (John Chrysostom) listed the biblical Feasts by name as late as the fourth century A.D., wrongly calling their observance by Christians some 300 years after Christ’s death a “perverse custom.” Many in this current election year have warned of the possible erosion of religious freedom in the United States, which leads us to recall the words of Christ: “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is still day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).
We still presently have the wonderful ability to meet together in peace, worship God and demonstrate His way of life, so let us seize every opportunity! Let us embrace a renewed sense of urgency and let this Feast be a time of great renewal.
In closing, please remember to ask for God’s blessing both on the speaking and the hearing during this festival. Please pray both for the inspiration of speakers and for a special blessing for those receiving the word. I also want to thank you in advance for your special offerings on the Holy Days—there remains much work to be done, and your fervent prayers and your generous offerings directly impact the scope of that work. Let us humbly remember to give cheerfully, for “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
May we all be greatly blessed during the Feast and the days ahead. We are called to a life of service and this time affords us a special opportunity to demonstrate that. Let us truly become that spiritual lamp that “gives light to all” (Matthew 5:15).
In Christ’s service,