Ministry Comments

Begin Now to Focus on Preparing Our Hearts and Minds for the Feast

The Feast of Trumpets is on the 14th of September, less than a week away.  After that date, it always seems the next two weeks go by on hyper-speed, and we are at the opening night of the Feast of Tabernacles.  Nobody will be perfectly ready for opening night services, but if we begin now to focus on preparing our hearts and minds for the Feast, the less important things will not ruin our Feast.

Few in this world have the understanding of God’s plan of salvation for all mankind.  You do, or you wouldn’t be preparing to go to this virtually unknown “conference”.  Appreciate the fact that you are a part of that little flock to which God has given the understanding of the great events ahead (Luke 12:32).  Here are some approaches that will help you prepare for this year’s Feast.

When that cynical attitude pops into your head, “I have heard it all before”, squash it.  How many Feasts have you been to?  Thirty maybe forty?  If you have been to this many, you are not a spring chicken.  So when was the last time you couldn’t remember where you left your glasses, bill fold, or your memory?  Scientists tell us you probably have forgotten a good part of what you have heard in past years.  Here is an interesting quote:

“Things that live in memory have no visible means of support.”  In other words you don’t have a page to look at.  It’s lodged in your brain but there is nothing visual you can refer to.  That is why repetition is important for helping you remember.

Start now in doing your part to pray for the speakers so that their sermons will be inspired.  Include in your prayers that you will be ready to listen to the messages.  If you prepare your heart for the messages and ask God to inspire the men, you will learn something new, renew something you may have forgotten, or you will have a piece of precious understanding you have clung to over the years renewed with greater clarity.

Prepare yourself to be with the greatest number of God’s people in attendance since last year’s Feast.  That means there will be more of God’s Spirit in one place than any time in the past year.  Be prepared to take advantage of fellowshipping with like minded people.  Use this time to support your spiritual family.  Share your experiences of God working in your life and listen to your brethrens’ spiritual lessons.  Doing so will strengthen everyone.  By true fellowship we can contribute greatly to the spiritual strength of all who attend.  In turn you will be strengthened.

In the past I have heard the statement that you learn by doing.  We are to learn to fear God by the doing of his Commandment of attending the Feast.  This reference to fear means to have unlimited respect for God and for the truth that the Feast represents about the Kingdom of God.  This reference to learning to fear God by keeping his Feasts is unique in God’s word.  Innumerable scriptures tell us to learn to fear God.  However, the Feast of Tabernacles is the only reference to learning to fear God directly connected to a specific time of year.  This teaches us to view these eight days, more than any other time of the year, as the ultimate opportunity to rehearse God’s plan for all mankind and for us individually.

The Feast is just a short time away, so prepare your heart and mind to receive this blessing of eight days being where God has placed his name.

Suicide in America is a Growing Tragedy

If current statistics are correct, suicide in America is a growing tragedy. A basic reason is that humans find it hard when society is constantly shifting its moral values. When it seems there is no justice in this world, life becomes confusing and for some impossible.

God is not the author of confusion. In the book of James we find out where this confusion comes from:

James 3:13-16: “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.”

This society has adopted an entire culture that is self-seeking to the point of calling all the evil imaginings of the mind good. And if one dare counter those imaginings, he or she is then considered bad. Thus evil can be considered good and those who oppose evil bad. Such times can cause so much confusion for some that they look for a way of escape, and all too often, suicide is their only means of finding peace.

Have you known someone who has chosen this means of escape? Unfortunately, I have had two encounters with it, and both were very sad events.

The first happened when I was 38. A friend of mine who lived in the Midwest called me one evening from out of the blue. I had not spoken with him for many years. He had been a good friend of mine in high school. I found his call a bit odd, but overall it was an enjoyable experience renewing this former acquaintance. As I found out later, he had also called others of our mutual acquaintance. We ended the call, and not long after, he ended his life.

The second was a young man raised by parents who were members of the church. He himself had not become a member. He had come along on some of our annual backpack trips into the Sierras. He was a healthy young man and seemed to be living a reasonably decent life. He was only 23 at the time.

One evening he called me. He seemed to want to reminisce about the good times we had on those trips into the mountains. He told me he had some pictures of our backpack trips and wanted to send some to me. I told him I would be happy to receive them. We hung up the phone, and within 24 hours of that conversation he violently took his own life.

Let’s imagine the terrible moment when these two decided they could no longer bare living in this world. By their own hands they determined they were through trying to make life work for them, and obviously burrowing deep into hopelessness, they ended their lives. Why?

The hardest thing about suicide is trying to make sense of it. Unless a note is left there is no telling why it happens, and relatives and friends suffer a great deal of anguish and even guilt over such a loss. While suicide may temporarily solve the victim’s problems, it only compounds the problems of those left behind, and thus can do immeasurable damage.

Most who have committed suicide in this world don’t know or don’t believe what we in the church know to be true. We know that to kill, even ourselves, is a breach of God’s law; and a true Christian cannot make such a choice, no matter how intensely his or her mind is suffering. We also know there is a resurrection waiting, even for those who clearly display they have no desire to live any longer.

When those who have committed suicide are raised from their graves, they will no doubt be shocked, and possibly believe their effort to end their lives had not succeeded. Fortunately, God will give them a second chance at life, and in the kingdom of God they will discover the true meaning of life and find the help they could not find in this present evil world. They will also be away from that evil one who broadcasts depression, hopelessness, and despair to all who will open their minds to his negative and thoroughly evil broadcasting.

But for those in the Church today, there is a very positive help when our lives fall into the trough of despair. God’s spirit is there to lift us up. We are comforted and guided by scriptures like the ones below:

II Thessalonians 2:15-17: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work.”

Hebrews 4:14-16: “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

With God’s plan there is hope for even the most desperate among us, and that’s some more good news we can look forward to seeing fulfilled when Christ returns.

Eating the Unleavened Bread Reminds Us We Need To Strive For Humility

This morning I came across a scripture that seems very appropriate for this weeks’s Minister’s Commentary.  I will paraphrase it for you here.  It is found in Psalms 131:1:

“Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty, neither do I exercise my mind in matters too great for me” (or are none of my business).

During my sermon last Sabbath I asked that when we go through this week of Unleavened Bread, each time you take a bite of an unleavened cracker or bread and hear the crunch that comes from biting into something hard, you think about being puffed up.  My intention was to get you to use this exercise to focus on the difference between our own human nature that is “puffed up” and the “unleavened” nature of Christ typified by humility and summed up as sincerity and truth.  Eating the unleavened bread reminds us we need to strive for humility, because we know that pride and arrogance only lead to sin.

The Bible states there are some benefits that come from putting humility in and thus forcing arrogance out.  Here are a few:

  1. Proverbs 22:4, Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth, honor and life.
  2. James 4:10,  Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up.
  3. Psalms 149:4, The Lord takes delight in His people, He crowns the humble with salvation.

Those scriptures offer up some very significant things that we, as humans, greatly desire.  But doesn’t it strike you as strange these are the very things that bring out the worst in people.  Yes, the desire for wealth, honor and even the good life motivate people to do the worst of things to others, even crushing them, in order to obtain for ourselves.  Yet, God offers them to us freely if we only “hear that crunch” when we bite into our unleavened cracker and remember we are to strive for humility in our lives.  What a world of difference God’s ways are from the ways of this present evil world.

On the last day of this festival we will once again picture ourselves with toes dangling over the edge of the Red Sea, contemplating our need for deliverance from the Pharaoh of this world who is forever riding down on our backs.  God’s people often feel that need very strongly this time of year, as it seems the ruler of this world delights in bringing problems into our lives that make the lessons of this week very real.  Our tendency may be to take matters into our own hands and rid ourselves of these situations we find so troublesome.  Yet God wants us to turn to him with a humble heart and seek his deliverance.  He wants to open the way to us that takes us in the right direction, out of our troubles.

So let’s learn the lesson of unleavened bread.  Forsake arrogance and pride and let Christ’s mind be in you as you seek more of his humble spirit, reaping the benefits God wants to give to each and every one of us.