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» Forward: Following Christ's Example of Love, Humility and Service by Dennis Luker

» Servants Now and in God's Kingdom by Dennis Luker

» Encouragement From the Ministry Hope For Unbelieving Loved Ones by Melvin Rhodes

 


Forward: Following Christ's Example of Love, Humility and Service!

An article by Dennis Luker

In order to be successful in our calling as God's people, we must continue to grow in following the example of Jesus Christ.

In order to be successful in our calling as God’s people, we must continue to grow in following the example of Jesus Christ. God the Father sent Him to be the Savior of the world (1 John:4:14) and to set the example of how we are to live our lives.

Jesus said to His disciples, “For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you,” and He added, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them” (John:13:15, 17). Peter wrote, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter:2:21). And John added, “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did” (1 John:2:6). Paul understood this and said, “Follow me as I also follow Christ” (1 Corinthians:11:1).

Let’s look at the example that Jesus Christ set for us to follow. And remember that we cannot do this on our own strength. Christ will live His life in us by the power of the Holy Spirit, as we submit ourselves to Him.

First is Christ’s amazing example of godly love.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command” (John:15:12-14). He not only loved His friends, but also His enemies: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew:5:44-45). His love is so great that He died for friend and foe alike. May we follow that example!

Next, consider His attitude of humility.

Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does...By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me” (John:5:19, 30). Christ was totally yielded to the will of His Father. He completely humbled Himself and remained faithful in doing His Father’s will all the way to His death: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a Man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8, NIV). May we also follow that example!

Also, consider Christ’s example of service to others.

Jesus said of Himself, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew:20:28). And that’s exactly what He did—serve others and give His life for them—setting an example for us to follow. That is why, at the May General Conference of Elders, we chose the theme, “Serve as Christ Serves.” We in the ministry want to become better servants by following Christ’s example. Please pray for us!

Finally, I want to mention that we will be emphasizing and striving to practice Christ-like service at every level within the United Church of God.

This is for every member, as well as the ministers.

God will help us to finish the Work He has given us to do if we will follow Christ’s example of love, humility and service!


Servants Now and in God's Kingdom

An article by Dennis Luker

What must we learn today in order to become Servants in God's Kingdom -- tomorrow.

Jesus Christ was the greatest servant who ever lived, and He set the example that we are to follow. Remember what He said to His disciples when they were concerned about "position" in His Kingdom: "But Jesus called them to Himself and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many'" (Matthew:20:25-28).

He came "to serve, and to give His life," first as a living sacrifice and then as the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind. Are we willing to follow His example, in the sense of being humble in attitude with a serving heart? I believe the answer is yes, for those of you in God's Church who are motivated by His Spirit of love for others. Many of you are longtime, faithful, humble servants of Jesus Christ. Thank you for following Christ's example!

Here is how Paul expressed it: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." (Philippians 2:5-8).

When Christ returns to establish His Kingdom on earth, we know that we shall be serving under Him as "priests of God" (Revelation:20:6). We will have the opportunity to teach and model God's law and way of life, which will bring peace and happiness to all nations. We will have the power and authority to discipline in love when that is necessary (Revelation:2:26-27).

But first, we must learn now how to yield our hearts and minds to God and become more like Jesus Christ, His Son, every day of our lives. Paul was inspired to express it this way: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians:2:20).

And Paul added, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

Jesus Christ put it this way: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (John:15:4-5).

Brethren, let us yield our lives to God and let Jesus Christ live in us so that we can be His servants, now and in His soon-coming Kingdom!


Encouragement From the Ministry Hope For Unbelieving Loved Ones

An article by Melvin Rhodes

Unexpectedly, I spent the first few days of January in England, in my hometown of Grimsby, which is in the north of the country on the east coast. I had received word early Sunday morning, December 27, that my father had died suddenly and unexpectedly-if you can say that the death of anybody aged 75 is unexpected. I had accompanied both my parents in early September of 1998 on a bus tour of central Europe. At that time my father had seemed healthy and alert. I expected him to live for a few more years. But it was not to be.

He woke up with a pain in his leg, which then spread to his abdomen. He went to lie down. Within minutes, he was gone. It had been so many years since he had seen a doctor that at first the family physician would not give him a death certificate and wanted to do a post-mortem. He changed his mind when he looked at my father's medical history. He had had two heart attacks in 1986. All indications were that this was a third and fatal heart attack.

Dealing With Painful News

Dad was not a religious man. In fact, he was very much against all forms of religion, especially the Christian kind. He had been a lifelong committed atheistic communist, dismissing religion as "the opium of the masses," using the words of Karl Marx, founder of modern scientific communism. The statement is much discredited today but seemingly the guiding light to the future as recently as twenty years ago.

When my brother called to tell me the news, he said that my mother did not want me to go over for the funeral. She considered it an unnecessary expense. If my father had been sick she would have seen the sense in my going over to see him, but to spend hundreds of dollars on a plane fare to attend a funeral seemed a waste to her. But I wanted to go. I needed to go. I also wanted to officiate at his funeral, with my mother's consent. I couldn't bear the thought of some generic minister getting up there who didn't know him, talking about dad going to heaven when he never believed in the place nor would he have wanted to be there if he did. He couldn't stand to be around sanctimonious "religious people," "psalm singers" as he often called them. He certainly would not have wanted to be sentenced to eternity in heaven with them.

The earliest flight I could get to England was New Year's Eve, when nobody wants to fly. Most of the people on board were Asians who celebrate New Years at different times to people in the western world. The British Airways staff tried to create a party atmosphere for the 60 people on board, bringing out champagne as soon as we embarked in Detroit, Michigan, and even doing the conga for us down the isles. In spite of all this, I am not tempted to fly on New Years Eve again this year, with all the uncertainty surrounding Y2K!

Making Funeral Arrangements

When I arrived in Grimsby, I called the funeral director to discuss arrangements with him. My mother had chosen to have my father cremated, which is more common in England than burial. The crematorium only allows 20 minutes for each service, with only ten minutes available for all the people attending a funeral to leave the facility before the next party comes in. Every thirty minutes they hold a funeral. I felt like I was on some sort of assembly line. The speed at which families have to say goodbye to their loved ones gives little time for anybody to think about the meaning of death and the hope of eternal life. Perhaps that's the way most people want it in post-Christian England, where only three percent of the people attend church with any regularity.

My brother and his wife wanted to sing "The Lord's My Shepherd" at the funeral. Their daughter, my niece Judith, had written a poem about granddad, which she wanted to read. All this was to be a part of our allotted twenty minutes. Included also was the actual walk into the hall as the family slowly followed my father's coffin. My mother had also requested that the hymn "The God of Love My Shepherd Is," be sung prior to my speaking. So, I ended up with about ten minutes for my message. What can you say about your father in ten minutes?

Except for my brother, David, who has been associated with the churches of God for about twenty years, nobody else in the family, immediate or extended, has any religion. None has ever read a Bible. I have four brothers. All of them know that I am a church pastor and know some of our beliefs. An additional challenge was that a number of old family friends, not seen for thirty years, from the Methodist church were there. I used to be a Methodist. In fact, as I was coming into the Church of God in the mid-sixties, our local Methodist minister had told me that he felt I was being called into the Methodist ministry and would I consider it. Well, I am a minister but in the United Church of God.

What To Say?

I decided to be honest and open about dad, which is the way he always wanted it to be. He felt no shame or embarrassment about not having a religion. To the contrary, he was proud of the fact. Religion, in his mind, was for "weak people who needed a crutch to lean on." So I began by saying that he had no religious beliefs and always ridiculed the idea of going to heaven.

I then went on to show that in this respect he was biblically quite sound-that we don't go to heaven when we die. In that brief ten minutes of time I read from Ezekiel:18:4 showing that the soul is not immortal; Ecclesiastes:9:5, "the dead know not anything;" John:3:13 "No man has ascended into heaven;" and Acts:2:34, "David has not ascended in to the heavens." But then I asked the question: "Does this mean that we will not see dad again?"

Quoting from 1 Corinthians:15:19, I continued: "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of those that slept.... For as in Adam, all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming."

They that are Christ's. But what about everybody else, the vast majority of people who, like my dad, never knew Christ? What about them? Second Peter 3:9 tells us that God "is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." These are very encouraging words for those who lose loved ones who have not believed.

Revelation:20:4-6 puts it all together for us, with a little help from the Old Testament. This passage in the book of Revelation takes us forward in time to the 1,000-year rule of Jesus Christ, the Millennium, that follows His return. At the beginning of the one thousand years, those who are Christ's (1 Corinthians:15:23) are resurrected to rule with Him, to sit on thrones with Him (Revelation:20:4). This resurrection is to eternal life. Verse 6 goes on to say: "Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."

...And You Shall Live

We learn from this that there is a second death for some. This means that there must be a second life, a second physical life similar to this one. If there weren't, there could be no second death. Verse five helps us understand this: "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished." Who are the rest of the dead? By definition it must be those who are not Christ's, those who never knew Jesus Christ or never knew Him well enough to accept Him as their personal Savior, through whom one can receive eternal life. Verse five ends by describing the resurrection to eternal life of those in Christ as "the first resurrection." These words show that there is a second, subsequent resurrection for those who were not "in Christ." Upon these, the second death does have power, so it is a resurrection to a physical existence.

It is described in more detail in Ezekiel 37. Here Ezekiel describes a vision where he was projected into the future into a valley full of dry bones, of the skeletons of people who were long since dead. Verses five and six follow: "Thus says the Lord God unto these ones, Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live. And I will lay sinews [muscles] upon you, and will bring flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord."

Could it be any clearer? Here is a prophesied resurrection to a second physical existence. If it weren't physical, there would be no need for muscles, skin and breath. Spirit beings given eternal life don't need these. Only physical human beings do. Then we see clearly that once God has put these dead people back together, they have the opportunity to "know that [He] is the Lord." This is their opportunity for salvation. This is my father's opportunity for eternal life.

Don't Lose Sight of the Future

I intend to be there when he wakes up, one thousand years after my resurrection to an eternal spirit existence as one of those who is "in Christ," one thousand years during which we have the opportunity to transform this world into a perfect world ruling with Jesus Christ in the kingdom of God. One thousand years is not too long a time to wait, especially when you are a spirit being and a part of God's spiritual family. Second Peter 3:8 tells us that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Time will simply fly by when we are working with Jesus Christ to prepare the world for the second resurrection, the biggest resurrection in terms of numbers, as most people in the world today and throughout history are not "in Christ."

What a glorious future we have to look forward to. Trying to encourage people through a time of great persecution, the Apostle Paul pointed the Thessalonians to the hope of the resurrection in each of the five chapters of his first epistle to them. After describing the first resurrection towards the end of chapter four, the apostle adds the following words in verse 18: "Therefore comfort one another with these words."

What a comfort it is to know the truth of God, that God "is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter:3:9) and (as many other verses indicate), receive eternal life-including my father, and yours, and everybody else's.

Through all the confusion within the churches of God during the last few years, many have lost their understanding of God's plan of salvation, of the fact that our great God is offering every single individual who has ever lived an opportunity to be in His family. Sometimes we can get so worked up about problems in the church and so disgruntled over things that have happened in the past that we can lose sight of the precious truths that God has revealed to us.

Let's not lose sight of the goal of God's kingdom. Let's all strive to make sure that we are in that first resurrection, ready to welcome our unbelieving loved ones in the second. UN


 

   
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