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Obama's Birthplace -  Why It Still Matters! (Standing Watch) 10

Fools Professing to be Wise (Morning Companion)

A screwed up place, the Middle East is, where Muslims are killing Muslims, the White House is supporting Saudis, who are attacking Iranian proxies, but are supporting the Iranian proxies against Sunni terrorists in Iraq.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is doing all it can to delegitimize its strongest and most loyal ally in the region, Israel, while giving away the store to the terrorist state of Iran whose habitual chant is “Death to America.”
This is all a reminder of what we read in Paul’s letter to the Romans. The followers of Christ in the capital of a godless empire could see daily the Byzantine antics of despots in action, and they no doubt knew what Paul was describing when he wrote about “godlessness”, “unrighteousness” and “those who suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).
They knew what Paul meant when he called their thinking “nonsense” and their senseless minds “darkened”, and how, “claiming to be wise, they became fools.” They knew what he meant when he said that God had delivered them to their own lusts, degrading themselves and even applauding those who practice such things.
Maybe, as some have posited, the strategy of supporting both sides in the Middle East while marginalizing Israel is a clever way of keeping terrorists occupied in killing each other off. Others say there is no strategy at all, and whatever the U.S. is doing there is based on the expediency of the moment.
Indeed there is an instance recorded in 1 Chronicles 30 where, in the days of King Jehoshaphat, the people of Judah were besieged by a coalition of enemies, but in the end the enemies turned their swords on each other. Some do see a parallel here.
But there is another parallel event that happened not too many years ago. When Neville Chamberlain returned to London waving a piece of paper with Herr Hitler’s autograph on it and proclaiming “peace in our time”, his vision of peace was not how we might envision peace. Chamberlain had ulterior motives. Knowing that Hitler, like the Tories in Britain, despised Stalin’s Bolsheviks, he was attempting to push Hitler closer geographically to Russia in the hope that they would declare war on each other and kill each other off. Imagine his consternation when Hitler signed a non-aggression pact with Stalin that contain secret protocols dividing eastern Europe between them and then, with his eastern flank secure, attacked westward.
Whether U.S. foreign policy is a reflection of incompetence or subterfuge -- or both -- it seems to be an instance of fools professing to be wise, with their foolishness either a product or a cause of reprobate minds.

Potato Salad and Other Reasons to go to Church (Sabbath Meditations)

I’ve been thinking a lot about this thing we call church lately.
Why do we go to church anyway? After all, it’s sometimes a lot to put up with, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, there are the good things, the things we enjoy. But, there’s also a lot of stuff we could just do without, isn’t there? There’s the couple with the crying baby that can’t seem to get the concept of a mother’s room; there’s the deacon who fools everyone with his show of piety, when you know full well he’s anything but that during the week; there’s the well-meaning elder who, bless his heart, couldn’t give a cohesive sermon to save his life; and then there’s the monthly church potluck, an event filled with culinary land-mines of runny jello, meat dishes of questionable origin and potato salad teetering a little too close to the edge of rancidity for comfort. The list could go on and on ... the gossip, the posturing, the power trips, the hypocrisy. All of this and more begs the question, “Is it all really worth it?” Wouldn’t it be easier just to stay in our own world, carry on our own private Bible study, our own personal worship service, have our own private religion between just us and God? You have to admit, sometimes it would be a lot less of a hassle, wouldn’t it? So, why do we do this church thing anyway?
Well, there’s the obvious answer. God says do it. There’s that pesky little scripture that tells us, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.” But why?
My sister called me the other day. There’s a handful of States separating us physically and we’re both not that great at phone conversation so, when she called me, after several months of not hearing from her, I knew something important was on her mind. She had stopped attending church as a teenager sometime back in the early 80s, ditching it along with pretty much everything else having to do with religion in favor of going out to ‘find herself’. Now, twenty or so years later she realizes that she had, in fact, left a very huge and important part of who she was behind. She asked me a lot of questions during the course of our conversation, but they could all pretty much could be summed up as: “How can I find my way back?”
There were so many things I could have told her. I could have explained the importance of repentance and faith. I could have encouraged her to get into her Bible and get on her knees. But that’s not what I led with. Not that she doesn’t need, at some point, to do these things. She does. I just didn’t feel it was where she needed to start. So, what did I encourage her to do? Get to church.
Sure she could have studied on her own, prayed on her own, been nourished in her faith on her own, but that is just not how God wants us to walk in relationship with Him ... on our own. He wants us to be connected to others, to be in an environment where we can support, encourage and carry one another’s burdens, and yes, put up with one another’s imperfections and baggage. It’s all part of the package.
In the western world we are conditioned to believe in the ‘pull yourself up by your own boot straps’ mentality. We embrace the ideal of ‘rugged individualism’. We are a very individualistic centered society. It’s so easy to bring that mentality into our walk with God. The problem is God really isn’t all that into the ‘individual’. In His word, there just isn’t a whole lot of focus on the ‘me’, the ‘I’ of our faith. Rather, the focus throughout is on the ‘we’, the ‘us’, the community of believers. Yes, we come to Him individually in repentance and faith, yes, we are individually restored to a relationship with Him. But, after having been individually restored, we then lay down our lives, our individual identities, and are placed into a community of believers, into the body as it pleases Him.
Hebrews 8:10, quoting Jeremiah, says, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Ephesians 2:19-22 tells us, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
We are His ‘people’ (plural). We are ‘fellow’ (not individual) citizens. We are ‘members (plural) of the household of God’. We are ‘fitted together’. We are being ‘built together (not separately)’.
Not much gets built if the bricks are all scattered around doing their own thing.
The bottom line is, as I expressed to my sister, God doesn’t want our faith to be about only ‘my’ walk and ‘my’ relationship with Him. He wants our walk of faith to be outward, focused on the ‘us’, ‘our’ walk together. He wants us to get outside of ourselves and get connected to the body. Serving each other, encouraging one another, building one another up, and collectively witnessing and ministering to a world that desperately needs it.
I told my sister that I would pray that God would continue to work in her heart to return her to that community some day. Yes, she’ll be returning to some hassles. There will always be hypocrisy. There will be one or two annoying ‘super’ deacons. It’s sure she’ll hear the occasional boring sermon. And, unfortunately, the need to keep a keen eye out for rancid potato salad will never go away. But all of those hassles pale in comparison to the sense of shared purpose and community that doing this life together will bring her.
As we said our goodbyes and I hung up the phone, it hit me what a blessing it is to be there already. Hmm ... I wonder what the mystery meat will be this Sabbath.

Famine of the Word (Legacy Institute
The world is changing rapidly. We know that someday there will be a famine of the word. Amos 8:11-12 says: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.”
It is a crime in Canada to talk about what God says about homosexuality in the Bible. How long before preachers and televangelists start being imprisoned for so-called “hate speech”? The LGBT and atheist lobbies are gaining in strength daily and any mention of God or Jesus as an important part of the fabric of our Western society is targeted. God must be removed, they say!
A recent PEW research survey shows that an alarming number of Americans are just giving up on God. “Half of Americans who have left their church no longer believe in God, leading a surge of nearly one quarter of the nation who have no affiliation with any religion, according to a new survey.”
For those who have stopped looking for the Word of God, a famine of the Word will not affect them—that is, until they realize they need God and start to seek out those who are preaching and teaching His Holy Word.
Will they find Him? Not if the media, internet and other public forums are all controlled by those who want to erase God out or our Western consciousness.
This famine will affect the whole world, not just the U.S.A. All of us involved in preaching the Gospel to the whole world must step up our efforts to make the Word of God available to many, many more who thirst for the Truth.
It is getting more and more difficult to bring young people from Burma here to Thailand to prepare them to return home and preach the Gospel. Satan always uses governments to squelch the true Gospel message, even if those governments do not even know they are being used as tools of Satan. Satan is the god of this world, never forget!
Legacy cannot and will not stop preaching and teaching the word of God. There is much more work to be done. We may just have to do it in a different way. One door closes and another opens.

Suspended and Disfellowshipped (Children of God)

There is a strange phenomenon that is an entrenched part of the culture of the Church.  This trend existed to some degree for those of us who were a part of the Worldwide Church of God organization. Surprisingly, today, with the Church widely scattered, there remains a good sized segment of the brethren who are fearful of being “put out” of the Church.

Sadly, it is not the lawbreakers or heretics who are afraid of being rejected, marked or disfellowshipped, it is the truth-seekers who are trying to find other true believers who have not let down and become lukewarm. These concerned brethren with valid questions are the ones most likely to arouse the ire of controlling ministers, who suspect them of rebellion against their organization. There is something inherently wrong with the membership being controlled and restrained by the means of fear tactics.

We find the Biblical practices of suspension, and marking in the Scriptures. The questions we should understand are these: When is someone supposed to be suspended; and what is supposed to be achieved by putting a member out of the congregation like this? What would cause a person to be marked or disfellowshipped? Those who are living Christian lives should never be afraid of asking questions or standing for the truth.

There is nothing to fear. Those who have been disfellowshipped from corporate organizations for political reasons have not been removed from the Body of Christ. We were warned by Jesus Christ that we would be disfellowshipped – but woe to the perpetrators of those offenses.

Jesus said: These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be scandalized. They shall put you out of the synagogues [meeting places]: yes, the time comes, that whosoever kills you will think that he does God a service.” (John 16:1-2)

Things are topsy-turvy in God’s Church in these last days. Instead of the corporations or colleges being the sole repository of right doctrine – it has fallen to the faithful brethren to also be defenders of the truth. It is often the dedicated brethren who are standing in the gap for doctrinal purity.

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude :3)

God tells us in both the Old and New Testaments to be a holy people:

Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)

It is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)

Being “holy” means that we should each be set apart from sin and uncleanness. We are supposed to be a Godly people. When a member is engaging in sin, he becomes unholy, and should not come among the faithful brethren. The Scriptures do not instruct us to disfellowship a brother or sister in this case, but to suspend their contact with the faithful brethren until such time as they repent of their ongoing sinfulness.

The Corinthian congregation was not mature or well developed spiritually. One of Paul’s most important responsibilities before God was to promote the spiritual growth and development of the Church congregations that he pastored. In this epistle, Paul did not address this problem on account of the immoral man, or his father, whom he had so grievously wronged (Leviticus 18:8). Paul’s purpose in writing was for the welfare of the congregation – for the care of the congregation – to enable them to spiritually mature to the point of handling their problems themselves.

Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his [the sinner] cause that had done the wrong, nor for his [the father] cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you [the congregation] in the sight of God might appear unto you.” (2 Corinthians 7:12)

Paul had told the congregation to handle the problem with the fornicating sinner themselves – by putting him outsuspending him until he repented.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 5:4-5)

On the other hand, had the sin involved been heresy, Paul would have handled the situation differently. When someone has gone off doctrinally and seeks to spread heretical doctrine among the brethren, the much more stringent measure of disfellowshippment is called for. The church does not condemn people – but people do condemn themselves.

A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; [shun that person] Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” (Titus 3:10-11)

After two clear warnings and Scriptural admonitions, Paul brought a matter before the entire Church – to protect the flock. When we follow the Scriptures – we are under God’s authority. If we handle things contrary to the Scriptures – we have departed from God’s authority.

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note [mark] that man, [distinguish] and have no company with him [disfellowship], that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14)

A faithful minister will not let loyalty to an organization, or to another man, nor any ulterior motive influence his judgment when dealing with a member of the Body of Christ. Too many ministers have thrown around disfellowshippments like a gunfight of wild cowboys at OK corral. They cause the brethren to believe that these very serious matters are handled in a haphazard way – which they never should be.

When someone must be suspended or disfellowshipped there must be ample evidence and witnesses who attest to the sinful behavior on the part of the sinner that warrants the appropriate action. Fasting, prayer and counseling with every warning and admonition must be a part of the process. It is reconciliation to the greater Body of Christ that is of the highest priority. Only after a person is apprised of the sinful and erroneous conduct and given opportunity to correct it, should the disciplinary action be taken for the purpose of preserving the holiness of the congregation.

Life is Good (First Century Christianity)
Oftentimes we look around and only see the strife in the world and the contention in the assemblies that believe like us. There is one sure fire way to cheer oneself up and have a positive attitude, and that’s to refuse to participate in the doom and the gloom.
“Thus says YHVH of hosts, the Elohim of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. ‘Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. ‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to YHVH on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ (Jeremiah 29:4-7)

Today, as we are being called out of Babylon, while we continue to live in Babylon, this verse applies to us as well. The exiles were hauled off to a pagan land and were commanded to do what? Have lives. Relax, plant some gardens, get married, have kids. Live their lives. Why were they commanded to do this? Because YHVH has a plan. They could relax, because the days of their captivity were numbered before there was one of them. To show their faith that He would deliver them back to the land, they had to simply live their lives. We are to do this as well.
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14-16)
- and -
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:10-18)
We are to live our lives. We are to live them within the structure of Torah as shown to us by the New Testament writings, but we are to enjoy life. Sure, we are to repent, study, learn, and do charitable works, but we are also to enjoy the fruits of our labor and our spouses and our children as well.
As we prepare to observe the fall festival of the Most High, let’s take some time to reflect on the blessings we have been granted. Do you have an assembly to attend, whether small or large? Then rejoice in it! Do you have a believing spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend? Then rejoice in that blessing! Do you have children? Are they healthy? Then rejoice! Do you have a job that allows you to observe the Sabbath and Holy Days? Then rejoice! Do you have a job at all that provides for your material subsistence? Rejoice! Do you have a place to lay your head and food in the refrigerator? Then rejoice! Do you have any friends that you can count on? Rejoice. Do you have friends in the faith? Rejoice greatly!

Take time to enjoy life. Take time to thank the Creator and His Messiah for the blessings you have. Build houses and live in them. Get married. Start a family. And trust that, when it’s time to go wherever we’re to go in His Name, that He’ll let us know – just like He did for the exiles.

What Makes It Moral? (New Horizons)

Nothing can of itself always be labelled as ‘wrong’” Bishop Robinson

From the pen of an Anglican Bishop that might sound strange. It could, though, be argued that war isn’t always wrong’. Perhaps that it isn’t always wrong to steal - to eat, for example (Exodus 22:3-4). What of abortion - always ‘wrong’? Growing up I was warned about playing cards - the ‘devil’s cards’. For others it’s dancing, or alcohol, or co-habitation, or deviant sexual relationships, or war, or drugs. We all have our list!

But may we not be permitted to claim that serial murder is indeed ‘always wrong’? Or, the molesting of a small child? Or the gross neglect of the disabled or the elderly? Or criminal activity as an occupation?

The modern consensus is that anything goes, that if it doesn’t bother you, then do it. And unless it seriously impinges on someone’s ‘rights’, then the Law isn’t bothered.

There are, of course, consequences. That last statement concerning law enforcement brings to mind the sage comment of wise King Solomon: ‘Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. (Ecclesiastes 8:11) Hence repeat offenders.

But that’s not all. Getting away with murder generates a laissez-faire attitude to violence, from street crime to further violence and more murder. A blind eye to rape begets more sexual violence. A casual attitude to the killing of the unborn undermines respect for life in every age group. The growing menace of sexually transmitted disease and infertility stems from the blasé attitude to sexual promiscuity of all kinds from serial co-habitation, to adultery, to same-sex relation-ships. (Witness the devastation wreaked by divorce.)

Such consequences affect everyone and are not the sole province of the ‘religious’. Atheists and humanists will experience the same consequences! And when they analyze human behaviour, they must quickly reach the same conclusion - that standards are essential for a stable society.

We don’t, then, have to wheel out the Bible to say ‘be good’. Moral standards are writ large on the canvas of human experience and are obvious to anyone who thinks carefully about them. The Bible, however, puts these standards (morals) into the context of the sole purpose for life. The Creator formed mankind as the raw material which He could shape into beings who would reflect His character, become truly His children - for eternity. Those who embraced His ‘standards’ would become part of His Spirit Family - the Kingdom of God.

He formulated the planet and its resources to perfectly supply every need to sustain us. The health of our physical, psychological and spiritual needs depends on our observance of those in-built laws of life - true morality. Transgress those Laws and we experience adverse consequences.

The degree to which a society voluntarily adheres to such standards determines its vitality, its success as a nation. Ditch them and ultimately oblivion awaits. The pattern of rise and fall set by ancient Israel is a red flag of warning for all nations - especially those spiritually nourished by the Christian Scriptures.

God’s protective hedge is uprooted as a consequence of our rejection of the laws of life.

Science Catches Up! (OzWitness)

Have you noticed that scientists recently have begun to discover that more long held ‘unscientific’ beliefs which they had scoffed at, have been discovered to be true after all? Today in one newspaper was the news that ‘mother was right after all’. You’ll catch a cold if you don’t put on a coat in winter! Scientists have long claimed that coughs and colds are not caused by a drop in temperature but more likely by warm stuffy rooms where he cold virus can spread more easily, though now thy have recognized that our immune systems work better when we are kept warm with coat and scarf!

Another ‘new’ discovery mentioned in today’s news is that whole milk may actually help to reduce blood pressure because it apparently contains high levels of nitric oxide, which widens blood vessels, and this improves blood flow to the heart. That information joins other recent news that full cream milk is better for us than half cream milk, and even that butter may be better for us than vegetable oil margarine.

Actually, I would not be surprised if that were true. Years ago I had a recurring problem like King Henry the Eighth. Gout in my big toe! Every year I would get an attack and have to hobble about with an unbending toe until someone told me about cherries. OK, so it was unscientific, but apparently several cherries each day keeps the gout away (By the way, I don’t drink much wine or alcohol!). I tried it, and the gout disappeared, never to return. Any cherries will do – tinned, fresh or bottled – only a few each day and goodbye gout!

That information can point us to another source of ‘unscientific’ information that we can refer to for even more authoritative health guidance. The Bible. The Bible is the handbook the Creator provided with His product – us. You may not realize it but it contains a great deal of advice on how to live long, and stay healthy.

Sometimes, it is simply promises – keep this commandment and you will live long e.g. Exodus 20:12“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

Sometimes it is guidance on which foods are designed to be good for us to eat, and which bad, and elsewhere we are advised on which behavior and attitude will help our mental state to remain healthy and avoid psychosomatic illness. Also, God incidentally mentions things that His people eat, and food which some shared with God Himself, when He has appeared on earth. Food like fish, whole grains, meat, milk, butter, honey, which in that way gain God’s stamp of approval.

So, yes, as the years go by, more and more of the Bible’s teaching is being shown to be true after all. You can be in there in advance of science, and enjoy the health benefits before science catches up. Just study the Bible! Joshua 1:8  ‘Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.’