|US Foreign Policy Worse Than Ever Before! (Standing Watch) |
(15 min. video)
Egypt in the Rear View Mirror (Sabbath Meditations)
know the story. The Israelites were in brutal bondage to the Egyptians, forced to
slave day after day in the mud pits and fields to make bricks for the
Pharoah’s building projects. Year after year they had called out to the
Eternal for deliverance and year after year there was no answer.
Finally, after many years of toil and hardship, through an amazing
sequence of miraculous events, God delivered the Israelites from
They weren’t more than a few weeks on the road out of Egypt
when they began to staring into the rear view mirror, lamenting the life
they had left behind. “We remember the fish we ate freely in Egypt,”
they exclaimed, “the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and
the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all
except this manna before our eyes!” (Num.11:5)
Their whining always
seemed kind of ridiculous to me. How could people who had been so
downtrodden desire to go back to that life? Well, the answer to that
question became a little clearer when I started a new job, and suddenly
their whining, although definitely wrong, didn’t seem quite so
ridiculous any more.
It was a job that promised great opportunities
for growth and development. It would allow me to work from home a couple
of days a week, saving commute time and increasing the precious time
I’d be able to spend with my family. My wife actually found the job
listing, because she had sensed that I was growing weary and frustrated
at my current job and knew I was somewhat a square peg in a round hole
there. I had held on for quite a while, hoping things would turn around,
that I would find my niche. But year after year, I just became more and
more unhappy. So when the offer came, after long consideration, I
accepted the position.
About mid-way through my first week at this
new job a funny thing began to happen. I began to miss my old job. The
office I had there was much bigger than my new space. The computer
equipment wasn’t as nice. I was informed that, because of a deadline
that had to be met by the end of October, I might have to work overtime
for which, because I was now salaried, I wouldn’t receive any extra
compensation. To top it all off, there seemed to be more traffic
congestion on my commute to work than I had experienced before.
the face of these new obstacles, the problems and frustrations I
experienced at my old job faded from memory, and mid week I was feeling
like I had made a big mistake ... that is until my wife, upon listening
to my distressed whining that Wednesday evening, lovingly reminded me of
all of the reasons I had made the change. Thanks to her, and some time
in prayer and reflection, I realized that these new obstacles were in
fact minor compared to the benefits and opportunities this new job
offered. I was now more confident than ever that I made the right move.
I spent only a day or so in distress over this crisis. Some people
spend a great deal of their lives looking back at Egypt in the rear view
mirror, lamenting over a life that could have been, should have been,
had different decisions been made. It’s a strange kind of slavery to
which they subject themselves.
Paul says in Hebrews 12:1, “let us lay
aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us
run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
That’s advice the Israelites would have done well to follow and advice that we need to be reminded of from time to time as well.
race car driver who spends all of his time looking in the mirror is not
going to win many races. While we’re on this road of life, we would do
better to look ahead at where God is taking us, focusing on the hope for
the future rather than looking back lamenting about what we have left
behind.I finished that week much more upbeat than I had been on
Wednesday. I still missed my old office, but it’s worth sacrificing for
the chance to work in my pajamas a couple days. More important than that
though is that I’m now looking through the windshield instead of what’s
in the rear view mirror.
My Trip to Myanmar (Lacee Hilgen, Volunteer Instructor Legacy Institute)
am at the end of my Thailand adventure. It has totally been an
adventure, but I can truly call Thailand my home. I adore it. I not only
adore the beauty and the culture. But I adore the home that I found at
Legacy with the Thai and Burmese students, along with Leon, Gloria and
the Legacy staff. I am thankful that I have been able to teach a few
important lessons to my students, but I am even more thankful for the
daily lessons they have taught me. I can write a novel on the lessons,
experiences, struggles and memories I now have and I do not want to dumb
down the fact that Legacy has been the best experience of my life. I
never want to take away from my time spent there, but I do want to
mention how extraordinary my time in Myanmar/Burma has been, even though
it has been 2 short weeks.
In Thailand my perspective was
drastically changed. Coming from America we have literally everything!
In Mae Rim, where I have lived this year, I still have everything. It’s
not as fancy as good ole America and it took some getting used to, but I
still lived in a world of comfort ... even if the world of comfort took
a few months to get used to.
Spending 2 weeks here in Myanmar has
drastically changed my perspective again. I never thought that would
happen. I thought I had learned all that God had intended for me to
learn on this trip and these last 2 weeks my mind has been opened even
more. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, and again I don’t want to
take away from my months spent in Thailand, but these 2 weeks have
totally been an icing on the cake or a piece of ‘unleavened’ humble pie
as I so cleverly like to call it.
I have heard from my students about
their families and friends in Myanmar. I have heard their stories about
having to be separated from family because of the war in their country,
of having to up and leave their home and have to live in a refugee camp
or having to live in the jungle for quite a while. I have heard about
hard times that come in that country and now I stand on the soil and get
to see a tiny bit of what they have talked about. I see the poverty
even in our church. OUR church. God’s church! They are our brothers and
sisters in Christ and they don’t have much, let me tell you. We are
filthy rich kings and queens to them. It is true. We really are.
was very humbled and quite emotional on my Passover night spent with
these people. As Leon gave the Passover ceremony, I thought about the
oneness that Christ taught, and how he got down on his knees and humbly
washed his disciple’s feet. How they were ALL truly one at that moment!
Even though Jesus was JESUS! He is a King and He was washing His
servants’ feet. Are you kidding me? That is true humility. That is true
service. That is true brotherly love. And I sat with 20-25 people who
could hardly understand me, but we all were taking part in something so
special. We all have God’s spirit and we all understand the narrow path
we have to walk. We all understand that life is super hard and we need
to follow Christ’s example despite the difficulties. We are one despite
our color, our height, our language, our wealth, or culture. I was
overcome with such emotion that God can call people in the middle of
nowhere and that they love God just as much as I do. And the best part?
God loves them just as much as you or me. It was so incredible.
amazing moment was the fact that our feet were filthy. I had a dirt
line on the top of my feet and I wasn’t even embarrassed. If I was home
in America, I would have washed my feet before the foot washing to make
sure they were extra clean. Instead I willingly put my dirty feet in
that bowl to the lucky winner and let my feet get humbly washed. The
water was not clear ... it was muddy and gross and it made me so happy!
Talk about an authentic foot washing!
To put into perspective, our
brethren over here live in homes that are the size of our small living
room, kitchen, or master bathroom. They don’t have beds, they sleep on
bamboo. They don’t have AC when it’s 105 degrees. They have to get their
water from a well and bathe in a river. They have to walk to church in
the hot sun and they also do all this with a smile. What would we do if
we had to do that on a daily basis?
Due to the outpouring love we
receive from donations, the student pastor in Myanmar, Sang Aung, has
been able to install lights powered by our generator and fans in the
church home and church hall itself. He also was able to gather a team
and hand dig a 52 foot deep well that is now fully functional for all
members and villagers to use. Before that there was no electricity or
fans in church (and let me tell you, I would be a melted pool of sweat
if the fans weren’t in the church hall) and also they had to walk a much
farther distance to a well not on the church compound. These are all
amazing blessings and it’s because of you.
Being here for 2 weeks I
now understand how crucial these donations and prayers are. Not just for
our brethren to experience a more efficient life, but also so they can
have enough food for their children. So that they can feel free to take
their children to the hospital when they are sick. So that we can
support God’s servants here, so they can take care of their family as
well as God’s family. These people need our help and our support. They
need our prayers and our love. I am forever blessed to be here and to
have been a part of their lives for just 2 weeks. My life changed the
moment I walked to their village, saw the many children running around
barefoot with huge grins on their faces, and when I witnessed the joy
and thankfulness that 3 foreigners took time out of their lives to come
and visit them and get to know them. I will never forget my experience
here and I pray one day I can return, but until then, I ask for prayers
for these people, prayers for their health and their safety, prayers for
their unity and oneness, and also prayers for Leon and Gloria who run
Legacy and the church over here because, without their diligence to God,
there may not even be a church here.
Take Your Time Returning to the Leavening (First Century Christianity)
out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in
fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.
Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the
leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of
sincerity and truth.
(1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
Most often, people who
believe like this use this verse to show others that our festival
observance is absolutely part of the New Covenant. There really can’t be
any doubt of this, since Paul made such a casual reference to observing
the festival to the church at Corinth. I want to point out something a
little different with this verse. Let’s focus on being a new lump.
the Festival of Unleavened bread shows us a cycle of renewal. In days
of old, people did not have access to yeast and refrigerators as we do
today. They made their bread from starter lumps of dough. This is dough
that was allowed to become leavened naturally, by sitting in a window
sill. When they wanted to make a new batch of bread, they had to take a
pinch off of the starter lump and knead it into the fresh dough to cause
the fresh dough to rise. When the Hebrews threw out all their
leavening, it took a while to get a starter lump going again. This is
what Paul is referencing here metaphorically. The Corinthians had become
a new lump when they accepted Messiah, and then began to observe the
commandments, just like they had to start a new lump of dough after
observing the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
In our day, we simply go
to the store to return to consuming leavening. Most of us will do this
after the sun goes down at the end of the Sabbath, or perhaps on Sunday. We will have fulfilled the literal observance of Unleavened Bread,
and this is a wonderful thing. But I want to focus on the spiritual
Let us go forward this year and not be in a rush to become
leavened again. We have spent the time to purge our houses of the
leavening and had set-apart assemblies, but we also spent quality time
during this period unleavening our souls. We have heard sermons about
how our Messiah paid the ultimate sacrifice to allow us to be adopted
into His family. Let’s make sure that we remember this sacrifice daily
and weekly as we go back into the world and fulfill our mission to be
let the light of Messiah shine in us.
A Little Leaven (Morning Companion)
the New York State shores of Lake Erie are some of the finest
winemaking facilities in the world. To my personal taste neither
California nor France can hold a glass against the quality that comes
from the vineyards of New York.
I had the fortunate
experience of spending my first two years of college in the middle of
that winemaking area and came to know the local beverages well. I
even tried my hand at making my own. On the excuse that making wine
is a wonderful way to get extra credit, I obtained some simple
equipment from the chemistry lab. I then concocted a mixture of
ingredients that included the perfect proportion of grape juice and
Winemaking requires a chemical reaction that
changes sugar into alcohol. In the natural world, yeast spores gather
on the grapeskins, and when the grapes are crushed, the spores mingle
with the juice and a natural fermentation begins. That’s just the
nature of things; yeast spores permeate our environment and they
infect everything from wine to sour dough to allergic reactions.
my little chemistry experiment (for extra credit, of course), my
bottle of pasteurized grape juice was devoid of natural yeast spores,
so I added a bit of baker’s yeast to my concoction and assembled my
apparatus. In a month or so I had two very palatable bottles of red
My Funk and Wagnalls describes fermentation as
“chemical changes in organic substances produced by the action of
enzymes”, and I am able to vouch that my wine was chemically
different from the grape juice I started with, and it was all started
with just a few grams of yeast. To mix metaphors with James, “Behold
how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” Or, mixing metaphors
with Paul, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” or in my
case, two fifths.
When Paul mentioned the leaven issue to the
Corinthians, he was using leaven as a metaphor for a certain
egregious sin that had infected their church. Their failure to deal
with the couple involved was infecting their entire church, just as
leavening grows and spreads and chemically changes whatever it
Paul chose an appropriate illustration in using the
example of yeast to describe how sin operates. Just as yeast changes
the nature of what it touches, so does sin change what it touches.
Unless the people purged themselves of sin, they would become
something other than what they were. In the case of Corinth, their
church had already changed drastically, and not for the better. (I
And just as yeast spores are everywhere, so are
the seeds of sin.
At the end of the fermentation process, the
juice develops a high enough alcohol content that it kills the yeast
spores and the fermentation stops. Death is a part of the process,
and the yeast spores bring it upon themselves. That’s the same way
sin works. “Each is tempted when he is drawn away by his own
desires and is enticed. Then when desire is conceived, it gives birth
to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown brings forth death.” (James
As it turned out, I got no credit in chemistry
class for my little experiment, but the project had a reward of its
own. The wine itself was gladly consumed, but that wasn’t the real
reward. I believe the world around us speaks of the truth of God. In
observing how yeast works, I had a better understanding of how sin
works, and I determined not to let the process of corruption change
me, and instead to purge out the leaven in my life. Sadly, I’m
still purging, but happily, the blood of the Lamb, the wine that is
wine indeed, purges the unwanted yeast from our lives and sets us on
a course anew.
Understanding the Night to be Much Observed (Children of God)
and the Night to be Much Observed have deep spiritual meaning for us.
What happened on those two days and what does it mean for the Church
brethren today? Passover commemorates the sacrifice of the Lamb of God
and the death of Jesus Christ, while the Night to be Much Observed
commemorates Israel’s exodus from Egypt. These two observances are
closely tied together. In Genesis 14 and 15 we find events which
prefigure Passover and the Night to be Much Observed. The Bread and Wine
that Melchizedek brought to Abram were symbols of the New Covenant!
‘Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and He was the priest of the Most High God’. (Genesis 14:18)
bread and wine were symbols which prophetically pointed to Jesus Christ
and His sacrifice. Melchizedek brought forth this bread and wine on
Passover at the beginning of the 14th of Abib at the same time of day
that Jesus instituted the New Covenant bread and wine.
Abram and his offspring, with an incontrovertible oath, that he would
become a great nation - Abraham himself being a father of many nations
(Genesis 12:2,7; Galatians 3:16; Genesis 17:5). The problem in Abram’s
mind, being advanced in age, was that he yet remained childless. Abram
asked God for some reassurance.
‘After these things the word of the
Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy
shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” And Abram said, “Lord God, what
wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless ... Behold, to me thou hast
given no seed.” And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying …
“he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine
heir.” And He brought him forth abroad, and said, “Look now toward
heaven, and count the stars, if thou be able to number them:” and he
said unto him, “So shall thy seed be”.’ (Genesis 15:1-5)
took place during the night portion of the 14th of Abib. When Abram
asked for a sign from the Lord that he would indeed inherit the land and
children, the Lord had him prepare a very special Covenant Sacrifice on
‘And [Abram] said, “Lord God, whereby shall I know
that I shall inherit it?” And he said unto him, “Take me an heifer of
three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three
years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he took unto him
all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one
against another: but the birds divided he not.’ (Genesis 15:8-10)
as this Passover Day comes to an end, we come to the Night to be Much
Observed [before it is called that]. It is the night portion of the
First Day of Unleavened Bread. As the 15th of Abib began, Abram fell
into deep coma-like trance, as the Lord prophesied to him of things to
befall his children (Genesis 15:12-16). Then in the dark of night, the
Lord gave Abram the sign he had requested:
‘And it came to pass,
that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace,
and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day
the Lord made a covenant with Abram.’ (Genesis 15:17-18, Hebrews
What Abraham saw was like a bright blast furnace - a
brilliant shaft of light that passed through the sacrifice! Jesus
Christ made a very emphatic point of passing through the pieces of the
Sacrificial Covenant. This was an oath by God Himself - this was the
Covenant Sacrifice. The smoking furnace, and a burning lamp - that was
Jesus Christ - the God of the Old Testament passing between those
pieces. God, Himself, passes between the pieces of the Sacrificial
Covenant - that is, He makes and enters into the unilateral covenant
that only He can bring to pass.
Jesus said in effect, “I will give my
life to bring this covenant to fruition.” Jesus stood in the breach and
said, “I will shed my blood and die, as these dead animals at my feet,
to pay the price of the broken covenant.” Jesus, in passing between the
pieces of the sacrifice, prophesied His own death - in order to bring
all men to salvation. Jump ahead exactly four hundred and thirty years
after this Covenant Sacrifice was witnessed by Abram:
sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four
hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four
hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that
all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a Night
to be Much Observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land
of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:40-42)
We, brethren, gained our victory over
sin on the exact selfsame day - it marks our point of salvation - our
victory over bondage and over death as Jesus was laid in the tomb just
as The Night to be Much Observed began.
Divided Kingdoms (New Horizons)
of the Gospels record these words of Jesus: ‘if a kingdom is divided
against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided
against itself, that house cannot stand’ (Mark 3:24-25). It’s a
statement borne out by the facts; for we see nations torn apart by civil
war, and we see families ripped asunder by strife.
Sadly it is, too,
a fact of life within the world’s religions. The various Islamic sects
in the past - and even now, today - are at each others’ throats,
sometimes literally. In Christianity denominations arise and over time
divide as internal factions arise. History tells us that the latter has
at times resulted in hot wars between branches of their faith.
a fact of life that this division has infected our Sabbatarian
churches. There have been splits - often amicable. But a few factions
act as attack-dogs regarding the ethical or doctrinal stance of other
groups - even to the extent of branding them as unchristian, and ‘headed
for the Tribulation’. Or, ‘damned to destruction’ and may ‘lose eternal
It is worth recalling the letters Jesus wrote to the seven
individual churches in Asia Minor (Revelation 2-3). Despite their clear
heretical tendencies in some, Jesus still recognizes each of them as his
church, though in need of a clean-up. Critics fail to note that Jesus
is the Head of the Body, and that he alone judges - and, when necessary,
corrects his church. Or removes them.
It is true that the ethos of
any one congregation affects everyone in it - Laodicea is a prime
example. A whole assembly - indeed a whole world-wide denomination - can
depart the ‘faith once for all delivered’ by the apostles.
however, is personal, and individual Christians within a failing
assembly may well remain as humble servants of the Saviour, despite what
comes from the pulpit (Revelation 3:20)! The Father deals with each of
us personally, lovingly (though it might hurt! Hebrews 12:5-8),
shepherding us towards the formation in us the image, the holy
character, of Jesus. After all, He chose us to serve Him throughout
eternity. We are not ‘yellow pencils’!
The New Testament pattern for
organization of the church was that each individual assembly was
autonomous, independent - rather, inter-dependent. They were not tied to
the strings of a denominational label - but simply addressed as ‘the
church of God in [location]’. They worked together, not in competition.
local assemblies welcomed visiting teachers - but carefully weighed
their message. They initiated country-wide evangelistic outreach. They
supported needy brethren in distant assemblies, and emulated their
faith. They saw to the material needs of roaming apostles and
evangelists, and provided prayer support. They shared written
communications from authentic recognized leaders. Above all they were in
tune with the Head through the leading of his Spirit (eg Acts 13:2).
Revelation letters also indicate diversity of doctrine and behaviour
(good and bad!) in individual assemblies. But note that, within each of
those assemblies taken to task by Jesus, there were faithful brethren who
resisted the negative influences.
Unity, then, is not subservience
to a unitary remote and uncaring headquarters. It is a unity of spirit, a
shared desire to work together to further the work of the Gospel of
Christ and the spiritual nourishment of the saints to Christ-like
maturity. A divided kingdom won’t last.
‘Free Speech’ - for Good or Evil? (OzWitness)
Australian Prime Minister, in a speech on National Security, warned that the counter terrorism challenge
evident in Australia and across Europe and in the USA is a terrible fact
of life which faces all our governments. Essentially, he said that in
the need to counter violent extremism we had, in the past, given
terrorists the benefit of the doubt, let them take advantage of our
hospitality and generosity, let bad people use our good nature against
us, and they have taken us for mugs. He continued, that organisations
that spread discord and division and those that vilify, intimidate or
incite hatred or violence against innocents, will no longer be
It is good to hear such a stand against evil, but therein
lies a problem. Today we have lost sight of the difference between good
Isaiah 5:20, ‘How terrible it will be for those who call
evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for
darkness, who substitute what is bitter for what is sweet and what is
sweet for what is bitter!”
Consequently, there is a danger that those
who speak out the truth about evil, could find themselves accused of
vilifying or inciting hatred, unless the laws are framed to protect
those whose plain speaking actually seeks only peace, and the removal of
those who seek to take advantage of our freedoms to attack our way of
It is an undeniable fact, for example, that Islam is a big
source of trouble worldwide. It is found behind almost all terrorism.
Muslims apparently cannot live peacefully side by side with others of
differing religions without strife, unlike any of the other religions.
Islam leads to oppression or strife wherever it is found, which is why
Muslims flee to non-Muslim lands. Almost all terrorist organisations
worldwide are Islamic.
Could a crackdown on vilification prevent this
truth being stated? Muslims could say it inspires hatred to speak this
truth, but the truth should be admitted even if it is not politically
Zechariah 8:16, ‘These are the things you are to do: Speak
the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your
The truth is that Muslim extremists have taken advantage of
the West’s ‘free speech’ to incite hatred and violence within our lands,
because we have forgotten to apply the guidance of God’s laws when we
frame the laws of our lands regarding what is permissible in speech.
4:31, ‘Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil
speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.’
If we would do that
and allow for the truth when we frame the new laws that the Australian
Prime Minister has mooted, the condemnation of Islam’s encouragement to
violence against non-Muslims could not be claimed to be vilification
because it is both true and without malice to those who seek only peace.