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US Foreign Policy Worse Than Ever Before! (Standing Watch)
(15
min. video)

Egypt in the Rear View Mirror (Sabbath Meditations)
You 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 bondage.
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.
In 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.
Now 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.
A 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)
I 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.
I 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.
Another 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)

Clean 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.
Observing 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 application.

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)

Along 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 sugar water.
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.
In 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 wine.
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 infects.
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 Corinthians 5)
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 1:14-15 NKJV)
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)

Passover 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)
The 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.
God promised 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)
This vision 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 Passover Day.
‘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)
Then 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 6:13-14)
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:
“Now the 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)

Three 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.
It is 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 life’.

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.
Salvation, 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.
Individual 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).
Those 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)

The 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 tolerated.
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 and evil’.
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 life.
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 correct.
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 courts.’
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.
Ephesians 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.