April 7, 2016 Member Letter
We have now entered one of the most important times of the year. Before this month is over, we will once again observe the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Last fall when we left the Feast of Tabernacles, it seemed a long time before the next festival, but here we are, within days of the Passover. How can you make sure that this isn’t just “another” Passover?
This will be my 48th Passover. I have to ask myself, after 47 previous observances, how can I make sure I’m not on autopilot, just doing as I have always done? That goes for all of us, whether it’s our first or 50th Passover. How can we examine ourselves to see why we are doing what we are doing?
Our approach toward the Passover must include a close, personal assessment, looking deeply into our hearts to see who we really are. There are several scriptures where the word examine is used to describe this important process. In Psalm 26:2 David writes, “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my mind and my heart.” In Lamentations 3:40 we read what the nation of Judah was admonished: “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the LORD.” In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul writes, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you are disqualified.” In Galatians 6:4 Paul writes, “But let each one examine his own work.” And of course, the one scripture that connects directly with the Passover is 1 Corinthians 11:28: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
Each year for the past several years I have scheduled an annual physical examination. I have to admit that I wasn’t very good about doing this until 20 years ago. I had no physical difficulties and couldn’t see myself going to a doctor just so he could tell me I was healthy. But then, seemingly out of the blue, I began to have serious joint pain. My ankles, my knees, my elbows and my wrists hurt to the point of disabling me. After several episodes over a period of about five years, they stopped for the most part and only occasionally flared up again. The time between episodes expanded to months, then to years. I am very happy that today I am pain free and pray that the pain never returns. But that experience led me to pay more attention to my physical health and to make sure I didn’t neglect my annual physical examination.
We know that physical issues, like joint pain, heart problems and other serious diseases, can be discovered through a regular physical examination. In a similar but much more important manner, we need an annual spiritual examination prior to attending the Passover. Now this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be checking up on our spiritual condition throughout the year, but we have a clear command from Paul that we should do this before taking the Passover.
So, what should we look for in this annual spiritual examination? A good place to start would be with the characteristics of a Christian, the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit and the state of our relationship with God. In 1 Peter 2:21 we have a clear definition of a Christian: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” How well are we following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ—doing our best to think like Christ, talk like Christ and act like Christ? There is really only one standard by which we must measure ourselves, and that is Jesus Christ. Paul said it succinctly: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
We really must wake up and realize that the people of this world—Muslim, Hindu, Christian, along with people from dozens of other religions—worship a different God than the One identified in Scripture. Like all of you, I have met many good people in my life. I’ve even met a few people who didn’t consider themselves Christian at all, but from what I knew were good people. When I traveled to India with David Baker two years ago, our driver was a wonderful and kind man (from all I could tell), and he was Hindu, which means he worshipped thousands of different gods. Clearly if you worship thousands of gods, you are not worshipping the God of the Bible. But even if you worship one God, that doesn’t mean you are worshipping the true God. The fact that we profess to be Christians doesn’t make us Christians.
Nowadays when I go in for my annual physical, I study the results, looking for ways to improve my health. Our spiritual examination also requires a thorough and honest study of ourselves in comparison to Jesus Christ. We must be willing to acknowledge our shortcomings, but it doesn’t stop there. Examining the self is only the first step. It is a means to an end, but not the end itself. The goal of a physical examination is to improve our health and to catch disease at an early stage. Of and by itself, an examination doesn’t improve your health. But, if done properly, it opens our eyes to our true condition and provides a plan for overcoming.
Since this is my final letter before the Passover, I want to pass on some of the news from the office. For the first time in our history, we had over 1 million unique visitors come to our website, LifeHopeandTruth.com, for the month of March. This is quite a milestone. When we launched Life, Hope & Truth in June of 2012, that first month we had just over 5,000 unique visitors. Now, less than four years later, we have over 1 million in a single month! Quite a change!
We also surpassed all previous records for people writing to the Church. We had a 42 percent increase in responses sent from our Personal Correspondence Department in March 2016 over March 2015. We are quite excited that more and more people are coming to our websites, and many are now engaging with us, asking biblical questions, asking about the Church and, in some cases, contacting local pastors. Our booklet on the 10 Commandments has surpassed 10,000 downloads in the past year. We have plans to expand the print run for the English version of Discern to 15,000 before the end of the year.
For all of these things, we give God thanks! And that’s all the more reason for us to make sure that this isn’t just “another” Passover. There is too much work to be done!
In the next few weeks take time for your spiritual examination, then participate in the Passover on Thursday night, April 21, just after sunset. This service is followed on Friday evening by the Night to Be Much Observed and the next day by the first holy day service of the year. It is a sobering time as we go through an honest examination of ourselves, and it is also an exciting time when we can come together on these special days. I look forward to seeing some of you as I travel in the weeks ahead, but I want to wish all of you a most meaningful Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,