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February 2021 Member Letter

February 4, 2021

Dear Brethren,

On the Roman calendar we began a new year on the first of January, but I have to admit, January 2021 didn’t look much different from the previous year when considering the state of the world. In fact, we saw some events in January that we had not seen in 2020, and they weren’t good. In January the COVID-19 virus was on the increase in most countries. In the United States, after a contentious election, we inaugurated a new president with armed National Guard troops and barbed wire surrounding the U.S. Capitol. It was a picture that most would expect to see in a developing country or one torn apart by civil war, but not in the United States.

The events in our nation’s capital city on Jan. 6 illustrated the deep divide that exists in this country. A violent mob broke into the Capitol of the United States, a country that presents itself as an example to the rest of the world of how elections and the transfer of power should occur. It is still hard to gauge how serious the threat to the government really was, but the symbolism of people, some dressed in outlandish costumes, breaking windows and damaging the furnishings in the House of Representatives and Senate a few days before an inauguration was deeply distressing. It sent shock waves around the world. Instead of being an example of the peaceful transfer of power from one leader to another, the U.S. found itself the object of international ridicule.

As a church, we must be very clear in what we say and what we write. In the United States, we can blame Democrats, or Republicans, or former President Trump, or current President Biden, but that doesn’t help in our understanding of the origin of such hatred and violence. In searching for the answer, we need look no further than our calling. When God called us, we faced a dilemma—how to separate from this world while still living in this world. Through our calling, we learned what was wrong with this world, and we were convinced that the true source of division, anger and destruction lies in the spirit world, springing from the adversary, Satan himself. He is the true cause of deception, confusion and violence. Certainly, human beings are willing participants, but the origin of this type of thinking and conduct is embodied in the works of the one who is unwittingly worshipped as the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

James spoke of the contrast between God’s way and that of “envy and self-seeking” in James 3:13-17: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:33 that God is not the author of confusion. So who is the author? Satan is called the father of lies and “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). He spoke “the lie” to Adam and Eve when he told them they would not surely die, but that they would become like God to know good and evil if they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:4-5). Thus, a series of events was set in motion, triggered by Satan’s deception of Eve and Adam’s willingness to follow, that has only become worse and more destructive in our day, 6,000 years beyond the Garden of Eden.

Satan is called the destroyer and the deceiver (Revelation 9:11; 12:9). We are warned to come out of this world that we not partake of its sins (Revelation 18:4; 2 Corinthians 6:17). Christ, in His model prayer, instructs us to pray daily that we be delivered “from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9-13).

What can man do in the face of this powerful and evil spirit being? In 2 Chronicles 7:14 we have the only clear solution for evil. It was spoken by God shortly after the dedication of the temple built by Solomon: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Repentance and change of heart and attitude are capable of thwarting Satan’s efforts to destroy, but in our day it is hard to imagine an entire nation turning from its sins.

In the New Testament Christ offered the same solution for evil when He introduced the gospel message, but His focus was on the individual rather than a nation. “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15). 

Both of these messages focus on repentance, a true change of life, as the real remedy for evil. With only a few national exceptions recorded in human history, repentance is shown to be a personal act. While we would rejoice to see our nation or any nation kneel, renounce sinful behavior and commit to change, there is no indication that this will happen. And there are reasons for that. Today we live in a nation and a world that has no clear knowledge of sin and, therefore, no true understanding of repentance. When we consider a world that worships on the wrong day, if at all, and kills unborn children by the millions, we must conclude that when it comes to God and religion, the world has lost its way. Society today opposes the truth revealed by Scripture, replacing it with a pluralistic approach toward religion, human relations, human sexuality and even gender. Rather than seeking contact with the true God, the world has determined to worship its own carnal desires, while expecting good results. This simply won’t happen.

As Christians who must give an account before God (1 Peter 4:17), we must regularly assess where we stand individually, and we must renew our repentance, while holding tightly to the truth we have received. We dare not be entangled in this world. To eliminate confusion, division, violence and deception in our own lives, we must commit to the only element of value, the truth of God; and we must conduct our lives according to that truth while avoiding the compromises this world and its politics try to force on us. Only when Christ returns, will nations actually repent. Today, the number of those being called and repenting is few, but each is very important to God. This is why we must come out of this world, recognizing its ruler as the true author of confusion, division, violence and deception.

In Genesis 2 we read of the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, each depicting a very different spiritual choice. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ also spoke of two ways or paths, each with a different entry gate—one is broad and leads to destruction and the other is narrow and leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14). As we look ahead to this year’s Passover, we should ask ourselves how far we, as those called out of this world, have advanced through the narrow gate and down the path that leads to the Kingdom of God and away from the chaos that afflicts the world. This is no time to look back or become discouraged by the pitiful conditions in the world. Even though the way is described as narrow and difficult, it is the right choice and the only real hope for the future.

Each year on Passover night we relive, through symbols, the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Many in the world speak about the death of Christ, but so few understand that it is only the beginning of God’s plan of salvation and our own personal spiritual journey. It is the narrow gate that will lead us to eternal life. Let’s begin preparing now for a meaningful and inspiring Passover, as we travel through the narrow gate and difficult way together.

Sincerely, your brother in Christ,

Jim Franks

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