March 29, 2012 Member Letter

March 29, 2012 Member Letter

March 29, 2012

Dear Brethren,

One of the most exciting seasons of the year is about to begin! The Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread contain such valuable lessons and spiritual direction for the people of God that we must be careful not to miss what God wants us to learn. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not understand or observe these days. It seems a dim memory, going back to 1995 when the observance of the holy days was called into question by some, which later led to the rejection of all the holy days by people who had observed them for decades! Hopefully we all learned from that experience to never take these days for granted!

Within a few days, I will be leaving for an extended trip to Africa. We have been planning this trip since last December when we were presented with “free” tickets on South African Airways. This came through the generosity of a member in the Johannesburg congregation. The total cost of my airfare from the United States to visit four African countries (South Africa, Zambia, Rwanda and Burundi) will be slightly over $200. The only costs we must pay will be the airport taxes for each leg of the trip.

Joel Meeker will meet me in Rwanda, and from there we will travel together to Burundi. This will be my first trip into French-speaking Africa. Last summer I told Mr. Meeker of my desire to visit the brethren in this part of Africa, but I didn’t know it would work out as inexpensively as it has. I plan to leave from Austin on Tuesday, April 3, and return to the U.S. the week of April 22.

I will be observing the Passover in Johannesburg, the Night to Be Much Observed and the First Day of Unleavened Bread in Zambia, the Last Day of Unleavened Bread and the Sabbath that follows in Rwanda, and spending part of the week after Unleavened Bread in Burundi. In between holy days and Sabbaths, we have Bible studies and leadership seminars scheduled. The itinerary calls for me to speak (at least officially) more than 12 times over this period. It will certainly be tiring; but having made numerous trips to Africa, I know that it will also be extremely rewarding. There is something special about being with God’s people in this part of the world. I always leave amazed by the fact that whether I am in the middle of the U.S. or somewhere in Africa the Spirit of God works in the same way among His people.

The biggest news of late is that we are now operating from our new office! It took a long time (more than 15 months from the time of our formation), but it is now a reality. We decided to furnish all nine offices in our office suite from the beginning, since we foresee the need for expansion coming quickly. The final order of furniture arrived this week, and now we are ready for any additions that will be necessary as we begin to work in a central location for the first time in our brief history.

As we were still getting settled in the office last week, we had a surprise visit from Richard Ames and his wife, Kathryn, who were in Dallas for a special service of the Living Church of God and phoned to see if they could stop by and see our offices. Clyde Kilough and I thoroughly enjoyed showing them around, talking about current events and reminiscing about days gone by. Mr. Ames was an instructor at Ambassador College in Big Sandy when the two of us were students some 40 years ago.

Since we had not seen Mr. and Mrs. Ames in several years, naturally there were questions and discussion about what happened to cause the formation of Church of God, a Worldwide Association. Later, as I reflected on our discussion, I couldn’t help but think about the lessons we have learned over the past year. Whether an experience is pleasant or sad, it always provides an opportunity for learning. Even in January of last year, when we gathered in Louisville to establish a temporary structure, one of the central discussions was about “what have we learned.” No one wants to go through the trauma that we did without learning the spiritual lessons that can be gleaned from that experience.

In reality, this is one of the important themes of Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread—learning the spiritual lessons for growth. In 1 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul was very clear about the need to approach Passover after personal examination (verse 28). Paul wasn’t asking that we do a physical examination, but rather a spiritual one. Spiritual problems that Paul identified among the Corinthians include division within the congregation, defiling of the Passover by some who were mistreating their brethren, and overindulging that took place even on Passover night. Paul states that some had actually died (verse 30) because they failed to properly discern the Lord’s body (verse 29). He also stated that we must not observe the Passover in an “unworthy manner” (verse 27).

Today, as we approach another Passover nearly 2,000 years later, it is our desire to observe this ceremony in the proper manner. We understand that each of us is personally responsible for addressing the spiritual issues in advance of that evening. We cannot wash one another’s feet, take of the bread and the wine, sing a hymn and then depart with God’s blessing if we have not first carefully examined ourselves to make certain we are observing the Passover as God commands. I truly believe that after all we have experienced in the past year, it is very important that we approach this Passover asking God to help us see the things that we individually and collectively need to learn.

One important lesson of Passover that we should learn, is that we must judge (examine) ourselves (verse 31). Of course, ultimately each and every one of us will be judged by the true Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. The Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread force us to examine our own spiritual state. In 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 we are told: “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.”

This year we are not announcing a special purpose for the offering on the First Day of Unleavened Bread as we did last year, but we hope everyone understands how special every offering is and how important it is in our worship of God. We have seven opportunities to give such offerings during the course of each year, and two of them will fall in the next two weeks. While our personal offerings are first and foremost an act of worship and obedience to God, they will certainly be used to expand the work of preaching the gospel and caring for the brethren.

I plan to write updates from my upcoming trip as I have the opportunity. I will definitely give greetings to the brethren in the countries in Africa from all the brethren. I know that Mr. Meeker often publishes a blog that everyone can read when he travels. Between the two of us, we will do our best to keep you informed about our trip.

In the meantime, I will be praying that everyone has a most meaningful Passover and positive Days of Unleavened Bread. We must continue to ask ourselves the hard questions—what does God want me to learn from the past and what does He yet want me to learn in the future. Life is a journey of learning and growing. God hasn’t finished with any of us—at least not yet!

Sincerely, your brother in Christ,

Jim Franks