Dear Brethren and Friends,
Most of you who are reading this are aware that my beloved wife of 36 years, Sheryl Ann Meredith, died last November. The hurt and the emptiness in our home, and in my life, continues. I loved her dearly. But the loss certainly focuses my mind on the soon-coming resurrection from the dead. That is the hope of all Christians—as the Bible makes very clear.
God never promises to give us eternal life in this human flesh. And the vast majority of human beings nowadays—except for people who are killed in an accident or die at childbirth, etc.—die between age 65 and 85. So, it is not strange that some of our brethren may die just a few years before 70 years of age—as did my dear wife. Nevertheless, the deep love that we develop for a spouse or another family member results in a terrible void when they are taken from us. Yes, I am still hurting. But the wonderful help and encouragement that I am receiving from my family and the brethren around the world has certainly helped.
Brethren, the outpouring of love and encouragement from our Church family around the world has been of immense help and inspiration to me. I have received more than 200 emails and cards from all over the world—and they are still coming. I can feel the love and respect of the brethren—which I greatly appreciate. So many of the brethren have stated—as did this recent card from Auckland, New Zealand: “We believe your belief in the power and comfort of our Father will strengthen you. Thank you for your labor of love for God, His Work and His people over the years.”
So many, many brethren have taken the occasion of my wife’s death to encourage me by thanking me for “reviving” the Work at a difficult time after the Worldwide Church of God abandoned the Truth. And, as I stated in my December 2013 co-worker letter, Sheryl was a tremendous help to me in reviving the Work, as she typed all my early articles and booklets, answered the phones, and helped bring along many hundreds of people as they were coming with us. I will never forget this, and will always appreciate the wonderful help that she was for 36 years.
So, dear brethren, thank you all very much for your cards and emails and for your prayers and encouragement. Thank you so much! I trust that you all realize that I simply cannot answer every one of the hundreds of messages or cards received during this difficult time. So many people sent cards, letters, flowers, books and various types of papers and “get well” information that it is simply impossible to answer every one. Please understand that during the days of trauma and sadness when Sheryl was dying, I simply did not—at age 83—keep up properly with all that was happening. So I did not keep exact records of such details as who sent which flowers or other things.
Even so, having our entire Church “family” respond so lovingly and thoughtfully was a wonderful encouragement. It helped me realize even more fully the depth of love and unity we have in the Living Church of God and it helped me focus on how important it is that we continue to build the “family spirit” in the Church. Even as I write this, we are sending relief to many of our dear brethren in the Philippines who recently experienced the wrath of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck a few weeks ago. Even now, we are finally getting fully organized a “disaster relief” team that can quickly respond to such tragedies around the world. Even now, we have just started an “Outreach” program in our Headquarters congregation as a first step toward more actively reaching out to the sick, the elderly and those in need in our communities—both people in God’s Church and outside of the Church. For we are instructed by our God: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9–10).
Even though we cannot possibly feed and clothe and house every destitute person on earth, we can and should try to assist our own brethren all over the world—and also, when possible, others closer and known to us to show that we are true Christians who do care and who do want to “make a difference” as best we can with our limited resources. Yes, we know—and know that we know—that in Jesus Christ’s soon-coming Kingdom we will be able to completely eradicate the horrendous problems of poverty, starvation, sickness and lawlessness. But, meanwhile—as a “witness”—we should do our best to conform to the standard of a true “giver” as described by Christ: “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’” (Matthew 25:34–36).
Dear brethren, let us all remember and meditate on the vivid example Jesus Christ gave of the “family” spirit He wants us all to have toward one another. When He was teaching His disciples—who were obviously interested in learning—and one came telling Him that His mother and brothers were outside seeking to speak to Him, Jesus answered, “‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:48–50).
So, Jesus Christ Himself feels deeply that there must be a genuine family spirit that we all have toward one another in His true Church. He tells us that we are His mother and His “brothers.” God Himself—as He revealed Himself in the human flesh through Jesus—indicates that it is this attitude that we need to have toward one another in His true Church. So let us respond! We all ought to do everything we can to welcome new people into the Church: invite them over for dinner if we can, or take them out, try to phone them, write them notes of encouragement, give them help in moving in and moving out of a different home, help them when they are sick, and do everything we can to help and encourage all the people in God’s Church as if they were our own family. For, as Jesus indicated, they are our family through the Spirit of God dwelling within them and making us “one” in God!
The Apostle Paul was inspired to describe this feeling, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:26–27).
When the Apostle Paul was seeing the Ephesian elders for what he felt might be the last time, he told them, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship” (Acts 20:35–38). Both Jesus and Paul constantly told us, in effect, to be “givers”—to be those kind of people who are constantly helping, serving and giving to others of their substance, and of their love, concern and encouragement.
Notice also that when Paul was leaving the Ephesians, they knelt down and prayed together and “wept freely” and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him. This certainly indicates the depth of personal closeness and outflowing love that Paul and the brethren had for one another.
In the months and years to come, brethren, I want us all to realize more fully that the time of terrible persecution is growing closer and closer. We will really need to help and encourage one another. We will really need to deeply appreciate one another in the midst of a dark and perverse world. For this world hates the way of God, and you will begin to realize this more and more as this Work grows in power and the world turns on us because we preach the Truth.
At such a time, if we have already built a deep feeling of family within God’s Church—if we have already built a network of friends and brethren who are like “family”—then the hard times just ahead will be made much easier. We will need to visit one another in prison. We will need to help and encourage one another in sickness, in trials and persecution. With God’s help, we will be faithful to the end and make it into God’s Kingdom.
But, before that, we will learn the truth of this inspired warning: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified” (1 Peter 4:12–14).
Knowing that such trials are sure to come, we really must develop a great closeness to God and Christ through constant prayer, meditation and study, and we must try to build a genuine “family spirit” within God’s Church. This will give us the additional help and encouragement that comes through God working in each of us to provide that extra encouragement and help and fellowship which is so encouraging. We are all human, and need that kind of help so often in trials and tests that will surely be coming upon us at the end of this age. Let us pray fervently that God will give us that kind of love, that kind of spirit and that kind of practice within the Living Church of God.
With Christian love,