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ChurchRight Current Issue: February 2021 - March 2021

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Focus on Jesus?

The rallying cry of the Church of God (Seventh Day) United States and Canada is “Focus on Jesus and follow His plan.” But what does it mean to focus on Jesus?

It means to fix our attention on His identity. He is our Creator (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). He is our Lord and Savior (Philippians 2:11; Luke 2:11) and the long-awaited Messiah (John 4:25, 26). He is the One to whom has been given “All authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18, NASB throughout). He is Immanuel, God with us (1:23). To focus on Jesus, we must remember who He is. When He says, “Love one another; just as I have loved you” (John 13:34), it’s not a suggestion; it’s a command.

To focus on Jesus, we must follow His example. Jesus came as a servant and as a sacrifice (Mark 10:45). He set aside His position and power for the sake of others (Philippians 2:3-8). He endured interruptions and resistance and betrayals. He faced every temptation any of us face, yet He did not sin in word or deed or thought or attitude (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus’ example is one of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, 23). Anytime our words, deeds, thoughts, or attitudes are not marked by those attributes, we fail to focus on Jesus.

We must not look to anyone or anything else other than Jesus. If we fix our eyes on the world and the things of the world, we lose sight of Jesus. However, if we focus on commandment-keeping or on proving ourselves correct or others incorrect, we fail to keep our eyes where they need to be.

A steadfast focus on our Lord will lead us to being and doing everything He desires for us. A steadfast focus on anyone or anything else will lead us away from Him because we’re replacing Him. It’s worth asking ourselves, “On what are my thoughts and conversations and Bible studies really focused?”

I encourage you, focus on Jesus.

United example

Area 3 hosted a Super Sabbath November 20-21 through our social media platforms. Speaking on the theme “Unity in Christ,” Elders Noe Reyes, Chip Hinds, and Daniel Flores urged the Church to be united in our example so that the next generation can reflect Jesus’ reign in their lives. The Houston area worship team led us into God’s presence during both days, and Moises Capetillo translated all the sermons.

Rising up

On December 11-12, the district held its last Super Sabbath of the year, hosted by Area 1. Elders Calvin Burrell, Ramon Ruiz, and Ricardo Mendez encouraged the Church to wake up and rise up during this time of tribulation and build bridges of reconciliation to the lost. The theme “Let Us Rise Up and Build” is God’s vision for years to come.

Adapting in Albuquerque

Not everything about the current pandemic has been negative. The Church of God (Seventh Day) in Albuquerque, like many churches worldwide, has learned to adapt and innovate as we continue to worship. The pandemic has forced us to close many worship centers, but the center of our worship, Jesus, continues to visit those who glorify the name of our almighty God.

God has helped us improve our inter-communication. Our commitment to fasting and praying deepens, and the worship to our Lord and Shepherd continues regardless of current limitations.

In March 2020, places of worship in our state could no longer be allowed to assemble in large groups. Our church took that as a challenge to ensure that families would continue to fight the good fight, socially separate, but be united as a body of Christ.

We have endured by carrying out a number of projects, such as a continuous “fasting chain,” church-wide prayer time, Bible studies, midweek virtual service, and a greeting parade, with signs of encouragement for each member’s house and prayer for the families.

When the cold of winter pains a tree, it may seem that the tree has lost the battle. Its leaves are gone. However, during the winter, that tree digs its roots deeper into the ground in search of scarce water. When spring returns, it comes to life, more robust than before, its roots fixed in the soil.

In the same way, we as a church can and must allow this winter to take its course. However, we must not ignore the opportunity to dig deeper into the ground. When spring comes, may God allow us to be stronger churches because while we worshipped, we seized the opportunity to adapt and innovate.

SWORD retreat

 The Wonder Worship Getaway SWORD retreat took place December 17-20 at Pineywoods Camp in Texas. Brother David Vasquez spoke on “Wisdom in Creation,” and on Saturday night brother Ruben Alonso Jr. finished with the theme message. Around 75 attendees learned about the wonders that God has provided for us.

Central District News

Contributors: Ken Lawson, superintendent, and
Samara Harvey

The Well: Serving Others

In February 2016, the Marion, Iowa church held its first food pantry and clothes closet giveaway. The church had been hosting a clothing giveaway since 2012. Upon hearing about the opportunity to become a food pantry as well, members of the church jumped at the chance.

God’s hand has been working through this ministry ever since. It started out as a small operation, but it has grown. Just this year, volunteers at the pantry obtained articles of incorporation, and now the pantry and clothes closet are officially a nonprofit organization known as The Well.

In years past, the pantry and clothes closet were held at the same time within the church’s fellowship hall. Due to the pandemic, a drive-through system has been instituted in order to reduce contact and keep the pantry open during these trying times.

The week before Thanksgiving, a record number of households (220, representing 718 individuals) were served by the pantry. The rise in numbers speaks to the hardship many are experiencing during this time.

Though we wish there wasn’t an increased demand, we are grateful God’s grace and provision have allowed the Marion church to serve so many who are struggling. To date, The Well has distributed over 1.8 million pounds of food to eastern Iowans, and hopes to continue this impactful ministry for many years to come.

COVID Care

Elder Oscar Mata, pastor in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, works long hours as a COVID-19 hospital chaplain. He is pictured here with Jose David Pineda, a longtime resident in Sioux Falls. In April 2020, the firm Jose worked for became a hot spot for the pandemic, and Jose became infected. He fought the virus for four difficult months.

The medical staff recommended withdrawing life support, sure that Jose did not have a chance to survive. But through much prayer, God performed a miracle. Jose is out of the hospital and recovering at home. He still needs oxygen support, but he is active in his faith. Jose is one of the many pandemic patients Oscar Mata ministers to as chaplain. He is now Jose’s pastor.

Denver Staff Transitions

The first quarter of 2021 is bringing two significant transitions to our Denver office staff.

First, Elder Eddie Villalba has recently announced his retirement from his positions as pastor of the Aurora, Colorado congregation and as office/facilities manager of our General Conference office. Elder Villalba has served in these roles since late 2015, but he has worked there in one capacity or another for almost twenty years. We wish Elder Villalba and his wife, Socorro, God’s very best in their new home, El Paso, Texas.

Second, Christopher Idemmili, head of the General Conference IT department, is getting married and moving to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Chris will continue tolead the department, but his departure means we need to hire a junior IT specialist. This person will serve within the Denver office to maintain our in-house network, computers, servers, etc., and to address other related tasks.

We are actively looking for capable individuals who may fill these roles in Denver. Email offices@cog7.org with the subject line “Career Opportunities” to learn more. Please reply by March 15, 2021.

GC Convention 2021

News has likely found its way to you regarding Convention ’21, but confirmation is given here. Unfortunately, due to COVID-related restrictions, the decision has been made to reschedule our Biennial Convention.

While we had hoped restrictions surrounding
COVID would be reduced by July, there was no guarantee that the needed meeting space would be available to allow a robust convention program. Therefore, in January, the decision was made to reschedule convention.

Through it all, God remains faithful. Let us also hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. Plans and an alternate date will be announced as soon as they are available. We certainly hope to be with you all soon! Keep an eye out for updates at http://cog7.org/convention, in Church publications, and on the General Conference Facebook page.

— Convention Planning Committee

Career Opportunities

The General Conference office in Denver, Colorado, is offering full-time employment for an onsite office/facilities manager and for an onsite IT specialist. Email offices@cog7.org with the subject line “Career Opportunities” to learn more. Please reply by March 15, 2021.

Studying the Word of God at Home

Acts 5:42 tells us that after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the apostles never stopped teaching and preaching Christ in the temple and in every house. Because of changes in our world today, many believers are meeting in both homes and churches. Groups of saints gather on Sabbath for celebration and edification in area churches, building each other up. Our homes also are places to proclaim the love and salvation that the Lord has already given us.

We encourage you to make your home a sanctuary for worship and preaching the Word of God in 2021. Refer to A Faithful Family and A Faithful Disciple for specific suggestions on leading your family in worship and study.

Faithful: Simon Peter

In the second quarter of Bible Studies for Adults, we turn to one of the New Testament’s most beloved characters, Simon Peter. We will learn from this lowly fisherman-turned-mighty-apostle how faithfulness relates to following. We will see what a faithful disciple looks like as we follow the Master with His most passionate and impulsive student.

From his fishing boat to the upper room, casting nets in Galilee to preaching Christ to Cornelius, Peter’s journey is the way of transformation, the way of the Master. In Peter is someone we all relate to. He is as famous for his failures as he is for his successes. Who better than the earnest and flawed “rock” to direct our steps to follow Jesus — the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

To order copies of A Faithful Disciple, visit the online store at cog7.org.

Updated Tracts

Christian Baptism. The Christian ordinance of baptism is based on Jesus’ explicit instructions to His disciples: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them”

 (Matthew 28:19). He intended it to be practiced until “the very end of the age” (v. 20).

The Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper service is a solemn Christian memorial of Jesus’ crucifixion. Introduced by our Savior himself on the night He was betrayed, itcommemorates His death on Calvary’s cross as a sacrifice for our sins so that we might live!

Visit publications.cog7.org/ to read these tracts, and order copies from the online store at cog7.org.

Lucille Maher Hinds

1932 – 2020

Lucille Maher Hinds (88) was born October 19, 1932, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, the daughter of Clyde Albert and Mattie Etta (DuVall) Maher. She passed away December 23, 2020, due to complications of COVID-19.

Primary in Lucille’s life was keeping her priorities in order. For her it was God, family, church, community, business, and the arts. Often those priorities would be manipulated to enhance each other. Her focus was on Jesus Christ and letting Him live visibly to others through her. Loving God and helping others, beginning with family, were her main goals in life. Perhaps the light of Jesus Christ was shining most brightly through her during times of adversity.

For Lucille, her relationship with her Creator came first. All other things, including family, were managed in accordance with her perception of God’s will for her life. She depended upon the Bible for her divine instruction and inspiration, reading it frequently throughout the day. Lucille read the Bible in its entirety almost every year for many years. Her depth of understanding and personal application of God’s Holy Word were remarkable. Her favorite verses were all the “love one another” texts of the New Testament. She especially liked the Psalms and other texts that declare our hope now and eternally in God. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission were tops on her list as well.

Lucille loved her family. She was a mother to one son, one daughter-in-law, three granddaughters, and five great grandchildren. During the 1990s and 2000s, she was also a foster mother to 166 children who needed a mother for a while. Twice, she was named the Cherokee County, Oklahoma Mother of the Year.

Before that, back in the late 1950s – early 1960s, Lucille also took in three community children whose parents were in trouble and cared for them until their home life could be stabilized. To her, nephews and nieces ranked high among her priority family members.

In her 88 years of life, there were very few years when Lucille didn’t have someone in her home she was caring for because of some need in their life. She made sure one homeless man of Tahlequah had a roof over his head for over ten years, even though she could provide him with only a little mobile home.

Lucille loved her extended family and enjoyed doing things for them. Sometimes it was making clothes for nephews or nieces for 4-H or FFA shows. Other times it was making a needlepoint picture; crocheting an afghan, sweater, or doily; embroidering a western shirt; or creating some other work of art. Her goal was to live as part of an organism for the greater good of the whole family.

Lucille loved the Church of Jesus Christ and was a member of the Church of God (Seventh Day) for more than 70 years. However, her love for Church did not stop with the Church of God. She loved all disciples of Jesus Christ, regardless of affiliation, and counted them as family and fellow citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

In the Church, Lucille played the piano, sponsored the youth ministry, served as the treasurer for many years, taught children’s classes, and cleaned the church often. Her goal was to support the pastor, whether it was her father, her brother, or one of her nephews, and to complete ministry goals to achieve the Great Commission of making disciples and fulfilling the Great Commandment of loving God and one another.

Lucille loved her community, staying active in school and community projects. She highly valued her Native American Cherokee heritage and loved the Cherokee Nation. She was one of the founders of the Tahlequah Bread of Life Food Pantry. The Tahlequah Bread of Life consumed much of her energy and resources for almost 30 years, serving more than 3,000 households with more than 2 million pounds of food through one of her former rental properties. She continually gave God thanks for the countless volunteers joining her in the ministry.

Lucille was an industrious woman. Cutting wood with her identical twin sister Louise, hauling hay with her brother, Sonny, and cutting wood with her son to help pay for his college tuition were a few of her sideline activities. She also operated a cow/calf beef operation, a Grade A dairy, and was a landlord for up to seventeen rental units for 35 years. Besides that, Lucille worked for one employer, Griffin Foods, for 41 years. During those years, she made several television commercials for Griffin’s syrup, jams, and jellies. However, most of the time at Griffin she operated a label machine on a high-speed production line for Griffin’s syrup.

In all of that, Lucille still found time to enjoy the finer things in life and be adventurous. The last ten or so years of her life, she traveled an average of 50,000 miles a year. She attended different churches almost every weekend, as well as conventions and conferences, and she enjoyed scenic vistas, mostly expanding her relationships in the adopted family in Christ. This year, of course, was an exception, so she attended no less than fifteen special event functions online in the last six months.

Lucille loved quartet music and was a founding member of a four-part-harmony family group called the Lowerlights. The original members, besides herself (soprano), were her youngest brother, Clyde “Sonny” Maher (bass), youngest sister, Ruby Guinn (soprano), oldest sister, Margaret Guinn (alto), and brother-in-law, J. L. “Junior” Guinn (tenor) on guitar. They sang in churches, at special events, and on the radio, producing music for decades. Music was a key part of Lucille’s life, and she influenced other young people to engage music.

Whether attending a school play, special event, church service, community project, or making something for someone else, it was rare to find Lucille not engaged in some project. Almost always, it was to provide a resource for others or to help them achieve their goals and ambitions or meet a special need. Through her former employees, tenants, volunteers, family, and children, Lucille has provided a legacy and succession of people committed to God and to one another. She lived her life well and has entered a much-deserved rest in Christ Jesus.

Lucille is preceded in death by her parents; one brother (Clyde W “Sonny” Maher); and three sisters (Margaret Guinn, Louise Taylor, and Ruby Guinn).

Her memory lives on through her son, Clyde “Chip” Hinds, and wife Mary; three granddaughters Mary Ann Hinds, Stephanie Lucille Hinds, and Sarah Michelle Bowman (Kyle); five cherished great-grandchildren; many nieces and nephews; and countless brothers and sisters in Christ, friends, and loved ones.

Hope!

Saying goodbye to 2020, we hope for a much better 2021. As I write, however, new cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, people are rioting in major cities, and governments are further shutting down schools, businesses, houses of worship, and even (in California) family dinners. Through it all, our rallying cry continues to be “Focus on Jesus and follow His plan.”

Why focus on Jesus? Because He is our Lord and our God (John 20:28). He is our Creator (1:3), our Savior (Philippians 3:20), our King (Colossians 1:13). Why follow His plan? Quite simply, because of who Jesus is. Our obedience is due Him. Any plan other than His is doomed to failure and a waste of our lives.

One of the messages I’ve been preaching this year is titled “Jesus, Our Hope.” It is centered in the gospel about Jesus, and recently, I’ve divided significant components of this good news into two sections: The Heart of the Gospel and The Hope of the Gospel.

The Heart of the Gospel consists of 1) An Event: Jesus died; 2) An Achievement: By His death in our place for our sins, Jesus achieved the possibility of our forgiveness and salvation; 3) An Offer: Those who repent of their sins and receive Jesus by faith as their Savior and Lord are offered forgiveness and salvation; and 4) An Application: Those who do repent of their sins and receive Jesus by faith as their Savior and Lord are forgiven and saved.

The Hope of the Gospel is that everything Jesus did is part of God’s purpose and plan. God has had the restoration and reconciliation of His fallen creation as His purpose and plan since before the foundation of the world. And God is sovereign! God is all-powerful! Anything that God purposes and plans will be accomplished. If that isn’t reason for certain hope, nothing is.

The year 2020 has been tough; 2021 may be tough too. But God is in control. I like Corrie ten Boom’s observation: “God has no problems, only plans.” Focus on Jesus and follow His plan!

— Loren Stacy

A Faithful Family

Abram and Sarai are remembered and revered by billions of people on planet Earth today. God chose them to remove the curse and restore the blessing to all creation. This family heard God’s call, trusted God’s promises, and faithfully followed Him (Genesis 12:1-4).

Through the quarterly lessons in this series, we will journey alongside Abraham and Sarah to better understand about being a faithful family in our own world of increasing unbelief.

Want to create a standing order? Visit https://cog7.org/online-store/.

Ministry of love

Every week, from July 18 to September 19, the Lanham congregation partnered with the Up 2 Us Foundation to distribute over 1,700 boxes of free produce. Each box, containing 25 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, was given out through a drive-up grocery pickup at the church campus. Families from local congregations in Alexandria, Lanham, Richmond, and Winchester, as well as people from the surrounding communities, benefitted from this ministry of love. A big “Thank you!” to the church leadership and the many volunteers (Benevolence, Youth, and Men’s Ministries) who made this possible.