As had been announced in recent Updates, Paul L. Voss, a long-time deacon in the Church of God, died from cancer on his birthday, May 23, 2008. He was 76 years old. Following the memorial service on Sunday, July 13, a private inurnment service with full military honors was conducted on July 14. Before he became a member of the Worldwide Church of God, Paul had joined the Navy and fought in the Korean War. Lieutenant Commander Ralph Sage, SWOUSN, retired U.S. Navy Third Class Petty Officer and long-time friend of Paul and his family since 1974, had been invited to explain to those in attendance the symbolic meaning of the flag-folding ceremony.
Most had never heard of the religious and ethical principles associated with that ceremony. Before the flag was presented to Joan Voss, it was folded twelve times. The different folds symbolized, among others, our belief in eternal life; our weaker nature, “for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for divine guidance”; “in the eyes of the Hebrew citizens… [the glorification of] the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”; and “in the eyes of the Christian citizens, [a representation of] an emblem of eternity and [glorification of] God the Father, The Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit.”
Of course, some of these symbols do not agree with biblical teaching (such as the reference to the Trinity in the last phrase, and other statements not mentioned herein). However, it could be seen that there were certain values attached to the original flag-folding ceremony, which, in today’s world, have been lost and forgotten.
In the subsequent spiritual message, I emphasized the fact, among other things, that we have entered the Biblical times of the “beginning of sorrows”–a time filled with violence, war, hatred, terrorism, economic hardship, food rationing, famine, and disease epidemics–and that much worse times will arrive soon. I explained that man’s feeble attempts–however well-intentioned they might be–will never free this world from war, pain, suffering and death, but that God WILL do so, in His due time. I also pointed out that man’s sin–the transgression of God’s spiritual Law of Love towards God and neighbor–has caused–and is causing–all the evils which we experience today.
The prospects of a great depression for the United States and the entire world is becoming more and more a real possibility. Banks have begun to falter and fail in the USA, and experts tell us that within the next few years, more than 300 American banks could go bankrupt. Another war with Iran before the end of this year, which may be started by Israel with the support of the USA, appears more and more likely. Such a war and its terrible consequences of the loss of human life and the astronomical rise of oil prices, in combination with other prevailing circumstances, could bring the USA to its knees with lightening speed.
Are we watching world events and praying that God will find us worthy to escape all these things which will surely come to pass? Man and man’s institutions will not be able to protect us, and our money will soon be without value. Only GOD can give us true security.
Some feel today that they do not need to focus on prophecy–that they do not need to watch world events–that the Church of God does not need to continue to preach the warning message of the soon-coming Great Tribulation and the good news of the Kingdom of God in all the world as a witness. They think that it is ONLY necessary to care for the Church–to “prepare the Bride.” However, this is a selfish and short-sighted approach. We can compare it with the servant who received a talent and hid it in the ground, rather than using it for the benefit of OTHERS.
God did not call us today so that we can GET salvation. Rather, we have a JOB TO DO. God gave His Church a commission to warn this world UNTIL the very end of time. This idea of just preparing the Bride ignores the fact that only those who are involved in Christ’s Work of preaching the gospel and feeding the flock are the ones who overcome the most and prepare the best for Christ’s return. Those who neglect to do so might NOT be protected during the terrible times to come, and they are NOT preparing themselves in the right way for the return of Christ.
Man will continue to try to solve the world’s problems in the way he has done for the last 6,000 years, but man has utterly failed in succeeding. This world’s problems can only be solved–and they WILL be solved–through a “mighty hand from somewhere”–the “stone… cut out of the mountain without hands” (Daniel 2:45). Jesus Christ–the Stone and the Rock (Matthew 7:24-25; Matthew 21:42; 1 Corinthians 10:4)–will return to this earth in a very few years from now to “set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44). And you and I have the tremendous and awesome privilege to announce His coming to the world, and to rule with and under Christ in the Kingdom of God, IF we qualify: “Then the kingdom and dominion And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (Daniel 7:27).
ARE we qualifying? Or do we ignore world events, as they are unfolding in front of our very eyes in the light of Biblical prophecy? Have we become indifferent–tasteless, worthless salt? We are supposed to be the salt of the earth. But Christ warned all of us, in Luke 14:34-35, when He said: “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be salted? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Rather than placing our trust in man and man’s accomplishments–his financial institutions, his weaponry, his political systems and leaders–we MUST place our trust and confidence in GOD. And we must DO what He commands us to do, even if human reasoning might try to persuade us otherwise. If our individual involvement in the Work of God might seem “little” and “insignificant,” it counts mightily in the eyes of God. He knows that the one who is faithful in little will be faithful in much.
Are you faithful in little? Are you ever striving to overcome your shortcomings, while focusing on the bigger picture–the soon-coming return of Jesus Christ to make an end to man’s mis-rule and to establish the glorious Kingdom of God here on earth? If you do, BLESSED are you (Matthew 25:34).