December 24, 2021

Dear Brethren,

I have some very EXCITING news to share with you. In just a few weeks, we will launch our new on-line magazine, intended to serve the FAITHFUL, LOYAL, and scattered brethren of God’s Church around the world. “…He [Christ] is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him [with Christ, at His re-turn], are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

As Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong said (and wrote), many times, “The GIVE way is the way of OUTgoing concern toward others — the way of God’s LAW — the way of LOVE.” (Co-Worker Letter, January 23, 1975). We will GIVE of ourselves to serve others, to feed Christ’s flock (John 21:15-17), and to uphold the teachings of Christ as given by God’s end-time apostle (Mr. Armstrong).

There are various other COG’s that claim to teach ALL of what Mr. Armstrong taught, while at the same time they subtly (sometimes, not so subtly), change one doctrine after another. Brethren, we must exhibit both by our words AND OUR DEEDS that we’re different from the Churches of God who compromise with God’s TRUTH. That’s not to say we can’t make a mistake. We can! But our hearts must be right in steadfastly upholding the teachings and doctrines of God. If something is stated incorrectly, we are to recognize it, change immediately, and stand FAITH-FULLY with Christ and His apostle!

Yes, our new magazine will start “small.” However, we hope to continually expand the magazine as more and more articles are written by our members. I will announce the name of the magazine very soon. Your prayers for our writers would be very much appreciated! I know that each of them wants to serve God with their might, and yield to God in humility. That’s exactly what God expects of us! “What-ever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10).

Tonight, I will include one of the upcoming articles in the “Brethren Letter,” as written by Mr. Charlie Culpepper. You’ll no doubt notice this well-written article is the same subject he gave as a sermonette last Sabbath.

Please have a wonderful Sabbath!

Your Brother in Christ,

Gary Liebold

A Smart Connection

Breaking It Down to the Cellular Level
By Charlie Culpepper

We see it every day and everywhere we go. In fact, it has become so common-place that we barely notice it anymore. Perhaps we are part of the alarming trend, com-pletely unaware of the danger we are putting ourselves in. This trend has penetrated every level of our culture and is fundamentally altering how people think, behave and interact.

Have you guessed what it is yet?

In just a few short years, cellular devices (and smartphones especially), have emerged as one of the crowning achievements in technological advancements. Today, a person has at their fingertips the means to access the total fund of knowledge of the world. Smartphones have revolutionized the information age and granted ever wider va-rieties of accessing information, engaging in global communication, and entrancing with entertainment.

The downside is that people are increasingly viewing the world through the tiny screen in the palm of their hand. Their thoughts are being shaped by the propaganda that is thrust at them through their favorite social media apps. Deep and meaningful re-lationships are now overshadowed by the amount of “friends” one has and how many “likes” they accrue or how well their “stories” and “tweets” are trending. Self-worth is determined by digital popularity.

At any given time, one can see people gazing transfixed at their smart devices as they walk down the street barely aware of their surroundings. Like something out of a cheap horror flick, the public seems to move about like mindless drones. In waiting rooms all across the world, people swipe, scroll, and tap their way through moments of boredom. Walking through an amusement park, one has to navigate, not the attractions,

shops, and food stands, but the hundreds of people taking a never-ending stream of selfies and walk-through videos. Vloggers are now as recognizable as Hollywood actors.

Smartphones and similar devices are never far from reach and most often never leave the hand. What is this obsession with smartphones? It is not uncommon to hear someone proclaim, “My whole life is on that phone!

Speaking of modern Israel, God says, “Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their fingers have made (Isaiah 2:8).” It is easy to think of idols as little statues of weird, pagan deities. Such a view thus makes it easy to render the notion of idolatry as inapplicable to ourselves in this age.

But ask yourself, where is your phone right now? Is it in your pocket? In your hand? Are you perhaps reading this on your device? How much of your day is dedicated to interacting with your phone?

In a personal, Mr. Armstrong wrote the following…

Whatever occupies your interest more than God and his Word is the idol you are putting before him. None can be truly converted — actually begotten of God — until whatever is his IDOL has been smashed, and torn root and branch from his affection and mind and heart.

What is it that you just can’t give up? You’ll have to give it up, you know — or you are committing the most awful sin it is possible to commit! It is the sin that shuts you off from that personal contact with GOD (What is the Worst Sin? (Plain Truth, May 1982)!

Let’s be clear; a smartphone or any such device is not evil in and of itself. Pos-sessing a smart device is not wrong. The manner and extent to which it is used are in question.

Consider the principle, or spirit, of the issue. Speaking of the corruption of the pre-flood world, Mr. Armstrong wrote the following…

What was this universal evil and corruption? Jesus described that uni-versal, corrupt evil as “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (Matthew. 24:38). Eating food and drinking is not evil. Marrying is not evil in itself. There had to be wrong use and excess in eating, drink-ing and marrying — the evil was in the manner, and in the extent of eating, drinking and marrying (Mystery of the Ages, pg. 147).”

How are we using our devices? Are we constantly checking our phones when occupied with other tasks? Are we replying to texts and posting on social media during our prayers or studies, or during Sabbath Services? Are we in control of our devices, or is Satan controlling us through these devices?

Satan is the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and he desperately wants to destroy God’s people. And like a stalking lion, he is waiting for opportunities to inject his broadcast into our minds (I Peter 5:8). It is vital that we ensure we are not opening the door for him through wrong and excessive use of man-made devices.

It is all too easy to allow our smartphones (or anything for that matter) to become idols in our lives, of becoming the most important thing to us. God expressly forbids idolatry (Leviticus 19:4, I Corinthians 10:7). God does not want anything to come between Him and His people.

Just WHAT IS RELIGION?

Is it merely an incidental interest, secondary to many other things, such as earning a living, your home, your family, your friends, hobbies, sports, entertainments? Possibly secondary to television or movies?

Religion is your CONNECTION WITH GOD — your relationship with Him. Religion is realizing the PURPOSE of your life — the reason why God had you to be born — the reason you draw the breath of air and exist — the PURPOSE or end GOAL of your life, and HOW to live that life so as to arrive there (Herbert W. Armstrong, Just What is Your Idol, Tomorrow’s World, December 1969).

What connection do you value the most? Is it your connection to your Creator or your cellular connection? Rather than staying connected to this world through our phones, we should strive mightily to stay connected to God.

God has called each and every one of us for a breath-taking purpose! He has given us the unmatched opportunity to be born into the Family of God as a God-being and a part of the Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7). But to fulfill our God-given destiny, we must come out of this world and its ways (Revelation 18:4).

Connection to this world through our smartphones is intoxicating and hard to walk away from. In fact, many who suddenly find themselves disconnected, either permanently or temporarily (through loss, theft, or destruction of their phone or other means), find themselves going through withdrawal symptoms.

That disconnect can cause one to feel suddenly isolated. But disconnecting from the online world does not isolate us so much as it exposes how isolated we already were. Nature abhors a vacuum and the sudden void left in the wake of disconnection can only be truly filled in one way: real, meaningful contact with God.

Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you (James 4:8). This is an iron-clad promise! How do we draw near to God? I’m glad you asked!

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

Submitting ourselves to God and His spiritual law (Romans 7:14) empowers us to resist the devil. That empowerment from God to resist drives the devil away. Make no mistake, the devil will use anything (including a smartphone) to pull you into idolatry.

What else can we do to overcome smartphone addiction (or any idolatrous behavior)?

While there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for overcoming addiction to smartphones, the very first and most vital step is universal… seek God’s help. God can and will fill the void. Study God’s word to learn how to put Him first in your life and how to have a deep and meaningful relationship with Him and His family. Another helpful tip is to strive to strengthen your relationships with the people in your real (as opposed to online) life; your spouse, children, siblings, parents, your closest friends. Seek to develop stronger relationships with the people of God.

God wants His people to live happy, interesting, and fulfilled lives. And God knows that only by living His way of life, the way of give, can a person be truly happy and ful-filled. Idolatry, whether in the form of smartphone addiction or other vices, keeps us from living our best lives and fulfilling our incredible human potential.

Recognize your smartphone for what it is and seek a smarter connection with God.

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