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   “Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart? If it be, give me your hand” (2 Kings 10:15).
   These words are at the heart of unity: walking in, and beholding how good and pleasant it is for brethren (Psa. 133:1) to agree – else how can they walk together … perfectly joined together in the same mind, speech, and judgment? (Amos 3:3; 1 Cor. 1:10).

Enter: The Spirit of the Age
   And this gives us pause, for it used to be, a man’s word and his hand, were his bond. Today, however, and more than ever because of these perilous times (2 Tim. 3:1), we can scarcely afford to dwell carelessly when increasingly, the hearts of men are shown “deceitful above all and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). Sadly, the age in which a man’s word and his hand were his bond and guarantee of his heart’s integrity is past. Now, it’s his collateral and a criminal background check that ensures his bond with this latter – a criminal background check – become that criterion identifying the spirit of the age and which sadly, has found its way among churches and assemblies of every stripe.
   Not many years ago, a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch featured a suburban St. Louis County church, not because of its dynamic services; not because of its outreach ministries; not even because of its growth but rather, because during its contemporary, blended, and traditional Sunday morning services, uniformed and armed off-duty police officers provided security, and as the story went, more to prevent some person(s) with evil intent, from absconding with the offering! (The church had had that experience before).
   Then, a few weeks ago, a neighbor to this author, casually-clad in baseball cap, tee shirt and shorts – but armed with a sidearm – visited briefly, before his departure to mid-week prayer meeting. Inquiring of the Glock strapped to his hip, he explained he and two other congregants supplied ‘security’ during their worship services.
   Sometime following, we received an invitation-registration to meetings hosted by an Assembly in a distant city. And on the registration, was this assurance: “For the safety of the assembly, especially of our children, the Ministry will be conducting background checks ... for all those 18 years and older, and reserves the right to request official identification upon arrival.” And one may wonder, in an age when mass shootings may occur without provocation, at anytime, any-where, and among a peace-seeking people, was this as much a precaution, as fear? For sure, Yahweh has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, 2 Timothy 1:7. And why? “because fear has torment” (1 John 4:18). But “He has called us to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15) which seems antithetical to armed persons patrolling the vestibules of meeting halls, the parking lot, and standing sentinel at entrances, vetting persons for admittance to services of worship.
   Alas! The spirit of the age has found its way in, and among us!
   And “Why,” you ask? Well, there is already, sufficient distraction to occupy minds which ought better, to be fixed on Him Who can keep us in PERFECT PEACE (Isa. 26:3).

Wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves
   Now, we want to be fair here. If indeed, we are to “know them which labor among us” (1 Thess. 5:12), it is reasonable that they which labor, should also know them among whom they labor. Indeed, as early as the first century, when believers faced extreme persecution for their faith, they used the ichthus – the fish symbol seen as bumper stickers or icons on the back of vehicles – as a symbol with which to discern friend and foe.
   The fish, a pagan symbol of Rome, Greece, and other primitive cultures, unlike the cross, aroused little suspicion, making it a perfect secret symbol for persecuted believers who retired to the underground catacombs, which at first served as burial sites but later, as places for their meetings. Anyone unknown, and seeking admittance to their spiritual proceedings, were tested by completing the arch of the ichthus and might be asked moreover, to write the first letter of the acrostic y a b y, Yahshua, Ben Elohim, Yasha (Yahshua, Son of Elohim, Savior) – the first letter of each word forming the acrostic. Today, we might boldly say, “The Savior, is our Helper and we will not fear what man shall do to us” (Heb.13:6).

   So, what is the conclusion of the matter? Well, the prudent man foresees trouble and hides himself (Prov. 22:3). While we should not be inviting trouble … or persecution for that matter – it’s a guarantee warranted by Scripture that with much tribulation we shall enter into the Kingdom (Acts 14:22) and as the righteous of Elohim, suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12) – we should nevertheless walk circumspectly (Eph. 5:15); look well to our going (Prov. 14:15); and guide our affairs with discretion (Psa. 112:5). But to become distracted by fear, no; and to view the stranger among us with suspicion, definitely no.
   You will recall that after Yahshua’s resurrection, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, and when Yahshua Himself suddenly stood in the midst of them, they were terrified and affrighted, supposing they had seen a spirit. (John 20:19; Luke 24:37, 36). Unrestrained imagination had gripped these men which had before been given authority – and evidently exercised that authority, too – to heal the sick; to cleanse the lepers; to raise the dead; and to cast out devils (Matt. 10:8). But it took a notable Shavuot (Pentecost) to convert them from fear and doubt, to power and a sound mind (Acts 2:1-4).
   Then, as now, might Yahshua Himself say, “Be strong and of a good courage; fear not, nor be afraid” and ask, “Why are you troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts?” (Deut. 31:6; Luke 24:38).
   Then, as now, might Yahshua be saying, Fear not them which kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. …But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: Fear Him, which after He has killed is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna; Yea, I say Unto You, Fear Him, Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-5.

-Elder John W. Reece

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