2013 in review

Wow — 2013 has flown by like nobody’s business! I cannot recall ever feeling like a year went by so fast as I feel this year.

For my own sake, I thought I would put together a few thoughts about the Roman year that is now passing. It has been a crazy 365 days, though it hasn’t necessarily been an unpredictable craziness…

The United States continues to broadcast its incompetence. As explained by a WSJ opinion piece today, the new president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, has “out-leadershipped” virtually every U.S. leader over the last year by actually making his country work and work better, addressing actual problems. Meanwhile, we keep applying new band aids on top of old band aids and our symptoms are beginning to multiply. “Dysfunctional” hardly seems like a sufficient word for what we have seen in our government over the course of 2013 (certainly a far cry from my fantasy Obama acceptance speech). Our debt continues to be nauseating, our military frustrated, our credibility in the world fatally compromised, and our morality continuing down the toilet.

On that last point, as Yahoo! News noted (hat tip to SW!) 2013 was, according to the so-called Human Rights Campaign, the “gayest year in gay history.” What we have witnessed in terms of cultural collapse and moral change in 2013 has been breathtaking in its speed. But, as I have tried to say before, the changes we see in the state of “marriage” are not the problem as much as they are the symptom. If marriage had remained a sacred and honored institution and if sexual activity had continued to be seen as something belonging within the domain of marriage, none of this would be happening. Admittedly, it is a symptom that the disease is in its final stages, but it is merely a symptom. We’ve only gotten to these final stages here in 2013 because all previous symptoms were willfully ignored.

(That said, the signs of our cultural rot in the U.S.A. are too many for me to even want to list here, as I would love to move on. Let me only add here in parentheses that it would be wonderful if 2014 involved no news items that contained the word “twerk.” That would be great.)

On the world scene, the changes and challenges have also been breathtaking. The Eurozone survived the predictions of many that it would crumble. The Middle East, Egypt and Syria in particular, continues to be scrambled up in a manner that will eventually enable a King of the South. Not to ignore other countries in the area: In 2013, Iraq experienced its deadliest year since 2008 and Iran got a big, wet, kiss on the lips by the U.S. and its buddies. The world continues to become configured in a manner consistent with the picture the Bible paints of the End Times.

And stepping into that world scene is a pope like none that world has seen for quite some time. Taking on the name “Francis I” which suggests that he is of a mind to reform, he has begun to do that — attempting to reform both the Roman Catholic Church’s image and its institutions. In addressing its image, many homosexuals and abortionists were encouraged by his comments that such topics dominate too much of the RCC’s dialogues and that it should focus on other things. What he did not say, of course, is that the positions and doctrines of the RCC were actually going to be changed in such matters — something that those who actually pay attention were sure to notice. Still, by focusing on projecting an image of humility and outgoing concern for the impoverished and the unheard, Pope Francis is creating the sort of picture that better matches the RCC’s talk and is reforming its image in a way that few could have imagined before 2013. The news speaks of record numbers of young, intelligent, educated women choosing the “calling” of the nunnery, and even many atheists are singing his praises, with one woman tweeting, “I’m an atheist, but the more I hear about Pope Francis, the more I like him.” Her opinion is not an isolated one, and I have read of many atheists considering giving the RCC another chance at winning their hearts–perhaps loosening the grip that Richard Dawkins, et al., have had on their minds.

Whether or not he is the last one and whether or not his honeymoon with the world continues unabated in 2014, the pope that the RCC received in 2013 is a game changer. It was a remarkable event of the past year with ramifications that will continue to be felt for much longer.

Concerning the Work of God, 2013 was an incredible year, with some of the most dramatic changes I have seen since I have had the privilege to be a part of it in this way! The Tomorrow’s World studio has been transformed, we’ve grown from a one-camera operation to three (including a jib), our graphics and planning for each program are being taken to a new level, the magazine underwent a powerful redesign, and our online presence has exploded through social networks at an almost frightening rate. The new TW Short videos are being viewed by tens and even hundreds of thousands of people at a time and are bringing thousands of additional people to our booklets and materials. Individuals all across the northern hemisphere are hearing the Tomorrow’s World program being broadcast in Russian for the first time. Dr. Roderick Meredith’s live Tomorrow’s World presentations online rocked, and, in my personal experience, the number of people who responded to the local TW presentations were greater than I had ever seen. And all of this (and so much more) just represents 2013! It doesn’t include any of the many things on the horizon just waiting for the trigger to be pulled. As far as I am concerned, this really is perhaps the most exciting time to be a part of the Work of God that I have ever experienced, in which it seems so blatantly obvious to those with eyes to see that His own hands are at work in the Church’s efforts.

Concerning those related to COGdom but outside the borders of God’s Work, if you will, in 2013 the rumormongers continued rumormongering, the self-appointed grew in number (as they always do), and the weird fantasies continued to multiply. Someone claimed to see in the Bible that Mr. Meredith would die this past year. And while it isn’t exactly the boldest prediction in the world that a man in his mid-80s would die, it, of course, flopped. Weird stories and predictions about the Church and its leaders crafted by various heretics and apostle-wannabes that were provably complete delusional fantasies did not pan out, as usual. Some folks here and there on the Internet finally acted on personal ambitions and self-delusions they have held for years. The earth kept spinning. The moon continued to orbit the earth. Boasters kept boasting. Accusers kept accusing. In those ways, 2013 was just another day in the office, as it has been for 2000 years. 🙂

Personally, it was a joy to serve my congregations in 2013. We grew, with a number of additions from those who have seen the telecast, received our literature, responded to the local presentations, and impressed with friends and loved ones who are in the Church. Frankly, I’ve never been involved in so many baptism counselings simultaneously, and it looks as though our Passover halls will happily be a bit more crowded! Growth aside, it is a privilege to get to serve so many wonderful people in this area, and I appreciate so much their patience with me. My family and I are so happy to make our home here.

Speaking of home, 2013 was quite a year on the home front! It was the first full year that my wonderful father- and mother-in-law have loved here, which has been such a blessing. It also was the year when I officially became shorter than 50% of my children, making me the third shortest person in a house filled with eight people. I lost 20 lbs. (Huzzah!) But have gained almost half of that back. (Booooo…) My wife and I had the humbling opportunity to travel to Europe, which was life-changing in a number of ways. Boy #1 continues to excel at fencing (the kind with masks and foils, not paint and wood), while Boy #2 has taken up Tae Kwon Do. Boy #3 is almost as tall as me, even though he is only 12-years-old, and Boy #4 has, here at the end of the year, gotten a pair of glasses that officially make him look smarter than me. 🙂 My Beautiful Wife began trying to sell some of her beautiful quilts (Etsy store: “Jeanine’s Quilted Things”). We painted our house. My work on Wally 4.0 proceeded apace, though not as “apace” as I would like (I still think it’s in beta). I converted to the Apple Ecosystem — in fact, I even got a MacBook Air to replace my old PC laptop (which I am surprised I haven’t blogged about, given how I’ve gone on about earlier matters), making me virtually 100% Apple-powered (though still rooting for Surface to do well).

More could be said, to be sure, but this Roman year of 2013 is ending with quite a bit having happened and with much promise of more to come in 2014.

In particular, this past year for me and my family was another opportunity to know that God has blessed us, that Jesus Christ rules in the Church and in our family, and that all our answers are found there in Him. All we have and know is worth having and knowing only because He grants that we have and know it, and all we do not have or know is not our concern as long as we are continually open and yielding to the One who, in His good time and for His good purposes, should one day grant that we have or know it. And until that day, having Him is sufficient. I think I saw that a little more clearly in 2013.

Perhaps the best thing about 2013 (even better than being 99% done with 2012 Maya-related silliness!) is knowing that Jesus’ return and His Kingdom is another solar revolution closer than it was this time last year. And whether I am alive when He comes back to earth or whether He determines in His wisdom that my end should come earlier than that, that is — beyond a doubt — a very good thing. (Does Martha Stewart have that phrase copyrighted? I hope not.)

10 thoughts on “2013 in review

  1. obeirne

    Spot on in your analysis of the ” Roman ” year just coming to an end, Mr. Smith! A very fruitful year for the Work – for the Living Church of God with ever more powerful sermons and sermonettes at the weekly Sabbath, the annual Holy Days and most especially at the FOT and on the Last Great Day – great strides in the format and presentation of the TW programme, the continually excellent TW magazine with inspired changes in its format and powerful content of the articles and not forgetting the nifty TW shorts. Much sadness at the death of some of the brethren throughout the world, especially that of Mrs Sheryl Meredith, but joy that the suffering of many is over in that they sleep a painless sleep and that they will soon be awakened to glory on the return of Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. But we who remain continue in that hope of salvation, but we must remain aware of our imperfections and our need to be totally surrendered to God and willing to keep His commandments which are ” not burdensome “, but are life enhancing and life preserving. Thank you for all your wonderful blogs. Please keep them coming!

  2. Thanks, Obeirne! You actually highlight something I was going to mention but was neglectful in my haste and did not: Those we lost in 2013 until the resurrection. There were a number of funerals of loved ones, to be sure, and I praise God with you concerning Isa. 57:1, “The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil.” Thanks, again!

  3. In Wally 4.0-Related News: The average number of words per blog has, if anything, likely increased. 😀 Actual stats await confirmation by the source.

    יברכך יהוה וישמרך
    The Eternal bless you and keep you – and yours – this coming year however measured. 😀

    יוחנן רכב נסופר

  4. Steven

    Nice post Mr. Smith, however, you should be very careful allowing your son to “practise” martial arts. It is a fact that there are a variety of occult themes, poses, gestures and traditions that come right out of occult religions like Buddhism (for example) that are commonplace within martial arts like “Tae Kwon Do”. A fantastic comparable would be “Yoga”. That (for example), is NOT just an exercise, it is actually a form of Hinduism. As one Yoga expert put it “It is impossible to separate yoga as an exercise and the Hindu religion. They are one in the same.” I did not know these things till a few years ago when a friend pointed it out to me, and after doing some extensive research on these topics I found that he was 100% correct. You or your son can do as you wish, but I personally would never participate in any yoga or martial arts class.

  5. Thanks, Steven, for your concern. I had a number of questions, that among them, but after checking into things all my questions were resolved to my happy satisfaction when I saw there were no such concerns in this case. But thanks, again.

  6. Steven

    Mr. Smith, as a follow up to your comment I would highly recommend you read the article written about “Martial Arts” by Dr. Russell K. Tardo. The title of the composition is “The Spiritual Danger of THE MARTIAL ARTS”. You can easily find it on the Internet. I wonder if you would disagree with anything mentioned in that piece?

  7. I read it. Thanks. Without taking the time to critique the tract’s pros and cons, I’ll just say that none of the concerns mentioned are a concern in my son’s class. Thanks, again.

  8. Steve

    Physical confidence is very important to young men. Allowing your boys to take martial arts or fencing is a great idea. Let the young horses run and enjoy the vigor of their youth. That’s the way it ought to be. (Lifting weights doesn’t mean the kid will turn into a freak bodybuilder with powders and pills. Nonsense).

  9. Steven

    I would refer you back to that article and (among many excellent points made) I specifically would take special note of the items detailed under the title “The concept of self-defense is itself both unscriptural and anti-christian”. Unfortunately, many Christians turn a “blind eye” to this and rationalize martial arts by saying something like “If my son/daughter enjoys it and the instructor seems moral and ethical then that makes it ok.” Hmmmm….People say the same things about Christmas and Easter, but does God think they are ok?

    The point here is that it’s not just what you see that matters, it is the very “concept” that is the problem. It’s too bad people use “convenience” to trump scriptural truth because it suits their needs.

  10. Greetings, again, Steven.

    Refer me back to the tract all you like, but I have read it, and, like I said, without going into the pros and cons of the article (and there are both pros and cons, including some loose research and looser connections), none of its concerns apply. I have looked into the matter rather thoroughly and am quite content. No such rationalization, necessary. Thanks.

    However, it is very good to hear you speaking out against inappropriate rationalization and convenience, and I suppose that this means you will begin personally observing all of the biblical Holy Days and will no longer abide by the Sabbath-breaking rationalizations you have defended in the past. Good on you! I agree: It is too bad that people use “convenience” to trump scriptural truth. Isn’t it nice to agree? 🙂

    If you’d like to talk about this subject further, feel free to write me personally. Otherwise, the comments will turn into nothing more than a repeated “read this”/“I read it” thread, which profits no one.

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