Letters from our Readers - Part 4 of 4
Editor's note: This electronic version of the letters for the Feb. 26 issue of The Journal contains more letters than does the Feb. 26 print version. This version includes the letters we would have run if we had had enough space.
Where are we in prophecy?
"Where are we in prophecy now?" is question many members want answered but few ministers are talking about. As a former answerer of doctrinal questions by mail for the church during Herbert W. Armstrong's tenure, I have chosen to investigate this matter.
The post-1975 syndrome has spawned the myth that we cannot know, and it isn't important to know, when Christ will return. Yet anyone who recognizes when the Abomination of Desolation takes place--something the devil doesn't want us to notice so that he can trap us in the tribulation without a chance to flee--will be able to work out when Christ is coming.
In the context of the question "How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?," Daniel was informed that "the wise shall understand" the times they live in: including the 1,260-, 1,290- and 1,335-day countdown to the end.
My article "Where Are We in Prophecy Now?" shows there is definite Bible-based evidence indicating precisely where we are in God's end-time time table. It also contains a useful list of major events in the church the world this century.
An E-mail copy is available on request from email@example.com. Postal requests should be sent to me at the address below.
The plain truth about Christmas
There is nothing earth-shattering in the following letter. We who know the truth once all believed what I wrote.
What is really shocking is that the local paper of the major town in the rural North Carolina county that I grew up in published this letter about two years ago.
You can imagine the shock not only for the readers but for me. I never thought I would I ever get the opportunity to express my true faith to all the people who ever knew me while I was growing up.
I've had my picture in this paper before when I played football in high school and when I was presented the Eagle Scout award, but this one letter to me was more precious than anything that I could ever hope to have expressed to all my teachers, friends and enemies before I die.
May God always allow us to confess the truth we hold dear forever and ever before angels and mankind! Forever!
My letter was titled "Where Is Christ in Christmas"?
"Where is Christ in Christmas? I contend that He is not a part of and has never had anything to do with the ancient pagan festival known today as Christmas.
"Jesus Christ was not even born in December because the shepherds were not out in the fields at night after around Oct. 15, because of the cold, rainy season that followed.
"This pagan festival, celebrated centuries before the birth of Christ, was 'Christianized' by the Roman Catholic Church by putting Christ's name on it.
"This festival was perfect for the Roman Empire trying to accommodate both the pagan and professing-Christian subjects by giving each faction a little of its own flavor in this curious blend of paganism and Christ.
"The professing Christians had the Christ part of it, and the pagans still had their rioting and revelry associated with worshiping the sun god.
"The days of winter were short and the celebrations were for 'reviving' their chief god of worship, the sun, so that the days would get longer.
"Today the world tries to revive its chief god, the god of materialism, by a great spending binge during the Christmas season. How sick!
"Christ had the zeal of God when He was here on this earth. This zeal consumed Him when He threw those greedy merchants and moneychangers out of the temple.
"If Christ were a part of Christmas, then I contend you would see great religious leaders walk into shopping malls and grab the cash registers of these greedy merchants and toss them in the streets and then chase the merchants out of the malls.
"Christmas is paganism at its most refined state! Come out of this world, the Bible warns! Have nothing to do with this pagan festival!
"Christmas is a hollow pagan substitute for the annual Sabbath the Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23), which honors Jesus Christ as King of Kings.
"The Feast of Trumpets is not a soft, sentimental picture of a small babe in the arms of His mother, but pictures a righteously angry and powerful God Being who is coming back to this earth to take control of the governments of this world and rule for a thousand years.
"When Christ returns, He is going to throw the world leaders out of their positions with the same zeal that He used to throw the greedy merchants out of God's temple.
"When Christ's feet touch down on the Mount of Olives, the mountain will be split in two. He will destroy all those who have gathered together to fight Him. Their blood will fill the valley of Jehoshaphat (Kidron) up to the height of a horse's bridle. So much for sentimentality. And so says your Bible.
"Wake up, America! Christmas is a Satanic pagan counterfeit that will be banished along with Satan at Christ's return! The prosperity of our nation does not depend on money spent for Christmas, but in the true worship of God!
"Again, I say, wake up!"
This [a "confidential" memo written by a United Church of God employee that was leaked to the Internet; see "Memo Advocating Split Draws Fire," Nov. 21] is a rationale to get rid of those worrisome people who disagree before they split the UCG into even more groups.
You get a mention as a source of negative comment. I assume that is because you give voice to genuine criticism in The Journal.
The underlying rationale is that if we get rid of the problem now they will see how wonderful the centralists are and they will have a greater chance of keeping their hands in the jar, although it is probably a bit smaller jar.
The contention that the UCG is or was united on doctrine is a joke.
As for doing the work with small organizations, we have a fraction of the budget of United and have produced more and theologically sounder material than all the major WCG factions combined over the last 50 years. We have translators working now to produce a multilingual Web site in the near future.
It would have taken the entire budget of United and Global in Australia just to pay our postage and mail-outs this year if we were operating in the way the WCG, UCG and GCG have operated conventionally in the past. They are dinosaurs that do not understand what is happening to them.
Regaining our focus
One of the disturbing factors that I see in the Churches of God is the focus of the brethren. There have been many organizational discussions and disputes, but in this I see a focus of the brethren toward organizations and groups and not toward Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).
Now, we understand the word hate in the King James Bible was translated from a Greek word meaning to "love less than." We are to love our Lord Jesus Christ more than any person or even our own lives! So where is our focus? Where are our treasures? Are they in heaven at the throne of God, or are they on earth involved with men, organizations and churches?
Paul had similar divisions occurring as people chose men to be their leaders as recorded in his letter to the Corinthians:
"Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name" (1 Corinthians 1:10-15).
The Body of Christ (the church) is a spiritual church consisting of members of the body who have the Spirit of God in them. And Jesus Christ is the head of the church and the teacher of us through the Holy Spirit. We are to look to Him and no other for our salvation and for our direction. We need to be dedicated to our source of life. Jesus plainly says to us:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself" (John 5:25-29).
It is far past time for us to sell off the things we treasure in this word and focus on the treasures in heaven (Luke 12:33-34).
More on new moons
I note the comments by Anthony Buzzard ["New Moons and the Sabbath," page 4, Nov. 21] and agree with him in the dilemma he poses for the church. The new moons cannot be separated from the Sabbaths and holy days in Colossians 2:16. We are agreed that the church was either keeping them all or the text refers to an attempt at inflicting them all on the church that was not keeping them.
As we know beyond dispute that they were keeping the Sabbath, and in Jerusalem they kept the Sabbath up until the fourth century, and from the testimony of the Desposyni, it follows as a matter of irrefutable logic that the new moons were also kept.
We know that the church kept the new moons over the centuries and right up until the 19th century in Eastern Europe when the chief rabbi of Budapest, Rabbi Cohen, wrote the church's history and said it had the original doctrines of the first-century church (see our papers "The Role of the Fourth Commandment in the Historical Sabbath-Keeping Church" and "The General Distribution of the Sabbath-Keeping Churches" [available at www.logon.org]).
United Church ministers such as Larry Walker have written on Colossians 2:16 (also published on our Web site). Many of the ministry of the UCG believe that the new moons have to be kept and have told me so. They do not do it for many reasons, not the least being that they would have to abandon the Hillel calendar to do it correctly.
The Christian Churches of God observe all the Sabbath, new moons and holy days and also the wave-sheaf offering (see our paper), which you do not mention, and the sanctification day of Nisan 7, which is also not mentioned but is generic in the law sequence.
I have recently been contacted by an ex-member and theologian of the Mill Yard Church in London who has stated that the doctrines of our church are the same as the old Mill Yard Seventh Day Baptist Church had for centuries. Our doctrine of the Godhead is the original doctrine of the Godhead of the English-speaking Sabbath-keeping peoples since at least the 1600s.
Like the Hungarian and Rumanian churches, we also keep the new moons. Sadly, the Churches of God in the 20th century in the U.S. systems are only just now waking up to the fact that they have not only not been keeping the new moons, they have not even been keeping the feasts on the right days and officially worshiping the wrong Godhead.
We are trying to get people to the point of awareness of the problems inherent in the 20th-century Churches of God. The real problem is much of their own ministry will not help them address the truth.
Our statement of beliefs is also on the Web site or available from our PO Boxes in the US or Australia (insert).
An enemy may attack many ways: infiltration, frontal assault, a flank, even from the rear. Usually he will find your weak spot. Sometimes he'll hit right where you think you are strongest.
When an attack is in progress and it is discovered, an alarm is sounded or a trumpet is blown. A sneak attack or infiltration may result in a delayed warning, nevertheless one is given.
We have been hit with a full frontal attack on one of our strongest fronts! Or hadn't you noticed? Thousands upon thousands of our fellow Christian soldiers have been slain when the door to the Fourth Command was left unguarded and the enemy swarmed in and trampled the Sabbath.
Yes, this was preceded by infiltration and enemy intelligence. But no general alert, no warning, was sounded. Even the conspiracy buffs missed the grandest conspiratorial coup of the modern-day church. Why? Are we afraid to call a wolf a wolf, or are we not paying attention?
Is the attack ended so we may now number the dead and say, "Too bad, but at least they didn't get me"? Maybe next time it will be only those in Oregon or Ohio or maybe only Tim or Mary or my friend Charlie or my spouse. But I escaped, so no need to raise the flag.
Let's examine our position. What shape are we in to resist the next wave? There are many enemy sympathizers or accomplices (wittingly or unwittingly). They are in two camps:
"The facts are that Joseph Tkach has a very warm, personal relationship with a number of people in the Church of God (Seventh Day), among them Lynn Taylor," said Mr. Nickels. "I know Lynn. Joseph Tkach is meeting with him and other Sabbatarians, I believe, to get them to give up the Sabbath."
Another writer from the same issue on page 14 states, "I personally believe that the majority of those saved for eternity will never [emphasis mine] have been Sabbath-keepers."
These and like statements are license to keep God's Sabbath on Sunday or any other day. Using this reasoning, we could then say that those who, if they haven't repented or did not believe or are not baptized or are Commandment-breakers, etc., will enter the Kingdom.
The pope may give permission to keep Sunday and sanctify it; the Muslims may keep Friday; some may say any or every day is a Sabbath; but God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.
Jesus said, in Mark 7:6-9: "Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition."
We must remember that the Sabbath is a test command, to see if we will obey Him or not. Conversely, why would God withhold such a blessing as His rest from one of His chosen ones?
God is our fortress and our high tower. He will protect us if we trust in Him. Perhaps a renewed commitment to His Sabbath will be a step forward.
A code of conduct: "I understand the command (paraphrased), 'Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy'; that the seventh day was sanctified by God and was not changed by Him; that that day was given as a sign between Him and His people showing that we are different from all others. We wear that sign proudly on our forehead and in our hand. I will uphold and keep the Sabbath as a most valuable gift from my Creator."
The Hebrew word for "covenant" is beriyth (Strong's No. 1285). It means, according to Strong's, "a compact," which is an agreement or a contract. In Exodus 24 there is a mention of the book of the covenant, which is a written contract between the Eternal and Israel. It is a contract because of God's Word to them and their word to do as He said (Exodus 24:3, 7).
The people's promise is registered here, but the agreement or promise on God's part is written in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. In Genesis 41:32 we read that because a thing was repeated as second time it was to show that the thing was established by God. This covenant or contract was then repeated for the purpose of letting it be made known for all time that this was emphatically established by God.
Notice this covenant by God that the people agreed to do as it is recorded in Leviticus 26 with the promise of great blessings, verses 1-13, and notice the promise of curses through verse 39. Then, in similar words, the promises of Deuteronomy 28:1-14 and the curses in verse 15 through Deuteronomy 29:1. This is what we all refer to as "the Old Covenant." It is God's contract with His people.
The New Covenant is a better one because the promise is eternal life in addition to the great promises of the Old Covenant, and we do not have to worry about keeping the Commandments, statutes and laws of the Eternal because He has written them on our hearts.
Do Christians have to live by this Old Covenant today? Jesus testified that we do (Luke 4:4). We re to enjoy all the material blessings of the Old, plus the greater promises of the New. We do all, however, as Christians come under both the curses of the Old and the curse of the second death under the New if we refuse to listen to the plain, simple words of God and choose to follow what some man says about these words, twisting and perverting them to his own destruction (2 Peter 2).
The Word of God is quick an powerful (alive and working) today as much as it was in the beginning (Hebrews 4:12).
I am a member of the United Church of God, an International Association. However, that is not in any way making me any better than the members of any of the other 100 or so offshoots of the WCG. It is Christ dwelling in the person that means something. Wherever you are, no matter what the corporate organization that you belong to, if Christ dwells in you, He has made you a promise (John 14:1-3).
I belong to the UCG-AIA because it is the only church that I know of that was not founded by a man. Wherever you are, I love y'all very much. God teaches us that love, and it is so much joy to know that.
Church or Churches of God?
"Smite the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered" (Mark 14:27) is a prophecy about Christ. But it can also be applied to the condition of God's church today. It is a historical fact that Herbert W. Armstrong was smitten with death, and the sheep are now scattered.
The church is called "the Church of God" 12 times in the New Testament. The true Church of God is never called many churches. True, the Bible does say "Churches of God" three times, but only in reference to local congregations within the one true church.
Matthew 16:18 does not say, "Upon this rock I will build My churches and the gates of the grave will never prevail against them." Christ is not divided (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Christ is against division (1 Corinthians 3:3). The branches are the product of the trunk (vine). Branches and members are the same. Branches can separate and call themselves churches, but that does not make them the true Church of God.
It is often said that the church is the people or members. That is not an accurate statement. The Church of God is composed of the members, and Christ is the Head (see Ephesians 5:23). Without Christ the members are only a body without a head. To be God's church it must be headed by Jesus Christ and exist within the pattern of government laid out in the Bible.
That biblical pattern of governance is explained in Ephesians 4:11-13. It is first apostles, second prophets (although there are none today, since the Holy Scriptures are complete and, with the conclusion of Revelation, cannot be added to. God speaks to us today through the Word of God revealed to us by His Holy Spirit; see Hebrews 1:1-2), so next in rank evangelists, then pastors, then teachers, whom we call elders today. And they are ranked first, second, etc., in 1 Corinthians 12:28.
The problem that we have today is not the way that God governs. The problem is in placing any man before God! Every Christian is responsible to obey God according to the words of the Bible. If any man deviates from the clear instructions of the Word of God, no matter what his rank, then the true Christian is to obey God rather than man. That is true hierarchical government: Always obey God and one will have no problem working with the apostle, evangelist, pastor and elder who is also obeying God.
Then, united as one body with Christ as the head and all the body fitly joined together under Him, that body will be empowered by the Holy Spirit, have God's truth, fulfilling Christ's commission of proclaiming His good news of the Kingdom of God to the world as a whole and feeding the sheep the true meat of the Word. There is only one such church, and it cannot be divided. It remains one!
So why all the division among the body today? What is the problem? Let's look at the real problem. Government is not the problem. Let's lay the blame squarely where it belongs: on the ministers and members. We are guilty of violating the First Commandment! The ministers put a man and an organization before God and taught the same to the members, and the members then did the same.
The man (Herbert W. Armstrong) or the organization was not the problem. The problem was in violating the First Commandment. We forgot that hierarchy is not what God's government is; theocracy is what God's government is. God's government is a theocracy that is hierarchical in form.
Just having the right form of government is not necessarily having the right government.The theocracy of God's government is Jesus Christ at the head, then we see the form under Christ. But everyone is personally responsible to Christ first. The ministers are servants with authority that comes from Christ, who is the head. He was the greatest servant of all. He came to serve, not to be served. Likewise ministers must serve, not be served. The ministers are held to the same standard as the members, not a different standard. In the past that was not how it was, and it is now high time for the ministers to deal with that!
But we, the Spirit-begotten children of God, must be willing to come together in one body, under Christ, with no divisions. Trying to get unity while staying divided will never work. I'm not suggesting that anyone join my church. But please let every child of God search and find where Christ is, where Christ has placed His name, by measuring every organization by the Word of God, the Bible. Where the true doctrines are, where the 18 foundational truths are being taught, where the leader who faithfully teaches those truths meets the qualifications of Ephesians 4:11-13 is, where the work of God is being done, where the members are being fed the true meat of the Word, then there is where Jesus Christ is. Can God move His name again if the leader proves unfaithful to the Word? Yes, He surely can! And the faithful ones will follow Him wherever He goes.
T here can only be one true church. In 1 Corinthians 1:13 Paul asks the question, "Is Christ divided?" The answer is a resounding no! Christ is not divided.
(My wife, Carol, and I have been members of God's church for more than 20 years. We have four children. We are members of the Global Church of God, and I am host for the church at Logan. This letter does not claim to represent the views of the GCG or anyone except myself.)
Recommends The Journal
I want to thank you all for the efforts you put into this paper to keep us informed of the events of the Churches of God and other organizations that are trying to get God's message out to this world.
I am glad to have an open-minded publication that can present information from many of God's people in many groups. This provides us all more choices and has opened some of our minds to looking for people, outside of the large organizations, who are doing a work for the living God.
I am glad to support the work that you are doing for the people of the Churches of God, so here is a donation for some who may not be able to afford a subscription or for trial-subscription copies to be sent to people to try the paper. I would like for all who are open-minded enough to look at all sides of issues (and not just the side presented by the leaders of organizations) to get the paper.
The sheep have good minds and can evaluate information from different sources just as well as a minister can (and often better, since they are not concerned with losing a paycheck) and can make decisions about what they believe by seeking truth and not rumors. We all had to evaluate information that we heard about the WCG and its leaders and were able to come to conclusions then and can do it now. We do not need to get only information from the leaders of the organizations we choose to attend that is not the whole story.
I appreciate your presenting both sides of issues and printing letters of people's opinions and articles and even criticism of the paper. I think this shows that you are being open, honest and willing to take criticism, with nothing to hide, and move forward with a positive attitude. I wish that the large organizations would emulate what you are doing.
We can see clearly now
Thank you for The Journal. I believe the Nov. 21 issue is the best one yet. I do have some comments I would like to share with you about this issue. I want to focus on the church that left the organization.
Some members left the WCG over doctrinal changes, while others left because of hierarchy (doctrine of Nicolaitans), but some left the WCG because of both, doctrine and hierarchy.
It may come as a surprise to a lot of "evaluators" of the rise and fall of the WCG, that there were a few of us there who had Jesus Christ as the centerpiece of our faith all the time. We existed in and tolerated the hierarchy because the doctrines were basically correct. But when the foundational doctrines began to go, there was no reason to hand around any longer. It is tough enough to tolerate a regime that (though lacking in love) is at least doctrinally more right than wrong, but it is impossible to tolerate a regime that is more wrong than right and continuing a trend toward being consistently more wrong all the time, since we realized that true Christianity is a relationship with our Savior, Christ Jesus, what need did we have for an organization anyway?
Why subject oneself to the humility and degradation of the doctrine of Nicolaitans when that is not required for salvation? AS I have said before, it is time we brethren get a grip on just what the Church of God is! Far too many still have their concept of God's church as an organization. In my opinion that is why God has destroyed the WCG hierarchy. This is why He has scattered us, to force us to come to Him one on one. Unfortunately, many of us, instead of doing that, are yearning for and trying to build yet another hierarchy!
This is a sickness, it is a dependence, which is misguided, and is being fed by a consortium of ministers, many of whom probably never have earned a dollar in their adult life, other than what has come from tithes of church members (if they earned that). I am convinced they do not want that flow of money to stop and want to assure their continued employment on tithe payments. I am not convinced that many of them have the members' best interests as their No. 1 priority.
I think it is absolutely imperative that the UCG divided and shake up the conspiratorial deception that lured so many brethren to it in the first place. What do they mean when they say they want control so they can accomplish a major work? What is the work? Is it not preparing a people for the Lord?
Sure it is! It is not about TV, radio, magazines and self-serving ministers. It is about being down to one on one with our Savior and opening our homes and our lives to the brethren. Using that old worn-out excuse of "spreading the gospel around the world" has built several church hierarchies, but it is not a valid argument today. We see that clearly now.
If all of us who have been in and out of the WCG were only truly converted and demonstrating true Christianity, Christ's work would be progressing at a dizzying pace. But here we are (some of us), futilely trying to build yet another hierarchy, going back like a hog to the wallowing in the mire. We have already seen that hierarchy does not work the works of God! It does not produce spiritual results! It is doomed to failure in this regard. It just takes money!
I am offering a free article on the doctrine of the Nicolaitans to anyone who wishes to write and ask for it. Everyone has a God-given right to form a locally organized church and work the works of God, free from intimidation and free to make independent decisions concerning their future.
Let us learn to allow God to teach us from His Word, being careful not to take any teaching or doctrine at face value regardless of its source, because there is a lot of garbage floating around out there.
Thanks to Melvin Rhodes
Regarding "When will we grow up? or When is a Philadelphian not a Philadelphian?" by Melvin Rhodes [Nov. 21 issue]:
Has Mr. Rhodes ever hit the nail on the head! He stated, under the subheading "Idolatry Smells":
"This rejection of basic, solid biblical truths, out of loyalty to an organization, goes to the root of so many of our problems. In effect, people break the First Commandment by putting their organization before God.
"I do not think I exaggerate when I say that this is idolatry--and this idolatry stinks to high heaven! . . . When that organization stops us from practicing fundamental biblical principles, for whatever reason, then we are guilty of idolatry. Loyalty to the organization becomes a problem when it's more important than loyalty to Jesus Christ and Scripture."
In our opinion, any minister who really believes this and practices it is a minister that believes God and His Word. Herbert W. Armstrong often admonished us to "not believe me, but believe your Bibles." Apparently, he realized many did not "believe their Bibles."
Attendance in many offshoots of the Worldwide Church of God has declined. Members have become disillusioned for a variety of reasons. In some cases the members have not been fairly treated. In the minister's haste to have "unity" at any cost, he has treated his congregation in a heavy-handed fashion.
Christ warned against this type of behavior. In Matthew 20 Jesus spoke about the princes of the Gentiles who "exercise dominion over . . . exercise authority over" their people and told His disciples that "it shall not be so among you." We are not to practice a style of leadership that Jesus Christ condemned.
A minister may fear his congregation is in danger from false doctrines, and so, in a desire to prevent this, he may, in misguided zeal, discourage, whether directly or indirectly, his congregation from attending services of another organization and from reading their literature or listening to their audio- and videotapes. He may, like the parent fearful for his teen, discourage or not allow "his" members to venture out into the "world."
Christians are not dumb sheep who are unable to think for themselves. Why treat them that way? God certainly doesn't! He gives us minds to think with and expects us to exercise them to discern right from wrong. He expects us to prove all things, and we can't do that if we "check our minds in at the door."
We were taught and used to think that all God's people comprising His true church were embedded within one organization and that God would eventually lead all He was working with into that organization. Were we ever wrong! We see now that there are Christians, all part of a spiritual organism, in several "organizations," and that God isn't limited as some want to limit Him.
Do some give lip service to this understanding but not live their lives as if this were true? Are they saying one thing but living another? Christ called this hypocrisy.
Case in point: By its own admission, United Church of God attendance is down from last year. Where have former members gone? Are members just drifting off? Is the organization shattering? Is the membership being scattered? Might Mr. Rhodes have hit upon a probable cause?
Mr. Rhodes' article has encouraged me to rethink the Indianapolis experience (the founding meeting of UCG-AIA). A lot of good things were spoken there. There was a lot of hope generated. The UCG-AIA was to be headed in a direction different from its former association--without any heresies.
One thing that the Indianapolis conference taught us, in the wake of "churchquake," was not to put an organization between us and God and His truth. The "spirit of Indianapolis" might be embedded within the ministry's adherence to some of the following "Statement of Ethics" principles formulated there:
(1) We will show love and honor to all and respect their freedom of religious belief. (2) We will welcome to Sabbath services all who sincerely desire to visit and peacefully worship with us. (3) We will not criticize, judge or condemn any individual group publicly or privately.
These principles all need to be demonstrated in balance, and these principles apply equally well to all true Christians, whether in the ministry or not, no matter what organization they may be associated with. There must be respect for the Body of Jesus Christ.
Victor Kubik's parting words at the Indianapolis Conference on May 2, 1995, were: "Pray for us to be guided by God in making decisions for the people, and think that really, the ones who win or lose at Indy are the people--the people that we serve. They're the ones that we're here for. If we're not here--if we don't organize something they will drift off, and shatter, and splinter."
If you are part of an organization that seems to have members drifting off, ask if the cause may be failure to follow these principles--all of them!
In the June 11, 1995, UCG-AIA fax-back [a newsletter distributed by fax machines], Mr. Kubik, in recapping the "Statement of Ethics" principles, stated that members should "be careful not to cause offense by criticizing other organizations or pressuring people to make a 'decision.' "
Christians are not all to be found in only one organization on this earth. God is not that limited. We shouldn't be saying, or thinking: I am of Frank, I am of Paul, I am of Gary, I am of Apollos , I am of John, I am of Cephas, I am of Dan, etc., because we had all better be "of Christ."
Why? Because Christ is not divided! If we really intend to serve God and His people, and simultaneously expect to be "helpers of their joy," then we may need to examine ourselves and repent if we are not really being helpers of others' joy. After all, how else will we be the "lights of this world" that should be teaching others?
We cannot really expect to see new growth if we "lord it over one another." We need to be filled with God's love, built upon a foundation of faith and that, in turn, built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. If this isn't done, then many will fulfill those uncomplimentary scriptures talking about God's pastors and shepherds in Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34, which we used to so easily apply to the ministry of the churches of this world.
Lest other organizations think they stand, they may also want to consider what is said here for their benefit, since they may also be experiencing that same "root" mentioned by Mr. Rhodes. Let's all, the workmanship of God's hands, individually and collectively be about our Father's business and not be found guilty of idolatry, of putting loyalty to an organization ahead of loyalty to God!
We had Roger Foster over to the office Sunday (a day of work for me during tax season). Mr. Foster is the pastor of the Camp Verde [Ariz.] UCG congregation and, of course, our former minister. He wanted to stop by and see how we were doing and if he could help us in any way.
We spoke for several hours, both Mary and myself. It was different but nice. He is striving hard to promote love and understanding in this area and help heal some of the rifts between the brethren. It is a thankless job, I am sure.
We will probably go to United for the Feast of Unleavened Bread days. The Coulter fellowship group will do fine for Passover (there would not be a children problem then, anyway) but, with the kids and all, we were wondering what we would do for the holy days. We did not really want to stay home.
This is all so new and strange: getting used to, and living, the way of Christian fellowship without the hang-up about church affiliation.
Mr. Foster has made some changes too. He said that (assuming we were not coming to promote division) we were welcome at United, even as we listen to Mr. Coulter's tapes. Only six months ago he was telling folks to read only UCG materials. So I don't know; life is funny.
Is fellowshipping searching?
After reading the article about the Hartford situation [Nov. 21, page 1], I felt compelled to write my feelings down and, I hope, air them publicly.
I am a "member" of the UCG and am glad that I have a group of people I love to meet with on the Sabbath. I am also glad that I can share other time with these people, because they are open, loving, honest, trustworthy friends who I know are striving to obey God, just like I am.
I trust these people in my congregation, and I would trust people in other UCG congregations (even those I don't know) for the same reason. But I have similar friends and acquaintances in other COG groups I feel exactly the same about.
Why should sharing my time with these "other" people place my standing in the UCG in jeopardy? These people are loving members of the Body of Christ. United's unity statement says that we do not "claim that all Christians are among our fellowship." So why is it considered "searching" to fellowship with these brothers?
Isn't this push to "commit to United" divisive? Isn't this attitude just what Paul was preaching against in 1 Corinthians 1:11-12? I don't want to harangue about how messed up the UCG ministry is, but it saddens me deeply that there is obviously something deeply wrong.
Can't the ministers see that if they would follow the biblical example of ministers people would be coming in droves to associate with them? An example of caring and friendship and help in need and honesty would endear the rest of the Body to them.
Instead, our ministry (this is a generalization; sad to say, I see only few exceptions) always seems to be occupied with something else during the 60-70 hours a week that they work. In my area sick people have not been visited regularly, counseling is limited by legal questions, and ministers stay an arm's length from forming any friendships.
I believe that, if the ministers were truly our brothers, the lies, the abuse, the pressure to conform and the secrecy that seem to be main characteristics of some of our ministers would no longer be "necessary."
A question to all UCG "members": If you looked at another group and you saw its ministers acting like some of ours, would you ever make a commitment to them, assuming you were unaligned? Or would you ever have set foot in the UCG if you saw the true side of the people?
I don't feel that the outspoken people in the UCG have unresolved anger from the past or have a bad spirit. We just want to be treated as brothers in Christ by the ministry. We want honesty, we want civility, we want love.
I can't speak for all, but that is the way I treat people because that is how the Holy Spirit guides me. I don't judge the ministers' motives, but I can judge actions. If a person is not acting as a servant and is not edifying the flock but is continually putting stumbling blocks in people's way, is he a minister?
In 1 Corinthians 6:3-12 Paul said that as a minister he gave no offense, and he spoke openly and had his heart wide open. I would gladly be led by a person like that.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God