Letters from our readers May 31, 1998
No matter what
Thank you very much for the great service you are doing for the general assembly and church of the firstborn in publishing The Journal. We greatly appreciate the articles by Melvin and Diane Rhodes, Dave Havir et al.
Whatever else that might happen, please keep up this publication.
Harold "Hal" Haviland
The thought came to me about a wonderful way to reach out to someone who is just as lonely as I am for a mate and companion and who is of the old school (as I am) but would feel much more comfortable if they were being introduced. What better way, then, through a magazine like yours.
I am content, happy and joyful. I have a close walk with God and am a busy person as I strive to serve God and my fellowman. After 35 years in God's church, and the last few years were with Global and then United, I am happy with life.
I truly love God's people in all the groups and organizations of the Church of God and continue t open my home to them when they are in need. I have never seen so many miracles and prayers answered in my life.
I enjoy transcribing tapes for a couple of ministers who have independent groups: Lon Lacey with the New Mexico Region Church of God and Harold Cormany with a small group called The Church of God Arizona. Lon is doing a fantastic, in-depth study in the Olivet prophecy from the very beginning, and Harold is doing the same thing with a well-researched and documented study of major subjects of the Bible.
The whole Church of God has been lean in these areas. Over the years my family and I have kept in touch with people from all the groups. We have watched closely how Satan has tried to destroy the work of God right and left.
After getting over the loss of my third husband after he died three years ago, I began to fervently pray for more understanding of the "whole Bible." Tape-transcribing was the answer to that prayer. I am blessed with lots of good "books" to check into and prove everything that's being said.
Norman Rowe, who did such fantastic research during those years of independence, continues to be a source of great help.
My prayer life is more joyful and wonderful than ever in my whole life. I walk hand in hand with Him. If we have the faith, God does hear and answer our prayers.
I do hope you don't mind my testimony, because my cup continues to run over.
Name and location withheld
Things work out
I find it enlightening to read the letters to the paper. I feel sorry for some of the writers. The futility and discouragement some seem to project is sad. I wish we could take a more positive approach to what has taken place over the last several years and is still going on.
God says that "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." I find that what has transpired since I've been in the church has been educational. Paul says the law is our instructor, and it surely has been. As in any instructional process, we should learn to become self-proficient in what we have been taught. The problem seems to be that, without God's Spirit, we fail to "eternalize" the instruction. Regardless of our progress in learning, God is still working out His plan and the salvation of those He has chosen.
I've read a great deal that has been written and placed on the Internet. I've gained a great deal of understanding, even from those things with which I do not agree. When I was under the "authority" of the church, I learned to fear learning anything different from what which was taught. If one did see something different from what was taught, best keep your mouth shut. I've been in serious trouble on several occasions when trying to discuss my good fortune. I learned that the best action was to keep my mouth shut, unless I could find a sympathetic ear.
The organizations that have split off to form what they think is God's church set up the same blockade. Now it seems the UCG has joined the parade: "Look to us for what you believe."
Of all the papers I've read, nearly all ignore the one simple scripture, backed up by numerous verses throughout God's Word: John 6:44. Most seem to construe this verse as an invitation. It is anything but. A draft notice from the government to serve in the military would be a more fitting definition.
We love to use Deuteronomy 30:19 as the basis for our thinking. Why not also look to the other verses in Deuteronomy that plainly say it is impossible for the human mind to make such a choice? There are many verses throughout the Bible that conform this truth. Romans 8:7 should put a lid on the whole problem.
I don't want to get carried away. I'm just a lay member.
Just a note to let you know how your paper does a good work, even though much of its content is corporation- and business-oriented for all these multitudinous, divided Churches of God out there who are trying to use The Journal not only to sustain and keep their flock but hopefully add to it.
This is good, for it shows how deceitfully far they will go to get their paychecks, the tithes.
Another good thing about The Journal is that the letters and questions we saints have written and asked are being blanketed across your paper. Just by exposing their purposed neglect in addressing the called-out ones' inquirers, as did the Bereans, they are forced to answer these questions and the oh so many accusations against their behavior.
If they don't respond (and that scripturally), the unstudied saints can easily decipher these men's works, aims and ambitions and avoid them henceforth. The Journal allows the true ministers and saints to converse with each other, plan things together and trade scriptural studies on truth, without paying an arm and a leg.
The saints, having God's Spirit, can discern all things, for His Spirit leads them to all truth. The lazy, insecure sheep are always seeking a man to follow; they'd rather rely on men.
As M.J. Beckman wrote: "Politicians and other parasites who live off money confiscated from working people will argue that government cannot survive without the individual income tax. They are absolutely correct. We don't want this government (this socialistic, unconstitutional government) to survive."
This quote is so applicable to the churches.
Carson City, Nev.
Thank you, God, for life, breath, food for all the variety of animals, trees, living things, including you and me. I want to thank God for my family and friends, for a church I can attend.
Thank you, God, for trying to mold and shape and chasten each of us for our own good.
I give thanks for all God's people, wherever and whoever they are. Let's give thanks for the work each person and organization is trying to do.
I simply wish we could all work together and even cooperate with one another, extending the right hand of fellowship to one another, regardless of the church box we identify ourselves with.
Let's give thanks that we can even be considered to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, our elder brother.
I can feel a spark of interest in truly loving one anther, building each other up regardless of affiliation.
"Beloved [that's you and me, folks], if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" (1 John 4:11).
"If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar" (verses 20-21).
"And this commandment have we from him, that he who loves God love his brother also" (verse 21).
This letter is from a United fellowshipper who sponsors a Ron Dart radio broadcast and is dedicated to my loving wife, Elaine, the faithful few attending the WCG and Daryl Willard, who is an outcast in the mother church.
The challenge of independence
Thanks for your coverage of the events in Big Sandy [the split of the United Church of God Big Sandy during the week of May 10, news of which was posted at The Journal's Web site (www.thejournal.org) and is printed in this issue]. There is a message that I would like to get to the members, as one who has been through a similar situation in Waco:
Be aware that there is no avenue of appeal. If the people accept any alteration of their situation on a try-it-and-see-how-it-works basis, they will have put the future of the congregation in someone else's hands.
It is my experience that the ministerial-services team and the council, which directs the team, cannot be trusted to deal with the people in good faith and will present their remarks in a manner to make as many people as possible comfortable to remain affiliated with UCG-AIA, showing no regard for the others and thereby separating long-time friends and sowing discord among brethren.
Their goal (in the Waco situation) was not to preserve the integrity of the congregation, which they easily could have done by offering to compromise, but to promote the welfare of the corporate structure at any cost.
My hope is that the situation will be brought to light and that the people will be allowed to make their own choice as a congregation. Independence is challenging and rewarding.
Mr. Armstrong on splits
"I am going to end all comment about that group here, with the epitaph that--like a dead tree--they have since split and resplit into so many little tiny groups, all hating one another, that no one seems to know where all of them are" (Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, page 530).
That comment was intended for the Church of God (Seventh Day) but may also apply to us in principle.
Yet the Church of God (Seventh Day) has 130,000 members today, and there has been some reunification and cooperation among some of its branches. Yet we have split and resplit. And now, with the UCG shrinking from 19,000 to about 16,000 and going down even further because of the situation in Big Sandy (and who knows where else soon), we don't seem to be cooperating among even ourselves.
Global, United, etc., should be cooperating, but refuse to even talk to each other. Is that Christian?
This constant self-devouring and cannibalizing is destroying us and will prevent us from undertaking a work. It is interesting to see the class of person and the names who are doing so. It is not the RCC, not infiltrators, not the members, not conspiracies.
I was very encouraged to hear [UCG-AIA president] Les McCullough speak about the meetings of the council of elders on the Sabbath of May 2. Looks like we were starting to get momentum again. But then, the letter came to Dave Havir within a couple of days of Mr. McCullough's message. Apparently the UCG-AIA does not want Dave Havir to go along in the journey of fulfilling the vision of the council.
I just have to wonder why. My conclusion is that if Richard Pinelli [director of UCG-AIA ministerial services] doesn't want David Havir, for sure he wouldn't want me, either. If David Havir doesn't qualify to be part of the team, then I don't have a hope.
My observation is that the Big Sandy congregation has been faithful in sending tithes and offerings to UCG-AIA in California to pay the salary and expenses associated with our pastor. I also believe that there was plenty extra to help other congregations around the world of lesser means. I am sure that in the budget there is certainly more than ample to cover our pastor.
We have not asked for a dime. We have more than generously covered whatever: magazines, funding other congregations, help in international areas, funding salaries, production of home-office materials and video, etc. So I just don't see a financial reason.
Fortunately, I don't need the home office or the council--or David Havir, for that matter--to be saved. Psalm 23 tells me that "the Lord is my Shepherd." The ministry is to be helper of my joy.
Dave Havir has helped me. Richard Pinelli has not. It is as simple as that. The words of John 15:15 come to mind: "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."
My Shepherd calls me His friend. This is just awesome! My Shepherd lets me know what's going on. All things that He heard from His Father He will let me know--of course, not all at once because I probably couldn't take it. Wow, can you see the difference?
Another scripture that comes to mind is Romans 16:17: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
Notice the word brethren. He is writing this to me personally! I am instructed to "mark them" and "avoid them."
I find this move against Dave Havir both divisive and offensive to my sensitivities as a Christian. I don't like to "mark and avoid" anybody, but the Scripture is clear. I need more facts.
Once again, I thank you and your staff at The Journal. When I was confused and puzzled about what had happened to David Hulme, your fine paper gave me 16 reasons. I hope you will get to the bottom of this latest puzzling circumstance.
Bernabe F. Monsalvo
Member, Board of Trustees
United Church of God Big Sandy
I've been following the Journal Web page and the happenings in Big Sandy over the last couple weeks with great interest (and prayers for y'all). Please pass on my congratulations to Dave Havir and all those wonderful Big Sandy brethren who wouldn't fall for the political power plays.
During the question-and answer-session, I read [on The Journal's Web site] how men and women, young and old, all took a stand. I don't think the UCG-AIA leadership had ever seen anything like it. The Big Sandy brethren had them pegged.
None of those UCG-AIA leaders would like to have someone do unto themselves what they were doing unto Dave Havir. They even wanted to tell him why he was being replaced, but in church corporations the golden rule doesn't take precedence over the rule governing executive sessions and Article XYZ, Subparagraph Q, of the bylaws.
The law of God and basic human decency are being superseded by the traditions of men. It's the same thing that happened in the WCG, and it's why God's Spirit can't flow in old wineskins.
Stephen, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and Apollos and Saul would have all been waiting to hear from the evangelism committee.
May God's Spirit continue to guide and flow through all of our Big Sandy brethren.
Battle Ground, Wash.
Regarding the latest update [on The Journal's Web site] of what's happening here in Big Sandy, you state: "Notable for its absence was a publicly stated reason for the attempted removal of Mr. Havir . . ."
You neglect to mention that when asked Mr. Havir did not give his permission for the reason to be stated at this time so he could hear it in private first. Many people are reading your updates. Please be sure to give an unbiased report.
Big Sandy, Texas
Thank you so much for the timely updates on your Web site [www.thejournal.org] regarding the Big Sandy situation. My sister and family live in Big Sandy, but we get only a thumbnail sketch from her!
My husband and I believed and supported the original intent of UCG but grew weary of seeing the same things occur that happened in the WCG. It was as if they just moved their chairs down the hall and changed the name on the door.
In a way, that was what happened, since many kept their same insurance, vacation days and salaries. (Don't we all wish we would get the same benefits when we switched jobs!)
Anyhow, one thing that stood out when we read the transcripts from last week's services was how many times "I don't know, I wasn't there," "I have only been in this job for X number of months," "I wasn't there then," etc.
Isn't it the duty of the president of the organization to familiarize himself with its history before he takes the reins? Shouldn't he have viewed the videotapes of the conference, known all the bylaws, reviewed the church's history--including reading everything he could get his hands on regarding why there has been such a decline in membership and how they can stop this cycle--instead of making the same mistake again and again?
We have enough to worry about with Bill Clinton, but at least, when questioned about the Constitution of the United States, he doesn't say, "well, I don't know. I wasn't there when it was written so I have no knowledge about it."
These men who have never been questioned before better enlighten themselves before they find they are preaching to each other.
Name and location withheld
Back in the former U.S.S.R.
On April 24, in a secret ballot, the Duma (Russian parliament) approved President Boris Yeltsin's nominee for prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko. In two earlier public votes, Mr. Kiriyenko's nomination had been soundly defeated. What made the third time the charm?
Several factors were involved. First, it was a test of wills--and power--between Yeltsin and members of the Duma. He told them that if they did not ratify his nominee he would dissolve parliament and call for new elections (the Russian constitution allows the president to do this if the Duma were to reject his nominee three times). The Russian deputies did not believe Mr. Yeltsin was bluffing.
The majority of the Duma had resoundingly voted against Mr. Kiriyenko in the first two votes. Many deputies had argued that their vote was a question of principle: Mr. Kiriyenko was too young and too inexperienced and would be only a heartbeat away from the presidency were anything to happen to Mr. Yeltsin. Each time Mr. Kiriyenko was defeated, Mr. Yeltsin resubmitted his name. It was time for the big showdown.
This time the parliamentarians decided they would have a secret ballot to determine Mr. Kiriyenko's fate--and their own. They realized that, if they did not ratify his nomination, they would be out of a job and would have to run for reelection, a prospect many did not relish for fear of being rejected by the voters. So they held their noses and voted for Mr. Yeltsin's man: 251 in favor, 25 against, with 174 abstentions.
Deputies justified their change of heart (and of principle?) on the grounds that new elections would have created turmoil at a time when the Russian economy is in serious trouble. "We did it for the Motherland" so to speak. From the number who voted in favor, it was clear that even some of the Communist deputies, who had been ordered by their leaders to abstain, had defied those instructions.
Most observers feel that members of the Duma were acting on principle: the principle of self-preservation, that is. When push came to shove, their backbone collapsed. Is there a lesson here for the UCG-AIA?
The UCG does not have a Duma, but the church does have a council of elders. Currently, 11 of the 12 are employees of the church. I do not doubt that they are all honorable men, but even parliamentarians are usually addressed as "Honorable," are they not? And didn't Shakespeare describe Caesar's assassin, Brutus, as "an honourable man"?
The moral of the story is that, when difficult decisions that might seriously affect one's livelihood have to be made, the instinct for self-preservation tends to take over. What if a hard decision needed to be made that might affect some council members' employment status? Would they be able to vote yes?
As I mentioned earlier, on the third try the Duma elected to have a secret ballot. That way no one would know which way the members voted.
The council of elders undoubtedly would have an executive session to discuss any personnel issue and the vote would also be secret. It would be comforting to believe that all council members would vote in the best interests of the church even if those interests conflicted with their personal best interests, but, knowing human nature as we do, we all realize that the temptation to look out for No. 1 is hard to avoid. Hence the need for safeguards.
(When we consider this instinct for self-protection, let us not forget the incident recently in which a couple of council members [at a meeting in Louisville March 9] took pains when under pressure to distance themselves from The Journal, even to the point, in at least one case, of making declarations that later proved inaccurate.)
It is clear the Duma members would have rejected Mr. Kiriyenko indefinitely had they not had to worry about their jobs.
The solution, of course, would be to amend the Russian constitution to deprive the president of the power to dissolve the parliament before the end of their elective period of office. The solution for the UCG would be to have a council made up entirely or almost entirely (say three fourths of its members) of individuals not employed by the church. This would create a structure in which it is much easier for people to act decisively without fear or favor.
Yeltsin, Kiriyenko, and the Duma: a lesson for the UCG?
Big Sandy, Texas
Mental question marks
I am grateful that The Journal exists, although I could not help that I found the news about the UCG-AIA a bit overdone. At last I understand this now. This had to be so so that the readers would have been informed about the not-so-open-mindedness and the not-so-united structure of UCG-AIA.
The reports about my fellow countryman Jan Zijderveld especially put a lot of question marks in my mind ["Dutch Employee Fired; Brethren Coming to His Aid" and "Open Letter Gives Chronology," Jan. 30]. However, I do admire Mrs. Monica Kieffer for the, in my opinion, open and objective way of reporting. I do know that this type of reporting is painful for the reporter.
The happenings at the Louisville conference rang a lot of alarm bells [March 30 issue, page 1]. With careful reading of The Journal, I could deduce that there were about 300 elders with their wives assembled and this all at the costs of the money from the tithes and offerings of the members and coworkers.
A member, also wishing to attend, had to pay for his own traveling and lodging costs. And during the session it was suddenly declared that the nonelders had to leave the conference.
I have never ever seen such partiality during any conference and that especially towards members, who were paying themselves to be there and paying also for those elders, who apparently do not want to see the money-givers there.
I noted that no resolution was passed to exclude nonelders and observers. In my opinion the Journal writers' removal was contrary to proper procedure.
Furthermore, I have also deduced that quite a few of these elders have also a salary paid by the UCG-AIA that is also from the tithes and offerings of the members. So quite a few were there paid for the days, the traveling and the lodging. Any member had to sacrifice part of his income for being there. In this I am reminded of Hebrews 13:10: "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle."
It looks like the times of the Middle Ages, when one had to pay for his own hangman or had to pay for food and shelter when imprisoned.
If the UCG-AIA will follow this path, then they will be instrumental in the prophecy about the scattering of the sheep.
The sheep are being and have been trained to turn against people without considering the merits of the issues involved as they did against The Journal and yourselves. Indeed it appears many turn now against any who stand for the truth of the faith regardless of politics or persons.
I would strongly recommend that The Journal continue bringing the news as it should be: open, honest and calling things as they are without any respect of persons.
The sheep have to know what is going on, what they can expect and how they have to prepare themselves if they come to the conclusion that they have to pay, pray and have no say.
And this all in the disguise of being shepherds. Twisting doctrines from the word of God, to have power over others. Where is the fear for God?
Keep the light burning. The truth is still in the Bible.
Bonne A. Rook
Via the Internet
In reading through the play-by-play of what is taking place in Big Sandy [on The Journal's Web site], I was deeply saddened to see another turmoil within the UCG.
I am reading a book called Inspire Your Kids to Greatness, by Jerry Johnston. He makes some good points that we all should consider. In his opening chapter he talks about how greatness transcends social and economic status and how many have no clue as to what true greatness is all about.
He explains that Christ Himself made a crucial connection between children and greatness. He quotes the following two scriptures:
With all the turmoil that has taken place in the organizations over the past few years, I wonder how differently things would have turned out if those involved had become as little children.
Christ also warns against offending the little ones, and many little ones have been greatly offended. If we are doing the work of God, then why are we having so many problems? Why so much secrecy?
The problems going on in the various organizations are one of the reasons many of us have chosen to keep the Sabbath at home. The Sabbath was intended to be a delight, and it cannot be that if your church is constantly having one crisis after another.
My hope is that we will strive to inspire our children and others to humble themselves like children so they will be called the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Keep up the good work you are doing through The Journal!
Jeff and Shirley Senay
What's new? Nothing
For what it's worth in these exciting times, I quote from The Story of the Church of God (Seventh Day), by Robert Coulter:
"Merritt E. Cornell, who had been persuaded by Joseph Bates [a Seventh-day Adventist preacher] in 1852 to observe the Sabbath, went to work in Iowa in the late part of that decade. It was his practice to preach the second advent of Jesus Christ, the unconscious state of the dead, and the observance of the seventh day Sabbath. He raised up several groups of people whom he convinced on these subjects. As these groups organized, their practice was to band together on the basis of a covenant, in which they referred to themselves as the Church of Jesus Christ.
"In the winter of 1860, Cornell made an appearance in Marion, Iowa. He began to preach the doctrine, and over the course of a few months a following of more than fifty persons banded together to form a new congregation. On June 10, 1860, they adopted a covenant setting forth their beliefs and practices under the name of the Church of Jesus Christ, as follows:
" 'We the undersigned do hereby express our wish to be associated together in Christian fellowship, as a Church of Jesus Christ, at Marion, whose covenant obligation is briefly expressed in keeping the commandments of God and faith of Jesus, taking the Bible, and the Bible alone, as the rule of our faith and discipline.'
"Unfortunately, harmony in the Marion church only lasted a few months. A portion of a circular letter published in the Hope of Israel, September 7, 1864, describes what happened:
" 'We will here give a sketch of our history for the past two years and a half. On the 10th of June, 1860, something over 50 of us adopted a form of church covenant, drawn up by one of the approved messengers [M.E. Cornell] of the truth we had recently adopted.
" 'Nearly a year and a half afterward, the messenger held up publicly some other volumes by the side of the Bible of a recent date, and averred that these recent publications were of equal authority, and binding forever with the Bible, and urged us to adopt their teaching also, as a rule of faith and discipline. A portion of us were unwilling to accept these new planks in the platform of our church. Certainly not until we had the time to test their soundness and fitness. The result was about one half of the church decided to receive these volumes as a valid scripture, and drew off from us, or rather repelled us from them, denouncing us as rebels, etc., etc., distinctly intimating that they no longer desired nor would tolerate our company in their religious meetings, otherwise than as spectators.
" 'We now discovered that the cry for organization had been under false colors; and that while the plea of holding church property, and securing the church against imposters was held out, the real object was to put the visions of Ellen G. White on the same eminence with the Bible.
" 'As it regards us being rebels, we boldly assert that we are not rebels. We have not rebelled against the constitution which we adopted, for we stand firm on it yet. We have not rebelled against Ellen G. White, for we never endorsed her; nor have we rebelled against any of the messengers, for we never acknowledged allegiance to them; so the charge of rebellion reflects with shame on them, who have made it, they being the ones who have departed from their first position [the Bible and the Bible alone] and have adopted a new one.' "
Behold, there is nothing new under the sun.
Letter to the membership
I was almost 9 in the summer of 1956 when my mother was baptized by the Radio Church of God. I was 20 (1967) when I was baptized by the Worldwide Church of God. I was 31 (1978) when my wife, Betty, and I decided look to the Scriptures for guidance and we moved from the WCG to the Church of God, International. I was 48 (1996, Passover) when Betty and I decided we could not support the CGI decision not to follow Scripture.
We joined with others of a like mind and formed an independent congregation (open to all who wanted to fellowship). I was 48 when at the request of the congregation I was ordained an elder on Pentecost 1996 by Thomas Whitson, pastor.
I participated in the ministerial conference of the Churches of God at Oklahoma City in 1996 and at Wagoner, Okla., in spring 1997. I retired from the City of Dallas at age 50 (1997).
After the 1997 Feast of Tabernacles a split occurred within the congregation over the use of the English transliterations of Yahweh and Yahshua. Eleven persons decided they could not associate with those using the names Yahweh and Yahshua. Thirty-three decided to form a new congregation called the Congregation of YHWH.
The new congregation neither requires the use of the names Yahweh and Yahshua nor forbids the use of Jesus, Lord and God. The elders consist of Mr. Whitson, pastor; Dennis Martin and Larry Sandberg, elder-ministers; Don Teague and Bob Widmer, deacons; and Betty Martin, deaconess.
We meet at 224 N. Story Rd., Suite 138, Irving, Texas, at 1 p.m. Services begin with a one-hour interactive Scripture study followed by a sermon. Sabbath school for the children begins at 1.
I gave the preceding introduction to answer questions on how do I have the audacity to think that I can address all of the churches/assemblies/congregations/associations of God/ Yahweh. Since 1963 I have observed individuals, who having studied Scripture decided that they needed to observe and keep the Sabbath, the Ten Commandments and the Holy/Set Apart Days, and made an honest individual attempt to spread the gospel. To them I address the following:
You were given the Holy/Set Apart Spirit of the Father. With that Spirit you are responsible for your eternal life. You have control over what you do. You are responsible only to the Father for your decisions.
So stop letting other people make those decisions for you! The Scriptures tell you to test those who claim to be prophets and are not, who claim to preach the Gospel and do not.
I propose the following test: that each member set up a special bank savings account (like those used in the past for festival tithes) and place into it his first tithes, setting aside enough to pay the expenses for his local meeting hall and other obligations (this does not include ministerial salaries).
I believe that at the end of this test each of you will find out who are the servants and who are the hirelings. Hirelings will not defend the flock from the wolves. Hirelings do not have to believe or be converted. Hirelings will not die for what they are paid to preach as Stephen, who died for his belief. Hirelings are paid to preach and believe.
Servants will defend the flock to the death. Servants are free to preach what is contained in the Scripture. Servants serve without a financial incentive, as Paul set the example. Only servants lead by example. Servants lead their congregation to grow spiritually, to find ways to spread the gospel to their neighbors.
The New Testament church was scattered from Jerusalem (headquarters or home office), and as individuals the brethren spread the gospel without the need of an apostle, pastor, minister or deacon to decide what format was best suited to spreading the gospel in their new area and/or coordinate it with headquarters.
After the completion of the test and the servants have become visible, then the tithes that have accumulated would then be spent more toward spreading the gospel and a little less toward supporting the life style of a few.
I find it interesting that, with Jerusalem as headquarters and collecting tithes, Paul would have to request from the outlying churches a special donation to provide support for those at headquarters.
I have followed the scattering of the power of the people with the beginning issue of In Transition and in The Journal and its current Web-site postings. I have read the crying and lamentations of the people over the death of Tammuz.
I say Tammuz because there is no justification for recreating an organization that is not founded on Scripture.
Example: The priesthood of the Old Testament did not have jurisdiction over the daily lives of the people. The people had to have a physical condition that was clearly defined by Scripture in order for the priests to deny a person access to the temple and offer sacrifices. People's sins determined the type of sacrifice required, but their sins did not deny them access to the temple.
The physical temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. The spiritual temple was created and occupied on the Pentecost after the Messiah's death and resurrection.
When the Holy/Set Apart Spirit occupied your temple after your baptism and the laying on of hands, you became part of a royal priesthood, a peculiar people. The gifts of the Spirit were not given to divide us into a caste system, with one group having authority over another. If that were the case, then none of us would ever qualify to stand at the right hand of the Father on equal footing with our elder brother, the Messiah.
As an example, the Messiah got down on His knees and washed the feet of the disciples, not the other way around.
There are rewards for doing everything in our power to become like the Messiah in every way. The more you fill your temple with the Holy/Set Apart Spirit, the more you become like the Messiah. Look at the example of Solomon completing his prayer of dedication of the temple. The presence of the Father filled the temple to the point that the priests were forced from the temple.
I encourage all of you to stick your head into the Scriptures and prove all things, produce fruit (quality, not quantity; worms can infest quantity), fill your temple with the Holy/Set Apart Spirit and become a servant. And you should expect no less from those that want to be your servants.
I applaud the Big Sandy congregation for standing up for their right to associate and for extending the hand of fellowship to others. I have read The Journal's Web-site postings beginning with the fax [from Richard Pinelli] and ending with the split [of the Big Sandy congregation]. I relived the experiences I went through beginning in November 1978 with the WCG.
The Big Sandy congregation has begun a journey that will require the patience of Job, wisdom of Solomon and ability to silently endure revilings, as did the Messiah.
My advice is to go slow and search the Scriptures for guidance. If during discussions the atmosphere becomes overheated, take a break by asking three men to pray for guidance and the presence of the Holy/Set Apart Spirit.
Dennis Larry Martin
I like to commend you on your publication. I must admit I've had mixed feelings about the end result of the spiritual smorgasbord that God's people are being served up these days. I don't think that's your intention, and, after all, we are to study and show ourselves approved. Those willing to put forth the effort to divide error from truth will fare well.
So keep up the good work, no matter who would try to shun you!
As far as accuracy goes, you printed in the March 30 edition that "Global's gospel efforts have averaged one new baptism a week." In five years of operations, that translates to 260 baptized brethren, but the actual number as of March's Global News is 583.
The fields may still be white; may God bring more laborers for his harvest.
Miguel L. Lanes
Boca Raton, Fla.
It is my view that one free way in which some of us can do our part in preaching the gospel of the soon-coming Kingdom is to respond to items in the media with letters such as the one below. If printed, this kind letter to the editor leaves a further printed record and witness of our central message.
"Charles Moore quotes Jesus in his 'Parable of the Pound' to conclude that the euro lacks a Caesar to succeed. Had he quoted a few other verses, he'd know such a Caesar must shortly appear. Daniel the Prophet identifies this unprecedented information-explosion era as 'the time of the end' (Daniel 12:4).
"This is the same period spoken of in Revelation 13, when the ultimate Caesar causes virtually everyone worldwide 'both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the Beast, or the number of his name.'
"This Caesar will be aided by a miracle-working pontiff, and 10 'kings'--the final resurrection of the unholy Roman Empire--and they will be empowered by the unseen 'Satan, who deceives the whole world' (Revelation 12:9). Thus certain obstacles Mr. Moore foresees jeopardizing a single currency will disappear through supernatural cunning.
"As will the dollar and pound--which will soon be found to be false gods--in the worse holocaust ever, which Daniel 12 predicts this new world order will bring shortly before the real Messiah intervenes to save man from himself and introduces the genuine Millennium, which will establish the everlasting world empire, the Kingdom of God, with headquarters in Jerusalem.
Cape Town, South Africa
As readers of The Journal know, I completed a hymnal designed for the Churches of God in April 1997. It included 29 songs by Dwight Armstrong. We received written permission from the board of the Worldwide Church of God to use those hymns, but for reasons of his own the WCG's attorney, Ralph Helge, has not found time to issue us the necessary license.
I have accepted as reality that such a license is not going to come. (Other groups are also having difficulty obtaining one.) So I have decided to produce another hymnal, without the Dwight Armstrong hymns.
I know that they are of great emotional and traditional value to many, including myself, but I was excited to find that there are plenty of other hymns with texts from the Psalms and other scriptures that are as good as or better than the Dwight Armstrong hymns.
Also, I was able to track down hymnals that prove beyond question that Mr. Armstrong often used existing lyrics and simply set them to music. This means that we can still use the familiar words if they are sung to different tunes.
Furthermore, I have decided to make the entire hymnal royalty-free. This is a little different from public-domain in that some of the hymns are copyrighted but are available free for any nonprofit use. It means I will have to omit some very good hymns, but there is no shortage of equally good hymns to replace them.
It is amazing how many wonderful, little-known hymns are out there that seem as though they were written specifically for law-keeping Christians who eagerly await the return of Jesus Christ to establish His Kingdom. I think that those of you who see the finished product will see how custom-made it is for our people.
I am also trying to make it suitable for Christians anywhere in the world by leaving out nationalistic hymns and including songs from international sources.
When it is finished I will notify everyone who has contacted me. The plan is to print it and sell it at near cost, but, because it is royalty-free, anyone who wishes to will also be able to photocopy it or post it on a Web site. If someone with more energy than I wishes to make tapes of the hymns and distribute them (they're available in MIDI format) or translate them into other languages (they're currently all in English), they can do so without worrying about royalties or lawsuits.
Unfortunately, I have to do this in my spare time. I'm making good progress, but it probably will be finished after the Feast of Tabernacles this year. I appreciate your patience, and hope that others are as enthusiastic about it as I am.
P.O. Box 770261
Lakewood, Ohio 44107, U.S.A.
(216) 529-1380; email@example.com
Anti-Sabbath fifth columnists
In the Feb. 26 issue of The Journal, Whaid Rose, president of the Church of God (Seventh Day), stated that he was unaware of an agenda by Joseph Tkach Jr., leader of the Worldwide Church of God, to attempt to get other Sabbatarians to give up the Sabbath.
Mr. Rose said, "I sense a genuine respect from the leadership of the WCG for the Sabbatarian community."
He is either deliberately ignorant of the facts or woefully misinformed.
In the spring of 1998 Mr. Tkach announced an eight-week jubilee to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ambassador University (the school sponsored by the Worldwide Church of God). He announced that the church was being "recommissioned" and has a "new mission."
Since all the other Trinity evangelicals are going after the unchurched, the WCG expects to fulfill its perceived purpose by evangelizing all its former Sabbath-keeping brothers who remain bound to what the WCG now views as "legalism" and thereby are ignorant of God's grace.
On several occasions Mr. Tkach has stated words to the effect that he would try to convince other groups (the Church of God [Seventh Day], SDAs and WCG offshoots) that they need not observe the seventh-day Sabbath.
On Hank Hanegraaff's Bible Answer Man interview of Joe Tkach and Greg Albrecht on Nov. 18, 1997, Mr. Tkach said that the effect of his book Transformed by Truth was felt not only in the evangelical community.
"The other ripple is . . . the entire Sabbatarian community has felt some tremors from this," he said. "I think some would like to contain those tremors, and others can't. I think God is still moving and still has some work to accomplish on the Sabbatarian community."
While Whaid Rose wants to cultivate relationships with someone out to destroy his group's Sabbath-keeping, others are unaware of an equally sinister movement that permeates many other Sabbath-keeping organizations. There are anti-Sabbath believers in and among other Sabbath-keeping groups.
I am the last person to be a "conspiracy buff." Over the years, however, I have been forced to admit that Satan's most clever tactic is to work on the inside. Whether we would like to admit it or not, we are engaged in spiritual guerrilla warfare.
Mr. Tkach has his counterparts in the Church of God (Seventh Day) and other groups and fellowships. The anti-Sabbath fifth columnists are sometimes much harder to detect than Mr. Tkach. May God give each of us the spiritual discernment to tell our friends from our foes.
I would like to respond to Ian Boyne's recent challenge to disprove that "the idea of congregations choosing elders or voting them out is totally foreign to the Scriptures."
First, 1 Timothy 5:19 is a precedent for voting an elder out: "Do not take an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses."
The organization always reacted defensively if anyone suggested that a minister was guilty of wrongdoing, and we were given the impression that accusing a minister was like accusing God.
One has only to look up the ordain in the concordance to see how the government bias of centuries affected the way words were translated.
The phrase "And when they had ordained them elders in every church" (Acts 14:23) uses the Greek cheirotoneo, which literally means "to be a hand-reacher or voter (by raising the hand)." See Strong's No. 5500 for the complete explanation.
The church gathered to decide the replacement for Judas in the chapter of Acts. It's interesting that verse 15 shows Peter standing up before all the brethren. Verse 23 describes nominations and verse 26 the casting of lots. This is the clearest and most-complete description of ordination in the Bible.
Mr. Boyne would like to modify the meaning of Acts 6. Even his choice of capitalizing the Twelve and Seven suggests a deep belief in class distinction. The 12 saw the need, but it was clear that the whole group chose and presented the seven to the apostles.
"And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen . . . These they set before the apostles . . ." (Acts 6:5-6).
Paul instructed Titus to appointed elders (Titus 5). The word is cheirotoneo. The process of nomination and voting is suggested by the use of that word.
In Acts 16:2 Timothy was recommended to Paul by the brethren. The church at Antioch sent "Paul, Barnabas and certain others" (NASV) down to Jerusalem to discuss doctrine. Doctrine was discussed before "the church and the apostles and the elders." There were no closed-door, back-room meetings. It wasn't an "option" to discuss doctrine in front of the brethren; it was the accepted practice of the early church.
Mr. Boyne nimbly quotes Act 16:4 but omits to mention Acts 15:22. "Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church." The brethren were part of the decision-making process on doctrinal issues.
Even Jesus said, "I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together, and I spoke nothing in secret" (Mark 4:22).
Paul spoke of openly confronting the apostles. "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him in public, because he was clearly wrong" (Galatians 2:11).
Did anyone dare to confront ministers, including the Armstrongs, in public? Perhaps things would have been different had the clear instruction of the Bible been followed. We were taught that ministers were a law unto themselves.
John wrote: "But you have an anointing from the Holy One and you all know. And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to reach you . . ." (John 2:20, 27).
Peter, another original apostle, respected the gifts of each person (1 Peter 4:10-11).
The organized churches have put before us philanderers, divorced, corrupt, double-minded weak men who got the AC seal of approval but little else.
"Greedy for gain" was burnished into the gray matter at AC. AC sanitized oppression of the poor.
I suggest AC grads move aside and let the Spirit move the church. Some of us have learned the truth, and we are free to turn our backs on a hierarchy that taught men to rule on their own authority--"and my people love it so" (Jeremiah 6:31).
The ministry had its chance to lead righteously. The ministers had the opportunity to teach the truth. They failed us. They fed us lies and delusions.
When things were going wrong "at the top," the ministers tried to remain "positive," instead of telling us the truth. They said: "This is the Church of God. This is the Church of God. This is the Church of God."
God says: "Trust not in lying words" (Jeremiah 7), but we were too young to know they were lies. Those lies are the bitterness in our souls.
We were the innocent ones, the little ones, the children. We trusted, but never again.
"The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men . . . Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide . . ." (Micah 7:2, 5).
Don't talk about authority while my friends, decent people, are cracking up be;cause they believed the church lies.
There are too many of us who have suffered deeply under false spiritual authority. We will not deny our pain to give the leeches another chance to suck our blood. It's like a vampire bite that has affected the whole church: men who will choose power over truth, image over inner honesty.
There is no doubt in my mind that the church engendered a caste system. There was the toilet-cleaning caste. My father was part of the garbage-removing caste. He took out the garbage at fun shows. We camped while the ministers lived like kings at Mount Airy Lodge. It was on the backs of the little people that ministers lived high on the hog.
We were conned into believing we were part of something big and important, only to discover we were just "dumb sheep," satisfying an old lecher's vaulting ego.
I will not contribute to a caste system. Let the ministers go out and work with their hands, following the example of Paul and the instruction of 1 Thessalonians 4:11.
There is a role for a minister. There is a role for discussion between everyone. Some scholars say that the early church considered a new convert a novice for three years. Most of us are long past that stage. We can't be lie-down-and-play-dead brethren. Our backs are tired of being a road (Isaiah 51:23).
The people are the work. Huddling in a centralized structure may build an impressive structure, but God isn't interested in an oppressive system that reaches up to the heavens with its stench.
Some of us have discovered that we truly are a "royal priesthood" and we won't let just anyone polish our crown.
So wash that Armstrong-branding out of your mind. We don't want to go back to Egypt. We are free.
Elmira, Ont., Canada
I am responding to the letter titled "A Tale of Two Churches" [Feb. 26 issue], since its intent was to try to set a fire bomb of emotions in the hearts of brethren and not to shed light on the nature of Christ, or truth or love.
I don't think that God works with those He calls with a two-by-four pine board to beat over their heads and knock sense into them. Instead, I think He calls us to reason with Him, gently leading and calling us, with a "still, small voice," giving us direction, chiding us when we need it, giving us strength to endure at other times, healing us, not beating us.
When in the WCG were we ever taught that personal salvation was by works? It is always a favorite method of attack on one's beliefs to distort what they actually were and then proceed to dissect that distortion. I attended the WCG for most of my life and was never taught that one could attain salvation by the law. We were taught the good news, the Kingdom of God, that through the sacrifice of Christ we could inherit eternal life upon repentance and conversion.
There is no other way, no other name by which we can receive eternal life. The holy days and Sabbath helped us to understand the nature of God's great and holy plan of salvation for all mankind. I think the message has always been Christ-centered.
The cry of "legalism" is used by some to detract from the goodness and rightness of keeping God's law. They cry "legalism," but in their own way they are also legalists in citing certain scriptures as proof of their cause. Going strictly by what they think is the right interpretation, they are bound only to that and not by the whole Word of God. We are told to worship God in spirit and in truth, and the Spirit searches the deep things of God, rightly dividing, putting line upon line, precept upon precept.
God gave us the ability to reason, to make sense out of things, to use discernment. Considering that Satan can transform himself into a being of light, isn't it wise to use this ability?
So why is it when some of us worship God we check our brains in at the door? It used to be that people studied by candlelight, with much reasoning, searching for truth with fear and trembling.
Now we are blinded by bright lights, and we study, but with not much reasoning. Maybe it's time to put a stop to emotions blinding us and reason together.
Lynn Haven, Fla.
The conference in Wagoner, Okla. [see "275 Meet for 'Footsteps' in Oklahoma," page 1, Jan. 30], was a relational field day. It was such a blessing to be with so many precious friends and begin developing a few more. We experienced tremendous generosity, hospitality and warmth. We witnessed the reactionary, coercive and polarizing dynamics that often define our fellowship. I contemplated and experienced prayer in relational ways I had not before. I watched group dynamics play out and enjoyed realizing my objective as a moderating influence in any way I could.
Christianity is showing a growing interest in the Hebraic roots of its faith. The conference in Wagoner brought several diverse ministries and brethren together for study and fellowship. Some had no Sabbatarian background whatsoever, while others had never interacted with those of the ex-WCG community. Some had corporate ties, while most were without corporate affiliation other than the Church of God at large.
Wagoner was a Torah ("law")friendly gathering, and those who participated helped contribute understanding from both sides of the harmonious relationship between God's grace and His instruction. Defining the practical realities of a Torah ("law")observant way of life served as stimulating underlying current. Sometimes we might disagree with a particular conclusion and how one arrived at it, but the exchanges are healthy as long as we stay centered on the focal issues of our faith and walk with God.
It was said that some at the conference were "risk-takers". The ministry of reconciliation requires no less. Wagoner did not set forth the usual list of political climbers to come forth and do their presentations. The Holy Spirit was there to gift those who exercised it with the perception and honesty that I felt comfortable working in.
The interaction after the Sabbath Torah reading (a peripheral activity), during the question-and-answer session and elsewhere through the seminar provided a wonderful opportunity for the Body of Christ to edify itself. The children's and teens' behavior was exemplary. The talent showcase, dance, hymn-along, daily children's and teens' activities were enjoyed and appreciated.
The speakers presented the topics of their choice, although the conference had an underlying Judaic focus. If some were not familiar with some of the particular ministries there or the organizers of the conference, this theme may have been more pronounced than they had expected.
There may be those who ridicule others for participating in Judaic customs. Sabbath traditions often come in question. The Shabbat is central to the Jewish lifestyle. "More than the Jewish people has kept the Sabbath; the Sabbath has kept the Jewish people." The Jews have incorporated tradition and ritual to preserve their way of life.
These are seen in the celebrations of the Sabbath and holy days and even their methodology in preserving the Scriptures. This has helped them to preserve their identity and helped us to understand ours. The Church of God has always sought distinctions between biblical precedent and Judaic tradition, but the lines we draw are not always made with impeccable consistency.
Do we all need Kiddish or Havdalah? Ray Wooten pointed out during the question-and-answer session that COG-ers have created Sabbath traditions of their own over the years. The spiritual objective is to set the day apart, to "keep" it. We take note of its beginning and conclusion.
There are tens of thousands of people, regardless of their corporate affiliation or the lack thereof, raised in the Church of God tradition that have effectively neutered this tool so that it has little impact on their spiritual lives.
I'm neither endorsing or condemning adopting Judaic customs. I am advocating doing whatever it takes to set the day apart from the others. Those who understand the why in following God's instructions to rejoice in this weekly festival have no need for cookie cutters or corporate conformity to legislate the minute details of how.
The terms Judaizer and legalist are not necessarily synonymous. Those who attempt to judge by the outward appearance may not fully understand the spiritual handicap of legalism. Within the Sabbatarian community we have those who lean more heavily towards a Hebraic perspective and choose to adopt customs that others view as "Judaic" as opposed to "biblical."
The emotional reaction of these people is often akin to one threatened, just like others in social history who have responded to the to the mass import of racial, cultural or religious identities other than their own.
A classic example is the Hanukkah story and the forced Hellenization imposed on the Jewish people during the intertestament period to the fall of Jerusalem.
On the flip side of the issue is the import of Jewish culture into a given religious community. Is this an issue of right or wrong?
There are a multitude of principles and concepts lacking in the COG experience that are well defined and developed in Jewish culture. Where the adaptation of principles and concepts ends and the ritual and customs begin is to some degree an arbitrary delineation. We must learn to differentiate between the form and the substance. That doesn't make the form wrong or even unnecessary, but it keeps the cultural as opposed to spiritual relevance in perspective.
Now for the issue of "oral law." We are able to gain certain understandings from interpretations and traditions that are in harmony with the spiritual intent of a given biblical principle. Some of the oral law succeeds in this, while other oral traditions fail miserably. The nature of law demands interpretation, and oral traditions are common to all religious communities.
Yeshua (Jesus) was quick to point out several Jewish oral traditions that failed to reflect the spiritual intent of the Torah. The Eternal does not speak to us in the vain traditions of man. We can learn from the traditions that uphold the holy and reject the profane.
Christians interested in exploring the Hebraic roots of their faith should be sure to objectively evaluate a given aspect of Judaism before advocating or adopting the practice or doctrine. Christians should strive to eliminate any practice that has incorporated mystical or "pagan" elements. Most of the festival traditions can greatly illuminate our understanding and are clearly based in Scripture, while some are not in harmony with our Christian perspective.
No amount of doctrinal discussion, reciting of past grievances, symbols or types, icons, flattery, organizations and ritual will replace the spiritual need for us to have an intimate relationship with God the Father and His Son. Healthy relationships on this level will bear wonderful fruit in the assemblies of the elect. Our calling is out of this world and into His glorious grace.
That said, we are not to allow ourselves to become emotionally polarized so that we reject, miss or ignore nuances of wonderful knowledge in which the Eternal reveals Himself, His plan or His mind to us. If we are truly centered and rooted, we will be able to learn from a multitude of sources and be able to help others maintain the proper focus on the core issues of the Christ-like walk.
There was a whole lot more to learn at the "Footsteps" conference than sheer head knowledge. Plenty of people came to learn, observe and be challenged. We acquire knowledge and experiences that help us see the Eternal maybe just a tad bit clearer than before and how to relate to His people. For most all of us Wagoner was indeed a tremendous blessing!
Nothing but the truth
God has not left the church, but the church (organization) left Him. The true church is still walking with Christ and following His voice because its members still hear it and still can see Him because they are not blind. We who are still holding fast to those things that we have learned and have not moved from them are the ones who are the wise and are still being fed of the good pasture and the good shepherd.
If you or anyone else thinks that we can get along with different doctrines and ideas and times to keep the holy days, then you have a mixture of both good and evil, and that's like iron and clay, they don't mix. It's also not pure, and you will be refined in the fire to be purified.
You cannot partake of the table of demons and the table of the Lord. You cannot serve two masters, because you will eventually have to choose one over the other.
Since all the groups are in this condition, they had better buy gold refined in the fire before it's too late. Those in this condition are blind and can't see the shame of their nakedness. To continue is in rebellion to God and His government and all will give account.
The truth has been taught, and you can prove all things if you are a worker who rightly divides the Word of God and those who do will not be ashamed, because they are not blinded by the strong delusion because they received the love of the truth.
All who have been called and are following an organization or another man who claims there is no government are those who have rebelled and caused others to stumble, even though that is not an excuse, because we are all held accountable to God for what we have chosen to do.
If you want to print things that are pleasing to God and not what the people want to hear, then preach the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Then you will know where you stand with God because you will be persecuted and hated for it, just as Jesus was. If you continue to preach heresy mixed with some truth, then men will say good things as well as bad, but that's the way the world is, and that's not we are to be a part of.
Can you people not see the suffering, sickness and death that is all around you as well as the devastation not only to those who have been called but that is happening in the world? Wake up, you Israelites, before God takes you all captive physically because your minds have already been taken captive.
Long Island, N.Y.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God