Letters from our readers
Thank you for printing my letter about the United Church of God and the family of God ["God Is a Family," Oct. 31, 2000, page 23].
I thought I should point out that the scripture printed as John 11:12 should have been John 1:12.
I am doing this at the risk of sounding picky in order to clear up any confusion.
Where there is vision
Just thought I'd let you know the photo in the Nov. 30 issue of The Journal (with Mrs. Dennis) was my dad, only you got his name wrong: Van Lisman, not Don Lisman [see photo below]. He (and earlier my grandfather) was a faculty and the optometrist at Ambassador College, Pasadena, for many students.
Battle Ground, Wash.
I want to apologize for misnaming two dear people in the Escondido festival report, "A Small Child Shall Lead Them," on page 6 in the Nov. 30 issue. When Isubmitted my pictures to The Journal with my Feast report, I labeled my 97-year-old friend Doris Dennis instead of Dolores Dennis [see photo above]. She has always been Mrs. Dennis to me. And Dr. Lisman, instead of Don, should be Van Lisman.
Ellis W. Stewart
Big Sandy, Texas
Conquest of Canaan
Thank you for printing my letter ["Military Service and War," Nov. 30, page 15]. But I must ask that you clarify one point of how you edited it. In the paragraph regarding Deuteronomy 20 it sounds like I am saying that verses 15-18 are themselves not referring to the conquest of Canaan. What I actually said was to note those verses because they demonstrate that the chapter as a whole does not refer to the conquest of Canaan. I said, "Note verses 15-18--this does not refer to the conquest ..." Those verses do refer to Canaan, but they point out that the rules of war of chapter 20 do not apply to Canaan. I'm sorry if my use of dashes was confusing.
Lee T. Walker
The Feast in Foley
Thank you for sending a copy of the Oct. 31 edition of The Journal. I want to thank you for your reporting. In today's world we never quite know what to expect from media in general. I am not trying to lump you into all that is abusive with the media in our nation. I appreciate your calling it as you see it, whether you agree, disagree or are somewhere in between.
We appreciate your visiting our "Feast with no name" [see "A Feast Site With No Name: God's Standard," Oct. 31, page 14, about a Feast site in Foley, Ala.]. We had no idea that you were coming. Although your visit was unannounced, we do not resent it in any way and we hope that you felt welcome. It was probably best that we did not know that you would be there that day. It prevented the all-too-human propensity to try and put forth some type of PR effort on our part.
I did not realize that you were able to be there for all of Mr. [Philip] Neal's study. It may seem that we have tried to be somewhat secretive. Even though we obviously feel we have a job to do, we have striven to not go around "blowing our own horn." We feel that we are on the right track, even with our inherent imperfections and do not apologize for that. Time will tell as we move forward.
De Kalb, Miss.
A few months ago I wrote a letter to The Journal ["18 Truths," May 31]. This letter caused offense to my dear friend in Canberra, so I would like to tell her that I'm sorry my words offended her!
Georges Hall, Australia
I would like you to print the following comments so that the church may be aware of the method that some groups use in treating ex-members with "stay away from me, I am holier than thou" attitudes, thinking that they do God a service by such behavior.
They need to contemplate why they do what they do to others and remember that our Savior said, "Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them" (Matthew 7:12).
I am an ex-member of the Philadelphia Church of God. Recently I requested to purchase from the PCG a newly produced music recording of their Philadelphian Singers. Because of my ex-member status I was denied, by the say-so of Dennis Leap. (He needs to read Matthew 5:42-48.)
One needs to ask why a church group that calls itself Philadelphia, which means "brotherly love," would demonstrate such a cold, noncaring message to anyone, even an ex-member. My request for this music production was a compliment to their Philadelphian Singers, but in return I received a cold shoulder.
The PCG is always stomping its feet and yelling, "Only we have God's government!" But, you know, no matter how much they say they have God's government it's what they do wherein the truth of the matter is revealed.
Name and location withheld
Mr. Leap, or anyone else from the Philadelphia Church of God, is welcome to respond to this writer's comments.
Willing to respond
I just received today my personally addressed copy of the Nov. 30 issue of The Journal. It took a moment to realize that you had excerpted my recent open letter to the ministry of the UCG and CGCF. After reading the article I hereby express my personal thanks for your fair editorial treatment of both the meaning and style of my original letter.
I did spot one particular spelling error on page 5, column 2, second paragraph, under the heading "Presumed Right." The italicized phrase should have the word recourse, not resource, and hence should read "without any other recourse, redress or review." Amazingly, in this context, the "incorrect" word almost could work.
William Allen Walker
The summary of my sermon during the Feast at God's Church Worldwide in Destin, Fla. [Oct. 31, page 14, subheading "God's Church Worldwide: Soldiers of God"], was a well-written piece that accurately conveyed the major points of the message.
However, there is one point I would like to clarify that may give people reading the summary some uncertainty. The summary made it appear that an understanding of the 144,000 firstfruits of Revelation 14 and the understanding of Pentecost were learned under God's late apostle, Herbert W. Armstrong. This is not correct.
Although we did learn that Pentecost represents God's small spring harvest of people who are given eternal life and rulership under Jesus Christ from Mr. Armstrong, the understanding about the 144,000 came after his death. While these two important pieces of information do go together, they were not understood together until recently. I hope this clears up any misunderstanding about this part of the summary.
Help Line helps
If we only realized how much a card or a note means to someone who is sick or lonely, everyone would keep the post office busy.
A man was dying of cancer, and a Help Line volunteer corresponded with him and told him the volunteers would pray for him. After his death his wife sent a wonderful letter and picture of her and her husband. She told how much he appreciated mail. He looked forward to the mailman coming each day.
Her letter was uplifting, telling of her husband's last months of physical life and the suffering he went through, and the picture of them both made a lasting impression.
Although few cards are answered, be sure all are deeply appreciated. Beyond the urgency of immediate prayer needs are the ongoing personal difficulties--and the needs of people are overwhelming! Physical ailments are the ones we see most often, but many suffer with addictions, family problems, emotional difficulties and personal needs. Too frequently many have nowhere to go for help.
Help Line has operated a free service for about a year to provide assistance in those situations. Help Line is volunteers with various types of expertise. Interestingly, many who have had great personal trials have been some of our most active and effective Help Line staffers.
If you have a need for our free service or would like to assist, call (515) 576-5743, or write firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will respond.
Fort Dodge, Iowa
Who's in charge here, anyway?
Why is it we can't retain unity after briefly having attained it? We constantly strive to be one in God, and sometimes a spark of God's Spirit ignites in us and we briefly reach that state.
It's not that God is not with us. He is our Creator and knows us intimately. He understands our weaknesses and shortcomings. He also knows our great potential. He knows what we're capable of when guided by His Spirit.
The answer to why we cannot achieve unity is fundamental. It's so obvious that it's easy to overlook. The reason we can't is that Satan, the spoiler and adversary, is still in charge of the world. Whenever Satan sees our building blocks of unity (which he carefully monitors), he springs to action. He waits till we have built a tower of unity and then gleefully kicks the building blocks and watches them tumble.
Not until Christ's return and Satan is bound, pictured by our holy-day observance of Atonement, will Azazel cease to be a spoiler of God's people. Christ will replace Satan as the ruler of this world. At that time we will have a perfect At-one-ment within God's people and with our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ (Leviticus 16).
What are we to do till Christ's return? We must press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ (Philippians 3:14). We must also stand and hold onto the traditions we have been taught (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
Paul R. Zepeda
Fond memories of Bill Fowler
I drifted away from the WCG in 1990, then started attending the CGI in the mid-1990s while a graduate student at Kansas State. In Kansas I met many devoted Christians. Although they are slightly shell-shocked from the scandals and scattered, they are still determined to serve Christ. The loving example of the Coleman family and Mr. and Mrs. Bill Fowler (along with many others in Kansas) to serve God continues to inspire me and has convinced me there is still hope for the Church of God. [See a farewell letter from Mr. Fowler in the Sept. 30 issue, page 2, and "Bill Fowler's Passing" Oct. 31, page 2]. We hear a lot of talk about servant leadership. Some of it is sincere, but one suspects much of it is public relations to smooth over the justifiable contempt so many (including myself) have for a cowardly and corrupt ministry.
Bill Fowler didn't just talk about servant leadership; he lived and breathed it. He served without pay and traveled over vast distances to preach with power to small groups of Christians in great need of encouragement.
His passing reminded me of a verse that always leaps into my mind and heart when a true servant of God leaves this life. It is from John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress:
"My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me to be a witness for me, that I have fought his battles who will now be my rewarder ... So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side."
Richard F. Griffiths
Want your church back?
Your readers are aware that Herbert W. Armstrong, founder and pastor-general of the Worldwide Church of God for more than 52 years, passed away in 1986.
Most, too, realize that after HWA's successor took over the church he made a lot of doctrinal changes. I doubt that many are aware that altogether to date about 280 doctrinal changes have been made. There's not much left.
As a result, several new offshoots were formed, about 400 altogether.
Many have joined these offshoots because they wanted to "hold fast to God's truths." Then there are others who didn't know where to go so decided not to go anywhere.
I supported or joined three of these organizations myself, thinking each time I was becoming a part of an organization that taught the same doctrines HWA promulgated.
However, after attending and studying their messages, I realized they were not teaching everything HWA did. Because he had been my shepherd since 1962 I didn't want to get mixed up in a work that would deny me the message HWA brought me all those years.
God knows I wanted to find a church that taught exactly what HWA taught, so one day several months ago a Church of God member told me about a congregation that was teaching the exact gospel of God that HWA taught.
Needless to say, I have contacted this church, and I am convinced this work is the true work of God. The minister says he will never teach anything other than what HWA taught. His literature and sermon tapes prove that that is so. He has made no changes whatsoever!
I am happy to say that I am a member and supporter of the Restored Church of God and David C. Pack. I finally got my church back, thanks to a gracious, loving and merciful God.
Want your church back? Check out the RCG at www.restoredcog.org.
Charles C. Smith
Gypsies, nomads and sick churches
I appreciate Ron Dart's willingness to speak on controversial issues. They surely need to be discussed. But we also ought to think about what he is saying and not just swallow it.
In the Oct. 31 issue of The Journal on page 14 ["Christian Educational Ministries: Gypsies, Nomads and Floaters"] Mr. Dart advocates being a member of a local congregation if you are to be part of benefiting from others' gifts and to be able to use your own. He wants members to be trained and participating in the work of the gospel.
This would all be well and good if you could be part of a spiritually healthy local congregation. But there seems to be few of these. Does Mr. Dart not know how sick the Church of God is?
The leadership of most congregations blocks people from using their gifts. They are to be used only by the ordained and those who are playing politics with the minister to rise in the caste system. There is a lack of soundmindedness that dominates whole branches of the Church of God. Will anyone be edified in a congregation like that?
Here is a simple but typical example of what exists in congregations: Some women in the last congregation we attended asked the minister if they could get together to study the Bible. He said no.
Ron Dart advocates one thing that gives me great concern. He advocates groups of people getting together and starting a campaign to recruit scattered people into a congregation. This kind of thing probably would be approved by the ministry. (Remember that no program can ever be done unless the minister is in charge of it.) Since churches want numbers, and numbers make churches look good, this could happen.
It sounds good, but it is not. The church is so sick it's like inviting unprotected people into a hospital ward of contagious people. They will get sick too, especially if their immune system is diminished.
It is my opinion that it is God who has been breaking up the churches. We have honored ourselves and been arrogant. People were pointed to the church organization instead of to God.
We need to humble ourselves and have a one-on-one relationship with Christ before we can do any church work of worth. Adding more people to the mess is going to only mess them up.
Brian Knowles' new book Because There Was No Shepherd is helpful. It is not an attack on churches but is a guide to how to recover from abusive churches by establishing a one-on-one relationship between you and God. Churches have impeded this relationship by groupthink.
Unless the Lord shall build the house, the weary builders toil in vain.
Show finger-pointers the door
What a waste of time to argue about procedural matters concerning the administrative changes of the United Church of God in New Zealand ["New Zealand Member Says Church Not Playing by the Rules," Oct. 31, page 1].
All members were consulted and asked for input. The vast majority are very happy with the end result. For the first time we have peace. I have waited over 30 years for this.
When Satan sees how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity, he grabs every available finger-pointer to cause disunity. How sad it is when individuals allow Satan to stretch out their fingers and start pointing.
All around the world many more congregations are experiencing the joy that peace can bring when the finger-pointers leave.
Eighteen months ago I did not want a permanent minister in New Zealand. The risk of getting the wrong man was too high. Looking around the world at ministers fighting it out on the Net, endless splits: What a mess.
We also risked losing our visiting Australia-based minister, Bruce Dean, the best minister this country had ever seen. Was it God's will to have unity, or was it God's will for us to be scattered and shattered?
The latter has proved to be not the case. Psalm 120:6 says, "My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace." That one is Satan. Why be one of his agents?
If you can't see what Satan is doing, you can't see what God is doing, and you will miss out on the good life. Three years ago while watching United's Feast video I wondered why I needed to watch such propaganda. Now I think: Wow, look at what God is doing! We have never had it so good.
Via the Internet
I refer to your newspaper edition dated Oct. 31 and the front-page article on New Zealand.
I would like to challenge you to obtain any comment from any of the past chairmen of the United Church of God New Zealand as to the recent actions that have been taken by the UCG-AIA with regards to UCG New Zealand. I suspect you will not obtain any positive confirmation that what has taken place has been done decently.
Even the comments by one council-of-elders member in your article--that the documents were "confusing" and contained "anomalies and contradictions"--implies that the way the earlier UCG New Zealand documents had been put together left much to be desired.
What isn't said is that they were put together with as much input as possible at the time from UCG-AIA authorities in the U.K. and U.S.A. Furthermore, in the beginning years of 1995-96 we in New Zealand were told in sermons by visiting ministers that our national situation was such that it had never occurred before and others (e.g., in the ministry in the U.S.A.) were observing to see what God would do just with members.
Bruce Porteous can provide the historical data as to what was done by God "with just members." It was notable--but now discounted.
Via the Internet
Check Doug out
Dr. Doug Ward is a mathematics professor at an eastern university. He is into Hebrew-roots studies, as am I. He has been producing a newsletter for some time. Most of it is excellent, though there are some approaches I might disagree with. For the most part it contains excellent Hebrew-roots material. He has gone on line with it. Check it out at www.graceandknowledge.beliefnet.com.
Ken Westby has also reproduced some of Doug's articles in the Hebrew-roots section of the ACD Web site: www.godward.org. Check those out too.
Setting the record straighter
In the Nov. 30 issue of The Journal Norbert Link stated that in a letter I had written to The Journal (Oct. 31 issue) my facts were not straight. He lists a couple of examples I would like to comment on for your readership to draw their own conclusions.
Mr. Link wrote that "prior to the split [in the Global Church of God (GCG) in November 1998], only four of the 13 council members supported Dr. [Roderick] Meredith."
The truth is that just before the split there were 10 or 11 (this is after the death of Colin Adair and David Pack's removal, both of which occurred before the takeover) on the council.
The fact is that the following council members went with Dr. Meredith and are all still in the Living Church of God: Roderick C. Meredith, Carl McNair, Richard Ames, Dibar Apartian, Charles Bryce and John Ogwyn (this was all in November 1998; I personally communicated with all of these council members that month, with the exception of Mr. Ames, whose wife confirmed his support of Dr. Meredith to me).
This adds up to six, a clear majority. Thus to say that only four on the council supported Dr. Meredith is clearly, and provably, false.
Mr. Link also wrote, "Another false allegation by Mr. Thiel is the preposterous claim that the same board that on the business day before the Day of Atonement in 1999 declared a form of bankruptcy reincorporated that day under another name, took the Atonement holy-day offerings for itself and left the GCG creditors without recourse ... Global's board had nothing to do with incorporating another corporation, let alone taking holy-day offerings for itself."
There is nothing false about my claim. The only legal argument is that it was not the exact same board. However, all the board members of the GCG ended up initially in the newly formed CGCF (first called CGF). All the GCG board members received a position (and benefits) from the new CGCF.
The CGF-CGCF ended up with the holy-day offerings; the creditors got nothing.
These facts sound like definite proof that the new GCG board members took the holy-day offerings for themselves and did not use them for the creditors.
Anyone who has eyes can clearly see that Global's board did exactly what I wrote. These and other facts are documented at my Web site, http://members.aol.com/cogwriter/home.htm.
It is also interesting that Mr. Link, who has gone to great lengths to say he was not appointed to the GCG board because he is a lawyer, signed the letter "Attorney-at-law." Calling oneself an attorney does not disprove any of my written comments.
I do get my facts straight. Sadly, many who once were with us do not.
Robert J. Thiel
Arroyo Grande, Calif.
Make my day
Since the Worldwide Church of God's slide into apostasy and the resulting splits five years ago, the COGs have wondered how to effectively preach the gospel--especially since the larger organizations have continued to split and have financial problems.
Some have continued with the old WCG tradition of buying expensive radio and TV time and printing slick magazines similar to The Plain Truth. For all their efforts they have gotten few new members and have spent huge sums.
Other enterprising people, like Alan Ruth, have built Web sites, mostly with their own money and certainly their own time. These are much better when it comes to cost-effectiveness. But how many new people are they reaching, although they are a wonderful tool for the members of the COGs?
I am sure this has been thought of, and many people are probably already doing this, but I want to call to your attention that there are a lot of Christian message boards on the Internet. Is there any reason we who have computers and an Internet service can't get on them and join in on the Christian topics discussed there?
The best part is that this kind of activity costs only as much as your monthly Internet-provider bill, which you would pay anyway. I am certain that, if Herbert W. Armstrong, not to mention the apostle Paul, had had access to such a tool, there would have been no end to how many people we could have reached.
We sat in the WCG for 10, 20, 30 or more years and learned a lot if we paid any attention at all. We should be able to effectively share this priceless knowledge.
When I have had these kinds of discussions, I have received a response like this one: "I don't believe everything you say, but it's gotten me to study my Bible like never before."
I told the person who told me that that he had made my day.
Sin of omission
That was an excellent letter, "Military Service and War," Nov. 30, page 15. Thank you to Lee Walker from Columbia, Mo. I must say the god of this world is winning this battle in the United States. This so-called Christian nation has done a major disservice to its people.
When you throw out being obedient to God's law (and this nation has thrown it out), your result is a lot of confused, guilt-ridden wimps. Throw in the tree huggers and the feminist movement and you see a sorry state of a nation.
We think we are doing God a favor by being pacifists. Our jails are filled and running over, so we turn prisoners loose. No one wants to kill the killer. That's so inhumane.
But it's really a godly job. God says do it. The only papers I've found on this subject on the Internet are at www.ccg.org.
By the way, Christ told the soldiers to be content with their wages. He did not tell them to desert. God gave rules of war and when to commit to lethal force.
To know to do good and not do it is evil.To not kill when God says to kill is a sin of omission. Christ will fight at His return. If you call all killing evil, then you are calling Christ evil.
Are you prepared to fight in God's army?
Via the Internet
No calendar in the Bible
Apropos of the recent calendar discussions that have riveted and riven many in the Church of God community, I ran across the following comments in the "Calendar" entry of my 1962 edition of The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. They struck me as perspicacious and almost preternaturally pertinent.
I have to conclude that Solomon was indeed correct in his assertion that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10). I leave it to your readers to decide for themselves if anything sounds familiar (particularly in the case of the last sentence quoted below).
"The Hebrews and early Christians did not possess a published and widely authoritative calendar similar to those in general use today. The present Jewish calendar is the crystallization of a long process of calculation and controversy carried on, not only in the centuries since the first published Jewish calendar (fourth century A.D.), but during the ages preceding it as well. Thus modern students of the Bible should realize that it is not possible to speak of a biblical calendar.
"Although it is obvious from numerous OT passages that the ancient Hebrews possessed at least a roughly calculated calendar (or calendars), they have nowhere given us a complete account of their system. The precise determination of this system remains one of the major problems of biblical research.
"In the rabbinical period precise calculations came to be employed to give seven out of every nineteen years an extra month, but this method was rejected by such a sectarian group as the Qaraites, and it long remained the source of numerous disputes.
"There is evidence that the authority of the normative calendar was never universally accepted, but that always there were individuals or groups who were promoting their own special calendars."
Big Sandy, Texas
Implications for our times
A system of timekeeping spread mostly around the world by Roman conquests has become an international standard that people worldwide use to time the holy days. I will call this local time and show that it is unholy, even speaking against God. It is paradoxical, cruel; in short, evil and against the word of the Bible, despite its being an international tradition of men.
It is therefore rather less than suitable for timing the start of holy days.
Under local time it is necessary to have a dateline and two poles where time becomes undefined (it is absurd that the holy days should not be defined for a person just because he is on a dateline or at a pole).
This is a mathematically necessary anomaly. Attempts have been made to hide the anomaly by pushing it away from people, with tragic consequences for many people living in low-density-population areas.
There are several datelines, and they move periodically under pressures related to their inconvenience. They are modern contrivances and have no authority of God, Christ or the spirit of truth.
It is not too soon to see that all dates start and end with sunset in the Holy Land: the same time for everyone worldwide (and off-world too). When following holy time there are no places on earth where time is not available (as local time insists). Therefore local sunset is not the start of day except in the Holy Land.
This is the only comprehensive way of keeping time consistent with the Bible. It has major implications for our world and times.
Roger William Chamberlain
To "Name withheld" ["Call for More Thought," page 2, Nov. 30]: I did not say the reason I stayed in the WCG was because Jesus was not a Sabbath-keeper. I said that I read Matthew 17, where the law and prophets disappeared and only Christ was left and the voice said hear Him.
Jesus said He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it, so all of the law that was in the Old Testament that pointed to him was completed on the cross when He said it was finished. I believe all 613 points of the law were now in Him. There is a difference between abolishing and fulfilling. When I see Christ, I see all of the Old Testament rules, all 613, in Him.
Sasha Veljic ["Common Fallacy," same issue, same page] said that it's one of the common fallacies of Christianity that Jesus rose on Sunday. It was early Sunday morning when the women found that He had arisen.
The time is not given, and it's not important. Because Christians are never told when to meet to worship God, then to me it would make all the sense in the world to do it on an important day, when so much happened.
All four Gospels (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16; Luke 24:1; John 20:1) say it was Sunday morning. Throughout the New Testament Sunday is mentioned as the day to gather. Galatians 5:19-23 is the Christian's sin list. You can't find days mentioned at all. Colossians 2:16-17 is not difficult anymore for Christians.
Men are safe
I am writing a response to the letter that Dean Neal paid (I hope) to have included in the November issue [see Mr. Neal's advertisement on page 10 of the Connections section of the Nov. 30 Journal titled "Open Letter: Women's Role"].
After reading this letter not once but three times--because I simply could not believe my eyes--I am appalled that a "Christian" man would have such a disparaging opinion of the creation made specifically for Adam. I believe this is dangerous ground to walk on, even as it would be to disparage men. We all have our God-given roles to play.
The role of leadership, Christlike leadership, was never taken, stolen, bought or whatever else Mr. Neal claims to have happened. The position of leadership given to men is safe. God gave their position to Adam in the Garden of Eden, and it's never been anywhere but within you.
But what about the quality of leadership? God calls you to be Christlike leaders, dying daily for your wives and families as Christ died for the church (Ephesians 5:25-31). Do you know what that means?
Just because you have the position of leadership and authority does not guarantee your success. One must be trained and educated.
Just look at the corporate world. Anyone holding a position of authority better have some positive results or he is removed from the position. To simply blame the problems of the department on your employees doesn't cut it with your superiors. You're responsible for the success or failure of your department.
A good manager or supervisor educates and "shepherds" his employees for success, but they are ultimately responsible for the state and morale of the department under their care.
Why is Mr. Neal surprised by the state of affairs in this nation such as abortion and divorce? These are by-products of uneducated leaders who do not lead their families in a Christlike manner.
If a father does not teach his son how to be Christlike, how will he know himself? Will he leave someone pregnant and unwed with little or no choice? Highly probable. If that same son, somehow, becomes married and responsible for wife and children, will that son know how to care for those in his care as Christ would? Highly doubtful.
Mr. Neal feels that men have somehow lost their God-given position as family leaders. I submit that they haven't lost their ability; they are plainly uneducated and possibly unwilling to learn.
The saddest part of Mr. Neal's letter is his final paragraph with his jaw-dropping conclusion on how to solve all these problems: If the women would just be quiet, then men could "get back to being what God created them to be--men!"
Mr. Neal obviously wants to lead, but for some reason he has put the responsibility of leadership back on the shoulders of women, where it is clearly not appropriate. If this is your solution to the lack of Christlike leadership in the world today, we are in deep trouble.
Mr. Tkach was a go-cart
Thanks again for the ministering work in The Journal in providing a forum where substantial doctrinal issues can be discussed by God's church members outside the typical editorial restrictions.
David Roe's article on women edifying men (Oct. 31) is an excellent analysis and counterpoint to the DallasFort Worth COG's posts to the Web.
Particularly, his argument about genitive case in 1 Timothy 3 and further commentary on deacons are clear arguments, and I agree that Paul is not establishing the case of elders in that chapter.
Although Mr. Roe does quote Ephesians 5 and mentions that "further study on eldership in the nation of Israel might help here," he does not hit the real meat of gender as explained in Ephesians.
The point of Ephesians 5 is not about physical marriage but about Jesus Christ and the church. If we were to have a bias towards men preaching, then we should similarly have that same bias toward all eldership being in Jesus Christ and not in the church at all.
We can see from Ephesians 4 that the Bible gives us, the spiritual woman, permission to share authority with Christ. Jesus Himself is husband of one wife, and that used to be physical Israel.
However, physical Israel was killed by the law (Romans 7:2), and Jesus died to save the bride. Jesus was transformed from physical to spiritual. Likewise the bride, now spiritual Israel, has a relationship with the spiritual Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. In marriage the two become one flesh, and the Bible says that Jesus is in us and we are in Jesus (John).
My point is that the question of female eldership will necessarily always be correctly considered in context of what the spiritual bride, the church, is permitted to do under submission to Jesus' leadership.
Eric Snow's Oct. 31 article on apologetics ["Why Christian Apologetics Should Matter," page 3] was excellent, and I almost fell out of my chair when I read his strong conclusion: "Children raised in the COG need to be grounded in the basic arguments favoring Christianity found in the writings of such men as Josh McDowell, Don Stewart, Henry Morris and C.S. Lewis, otherwise their faith might be shattered when attending a secular college."
I am not familiar with Stewart and Morris but have read McDowell and especially Lewis heavily, and I have to make your readers aware that both of these apologists are considered the predominant evangelical gurus in the Christian community.
Also, I strongly claim that, had I read these two authors (whom I greatly agree with and promote) at the time I was in Ambassador College in the mid-1980s, I would have had my faith in the Worldwide Church of God shattered (the incomplete knowledge would have been replaced by a complete relationship with Jesus Christ).
Let me put this in more direct words: If people were automobiles, then Joseph Tkach's changes were a go-cart, and McDowell and Lewis are a Corvette and a Ferrari, respectively.
Are your children ready to go for a ride?
The duty of a Christian
The Nov. 30 edition of The Journal published an editorial by Eric Snow proposing that Christians should not vote ["Dubya vs. Algore: WWJD"?]. His view, originating in the Worldwide Church of God, is that voting is wrong. He asks if Christians should get involved in political affairs in an attempt to make this a better world.
After reading and considering Mr. Snow's views, I find them nonpersuasive and want to present another perspective.
However, I would also like to thank him for taking the time to present his views and The Journal for allowing a forum where we can openly discuss applications of Christianity. I always find Mr. Snow's writing stimulates my thinking and results in my searching the Scriptures for answers.
Mr. Snow's conclusion on voting rests on two fundamental positions:
I will address citizenship first. Philippians 3:20 states that our citizenship is in heaven. However, does this mean that we are not also citizens of the United States?
I assume Mr. Snow is well traveled and has a passport. Do our passports say "United States of America" or "Kingdom of God"?
We use and accept the benefits of American citizenship because we are American citizens.
If we are unemployed we, as citizens, apply for unemployment benefits. We accept social security when we reach retirement age. If we are injured at work, will we refuse workman's compensation because we are not citizens?
We accept the benefits of citizenship, therefore we should accept the responsibilities. If we do not we are, in a sense, stealing from the government. If Mr. Snow really believes he is not a citizen of the United States, he can freely renounce his citizenship, at which point he would not be eligible to vote and receive the benefits.
Philippians 3:20 really refers to our spiritual citizenship. But we are physical, and our physical citizenship is in our place of birth or naturalization. The apostle Paul said so. He stated he was a Roman citizen in Acts 22:25.
Paul stated in Philippians 3 that he was a citizen of heaven (spiritual) and in Acts 22 that he was a citizen of Rome (physical).
Once we realize we have dual citizenship and we (Mr. Snow and I) are United States citizens, the question becomes what are our Christian responsibilities as U.S. citizens.
Two examples will suffice. When asked whether we should pay taxes, Christ said in Matthew 22:21: "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
Even more definitive is when Christ paid the temple tax (Matthew 17:27). Christ was the King. It was His temple. The King doesn't pay taxes. However, he obeyed the rule for a Jew in Judah. He behaved as a physical citizen.
Paul taught us to obey the laws of the government and to be good citizens. In our circumstances being a good citizen includes casting an intelligent and well-thought-out vote.
Mr. Snow's second argument asks if Jesus would vote. But is this really relevant? Christ is God; we are human. God has a plan and will make sure it is successfully completed. He can change attitudes to make sure the plan is not thwarted.
I believe Christ voted when Winston Churchill became prime minister of Great Britain because Churchill was needed for God's purpose.
That Christ has the power does not necessarily mean He will use it. He may let us see the fruits of our wisdom (or folly). Christ has given us the freedom to choose and to learn to choose wisely.
In the two examples above, Christ said to give to Caesar what is Caesar's--indicating our responsibility to civil government. He then honored the temple government by paying the tax.
Christ is testing us to see how we apply Christianity in our society. We make physical choices. We can choose where we live (to an extent), where we work and how we interact with our society. We should be good citizens and lights to our community. What benefit is it to tell colleagues at work that we don't vote because we're citizens of heaven? Sounds a little arrogant doesn't it?
A better question is to ask if Paul would have voted had it been the Roman Republic instead of the Roman Empire.
Paul would have found it difficult to claim his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:11) and then say he was not a Roman citizen but a citizen of the Kingdom of God when it came to voting.
How involved should we become? This is a personal question, and I don't think there is a fixed answer for everyone. I believe we can be on a school board with the objective of improving the educational level.
As long as we can hold to Christian principles, I see no problem. Once we are forced to compromise, we have gone too far.
I should note that, even in the WCG under Mr. Armstrong, members in Big Sandy voted in local elections.
Mr. Snow also refers to Christ's words that His followers shouldn't fight to save Him from an unjust execution because His Kingdom wasn't derived from this world.
Using this verse to justify not voting is a stretch. Christ was making two points:
This verse has nothing to do with applications of Christianity.
In summary, the issue of voting is an application of Christianity, not an issue of the law of God. We are dual citizens, spiritual citizens of heaven and physical citizens of our country of birth or naturalization.
As lights to this world we should accept both the benefits and the responsibilities of physical citizenship and vote intelligently, just as we accept the responsibilities of our spiritual citizenship and try to obey God's law. We can participate in physical citizenship as long as we are not violating the law of God.
Those who feel as does Mr. Snow that voting is violating the law of God should not vote. Those who recognize our dual citizenship, as Paul did, should vote.
Downers Grove, Ill.
How would Jesus vote?
"WWJD in voting for Bush or Gore?" Eric Snow asked in his essay in last month's Journal. Mr. Snow then proceeded to give the same hackneyed, defective arguments we've heard for too many years.
It is past time for serious Christians to examine this issue individually in light of God's Word and with sound reason rather than to continue to accept tradition based on the misinterpretation of Scripture.
I'll never forget what the Worldwide minister told me when I decided to stop attending services in the WCG because of the apostasy I felt Mr. Tkach was leading us into.
"John," he said, "what difference can you make? You're only one person."
He was implying that my efforts were totally futile. I wish I had told him, "Yes, I am only one person, but I am one person."
Many individual persons through their actions, choices or votes, if you will, collapsed the huge edifice that was the Worldwide Church of God.
Satan's big lie is that one person's efforts, your efforts, don't matter.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The recent presidential election has shown the difference one person can make. One vote in 10,000, one judge in a split decision, one person to certify the votes by the deadline: All were crucial.
We've read how history often turns on the action or vote of one man. One person can make a huge difference, especially when multiplied across the nation.
Should a Christian attempt to make a difference? Mr. Snow asks what Jesus would do.
First, Jesus would put God first, loving Him with all His heart. He would seek God's Kingdom; that is, He would live His life to attain the Kingdom. He would love his neighbor as Himself.
And He would vote!
What? Yes, He would vote because in loving one's neighbor as oneself He would do what He could to give His neighbor the freedom to worship God, to keep His commandments and to preach the Kingdom to others.
A Christian wants those freedoms for himself. Therefore, if he is to love his neighbor as himself, he will want those freedoms for his neighbor.
Love consists of actions, not sentiment. Therefore he will actively love his neighbor by doing his part in preserving his neighbor's freedoms by voting, even if at times for the lesser of two evils.
Mr. Snow says all governments "could well be thrown in the trash bin of history in a few decades by Jesus' return."
Yes, they could. But what if we go on another 2,000 years like the church of the first century? Do we stand by and do nothing when God has given us the peaceful means to effect a more righteous government that would benefit our Christian neighbors and children for future generations?
Otherwise are we not reneging our God-given responsibilities?
If this nation is going down, let it not be said that Christians aided the evil by doing nothing.
Mr. Snow says Christians should rather be telling everyone that the kingdom is coming.
Yes, that's true, but spoken out of context it can be a trite saying that often is only a cruel excuse for inaction in the face of evil, as witnessed down through history.
Mr. Armstrong often said pray to God as if He were doing everything, but work as though we were doing everything.
That is wise advice. God will not do for us what we can do for ourselves. Christians should be in the vanguard in leading this nation to repent. Voting is part of our duty as well as our God-given blessing and responsibility.
WWJD? As a bare minimum, He would vote.
I am writing to offer a counterpoint to Eric V. Snow's article concerning voting in presidential elections, "Dubya vs. Algore: WWJD?," in the Nov. 30 issue of The Journal. My intent is not to throw down the gauntlet but to offer a balancing statement to the readership.
In past years, as a member of the Worldwide Church of God, I was comfortable with the church's stance on politics and voting. I still have no disagreement with a portion of that premise. That is, I agree with the biblical statements about our heavenly citizenship and not being a part of the world and being ambassadors for Christ and with Jesus' own statement that His Kingdom was not of this world.
All of us would agree, I assume, that we are to be law-abiding citizens, respecting those in authority. One in authority is "God's servant," Paul says in Romans 13:4. Then he adds (verse 7, NIV): "Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."
Peterson has it: "Fulfill your obligations as a citizen . . ." and translates 1 Peter 2:13-17 (in part): "Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens . . . Respect the government."
I'm not going to twist these Scriptures into saying Christians are required to vote, but I will give you some Scriptural concepts to think about.
"You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:13-16).
As "light" and "salt" we should be responsible citizens of the world. Should we be involved on a social and cultural level? Should we participate in the civic and political arena?
Is voting one of those responsibilities?
Since we live in a democracy, why wouldn't we want to be a part of its election process?
If a national leader can be "God's servant," what is wrong with helping put him (or her) in office?
Consider Jesus' statement (with a parable) that we should "occupy" (Luke 19:13) until He returns to earth. Did He mean be involved or merely hold on until it's over?
Occupy here means "to do business." The parable suggests we must continue to lead normal lives of responsibility. Paul warned the Thessalonian Christians against idleness (see 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:11).
The larger, more important point of the talents is to use our time and opportunities to do God's will. That does not mean we should be derelict in our social and cultural responsibilities.
Of course, we must balance our involvement; we must use discretion. But is not this one way to be a light to those around us: to show Christian values are important to us?
Is this not a way to help preserve, as salt, Christian principles in our society?
We are to pray for the leaders: "for kings and all those in authority" (see 1 Timothy 2:1-2). For what purpose? ". . . That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."
Wouldn't that include saving us from liberal agendas? The selection of Supreme Court Justices? Protecting us from persecution? Strengthening the moral fiber of our country?
Why not cast a vote for these same reasons? Why shouldn't we make an effort to prevent the leaven of evil from spreading in our society? Why shouldn't we be involved in the cause of clean air and water? Once a leader is elected, let us pray for him, and let us pray for our leaders to follow and support righteousness.
Sure, some people have twisted and weighted agendas. Of course the system is imperfect.
We reflect on Israel's request to have a king and the selection of Saul (1 Samuel 8:21-22): "When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The Lord answered, 'Listen to them and give them a king.' "
The politics of the day blossomed quickly. The people saw this tall, strong, charismatic man as their choice (1 Samuel 9:2, NIV): ". . . Saul [was] an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others."
And Saul was God's choice: "When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the Lord said to him, 'This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people'" (1 Samuel 9:17).
The classic example of campaigning for office is in 2 Samuel 15:2-6: "He [Absalom] would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, 'What town are you from?' He would answer, 'Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.'
"Then Absalom would say to him, 'Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.'
"And Absalom would add, 'If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice.'
"Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the men of Israel."
That story also shows that dirty politics also existed in those days. But God didn't deny Israel this imperfect system of government. He used it. Sometimes the guys with the white hats were in office; other times evil men ruled. But the system stayed in place.
Is it not possible for God to work in a variety of systems? He has the power to do so: to intervene in the selection of men and systems to carry out His will.
"God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted" (Psalm 47:8-9).
Several decades ago I was the pastor of a small rural church. It was a common practice in some churches in that agrarian environment to gear their lessons and sermons to Stewardship Week.
Though raised on a farm, I initially rebelled at this idea. After all, I reasoned, this has nothing to do with spirituality.
But I gradually saw the value of responsible stewardship. As I studied the history of the dust bowl, in which we lived--having been a toddler scooting in that dust of the mid-'30s--I observed the earth-saving farming practices that result in healing of the land. I saw the value of responsible stewardship.
My reluctance melted away; I spoke to the issue with fervor: "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof" (Psalm 24:1). "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth": present and future.
In all this I did not compromise my message concerning the soon-coming Kingdom of God to this "good" earth (Genesis 1:10), restoring it to its original beauty and perfection (Acts 3:21).
By the same token, should we not be stewards in a civic sense?
It is true that we can do little to stem the tide of evil: ". . . Evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse" (2 Timothy 3:13). It is true that society is on a slippery slope of immorality and selfishness. It is true that our only eternal hope is the establishment of God's Kingdom on earth.
Our focus must align with Abraham's: "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went . . . For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:9-10, NIV).
In the meantime . . .
Lately it seems that on almost every issue the country splits down the middle. Half the population wants to live in a free country, the constitutional republic bestowed upon us by God and the founding Fathers. The other half wants to live in an ultraleft-wing, pinko, Marxist-Leninist, totalitarian, womb-to-tomb welfare state.
Why not give each half what it wants?
I propose we create two countries as follows. Draw a boundary starting at the Colorado River, then go across the northern borders of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia to the Atlantic Ocean. Everything south of the boundary plus Alaska will become the Constitutional States of America (C.S.A.). Everything north of the boundary plus Hawaii will become the United Socialist States of America (U.S.S.A.).
The C.S.A. will function as a constitutional republic based on the original U.S. Constitution, including the first 10 amendments, with the following sentence added to the Second Amendment: "We really mean this!"
On the other hand, the U.S.S.A. will become a socialist people's paradise run by Hillary and Bill Clinton as unindicted copresidents for life.
The C.S.A. will fly the stars and bars. The U.S.S.A. will fly the hammer and sickle.
C.S.A. money will say "In God we trust." U.S.S.A. money will say "It takes a village."
The U.S.S.A. will keep the Parasite-on-the-Potomac as its capital. Meanwhile, Montgomery, Ala., would make a nice capital for the C.S.A.
All U.S. citizens would have 90 days to select their country of choice. If they happened to live outside their country of choice, they would have two years to relocate.
I anticipate that leftists like Hanoi Jane and all the welfare recipients who move north will balance out the rednecks from places like Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Hampshire, etc., who move south.
They say that people vote with their feet. This would provide an excellent test case.
Big Sandy, Texas
We've only just begun
Bush wins! Gore loses! The battle is only beginning for God-fearing people.
These same people are already planning to demonize Mr. Bush for the next two years in order to get control of the House and Senate. Unless we convince others who have values to register and vote in two years and stand up for their values, the party of homosexuals and criminals' rights, as opposed to law-obeying people, will get control again!
Please do not let God down by letting ungodly people run this great nation.
It is time to celebrate and then get back to work for the 2002 election.
Yea, Bush and Supreme Court!
Via the Internet
In the late 1980s we decided to make our exodus from the Worldwide church of God after careful thought and observation. We visited the Church of God International for a few months. Some of those people told us of their story of being disfellowshipped from the WCG some 10 years earlier, and while they were speaking the tears of pain flowed freely down their faces.
About that time I made acquaintance with an 88-year-old lady who felt she had been verbally abused by a deacon in a WCG congregation sometime in the early or middle 1980s. She was upset with this man and had no kind words to say about him these many years later.
Yet I had the privilege to be a witness to monumental character growth when in the middle '90s I saw her walk up to him at an old-timers' reunion, put her arms around him, warmly hug him and forgive him for the "perceived wrong" he had done to her so many years before. He did warmly receive her, hugging her right back.
I have had the privilege to witness many wonderful things lately among Church of God members. I have known for quite some time that some of the ex-WCG ministers and lay members were teaching and being taught by Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi of the Seventh-day Adventist organization, but I had not seen it with my own eyes. At the IBLC [International Bible Learning Center] conference in Dallas last July [see the July 31, 2000, issue of The Journal] I was brought to overflowing tears to be in an audience of WCGers (ex though they are) with an SDA pastor (Bill Kilgore) standing behind the pulpit speaking to us.
I have felt since the early 1970s that many of the SDA people were our brethren but had to keep my thoughts to myself because of the teaching of the WCG hierarchy. I had friends then and have many more now who are members of that organization.
The whole audience clapped warmly after Mr. Kilgore finished his talk in Dallas. If the audience hadn't clapped, I would have been clapping alone. The moment was worthy of it.
During the breaks of the conference I did a lot of quietly sitting near people who are so dear to my heart. As a result I could not help overhearing parts of their conversations.
Oh, the complaining I heard about things that happened 30 and even 40 years ago in the WCG: the problems of having to travel such long distances to the Feast, to services, etc. But I saw no tears this time, only smiles on the faces laced with laughter in their voices. Oh, what joy it brings to my heart to be a witness to real, godly character growth.
Prayers went up several times during the conference, asking for our heavenly Father's presence. I came away from it with the thought permeating my mind that "surely the Lord is in this place" (Genesis 28:16).
I see the conference as part of a healing process that began several years ago. It is gaining momentum. Maybe someday soon we will all be able to be friends again.
Containers for Guatemala
To anyone who has items to ship to Guatemala: The project [by LifeNets and members of the United Church of God] is going well, and we are closer to our goal of filling a 40-foot container. At this time we have about 13 pallets of much-needed aid ready to go. We still need about seven more pallets before we can ship this out.
Thanks to all of you that are working so hard to help our brethren in Guatemala. Together we are making a difference in the lives of others.
If you have any questions please E-mail email@example.com.
For more information on aid to Guatemalans and other people, see Victor Kubik's comments in the report on the meeting of the United Church of God's council of elders beginning on page 8.
The real Jesus and the law
If the true teachings of Jesus and His apostles--both by His instruction and example--in any way contradict the law of the Old Testament, then it is not a case of the law being altered but of their showing themselves to be frauds.
Understand that they could not violate or alter the law's substance or render it or any part of it nonauthoritative. Deuteronomy 4:1-2 and 12:32 preclude any such teachings or actions.
Deuteronomy 27:26 pronounces a curse on any who might do so (and Jesus was indeed "under the law"; Galatians 4:4). Jesus acknowledged this (see verses beginning with Matthew 5:17; Luke 16:16; and John 10:34).
Even the coming to pass of His "sign" does not exempt Him from examination as to whether His message holds true to the law (Deuteronomy 12:32-13:5: A false prophet may have his sign come to pass yet still merit rejection because of his message if it contradicts God's instructions for worshiping Him).
Finally, Deuteronomy 30:1-10 shows that circumcision of one's heart by God (verse 6)--that is, association with the "New Covenant" (Colossians 2:11; see also Romans 2:28 and Philippians 3:3)--leads to obedience to the whole law (verse 8). Any "New Covenant" that contradicts this is simply not the one prophesied and thus not of God.
One can quote or cite supposedly contrary New Testament passages until blue in the face, but they are irrelevant. A Latter Day Saints member may read us clear passages from the Book of Mormon or The Pearl of Great Price that seem to clearly prove a Mormon doctrine, but we would reject it because those documents contradict the earlier Scriptures, the Bible.
Likewise, if a New Testament passage were to be found to violate Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 12:32ff; etc.; then it also would need to be rejected because it would prove nothing.
If Jesus or His apostles say the law was abolished or no longer holds authority in the governing of one's life and worship, and you believe them, then you and I have believed a lie of a false messiah or his lying or deceived followers or both.
You would not believe me if I claimed to be a messenger of God and then told you something you could prove false from the Bible. Be honest and apply the same evaluation to the New Testament (Acts 17:11): Any teaching that the law is nullified is provably false (Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 12:32; et al.), and thus its teacher would have to be rejected.
For Jesus to have been and to be the Messiah, He had to uphold every jot and tittle of the law. He had no choice; He got locked into that a millennium and a half earlier, and He must be faithful.
The above may raise questions and objections, particularly about a few statements by the writer of Hebrews (hint: They refer to Jesus' prophesied heavenly Melchizedek priesthood and thus do not conflict with the law's earthly priesthood of Aaron; see Hebrews 8:4), but it is absolutely true.
I believe in and have faith in Jesus of Nazareth as my personal Savior. I could not do that if I thought His doctrine in any way violated the Old Testament law. If someone can prove to me that it does, then he will have proven Jesus a fraud, whether he realizes it or not.
The true Jesus--the true Messiah--upheld and upholds the law. It is He, not any human construct of a Messiah, that I serve.
Lee T. Walker
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