Letters from our readers
Don't ever assume
In the April 30, 2001, issue of The Journal on page 6 in the sidebar by Bernie Monsalvo ["Pentecost Options Add Up to More Than Just Counting," the bottom line gives the date for Pentecost on "various non-Jewish calendars" as June 3, 2001.
I take exception to the generalization of lumping together all "various non-Jewish calendar" groups and assuming they all will keep Pentecost on June 3, 2001.
Two non-Jewish calendar groups keeping Pentecost on May 27 this year are the Church of God Talents Ministries, Morro Bay, Calif., Ted Phillips; and God's Church the Very Elect, Sydney, Australia, Colin Sutcliffe.
There may be more groups of which I am not aware.
Want to throw up your hands?
I wish to call your attention to an error in an article in the April 30 issue of The Journal. On page 6 you ran an article by Dave Havir, "Should You Observe Pentecost 2001 on May 27 or June 3?" Accompanying it was a short article by Bernie Monsalvo, "Pentecost Options Add Up to More Than Just Counting."
In a "box" along with the latter article Mr. Monsalvo listed under "Calendar type": "Calculated Jewish calendar: Sivan 6," then gave the Gregorian date of May 28. Then, as "Representative group or individual," he listed "William Dankenbring." That, believe it or not, is me!
I must inform you that in 2001 our group, Triumph Prophetic Ministries (Church of God), observed Pentecost on May 30, not May 28.
Why does the writer have this wrong? Up until about two years ago we did follow the "calculated Jewish calendar." However, over the past two years we have investigated the calendar question at great length and discovered that, indeed, the calculated Jewish calendar has two basic flaws:
It merely approximates the beginnings of each month, by a mean or average length of time between new moons, and, of course, there are the famous (or infamous) postponements.
At any rate, we have published a 126-page book, The Bible Calendar, that proves the calculated Jewish calendar is often off a day or two in the beginning of months, and its postponements were added in A.D. 357 and 358 by Rabbi Hillel II. The Mishnah in many interesting places refutes the idea that such postponements were ever done in the time of the Second Temple, Christ or the apostles.
Our book is available from Triumph Ministries, P.O. Box 292, Altadena Calif., U.S.A., for $12 postage paid.
How do we know when the new moons occur? This is an important question. We have found that the Karaite Jews, with headquarters in Jerusalem, have an established new-moon-sighting team that does this every month, just as the Karaites' ancestors have done, following the calendar of biblical times. Their Web site is karaite-korner.org and is informative on the revealed principles of the observed calendar, determination of the new year and related questions.
They observe Pentecost 50 days from the weekly Sabbath that occurs within the Days of Unleavened Bread, but, because the new moon for Abib-Nisan this year was sighted on March 26, not March 24, as the calculated Jewish calendar has it, this means that the Karaites counted Pentecost this year beginning with Abib 20 (Sunday, April 15).
Therefore their "Sunday" Pentecost was on June 4! Of course, they use "inclusive" counting. "Exclusivists" using their information would come up with June 5.
How confusing it must all seem to everyone. Want to throw up your hands and quit? Want to laugh and say God must have a crazy sense of humor?
Or do you want to get back to the faith once delivered to the saints? (Jude 3-4).
All the nasty problems would be solved easily if we did two things:
This would be springtime, near the vernal equinox. If we follow the simple rules of the Scriptures, the rest falls into place easily, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
William F. Dankenbring
The PCG's view of itself
After reading the front-page Aril 30 Journal article about the WCG-PCG court case, I have to say that I am disappointed in the way PCG minister Dennis Leap conducted himself in the interview with Bill Stough.
I know the PCG ministry is upset over the Supreme Court's decision not to come to the PCG's rescue, but that is no excuse to accuse The Journal of "breaking God's law" for printing articles on the Churches of God.
What an utterly ridiculous and baseless accusation!
From what I have read, it seems to me The Journal has always endeavored to honestly print and report both sides of the lawsuit. It has consistently been the PCG that has been uncooperative by not responding to requests for explanations of its position, or at least answering basic questions about the court case.
PCG officials have acted like juvenile spoilsports who take their ball and go home whenever they can't get 100 percent of their way.
The most ridiculous comment in the Journal article was when Mr. Leap asked, "Would Christ allow the printing of both sides of the story?"
I don't even have to comment on that one. Anyone with discernment can see that is a silly, ridiculous and foolish question for a true minister of God to ask in the manner in which he did.
After eight years in the PCG, I can honestly say that, in my opinion, based on my experience, the ministry in that church doesn't foster an environment in which you can have a true, close, personal relationship with our High Priest, Jesus Christ. PCG ministers put Herbert W. Armstrong and Gerald Flurry in the place of such a relationship.
The longer I am out of that church the more I can see that. The PCG ministry minimizes the role of Christ as our High Priest. Anyone who has come out of the PCG knows what I am talking about.
But some might say that, after all, didn't Mr. Armstrong do the same thing? Didn't he make himself an intermediary between the members and God?
I believe he did and that the PCG is carrying on in his tradition.
I know many may disagree with me on this point. That's fine. But we need to make sure that no man comes between us and God.
The PCG ministry forbids its members to read The Journal. That is too bad, because if they did read it they would see that there are actually people outside of the PCG who actually write meaty articles. They might find that there are men and women who are led by God's Spirit who don't answer to Edmond, Okla., headquarters.
Most who write for The Journal honestly try to know God and how to worship Him in spirit and truth. It is a good forum for the brethren to come together and study God's Word.
I don't agree with everything I have read in The Journal. But I hate to break this news to the PCG: No one man or group on earth has all of the truth right now. That is what we should be striving for, getting the whole truth.
When you are in the PCG you are led to believe that only the ministers and the "pastor general" can do that for you. That is an unbiblical, false teaching.
Thanks to The Journal for giving us this forum. I hope and pray for the day when all Christians will be united in truth and not be suing one another in the court system. God speed that day.
Regarding "U.S. Supreme Court Denies Philadelphia Church of God's Petition for Hearing," by Bill Stough, The Journal, April 30: A PCG leader, Dennis Leap, conveniently had strong criticism of The Journal's publishing practices, only so he could avoid questions he did not want to answer.
One needs to ask why was The Journal a good medium when the PCG won the initial court case but now, when the PCG loses, these excuses and accusations are given to avoid an interview.
Remember how the PCG was given front-page coverage when it won the first round in court? Apparently at that time they were happy to be interviewed.
Dennis's accusations that The Journal breaks God's law by its publishing practices leave one asking: What about the breaking of the Eighth Commandment, Thou shalt not steal, and the Tenth Commandment, Thou shalt not covet what is thy neighbor's? The PCG boldly just took the copyrights to Mystery of the Ages and prepared its members for offensive warfare. The church said it was doing "God's will."
On the cover of their Trumpet magazine, PCG officials boldly published that the WCG was "stealing from God," so then, they reasoned, it seemed right for them to "steal for God" (Proverbs 14:12).
Now neither group is blessed for such reasoning. Bill Stough, do you think there is something wrong with the PCG's religion? Dennis and his companions should read Romans 2:17-24, especially verse 21.
Who do you know who started a "work" on publishing dirty laundry of several top WCG leaders in 1989 and 1990?
Dennis accused The Journal of printing lies the WCG told about the PCG. What about the information the PCG told The Journal to print about itself in 1997? Tim Thompson, a PCG leader, reported the church had 7,000 members keeping the Feast that year, but how could that be when they had suspended hundreds of members and one or two years before that had told their members they had only 5,000 strong, if that?
Bill, their pride forced them not to comment on their lawsuit loss because then they would have to get close to actually admitting their actions were wrong. As HWA used to say, that is the hardest thing for a man to do: admit he was wrong.
The PCG's fruits will come to light for all the church to see, just as the PCG did to others in years gone by.
Name and location withheld
Objections only prove my point
I take issue with comments in Eric Snow's editorial in the March 30 issue titled "Can We in COGs Be Balanced Yet Zealous?"
Mr. Snow's subject was health and diet. If I seem a bit irritated, it is because I've listened to this type of health-balance reasoning for many years in the Church of God.
Eric asked: "Do we eat the standard American diet . . .? Or are you too much into health foods . . .?"
God is not the designer of this world's nutritional standards, but He is the designer of the natural system and all it offers. "Health foods" are God's gift to us. "Health foods" is just another way of saying "foods that God has given us as He has given them to us."
We should understand the difference between two types of systems. Anyone who thinks traditional medicine and diet have anything to do with God's will is sadly mistaken. That doesn't mean we completely avoid them if we are victims in need of crisis management, but we should realize God's part in our health: yes, in anointings, but even more obviously in complying with His design and not abusing our bodies.
Eric said: "If we are significantly out of the mainstream relative to our local or larger church's practices in some area . . . we should give at least some thought to the possibility that we're unbalanced in some aspects of our lives . . ."
I agree that it is wise to consider where we stand if we are at odds with our brethren. However, just because someone finds himself outside the mainstream COG thinking shouldn't be reason enough to dismiss what that person is trying to point out or to accept that the thinking is wrong.
The COG suffers in the area of health for one simple reason: We do not, as a rule, observe God's health laws.
People can try to refute this, condone it and justify it, but the truth is we are responsible for our health, and we are not taking it seriously. Calling it "unbalanced" and turning to a replacement that mankind considers better won't change the effects of ignoring God's creation.
I have to take an even greater issue with Mr. Snow's contention that "natural substances are just as apt to be cancer-causing as man-made chemicals . . ." This is the same as saying that "God's created system of nutrition is just as dangerous for our health as man's efforts in this area, and man's efforts do no more harm than God's efforts." This, of course, is patently false.
We accept that Satan is the god of this world and has negatively influenced the religious, social, economic, governmental and educational systems, yet we stumble over the truth that Satan is just as responsible for this world's nutritional and medical system.
God's natural system does have elements within it that in and of themselves are harmful to health, but God also designed our bodies to handle these elements. The problem comes from the overwhelming amount of substances that man has introduced into the natural system and body. This and this alone is where the system is pushed over the limits of design and where we fall outside the protective bounds of God's created order.
Scientific and clinical evidence shows we are destroying our health, even down to the genetic level, and we are slowly destroying this earth. When a nation spends $1 trillion on health care, something is wrong with that health system.
I appreciate Mr. Snow's pointing out the issue of not being closed-minded when dealing with someone who is viewed as "unbalanced" and communicating with him (in a spirit and love of the truth) to discover why he believes what he believes. Too bad most of us don't act that way when we are confronted with something different from mainstream COG thinking, whether health issues or spiritual doctrines.
I have dealt with health care for more than 27 years, specifically natural health and the natural system created by God. God created a system to maintain our health. This system has built-in penalties if we don't work with it.
Prophecy is clear about the disease plagues we are to expect. Satan has brilliantly set up the scenario, yet we blindly support that scenario. Our reliance on Satan's answer to health problems (man's evolutionary approach of chemical medicine, which lies outside the created system God has set up) is only compounding the overall health problem. Unless we understand that absolute truth, we can expect only more premature death and suffering in the COG.
If any object to what is said here, I rest my case. Typical reactions include emotions alone and have little to do with truth and facts. If anyone needs convincing, just E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll gladly provide you with information.
Jeffrey T. Maehr
Pagosa Springs, Colo.
Next radical movement
The Bible clearly tells us one must study to show himself approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:15). It also tells us about divisions or heresies among church members so that "they which are approved may be made manifest" (1 Corinthians 11:18-19). Finally it tells us those who are "accounted worthy" shall escape the things that shall come to pass, including the great tribulation.
There appears to be an undeniable trend among God's elect that may be inspired by God to protect His elect. The trend is for those who study the Bible to leave the larger church groups because they find that false doctrine is taught in the larger groups.
More specifically, they find that false doctrine is being taught for profit.
The most obvious false doctrine is mandatory tithing: a doctrine of the Nicolaitans. The year 1999 was a big one for the mass exposure of that false doctrine. Conversely it was also a year of great loss of confidence in church leadership.
The success to date of the tithing doctrine has been based on trust in the leadership, but by and large people are becoming wise to the abuses of church leadership in handling God's money or money collected in God's name.
Twenty years ago the everlasting covenant was relatively new to most Christians, including Sabbath-keeping and the holy days of Leviticus 23. When the church leadership was teaching the everlasting covenant as a novel item, so to speak, there was too much new material to spend much time on tithing. Tithing was accepted as a matter of trust.
Once the sheer novelty of the everlasting covenant wore off and people began to prove all things, tithing was exposed as a false doctrine. This process was catalyzed by the obvious abuses that were seen among the church leadership generally.
Tithing has been exposed, and the horse is out of the barn. It is too late to stop the flood of information proving that tithing is not mandatory.
Incorporating a church is another doctrine that is rapidly on its way out. A church is supposed to be supported by freewill offerings. The simple truth is that Jesus eliminated the Levitical priesthood and with it the lawful ability for anyone to collect mandatory tithes in God's name.
It is legally impossible for anyone to collect mandatory tithes. The only strong support for mandatory tithing comes from the beneficiaries thereof. It comes from those who are paid a salary to teach the truth of God, something they received as a free gift from God.
The next radical movement will be to eliminate salaries for ministers. Its time has come. Why should a man be paid for the opportunity to teach the knowledge of the truth? It is a blessing from God to be entrusted with the knowledge of the truth; no man should be paid to teach it. If so, sooner or later he will preach while acting upon the built-in conflict of interest that a salary creates. This will invariably lead to false doctrine, such as the tithing doctrine.
As time passes, the tendency for people to congregate in smaller groups will continue. There is nothing wrong with this because small groups tend to be friendly with other small groups. Furthermore, the smaller the groups the more difficult it is for Satan's agents to keep track of them. Perhaps greater will be their protection.
If we assume we are nearing the end of the age, the breakup of the larger groups may be one of God's protective mechanisms for His elect. Perhaps God is in the process of gathering those who will compose His very elect, those who study and cannot be deceived. It may be that God is preparing to gather, by translation or otherwise, the 144,000, the Philadelphia church or the woman of Revelation 12:14 to participate in the second Exodus (Revelation 12:14-16; Exodus 19:4).
If so, it can be stated unequivocally that those who study will be separated by the divisions and heresies that are designed to manifest those who are approved.
Michael D. Cox, M.D., J.D.
Cedar Hill, Texas
No more building bridges
My wife and I had done some serious soul-searching recently. We were leaning heavily towards becoming independent, leaving the United Church of God, an organization we have been a part of since it came into being, an organization that we have friends and family in.
We have caused a lot of heartache, and in trying to reconcile with those not a part of the UCG we have actually caused division and strife within the UCG.
I have written several letters to The Journal and to Servants' News about how our support for the UCG was waning and how our congregation was dysfunctional, etc.
In reality, I have been the one who was dysfunctional.
I want to express my heartfelt apology to the UCG and the leadership of that church for causing any division and for the hurtful words.
We will try our best to get fully immersed in the work God is doing through United. It will be a hard road but one that must be taken.
God may be working through many individuals and organizations. God gives the increase. My wife and I pray that the many seeds that are being planted will produce a lot of good fruit.
We've had to sever our contacts with six ministries that we were supporting. We were receiving so much information that it overwhelmed us.
We still will receive information and tapes from Ron Dart and CEM, and we still want to support Legacy Institute and the work it is doing in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Burma, Kachinland and other places.
We wish the best for the others. We are family, a much-divided family. It's going to take some terrible trials for us to unite and the return of Christ to bring us together.
My wife and I can't do it. We were bridging some of the valleys, some of the wide and deep divisions. But God will have to ultimately heal the hurts and take away the pain. Man can't seem to do it.
So we are getting reunited with United. We're getting reconnected. The reconciliation and the bridge-building we are giving back to God.
Dennis (and Rebecca) Whited
I want to thank you for your paper. I'm sure it took a lot of courage to begin it. After being away from Worldwide for about five years now, I am beginning to heal from the spiritual abuse that so many of us were subjected to during our stay in the WCG.
I am most grateful that my children are okay after being reared in "the church." So many of my friends have had heartbreaking problems.
I don't blame anyone but myself for staying in. I willingly subjected myself to the brainwashing (mostly on submitting to authority). But I have a joy in my life now and a closeness with my Savior that I don't intend for any man or organization ever to take away from me.
Thank you for your part in bringing out truth.
East Dublin, Ga.
Do Messianics believe Jesus is God?
In the April 30 issue of The Journal I was shocked to read a statement attributed to Dr. Don Ward to the effect that the "Messianic Jewish movement" is "the most harmful" and "deceitful" and "insidious" movement afoot in the United States! ["Elder Talks of 'Satan's Greatest Deception,'" page 1]. I had to read and reread the statement several times to be sure of what I was reading.
I was then anxious to learn just what could possibly be the basis for such a statement. I read on. As it turned out, the article was based on a sermon Dr. Ward had given in Gilmer, Texas.
Judging by the article, Dr. Ward's perception of Messianic Jews is strongly influenced by an experience he had several years ago at a seminar. According to the article, Dr. Paul Saal, a Messianic Jew from West Hartford, Conn., had stated to Dr. Ward that he had never given any thought to the "origin," "essential being" and "nature" of the Messiah.
Asked Dr. Ward of his audience, "Now, how can you be a Christian if you have never considered the resurrected Jesus Christ?"
In the third paragraph of the Ward article, penned by Journal editor Dixon Cartwright, we find the statement: "Messianic Jews, said Dr. Ward, hold to a fatally flawed understanding of the nature of the Messiah: They do not accept Him as God."
Messianic Jews do not accept Jesus as God? Let's examine the accuracy of that statement in light of Messianic Jewish literature.
Some estimate that there may be one million Messianic Jews in the world. All of them by definition accept Jesus as God's Mashiach (Anointed One). They refer to him as Yeshua ha Mashiach: Jesus the Messiah.
Of course this is not the same as acknowledging that Jesus is an incarnation of God. Dr. Ward's issue is that apparently they do not.
He may in some exceptional cases be correct. There is no unified Messianic Jewish theology that is consistent across the board.
However, it is inaccurate to paint the whole Messianic Jewish movement with the same broad brush. Dr. Ward makes the kind of sweeping generalization that almost guarantees inaccuracy.
As with Christians--even within the Churches of God--there are varieties of opinion, doctrine and dogma. Take any group of one million Christians and ask yourself if they all believe the same thing.
However, it is not accurate to say that Messianic Jews in general reject the divinity of Jesus. Dr. David Stern, a leading Messianic Jew and Bible translator, writes:
"The word 'trinity' is not found in Scripture, so there is no need to extract from any believer a confession of the word 'trinity' . . . But if I cannot get a Jewish person who claims to be a believer in Yeshua to admit that Yeshua is God (which is not the same as saying that God is Yeshua: that statement is at best off-target and at worst heretical) . . . then I must conclude either that the person is not saved or--more generously and more usually--that he doesn't know what he is talking about."
(I realize some readers will want to take issue with Dr. Stern's use of the word saved in the above quote, but that's not at issue here.)
In his commentary on John 20:28--in which doubting Thomas exclaims to the resurrected Jesus after he has touched His wounds, "My Lord and my God!"--Dr. Stern writes, "'Doubting Thomas's confession is as close as the New Testament comes to asserting that Yeshua 'is God' (with the possible exception of Titus 2:13)."
Dr. Stern correctly points out that Thomas's statement is not a propositional one, rather an exclamation by a talmid (disciple) resulting from his encounter with his now-resurrected master. Dr. Stern then explains that the "the precise way in which Yeshua is regarded as divine is not so simply expressed in the New Testament as 'is' or 'is not.'"
He then lists passages relating to the issue of Jesus' divinity, including several that were quoted by Dr. Ward in his article. Included are John 1:1-3, 14, 18, 45; 4:26; 5:17-19; 8:24, 58-59; 10:30, 34-36; 11:25; 14:6,9-11, 14, 28; 17:1-26; 18:6.
The point is that Dr. Stern, who is representative of many Messianic Jews, believes in the divinity of Jesus and uses the above-listed passages to support his belief.
Dan Gruber, also a Messianic Jew, uses Hebrews 1:3 to demonstrate the divine nature of Jesus: "Jesus, God's only begotten Son, 'is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature . . .'"
The Messianic Jewish Times, a newspaper for Messianic Jews, says in its statement of faith that "we believe in the deity of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, in his virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of God the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory."
In the magazine Messianic Jewish Life, Jakob Jocz, a Messianic Jew, writes, citing Philippians 2:4-11, that "in the Person of Jesus the Messiah, God becomes man's servant to the point of dying upon a Cross."
I have no doubt that for the most part Dr. Ward's charge that Messianic Jews "do not accept Jesus as God" is false. Yet putting that thought out into the air, accompanied by the idea that the Messianic Jewish movement is "harmful," can leave many with a negative, and inaccurate, impression of Messianic Jews. Such statements, made by people perceived to have authority, can provide some of the more weak-minded with grounds to reject or even persecute Messianic Jews. God knows there is enough anti-Semitism within the church (largest sense) without adding to the fire the fuel of false specificity.
It is true, of course, that some Messianic Jews, or Christians who have studied the Jewish roots of the faith, have forsaken traditional Christology in favor of other positions. Vendyl Jones is a case in point. He is a former Baptist minister who views himself as a Noachide.
Others have apparently rejected the doctrine of Christ's divinity.
None of these people, however, is representative of the larger Messianic movement.
Don Ward's sermon, as reported on by Mr. Cartwright, contained additional inaccuracies, but I'll leave it to others to take note of them.
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