Take up your stumbling block and walk
I often wonder if some people believe anything the Scriptures say. Jesus is quoted as saying, "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34-35).
Are we known by our affection for anybody or by our calendars and other holy doctrines?
If we are known by the days we keep, we may have the Holy Spirit and we may be God's people and we may be the disciples of Moses (worshiping the host of heaven). On the other hand, according to John we shouldn't deceive ourselves into thinking we are Jesus' disciples.
Much of what I read in The Journal is about someone putting a stumbling block in a brother's way and then criticizing the brother for stumbling. That could be said to be the way our religious heritage is known.
Do you condemn? Wait a minute. Don't be too fast to answer in the negative. If you were a member of the "mother" church (the WCG), you at one time believed you were in the only church that God was working with, because that church was the one church that God was giving His truth to.
Remember how everyone asked other members how long they had been in the "truth"? The implication was that any and all other denominations and religions were not in the truth and therefore were not led by God but by Satan.
That being the case (so it was thought), all others were condemned by God to miss out on salvation.
I hope every ex-Worldwider has repented of the ungodly, horrible attitude of condemning others.
But, sadly, it is common knowledge that most who deserted the one true Church of God still have the same condemning attitude. They say, in effect, "Believe what my church believes or burn alive in hellfire."
Do you condemn? If you do, God is merciful and anxious to forgive.
Paul and Micki Herrmann
Says a lot
For those who think that the Hebrew word nephesh refers only to the body and not also to the intangible essence of life in a man or a spiritual being, why does the Lord say, "My nephesh was alienated from her [Judah] ..."? (Ezekiel 23:18).
How is it that He possesses a nephesh? And what does Matthew 10:28 teach us about the difference between the body and soul? And what does this say about the immortal-soul doctrine when a soul has been saved through Christ?
Stoney Creek, Ont., Canada
Accept no substitutes
The Journal of Feb. 29, 2008, carried on page 1 the article "Elder Says He's God's End-Time Prophet, Reveals His Prophecies."
That elder is Ron Weinland, who even claims to have been appointed by God as the chief of the Two Witnesses.
His is not the first claim to be one of the Two Witnesses, and undoubtedly it will not be the last such claim.
It is important that the Church of God knows who will be the Two Witnesses so that we will not be fooled by impostors.
I have placed at my Internet home page (www.rightly-dividing.net) a five-page paper, No. Q12, "The Two Witnesses Identified From The Bible." The paper reveals from the Bible the surprising identity of the Two Witnesses. Once this is known, it will be plain that we need not be misled by impostors regardless of how persuasive they may be.
P.O. Box 121
Belmore 2192, N.S.W.
God left me for 15 minutes
Kudos to Dennis Diehl for his article "Things Pastors, Preachers and Priests Should Never Do" [May 31, 2008 issue]. I laughed out loud several times during my reading of the article.
I should never admit this in public, but they say confession is good for the soul. We'll see.
I attended AC (Ambassador) from 1980 to 1984 as a married student. (Please don't hold that against me!) As much as I hate to confess, I wanted to be in the ministry. Of course, you could never admit to that. You would surely never be one of the chosen ones.
I started making straight A's in second-year speech, and the last assignment of the year was a sermonette.
Each sermonette was videotaped in the old library building. I was going to knock 'em dead. God, however, had something different in mind.
To say I had a wrong attitude about all this would be the understatement of the decade. I practiced the message dozens of times. I even fasted about it.
Guess what. I got up to the lectern and started to stutter (I never stutter or stammer). I stumbled. It was a total disaster.
I had a great topic. That was not the problem. For about the next 15 minutes God left me. I was totally on my own.
I learned a valuable lesson that day that I have never forgotten. We don't give sermons or sermonettes or conduct Bible studies to show off. We do these things to serve our brothers and sisters and give all the glory, praise and honor to God, our loving Father, and His perfect and holy Son, Jesus Christ.
After I graduated from AC we had a hyperstrict minister in our home area. Mr. [Dean] Blackwell and others had told us: "Go back home and help/assist the local pastor."
The thing was, this pastor did not want my help. I had made what I believe to be a very minor mistake, so I guess I was sort of blacklisted.
Several other guys who had graduated from AC that year (all of them younger than I) were all serving in many capacities.
(By the way, almost to a man all of these AC grads, and most of the deacons and elders and sermonette givers in this area, later all left the Truth.)
My thoughts were: Father, what did I do wrong?
I prayed about this for many years. I waited about 10 years before I ever spoke in church. I now thank God on a regular basis for making me wait.
I basically learned how not to be and how not to act from the example of many ministers (not all, of course). I am forever grateful that I did not go into the full-time ministry. It would have probably ruined me.
I now go and speak periodically to a small group of God's people in rural Kansas who don't have a full-time pastor or elder. They always make me feel welcome. I feel it is a great privilege and honor to serve some of God's people in a small way. When I get out of the way and let God help and inspire me, I feel I can be helpful and effective.
I have experienced some of the scenarios Dennis mentioned. My mother died several years ago, and I was between churches. I had made friends with the local senior pastor of the Church of God (Seventh Day), Nelson Caswell.
The local UCG used to rent from the CG7, and on one particular Sabbath someone saw Nelson emptying the trash cans in the church building. They asked, "Who is that older man?" (They probably thought he was the janitor.)
They were dumbfounded when they learned he was the pastor at 7th Day.
Nelson performed my mother's funeral. Before she died he came to the hospital at 6:30 a.m. and stayed six hours.
As the saying goes, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Overland Park, Kan.
Shocked doesn't rightly describe the feelings I had when I read today's Journal's news headlines.
Travel with me, if you will, in H.G. Wells' "time machine." There now, let me tinker with the date selector ... Ah, that's it ... Got it now. Here we go ...
Today we've just settled on a corner rooftop overlooking a main street in Jerusalem. It's midweek, a pleasant day. Several people are scattered along each side of the street: a few children playing, three older men sitting and talking, many women shopping and many folks looking at market goods.
Look up the street ... Two men slowly coming our way ... Wow! It's Jesus, and I believe Matthew is with Him.
Oh, look, He's talking to some woman. She's that prostitute!
As they approach closer ... Oh, no! He's being stopped by some beggar. What would He be speaking to him about?
Oh-oh, here comes a Roman soldier. Just barges right into the conversation, showing off his authority.
Continuing down the street ... Look, isn't that one of Barabas's men? I wonder what he's asking Him.
Where are they all going? They've disappeared under that awning now, where market folk prepare and serve food. They must have stopped to eat ... Odd.
Think of it. Jesus the Christ, the perfect person, Savior of humanity, filled with knowledge of life, good and evil, and He ends up under a common awning, breaking bread with the absolute motliest of crews: a tax collector, prostitute, beggar, soldier and rabble-rouser.
When He is not speaking to them, He is busy fielding their questions.
There is just one word that totally, fully and lovingly describes my elder spiritual brother: inclusive! I try to be like Him more and more day by day.
And, with God our Father's blessings and assistance from the Holy Spirit, I will emulate His mannerisms.
I believe there is an old saying: If you're not with us, then you're against us. Well, in my heart and mind I am with any COG preaching, teaching and living inclusivity.
Sorry, but those who preach, teach and live exclusivity just barely make my prayer list.
Penticton, B.C., Canada
I will be surprised if you don't get some flak over the front-page above-the-fold picture in the May 31, 2008, issue: "An Inquiry Into Values."
The cutline under the photo referred to the groundbreaking book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I became acquainted with in 1977 or 1978 or thereabouts when I was attending the congregation of the old WCG in Columbia, Mo.
Art Fulcher, a black church member who was (and maybe still is) a professor at Lincoln University (historically black, traditionally black) in Jefferson City introduced me to it.
Art said it was perhaps the best book on philosophy he had ever read, but he had trouble getting his students to read it, especially since they had to find it in the philosophy section of a bookstore.
I bought a copy and, upon my triumphal return to Big Sandy in 1981 after four years of exile in Missouri, introduced Scott Moss, Dixon Cartwright, Scott Ashley and maybe others to it.
Although it has an underlying theme of Zen Buddhism, you know--since we have more intellect than the proverbial carrot--we learned about reasoning techniques from it. But none of us became Buddhists. Indeed, at least two of us, Scott and Scott, went on to become UCG ministers.
An interesting aside: I told someone I think was a math teacher or some such at Ambassador about how Robert Pirsig had sent the book to some 30 editors and had ended up self-publishing it before one editor said, "This is what makes the whole business worthwhile."
This AC faculty member commented to me: "That shows what's wrong with the publishing industry ..."
Bear in mind this teacher, who by then was an ordained WCG minister, had never heard of the book, much less read it. But he felt qualified to condemn it. This is another reason we should be glad that the old, superhypocritical WCG shattered on the rocks.
P.S.: You incorrectly state that Zen is a novel. It's based on fact. Also, you state that it was a fad among Worldwide News staffers in the late 1970s. Actually, it was among former WN staffers in the early '80s. I introduced it to you all after I returned to Texas in 1981. I had bought my first copy in 1978, when I had just been hired by the late, great Westinghouse Corp. It was perhaps the best book on philosophy ever written. I still have that first, well-marked, edition.
Good works without obedience
In regard to several letters about so-called salvation by works--e.g., obedience to God's law vs. "good works"--I will simply quote 1 Samuel 15:22:
"Samuel said, "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams."
Though you sacrifice everything you have through "good works," if you steadfastly refuse to obey Him, you are an unrepentant sinner.
Via the Internet
Madame Blavatsky and King James
In the April 30 issue of The Journal Geoff Neilson in a letter pointed readers to a Web site that says Bible scholars Westcott and Hort (W&H) attended seances. The dubious Web site attempts to vilify W&H, something many in the King James Version Only (KJVO) movement try to do.
One such KJVO proponent--Gail Riplinger, perhaps the source of this misinformation at the site--ridiculously implies that Westcott was the same person as William Wynn Westcott, an occultist who was a generation younger than the scholar and really did associate with "Madame Blavatsky."
There is no evidence that W&H participated in seances or associated with Blavatsky. For a short time they were involved in an organization that investigated reports of supernatural phenomena, not one that participated in seances.
The Society for Psychical Research (formed 30 years after W&H's involvement in such investigations) did have contact with Blavatsky in 1885, regarding her as an impostor at the time but later saying the investigation had been methodologically flawed.
Rather than rely on KJVO agenda-driven misinformation, consider Westcott's own words:
"Many years ago I had occasion to investigate 'spiritualistic' phenomena with some care, and I came to a clear conclusion, which I feel bound to express ... In all spiritual questions, Holy Scripture is our supreme guide ... I cannot, therefore, but regard every voluntary approach to beings such as those who are supposed to hold communication with men through mediums as unlawful and perilous."
The reason KJVO proponents demonize W&H is that the Greek text they published is different from the Greek text Erasmus published, a so-called textus receptus (TR), which the KJV follows.
Erasmus's text was based on a handful of young manuscripts from the 12th century and later. It was called a textus receptus only after the Elzevir publishers included the phrase "the text which all now receive" (textum ... receptum) in the marketing slogan for their 1633 version.
W&H compiled a Greek text based on manuscripts that were some 800 years older than those Erasmus used.
While scholars now consider the importance W&H assigned to two manuscripts exaggerated, the many (even older) papyrus manuscripts that have been discovered in the meantime, as well as the early version from various locations, have generally supported W&H's Greek text as likely being closer to the originals than the TR.
For insight into Gail Riplinger's and others' blatant misrepresentation of and false accusations against W&H and others, see James White's book The King James Only Controversy or James May's articles at www.kjvonly.org.
Mr. Armstrong's revival obscured
The important event of Herbert W. Armstrong's heart failure--and medically unprecedented revival, according to Dr. Roy McCarthy--was obscured by the media blitz over Elvis Presley's death (and rumored recovery) on the same day, Aug. 16, 1977.
A similar thing happened the day Mr. Armstrong believed God empowered him to see himself as the end-time Zerubbabel. That event was overshadowed by Pope John Paul II's inauguration that day, Oct. 22, 1978.
Satan is likely to attempt a similar cover-up when the Two Witnesses appear.
Cape Town, South Africa