So, if our objective is our own comfort, then the current lay of the land is adequate. But if we value the Great Commission we need to get it together before God chooses other people to do it.
Victoria, B.C., Canada
I owe you congratulations on your Matthew 18 article ["What's Next When the Formula in Matthew 18 Doesn't Work?," by Dixon Cartwright, January-March 2009 issue]: eminent good sense and clarity of reasoning. Well done, and thank you! Surely not even the corporate COGs could cavil at that.
Tell us what you really think, Bob
Regarding the WCG's new name, Grace Communion International [see "The Worldwide Church of God Has a New Name so People Will Not Confuse It With 'Armstrongism,'" The Journal, April 30, 2009]:
It must have taken years of timid indecision, combined with the skills of one of those high-priced-spread Beverly Hills advertising agencies, to concoct such a brilliantly meaningless, gray, innocuous and utterly bereft-of-character name containing not even a flyspeck or subtle innuendo of descriptive force.
Truly this is the final manifestation of religious organization in its death throes, of the clueless leading the witless. Leaders without identity have successfully created a church without identity, and this is just the tasteless frosting on a failed cake.
Perhaps a new church motto would be a fitting coda to this beyond-bland choice of names: Abandon all hope, ye who enter herein.
Don't pray for governments
I would like to present this reply to Walter Steensby's letter to the editor, issue No. 133 [January-March 2009], titled "God Isn't Bothered."
[Editor's note: Mr. Steensby's letter was a reply to a letter from Maxwell McFeat in the September-October 2008 issue, which in turn was a reply to an editorial by Reg Killingley in the Aug. 31, 2008, issue in which Mr. Killingley encouraged Christians to vote. Mr. Steensby wrote that he disagrees with a "defeatist and isolationist" approach to civil governments and their leaders.]
I would like to strongly disagree with the implications of what Mr. Steensby wrote. I do not believe "our welfare is bound up in the welfare of our nation and this world."
Are we not to be in the world but not of this world, ambassadors?
In Zimbabwe are the privileged few doing extremely well?
In Fiddler on the Roof is an example of how one could pray for our leaders: May the good Lord bless and keep the czar--far away from us!
Mr. Steensby stated that "it is a given that we should pray for our rulers."
Where are we instructed to do this? So should we pray for the welfare of Zimbabwe leaders? Or should we rather pray that they repent and believe the gospel of the Kingdom of God?
Revelation 18 is tragically clear: "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (verse 4).
Our calling and gift of the Spirit are personal, not national. Daniel, Joseph, Abraham and all the faithful "looked for another a city whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:6).
Walter writes of working for the civil government. I worked for "the work" in Sydney in printing The Plain Truth and in building the church office in Burleigh in 1973-76.
Sadly, I found there the same politics and parties and lobbying and hierarchy that are in civil governments.
Would it be better to follow the example given by Christ (Matthew 6:5-15, "Our Father ...")?
Do many misunderstand Romans 13:1 concerning "the powers that be are ordained of God"?
Is it true that God ordained Mugabe or Hitler or Stalin or any of the other atrocious leaders we have had? Are these not physical men elected or not elected by men influenced and led by the god of this world, Satan?
Or "are the powers that be ordained of God" spiritual powers, not of this world?
Would it be better to perhaps consider the whole context of John 17, not just verse 15, and understand the whole prayer Christ made to His and our Father?
We then could come to the conclusion that Christ showed us in verses 24-26:
"O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them."
The leaders of this world, like Mugabe and the others, have not known God or His glorious Son.
I do not see Christ teaching us to pray for them or their governments and certainly not admonishing any who may be employed by government to be any different to other believers.
Burleigh Waters, Australia
Thank you for printing the interview with Sheila Graham ["A Former Managing Editor of The Plain Truth Wants to Talk to Women In and Out of the WCG," The Journal, January-March 2009].
It is my belief that the Worldwide Church of God has a cultlike structure, not just the structure of a Christian sect as Mrs. Graham asserts.
Mike Feazell, Joe Tkach and others hold professional degrees from Azuza Pacific University.
In the academic world the doctorate of ministry is a pastoral degree and generally does not especially qualify a candidate to write serious theology.
With so many graduates from Azuza, a philosophical imbalance is created in the WCG in which one would not have the opportunity to ask objective questions that a diverse group could ask.
New studies in Galatians by Mark Nanos, Troy Martin and Paul Tarazi are overturning the gentile-church approach to Paul's writings.
W.D. Davies, along with Dr. David Bivin and my mentor, Roy Blizzard, uphold the fact that Galatians may be a redefinition of God's law written in our hearts by the Spirit in Christ's righteousness to free us from gnosticism and other traditions.
Theologians from the Baptist tradition such as Grant Wacker state that Matthew 5:17 declares unequivocally that God's law is being lifted to a Kingdom standard, and this occurs more than 290 times in the New Testament alone.
Mr. Wacker also affirms that the New Covenant was given originally to Sabbath people in Judah to give them rest through the Messiah.
The gentile calling that we see in Romans was a fulfillment of the book of Ruth, so the law in the innovative spirit of Judaism never was salvific but was always instructional.
Therefore, traditional and Sabbatarian Christians share the same righteousness that can only emulate from the Lord Jesus Christ.
The balance that is needed for the Church of God is to emphasize the Torah Christ Salvation Story theme.
Tom Roberts, Ph.D.
For another comment on The Journal's interview with Mrs. Graham, see "Woman Church of God Pastor Battles the GCI/WCG's 'New Truth,'" in this issue.
Could not be raised
Did you know the word hell appears in the Old Testament 31 times? It is translated from the Hebrew Sheol, and it never has anything to do with burning fire (like Gehenna in the New Testament). There is no Hebrew word that is comparable to the Greek word Gehenna. Sheol simply means grave.
But, someone might say, Jesus spoke about Gehenna. Yes, He did. The Jews of Jesus' day did not want people they considered to be evil to be in the resurrection, so they threw dead criminals into Gehenna so their bodies would be burned to ashes, and those bodies (so they thought) could not be raised at the resurrection because there would be nothing left for God to resurrect.
Paul and Micki Herrmann
In the letters section [on page 23] of the April 30, 2009, issue Geoffrey Neilson notes:
"Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to pray in Jerusalem [on] the 61st Roman-calendar anniversary of the founding of the modern state of Israel.
"It happens to be 1,290 days before Trumpets 2012.
"On March 31, 2009, Benjamin Netanyahu was inaugurated as Israel's prime minister, 1,335 days before Trumpets 2012.
"Whether something of significance happens 1,260 days before Trumpets 2012, or whether the above events signify anything regarding Daniel's 1,335 days, remains to be seen."
Apparently Geoffrey doesn't believe Christ's own words in Acts 1: "When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power."
Also Matthew 24: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."
Geoffrey cleverly disclaims any prophetic intention by stating: "Whether the above events signify anything regarding Daniel's 1,335 days remains to be seen."
Geoffrey seems to have forgotten Peter's admonition: "Know this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:20-21).
If Geoffrey has had a divinely inspired vision, he should report it to us like Ezekiel, Daniel, Jeremiah and Isaiah did. Otherwise the Christian thing to do would be to keep quiet about such speculation until after the facts of his hypothesis were established.
Christianity is not God's church
As much as I appreciated Art Mokarow's essay "The Faith That Saves Will Take You to the New Jerusalem" (The Journal, April 2009 issue, page 6), I doubt very much that "by A.D. 325, at the Council of Nicaea, Emperor Constantine took over God's church, Christianity."
Christianity, yes. The Church of God, no!
Jesus clearly said: "I will build my church; and the gates of hell [the Council of Nicaea and Emperor Constantine] shall not prevail against it."
"Christianity," the false church, is described in Revelation 17:1-5. The "Church of God," the true church, is described in 2 Corinthians 11:2 and Revelation 12:1 and 19:7-9.
Yes, both exist and operate within the same world, but the Body of Christ is not within the Roman Catholic Church, nor within any other humanly devised church organization.
BBC World Service radio interviewed a spokesman for the following company that will deliver food, fuel, airtime, etc., to people in Zimbabwe from South Africa. You supply the name and cell-phone number of the recipient, who picks the item up the next day.
Apparently there is no inflation in price once the order has been made. Here is a link to the company: www.mukuru.com.
Cape Town, South Africa