In those days none of us had any experiences with the complexities of conscientious objection. It's been a long journey for all of us since those early years. And nine children! Wow!
I often think about those old congregations and whatever happened to the people in them. I remember those Okies with great affection. May Steven enjoy a long and fruitful pastorate.
Regarding a recent issue of The Journal: I, of course, strongly disagree with the opinions of many that Mr. Armstrong was the end-times Elijah, the end is near, one must be with the one true church, that a European union is the beast, etc., etc.
These opinions are the reason I gave up receiving The Journal earlier.
However, I shall forever be thankful that Mr. Armstrong pointed the way to the reality that government and law are the main issues, and to trust Christ as the King of Kings and carry out His commands is our destiny.
I must point out that I believe an end-times Islamic caliphate shall be the beast that brings all life on this planet to the edge of extinction. The churches and I are in irreconcilable disagreement on this issue.
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Painful WCG memories
Reading the Feb. 28, 2014, issue [The Journal, No. 159], I saw Lonnie Hendrix's reply letter "Hate by Any Other Name," which for me prompted memories of the old WCG days.
Mr. Hendrix states: "Licensed ministers haven't been shy about their opinions on the subject of homosexuality for as far back as I can remember."
I can witness to that. I remember when some in the church ministry would condemn and attack homosexuals without mercy. I especially remember a 1985 sermon given by a "special speaker" from Pasadena. As he began to speak, I could feel what was coming. I literally began to hurt.
This minister thundered out to our congregation about how evil the homosexuals in Hollywood were.
"Call them all queers, brethren!" he shouted. "That's what they are!"
As I sat silently hurting -- having endured years of struggle by that time -- this man's sermon become the cultural icon to me of the old WCG's hostility toward gays.
Part of the difficulty we wrestled with in the old WCG culture was discerning the right spiritual paradigm for understanding law and grace. It really is grace first.
As we grow in our state of grace tethered to Christ, the mind-set comes that gradually leads to the spiritual fulfillment of the intent of the law of God: the law that is summarized by the Two Great Commandments.
I am thankful for men like Dennis Luker, who reached out beyond the spiritually immature culture of the WCG to minister to and actually help support me and others in our Christian faith.
He was a friend who helped me survive over the years and may have helped literally to save my life, and he never compromised with biblical standards of conduct.
Sadly, he attracted undeserved criticism from some in the Church of God for his compassion towards me and others. His detractors are self-righteous and ignorant of an issue that the Church of God (all groups inclusively) needs to better understand.
I'm glad the old WCG days of hostility toward gays are over in my UCG congregation.
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On the spot from Kachinland
In October 2013 I was in Yunnan province, China, for the Jingpho Educational Conference. In the third week of December I was in Karen state in Burma for the funeral service of my father-in-law, and then my wife and I proceeded to northern Shan state again to meet with my brother-in-law, and we informed him about his father's death.
My wife and I arrived back home on Jan. 8, 2014, from the very far distances.
On Jan. 11 I became very ill. First I treated my illness by the local physicians for two weeks.
But day by day my health became worse and I nearly died.
On Jan. 28 I borrowed US$50 from the Roman Catholic Church. On Jan. 30 my sister, my wife and I left home for Myitkyina (capital town of Kachinland) and we safely arrived at Grace Hospital at 3:30 p.m.
From Jan. 30 to Feb. 13 my wife and I stayed at the hospital for my sickness. The charges for the treatment fee were more than US$200.
While we were at the hospital, some of the pastors from different church denominations came to see me day by day and they offered "special prayers" for me, and some of my friends from various areas visited me and kindly helped and gave me money as well as nutritious foods so that I was able to pay the charges for treatment without any trouble.
My wife and I left the hospital on Feb. 13 and we moved to a relative's home. While we were taking rest there for a few days, my wife was facing bleeding constantly for three days.
She was treated at the hospital for two days. The charges for her treatment were more than US$200 again. So my wife and I humbly prayed for God to help us.
On Feb. 24 a wonderful message came to us by phone from Yangon, Burma.
A young lady told us by phone that US$2,000 from New Zealand arrived at the office for sending to us. We have gladly received the money and cannot express how happy we are to receive this big amount, and we thank God for His miraculous work for us.
On Feb. 27 my wife and I left for the Lake Indawgyi Region, and we arrived safely back home very happily.
When I arrived home I found three parcels: issues of The Journal dated November and December 2013 and January 2014. I thank you for so kindly describing our Feast report from Kachinland.
I am trying to do the gospel work here. My wife and I feel a great responsibility to look and see our scattered church members. Some are very, very old-age widows, and some are very poor families.
Kachinland is largely a mountainous country. It is difficult to go from place to place. Sometimes I need to go on foot. Sometimes I need to go by bicycle for the gospel work.
Kachinland has more than one million Christian refugees and Buddhist refugees, those who are staying at the very long camps of bamboo, with roofs of canvas, on the China border. The Burmese soldiers burned more than 250 villages including 66 church buildings from June 2011 through June 2013.
The Burmese soldiers are patrolling around the country to attack the Kachin-government armies. Soon the terrible fightings will be started again and again.
Kachinland has 16 ethnic groups. The people of Kachinland are of Tibet-Mongoloid origin and are warmhearted and very hospitable.
Please remember us in your prayers, especially for our scattered church members.
Pastor Lazum Brang
Gospel minister and frontier evangelist
P.O. Na Mawn -- 01114
Lake Indawgyi Region
Kachinland via Myanmar (Burma)
Let there be day/light
I'm behind on my reading and just saw the letter from Duane Giles on the "Timing of the Passover" (issue No. 159).
As is usual when someone writes about "the calendar issue," Duane mixes some right and wrong together.
Kudos to Duane when he hits the nail on the head on the translators wrongly punctuating the account in Genesis and that a day is only when the sun's light rules the sky, making every day, the Sabbath included, from dawn to dark.
Duane is right when he states that when one realizes the truth about day/light vs. night/dark, "the holy day days and Passover are in sync."
Now, about the timing of Passover Duane is so close, yet so far.
He is right about the "Passover is the Night to Be Remembered." But he is incorrect about the lamb being killed during the 14th day/light before night/dark.
Just as the Genesis re-creation account has to be recounted and corrected, so does our understanding of the counting of days/lights and nights/darks that would prove Yahshua was the Messiah.
This will also clear up the chronological problems of what happened, and when, during the crucifixion and afterwards.
I found revealing the article starting on page 4 of issue No. 159 by Daniel Botha [about the Passover].
Mr. Botha offers a very good explanation using logic to invalidate the belief that the Passover was on the 14th. On page 5 he reinforces his argument with scriptural passages. It was very easy for me to understand.
My son used to tell me he had his doubts about the correct day to observe the Passover. Jesus didn't change the date it should be observed, especially when He knew He would be the sacrificial lamb.
My sons' observation stuck in my mind. In 1997 a member of the church, Eleanor Johnson, was doing an intensive study on the Passover. She shared with me the results of her research. Her six-page report made her argument convincing.
After further review from all angles, I was in complete agreement that the Passover should be correctly observed on the 15th, and I have been doing so ever since.
Thanks, Mr. B.
I was called by God in 1991 and basically got the last train into the Church of God while it was still upholding biblical teachings, prior to the great apostasy in ’90s.
Since I missed the time and God's work through Herbert W. Armstrong, I always appreciate interviews with those who had known and worked with him.
In the latest issue [No. 160, dated March 31, 2014] Don Billingsley [in an article beginning on page 1] reminded us of important truths from the rich HWA legacy as pertaining to the spiritual organism we dearly call the Church(es) of God.
2 Thessalonians 2, indeed, seems to be a two-part prophecy, first speaking about the man of sin to lead the end-time apostasy in the true church and, from verse 7 onward, about the false prophet who will deceive the world with Satan-inspired wonders and miracles.
I am also glad that we were reminded, based on the book of Daniel, that the Jewish temple is to be rebuilt with Old Testament sacrifices resumed prior to other prophesied events.
Don's conclusion that God's people will most likely gather into one group in the place of safety struck me as a sensible thesis.
It seems a process of reconciliation has begun this year among some parts of the Body of Christ, so may it continue and lead all the way up to the escape of the hour of trial coming upon all the inhabitants of the world.
Aleksandar "Sasha" Veljic
Novi Sad, Serbia
Hello, Dixon and Linda. I received the [March 31, 2014] copy of The Journal yesterday and was more than pleased with the way you [Dixon Cartwright] presented your interview with me. I could not have hoped for it to have been done any better.
I also appreciated the picture of your lovely wife with me in the writing. Thank you both very much.
Valley Springs, Calif.
The COGs' 82 calendars
It was with a sense of "bemusement," to quote Velvet Delorey, that I read her letter (in issue No. 160) regarding the arguments and counterarguments that fill every issue of The Journal.
Velvet proposes three questions we need to ask ourselves to arrive at the "truth." The first two are similar and ask what did the church teach before and presumably after the "apostasy."
This approach is problematic because the church taught different things at different times, sometimes even when the same man was in charge.
When one says "What did the church teach?" the question really boils down to, if we are honest: What did the leader of the church teach?
Those of us who have been around long enough should know that back in the day the leader's interpretation was what was taught, with no questions asked, at least not if you wanted to remain a member of the organization.
Although much younger than I am, even Velvet should remember that this was true. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of groups it remains true to this day.
Here are some examples to ponder:
In the late 1930s Herbert Armstrong taught a diametrically opposite view of church government from what he taught from the 1950s onward.
During World War II he taught that Hitler was the beast power and the end was nigh.
By 1947 he was sending out coworker letters saying the "end will come in this generation," and he continued to preach this for several generations.
And who can forget the on-again off-again doctrines about makeup and marriage and divorce?
Looking at what the church taught will get you nowhere unless, of course, you are looking for justification for one's preconceived notion of what the truth is.
Velvet's last question was "What do the Scriptures say?" Again, this is problematic. One has only to read through the pages of The Journal to find innumerable ideas of what the Scriptures say.
I once worked out that there are about 82 different possible permutations of the calendar issue, and over the years most of them have been suggested by Journal contributors.
The Passover debate has raged for millennia, with scholars far more educated than any Journal contributor unable to come up with an answer that all can agree on.
Some things, however, have never changed over all the years in WCG and in many of its present-day off-shoots:
The leader remains the unquestioned authority; send money to him to support a lifestyle far above the average contributor's; and if you don't agree you are out on your ear and can no longer expect to be one of the chosen few.
Victoria, B.C., Canada
More on the canon
John Sash says in an editorial [in issue No. 157] we should ask God about the canon.
But obviously, like with everything else, our preconceived conceptions may get in the way of the answer.
How long should we wait for the answer before we decide we understand? A common scenario: I prayed. I fasted. I have the Holy Spirit. So I know.
There is a lot of information already available if we really want it. Interesting points about the canon:
New translations are developed constantly for reasons that include the translators' doctrinal slant.
You will not find words like cooperate and responsibility in the KJV.
The last change in the number of books in the KJV was around A.D. 1885. (The KJV started out with 80 books in 1611. See "Why Were 14 Books Ripped Out of the King James Bible in 1885?" at abovetopsecret.com.)
One of the requirements for the choice of books in the canon was that it supposedly supported the Trinity doctrine.
The KJV was one of the first to use chapters and verses.
The KJV creates God in King James' image. The word obedient is obsessively used.
The apostle John was the only biblical writer who could have had access to all the other writings. His Gospel was obviously written for an audience after his time. His Gospel may be a critique of the other writings as well as a submission of his own evidence.
Mr. Sash says the burden of proof is on us if we believe something in the canon is not inspired. But proof is like beauty. It is in the eye of the holder.
Even then, if it was inspired, much of it was meant for other people in remote times and situations that we may not have experienced.
To claim it is all dogmatic instructions to us is not logical, reasonable and rational and limits God's opportunity to deal with us as individuals.
Modern churches approach people from the standpoint of the churches' agenda whether it fits a person's personal needs or not.
Hearts of stone
God explains in 2 Corinthians 3 through the apostle Paul that His truth is written in our hearts (verse 3) and "not with ink but with the spirit of the Living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tablets of the heart."
God inspired Paul to say Moses had to put a veil upon his face because the Israelites' sight and "minds were blinded" (verse 13).
When anyone turns to the Lord to understand that Christ is that saving Spirit (by grace), the veil is then taken away.
Commands and laws (written in stone) were not meant to be for salvation, and indeed could not be.
Understanding this, we then have "liberty" (verse 17) from the proclamation of death.
So Christ not only "fulfilled" God's Old Testament laws written in stone that were "condemning" (verse 9), but He did away with them (verses 7, 11).
Do we understand?
Paul and Micki Herrmann
The Hegelian dialectic
The following is an expansion on Bill Hawkins' latest ad ("Do You Really Want Christ to Return?"), in issue No. 160.
About 400 years ago the philosopher Hegel identified the same trait in human society that Bill Hawkins writes of. He called it the Hegelian dialectic and theorized that as mankind congregated in urban centers competition and conflict become inescapable.
This is, however, a trait that is unique to humans. Animals and weeds don't war with each other (or another species) as though they purposefully would amass an army and attack.
I suspect Brother Hawkins may have an urban background and is looking for the reason(s) there is so much conflict and competition there.
I believe that YHWH didn't have cities as part of His original plan for Adam and the resultant Adamites.
Cain is recorded to be the first city builder. After the Flood, Nimrod became another urban developer.
Interestingly, Genesis 11 tells of YHWH's deurbanizing mankind at the Tower of Babel.
Bill is correct in saying this age belongs to Satan.
However, those of us who reside in more-rural environments know that weeds and animals are not Adamites, nor do they act according to the Hegelian dialectic.
The Lord knows my heart
I just read Dave Havir's article on the two witnesses that he posted a while back. I believe God has chosen me to be one of the two witnesses.
I suffer from bipolar disorder. It could be that I am delusional. All I know is that week in and week out the Lord hones me and sharpens me. He shows me His heart and His justice. All I know at this stage is that my job is to be a witness regarding how fair God is towards us.
God is giving mankind a choice: Be with Him for eternity through Christ or spend eternity without God, which is hell.
God has said to man: "I have offered you salvation, and I have made it known to all men. Therefore choose for yourselves.
"Do you want to spend eternity with Me or without Me?"
I am 26 years of age. I believe these things to be true, but it is entirely up to God. God has been more than fair for me and my life.
His love is so strong in my life that, even if it turns out I am not one of the two witnesses and my position in heaven's kingdom is of a lower order, I'll be content if the Lord only asks me to pray for my fellow believers, to evangelize and to encourage/exhort my fellow believers.
The Lord knows my heart and how I long to be one of the two witnesses. But I have to accept what God has for me as he made me what I am. How can I go against my Father and Creator? To Him be the glory!
Owen J. Finnegan
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