Letters from our readers

Almost a year

It has now been almost a year since The Journal started, and words are quite insufficient to express how much we appreciate your efforts in providing this newspaper. We look forward to many more copies in the coming years.

We have been receiving The Journal via Mrs. [Barbara] Fenney in England.

Thank you once again for wanting to keep all the people in the Churches of God informed about each other. We really appreciate your dedication and concern.

Anthony and Margaretha Miles

Baerums Verk, Norway

End run

I was just saying to my wife, "Ah, the blissful state of the nonaligned." This thought came as a result of observing the events in the corporate COGs over the last few weeks. From my point of observation one of the biggest problems associated with corporate-church membership is that the members get dragged into the internal problems of the corporation, which more often they don't need or deserve. This has been refreshingly absent in our nonaligned status. We concentrate on our relationship with God and His people and bypass the polarization so often found in the large organizations.

Peter Kamen

Milford, Conn.

Trying times

The announcement of David Hulme's removal as president of United Church of God, an International Association, was sad news for many of us. I think perhaps we should take some time to pray about the situation and seek to understand God's will.

We do not have the information before us that the council of elders has and are unable to understand their reasons for the decision. Our lack of understanding does not mean that they made a wrong decision. They were quite unified in the decision (more than a two-thirds majority), and I do not believe that any of the men on the council would decide capriciously. What if it was the right decision? Should we criticize that about which we don't know?

Furthermore, if each of us had gone to God on our knees asking Him to guide and bless the council of elders' meetings, for which we had been given an agenda and which we knew were taking place, I think we should have the confidence in our heavenly Father that He was present and guiding decisions made at the meetings. I certainly believe that the council members have also sought God's will throughout the process.

I think we should take this time to try to peaceably understand what God would have us understand, to look to Him for guidance and direction. That is best done on our knees and trembling before the Word of God. I do not think it is appropriate to draw "obvious conclusions" about which we have only limited knowledge nor to second-guess the council's decision in this matter, questioning their integrity, without the necessary details and information.

One other thing: The office of president in the UCG-AIA is a corporate office; it is not a spiritual position within the Body of Christ. David Hulme is still an elder and a member of the council. He is still a leader in the Church of God. With the title "president" the position can sound a whole lot bigger than it is. I think it helps not to confuse the corporation with the Church.

Darryl A. Pifer

Bloomington, Ind.

Who does he think he is?

Who is Gary Fakhoury? To my knowledge he has never been a minister and still isn't, so who gives him the right to write spiritual teaching to the church if he was never ordained to the ministry?

I do like to keep up with what is going on in the churches through The Journal. Just for the record, my allegiance is to God and His government, being carried on by the work done through the Global Church!

Keith E. Peterson

Stowe, Vt.

Talent appreciated

I have been studying Mr. Fakhoury's article about the covenants [which ran in two parts Oct. 31 and Nov. 21]. I've learned a great deal and appreciate the insight.

On page 10 under 1 Timothy 1:5-15 he says, "Paul speaks here of loving 'the commandments' 'from a pure heart.' " How did Mr. Fakhoury develop this statement from the scripture involved?

He touched on the subject of "imputed righteousness." Has he written anything directly on that subject?

Some ministers say that once they've proven the truth they can put problems on the shelf. The trouble is that some of the children have reached up on the shelf and been poisoned. Annotates have been needed. I hope Mr. Fakhoury knows that his talent is appreciated by at least one person. Each age of the church needs answers to the new angles used to back up ancient perversions of Scripture. Hopefully people will realize that Evangelicalism is the homogenization of Catholicism and Protestantism without the pasteurization. It contains the insidious error of both persuasions.

Bill Bartholomew

Fresno, Calif.

Thanks to Gary Fakhoury

I'm at a loss for words. I just finished reading part two of "Grace, Law and the Covenants" [Nov. 21 issue], and I find this whole article to be wonderfully inspired in its presentation. It is simply fantastic! I wish that all the people in the WCG and the various offshoots could have access to it.

I commend Gary Fakhoury on his diligent and untiring efforts in using the obvious talents that God has gifted him with. I plan on keeping this article and sharing it with as many people as I can. He has a style of writing that flows so easily, and reading his articles is like experiencing a refreshing breath of clear mountain air. Thank you many times over for this uplifting article on grace, law and the covenants. It has added to my spiritual armor in an immense fashion, I can assure you.

Don Wood

Via the Internet

What a pair!

I've just finished reading both Melvin and Diane Rhodes' articles ("When Will We Grow Up?" and "Wife Writes Open Letter to Churches") in the Nov. 21 issue of The Journal.

Although I have always appreciated Mr. Rhodes' column, this particular piece was, in my opinion, worth your annual subscription price alone. (Thankfully, mine has already been mailed out!)

His extremely clear and bottom-line approach, identifying so many of our current problems within the church, is extremely refreshing. I found myself reading the piece over and over so I would not miss all that was hiding between the lines, which was the best read of all. Suffice it to say, it was a wonderful article and clearly brought out basic biblical truths we all need to reconsider in our day-to-day lives, within and outside of the church.

Complementing his article even further, his wife (Diane) then writes an amazingly clear and insightful piece defining what the "true church" is and, more important, what is isn't. How many times, in our common past, has an organization or person (within an organization) claimed to be speaking God's truth when in fact what was being advocated was merely his version of the truth.

God's Word to us plainly and clearly states, "You shall know them by their fruits"! (Matthew 7:16). If we have God's Spirit dwelling in us, then we have a chief responsibility to that Spirit. We are to be (spiritual) fruit inspectors, like the Bereans, seeking daily to prove whether these things we hear (via sermons, Bible studies, letters) be true and align ourselves with the Word of God.

If not, then we must ask questions until the truth of these things be known. We are individually called of God. Therefore, we are also individually responsible to account for our actions, in spiritual matters, before God. We cannot, and should not, seek to escape this responsibility.

I am sincerely convinced that God is not interested merely in a field full of dumb sheep, but a group of individuals who strive to plainly, humbly and sincerely seek to live their lives, day by day, according to the entire Word of God-all for the simple joy of serving God, seeking to develop the character of Jesus Christ, our living example.

I look forward to every issue of The Journal and hope we (your readers) have not seen the last of Diane.

Paul A. Bruni

Burlingame, Calif.

Deacon's-eye view

It appears that the United Church of God has done what many others have done before it.

The UCG started out well, considering the many problems that had to be solved. David Hulme has up until now been the president and mainstay responsible for the growth to this point in time. The UCG's council of elders has, by its action of removing Mr. Hulme as president, literally shot itself in the foot. Considering what council members have done, they have shown that they are a political group. There should be no room for that in the UCG.

Picking the time to do this before an election of the council of elders could be held shows the politics of the UCG council.

Obviously, politics cannot lead God's people. This puts the leadership of the UCG about where it was after the death of Herbert W. Armstrong. Very suspect.

One or maybe two or three failed to agree to the removal of Mr. Hulme but obviously did not prevail. Thanks to that one or two. UCG members would surely do well to rise up and demand an explanation. Quickly.

The UCG's address is P.O. Box 661780, Arcadia, Calif. 91006.

It would seem wise before going much further, considering what has happened, that the credentials of UCG council members should be brought into question.

As of now, there has been no explanation that sounds reasonable, given what has happened. This is pure arrogance.

Phillip A. Nelson

Deacon, United Church of God

Orosi, Calif.

Another split?

Despite all the rhetoric of being "tolerant" and allowing the local congregation a certain amount of autonomy and responsibility, the line was drawn in the sand the Sabbath of Dec. 13.

The congregation of UCG, Endeavour Hills, Melbourne, usually referred to as the South Church, was informed that to remain under the banner of the UCG we were expected to adhere strictly to its constitution (regardless, apparently, of its validity to our understanding of Scripture). That would apply to any and all decisions made by the Australian national council as well as the acceptance of an accredited (and salaried) appointed pastor.

People of other fellowships would still be encouraged to meet with us, as long as they did not "cause trouble," but an independent mind-set would no longer be tolerated.

As we have been told time and again, to me as a UCG congregation we are expected to pledge allegiance to it (and that, of course, means to financially support it and it alone).

Despite UCG services being suspended for the following two weeks-to allow for prayer and reflection-the majority of brethren had already made their decision exactly two years ago, when a number of us withdrew from fellowshipping with another congregation because of its minister's heavy-handedness. Many of us are now foundational members of three groups: UCG Box Hill, UCG Endeavour Hills and now the Church of God Endeavour Hills. As of this Sabbath (Dec. 20), we will be holding services as a nonaligned group.

Our immediate plans are to continue doing as we have done for the past two years: to minister to one another, to continue to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling and to further our efforts in preaching the gospel in any small way that we can.

For several months now we have been advertising on channel 31 (a public-access TV station here in Melbourne). We propose to pursue this avenue in advertising The Good News magazine, along with the five-minute Born to Win ads (a Christian Educational Ministries production), as well as any other worthwhile endeavors.

Before thoughts of reproach or condemnation cross your mind, I will remind you to read Romans 14, especially verses 10-13. "But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you set at nought your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ . . . Let us not therefore judge one another any more. But judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way."

Tina Siposs

Hallam, Australia

Arctic Thanksgiving

Congratulations and thanks go to Melissa Weinbrenner for her excellent article on Thanksgiving in the December issue of The Journal. However, there were a couple of things about Thanksgiving and Christmas that the author either did not know or chose not to mention.

Professor Weinbrenner is correct when she says that the Pilgrims' celebration of Thanksgiving in 1621 was not the first time that people in the 13 colonies, or North America for that matter, gave thanks. In 1578, 43 years earlier, explorer Martin Frobisher observed Thanksgiving in the eastern Arctic of Canada. The Canadian Encyclopedia (III:1805) calls this "the first North American Thanksgiving."

In Canada, Thanksgiving is observed in October, and it is my understanding that at various times several U.S. states also observed it in that month. Unfortunately, Dr. Weinbrenner did not expand on the precise reason that November was ultimately chosen for American Thanksgiving over October. Perhaps commercialization was involved, but I suspect a religious reason. Was November chosen for Thanksgiving because a date in October would be too embarrassingly close to the "Jewish" Feast of Tabernacles for a "Christian" America to tolerate?

As for Christmas, which Dr. Weinbrenner also discusses, she may be interested to know that the custom of the decorated Christmas tree was brought to Canada by Baroness von Riedesel (1746-1808), who lived in Quebec in the 1770s when her German soldier husband was serving with the British during the American Revolutionary War.

John E. Wall

Altona, Man., Canada

Confusing Canadian coupon

Your renewal coupon for Canadian subscribers [sent separately to Canadians] was unclear. You advertise $18 for one year for Canadians within The Journal itself. On the coupon you offer renewals for $24 after explaining that it cost you $6 extra only if there is a failure to remit in U.S. funds. Is the subscription $18 or $24? If $24 when remitted in U.S. funds, then the extra charge must be for postage, yet this is an issue that is never brought up. Or is the amount truly $18 (underpriced, by the way) when remitting in U.S. funds?

Lloyd Hetherington

Nelson, B.C., Canada

Sorry for the confusion. The Journal has raised the price of subscriptions sent from the Big Sandy office to subscribers outside the United States. We are updating the coupons that run regularly in The Journal as well as the information on our Web site.

It is true that The Journal is charged a $6 penalty per check or money order if U.S. funds are not sent. Please remit in U.S. funds and, if possible, U.S. funds drawn on a U.S. bank. But the reason for the increase is postage. It costs up to five times the amount of U.S. postage to send a copy of the newspaper outside of the country.

Subscriptions through Journal distributors in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are set by the distributors and are not necessarily affected by this price increase.

The price of U.S. subscriptions will not increase at this time.

Thanks to Mr. Hetherington for pointing out the problem with the renewal letter.

Like the Bereans

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading The Journal this past year. As I've stated before, I have been a member of God's church 35 years, and the walk with God becomes more wonderful. I was in the WCG for the first 17 years, then I have been one of those independent members who has had the freedom of doing extensive research and study into the Scriptures. I wouldn't trade all the world for that privilege and sense of walking hand in hand with God through the Bible, His guide book to peace and harmony.

There are quite a few of us who stick very close to the true doctrines we have proved over and over from the beginning of our calling. I do not lean to my own understanding, but I do search the Scriptures like the Bereans did.

Flora E. Warnock

Talent, Ore.

Work to be done

This week I attended the funeral of a fellow employee at my company: a man, only 40 years old, taken by cancer. He was a devoted husband, father of four boys, dedicated to his Protestant church, successful in business.

The church was packed, standing room only. The minister preached a powerful message to a tearful crowd, a message that was all wrong. I came away forcefully reminded of how precious God's truth really is and how few there are who understand it.

This evening, as I read the latest edition of The Journal, I was saddened, then angered, that so many of the few who do understand God's plan and purpose for mankind spend their time and talent in endless harangues about who is to be in charge and how the message is to be packaged.

There are countless "works" and "ministries" as men with some leadership ability or a following pursue their own version of how to fulfill the commission. It seems to be self-serving for those who promote their own enterprise. What a waste of time, money and talent. Satan must be enjoying this state of confusion immensely.

The Scriptures are plain: "Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:20).

If you will objectively look for a group that is preaching the full gospel and feeding the flock in a manner that is proven to be effective, you will find it. The leadership has credentials based on the fruits of a lifetime. It is small. It struggles to make ends meet. There are all the problems that human beings always have, but it is working. The gospel is being preached, and the little flock is being fed.

I'm sure that God is not pleased with the seemingly endless diatribes about governance and grievances of the past, real or imagined.

Wake up, brethren! There is work to be done. Make it your business to find out where God is working and get with the program.

Davy Crockett

Little Rock, Ark.

Beware of idolatry

The essay "Be Perfect," by James McBride (Dec. 18 issue), was excellent! Too bad the leader of his former association did not properly understand those scriptures.

It could have saved a lot of problems and embarrassment these past few years, plus the needless separation of brethren.

Sometimes I feel that God's children would be much better off to study His Word for themselves.

Maybe that's why things happened as they have in the various Churches of God recently.

Get the organization out of the way for a direct connection to the Eternal Himself. Anything that comes between you and the Almighty is idolatry. Beware!

Dolores Witham

Mason, Ohio

Long-distance fellowship

Your paper is such a blessing to me. I'm in a situation right now where I have very little opportunity to fellowship. Your paper is my fellowship. Thanks so much!

Janelle Quast

Huntington, Ore.

Helpful reading

Enclosed find my check of $18 for one more year of The Journal. Keep up the good work. It is helpful to read about the various Churches of God and their views.

Margaret Hess

Boise, Idaho

Greetings from a Church of God

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am a member of the House of God, Holy Church of the Living God, Pillar and Ground of the Truth, House of Prayer for All People, Inc. Quite a long name, isn't it? This is the church referred to in your November article ["More Sabbath-Keepers Located," page 2]. We are not a hoax.

As I can tell by the writer's words, you are all very surprised to hear about us. Here is a little history of us.

We were founded in 1914 and incorporated in 1918 by Bishop R.A.R. Johnson, followed by Bishop A.A. Smith. We reached our greatest growth under the leadership of Bishop Simon Peter Rawlings, who led our church for 40 years.

Yes, he was our Moses, and we miss him very much.

Incidentally, I am married to his granddaughter.

Our headquarters is in Lexington, Ky. Although many of you have not heard of us, some of us have heard of you. I remember a few years ago many of the Worldwide Church of God members would meet in Rupp Arena for the Feast of Tabernacles. Just recently my wife was asked to sing at a visiting church. We wondered about this church because they worshiped on the Sabbath, as we do. I found out they were former members of the Worldwide organization.

We have churches in the United States, Canada, Jamaica and Africa, and we even have a member in Australia. We are mostly African-American, but we have white members also. We pride ourselves on being the House of Prayer for all people. A couple of years ago at our national meeting we were introduced to another organization that was mainly, if not all, Hispanic. They kept the Sabbath and the feast days too!

We would love to fellowship and correspond with you. I am offering my services as a link, and hopefully representatives from our organizations can meet soon. We may not have met if it wasn't for this vehicle. I look forward to hearing from you soon. If anyone would like to call to speak personally with me, I can be reached at (606) 299-3259.

Minister Tyrone Johnson .

Good old Ellis

I am completely amazed at my perception of the articles I read in The Journal after so many changes in my personal life. Two years of broken promises from the UCG ministry and heart surgery all ended when God let me understand I needed Him and not a minister or organization. Concerning the Dec. 18 issue:

  • "Mr. Tkach Gives Views on Heaven, Hell, Soul": I say who cares what he thinks?
  • "CGI Ministers' Council Votes to Remove Church Founder Garner Ted Armstrong": Back in the 1970s I rallied to GTA's defense. I feel great compassion for the members who allow ministers to think for them and spend their money. They are the abused and misused.
  • "Elders Sign Call-to-Action Statement": The real question is: What do the 98 percent of the flock, or the dumb sheep, desire?
  • "New Beginnings Article Misses Mark": Good old Ellis Stewart highlights the good-old-boy mentality whose stress level is up to what mine was when I had UCG-caused heart surgery. Ellis, you are worried only that the 12 wise men from Arcadia should include all the 2 percent, or ministry, in "governance."

I noticed under your subheading "Mathiasen on Management" that members of the UCG "see our failure to follow our own rules." You actually referred to the dumb sheep to give your point meaning. Declining membership is a negative result that follows. Why aren't some of the 2 percent, or the ministry, smart enough to understand this?

Ellis, with all due respect, your article made a statement you should listen to closely: "The UCG is a Church of God. The Body of Christ is not a man-made entity." Does that mean the 12 wise men from the Arcadia council are not a spiritual council? If your answer is yes, you are right. God works only through spiritual entities, including jackasses, but not councils or organized groups.

You wandering sheep who miss your friends in the large organizations should give thanks to God that you and He can study His Word and He can give you understanding. You will not have to run it by anyone else or any organization. You are completely responsible for what you understand. Keep this theme boiling.

Ted Moxley

Phoenix, Ariz.

In support of Ellis Stewart

I feel compelled to write a letter to your informative and interesting publication in support of the fine article written by Ellis Stewart ["New Beginnings Article Misses the Mark," Dec. 18, page 3] in response to the lengthy article in New Beginnings [the United Church of God newsletter] on the subject of "governance," written by Bob Dick, chairman of the council of elders.

My support of Mr. Stewart is twofold. One, I basically agree with the critical review of the New Beginnings article. Upon reading this article, I came to many of the same conclusions that Mr. Stewart eloquently addressed.

However, objective No. 2 is my principal reason for writing. That objective is to support Ellis Stewart as a devoted, humble, sincere and Spirit-led and -motivated member of the Church of God.

I believe that I can claim the privilege of having a longer acquaintance with Ellis and his wife, Pat, than anyone else in the United Church of God with the exception of a very few others: Mr. and Mrs. Burk McNair, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Elliott and, of course, my wife, Doris, and possibly two or three more.

In the late 1950s and into the early 1960s the Worldwide Church of God in Pasadena met in the Shakespeare Club facility on Los Robles Avenue in Pasadena. At that time Herbert Armstrong's mother, then advanced in years, in her late 80s and into her 90s, attended Sabbath services and, because of her fragile health, needed special attention and assistance.

Who was the faithful and diligent member of the church to regularly provide this care? Yes, it was Ellis Stewart, sacrificing time with his own young family, putting time to provide comfort and aid to Mr. Armstrong's mother ahead of personal concerns.

When I think of Ellis, or almost every time I see him at services of the United Church of God in Big Sandy, I have this mental picture of him assisting Mrs. Armstrong and being so diligent to care for her every need, assuring her enjoyment of the Sabbath services as much as possible. I guess this vivid impression of the humble, dedicated and contrite nature of Ellis Stewart is the main reason I found it incredible that this one and same person could and would write such a thoroughly comprehensive review of an article he found contained objectionable points and omissions.

I have tried to imagine how much Ellis had to resist his emotions-his natural tendencies and impulses to let the matter pass without comment-and force himself to spend the time necessary to prepare such an article. I know he did so only because he felt so strongly about an enormously important subject of paramount significance to the United Church of God.

Even to those who may find some fault with a conclusion or two that Ellis drew, I believe they will have to agree that Ellis Stewart is not the kind of person to be critical of something published by a leading minister of the Church of God unless he feels extremely deeply about it! When I read the article by Ellis, I read the words of one who, I am convinced, believes the subject matter is of such critical importance to the future and the work of the United Church of God that he could not let the matter go by without comment.

It is my view that many of us can take personal lessons from the example given by our brother in Christ, Ellis Stewart, in feeling with deep conviction and concern about issues and subjects that should be of major importance to all of us.

Rather than have his motives held in question and to doubt his faithfulness to the church, even going so far as to question his degree of conversion, it is my view that any who found his article flawed should appreciate the candor, honesty and humble criticism of one who has manifested such a long track record of dedicated and faithful service to His Lord and Master. Read carefully what he had to say, and just maybe there are some words of wisdom that can improve understanding.

Good job, Ellis. I respect and appreciate the service you have provided. The kind of criticism you have given, not in rancor, name-calling and in anger but from a concerned, humble and dedicated spirit, is what we need in the Church of God. With this love for truth and willingness to speak out, I believe we can all come to a more mature and perfect stature before Christ.

C. Wayne Cole

Tyler, Texas

In support of GTA

The Church of God International council has decided to remove church founder Garner Ted Armstrong. The first council letter sent out gave a certain particular reason for the forced retirement. In the second council letter, we see a different story: a changed story and another reason given.

Then, in the Dec. 18 issue of The Journal, I read of yet another reason, a third reason for this. [See related articles in this issue.]

When I read the council letters, I found them vague, unclear and at times misleading. When I read Mr. Armstrong's letters, they were clear, direct and to the point.

My assessment of this situation is now clear: The ministerial council does not have a legitimate reason for forcing Mr. Armstrong out to start all over again. All the reasons given by the ministerial council are reasons referring to events and circumstances that have happened over two years ago.

Mr. Armstrong clearly states that the sins in question involved incidents that had ceased 28 months before, transgressions that had long since been repented of.

Let's see if the members and ministry of the Churches of God can learn a lesson from a 14-year-old girl who wrote an article on Thanksgiving in the Dec. 18 issue of The Journal. She wrote: "God loves us practically to death; if we repent of even the greatest sins He will forgive us and continue to love us like His children, which we are."

In the article "CGI Elder Remembers GTA" [Dec. 18], Ian Boyne writes: "Ron Dart taught me well enough over these last 15 years to know that it is better to err on the side of mercy than justice."

Ron Dart taught me the same principle. That's why I have no problem forgiving Ted Armstrong of his past sins, just as I know God has forgiven him.

How many Church of God ministers look forward to seeing Herbert Armstrong in the resurrection? Do they think that HWA will congratulate them by saying, "Thanks so much, fellows, for doing your best to destroy my son"? I don't believe Mr. Armstrong will congratulate any Church of God minister who tried to destroy his son.

Recently I wrote a letter to GTA. I said: "Think about what your father would do in this situation. He would take a strong stand against them all if he knew he was right. I know your father could do it, and I know you can do it too. With God's help we'll all get through this together."

Garner Ted Armstrong is not only an excellent writer, but he is by far the most gifted and talented speaker that I've ever heard in my life. It was through his ministry that I learned about the truth of God back in 1975.

Mr. Armstrong asked, "Do you believe God has now appointed a different watchman?"

This crisis may even be a test on the watchman himself to see if he's willing to continue. One thing I know for sure is this: If Garner Ted Armstrong is the Lord's anointed watchman, then nobody or nothing is going to stop him from getting the job done.

Alex Nicholson

Englishtown, N.S., Canada

God is not divided

Brethren, I am greatly troubled. I have never seen God's people so divided. It is getting worse. It seems that we have come out of chaos to commit more chaos. Where is our loyalty, with men or with God?

Brethren, how can we call ourselves the Churches of God if we are not unified? God is not divided. He will not let those enter His Kingdom who are divided. Can't we do all that we are doing now and do it under one banner? God is not mocked.

What are we going to do about it? Don't we have the responsibility to draw close one to another? Doesn't the Scripture bear this out, that a house divided can't stand? If there is only one house, and we are divided, how can we stand?

John D. Rankin Sr.

Murray City, Ohio

The UCG's Sabbath schools?

In the Oct. 31 issue of The Journal, Richard Nickels made the statement that the United Church of God does not have Sabbath schools for young people. United has had Sabbath school since it started. Why write things that are not true?

Leven Rieger

Eureka, S.D.

Some United congregations have Sabbath schools; many do not. One of the largest UCG congregations, Big Sandy, has no Sabbath school.

Who is the end-time Elijah?

I was intrigued by Steve Thomas's well-crafted article equating Christ with Elijah [Dec. 18 issue]. Taken in isolation, it was quite convincing. However, even a superficial examination of certain Elijah references not addressed in the article will defeat his premise.

The article states: "At that time 'the disciples understood that he spoke unto them of John the Baptist' (Matthew 17:13). But, like many other things back then, the disciples understood wrong."

As Jack Benny, with one hand to the side of his face, would have said, "Oh, reeeeally?" If it wasn't clear enough here, Jesus plainly states John was Elijah in Matthew 11:13-14: "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come."

At the time John's birth was foretold, Gabriel said of John, ". . . And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children . . ." (Luke 1:17). This is quoted from Malachi 4:6, but the interesting thing is that it is only half the quote.

In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus quotes only part of a passage from Isaiah about the Christ. Why? Because he will fulfill the remainder at His second coming. Likewise there will be an Elijah preceding His second coming who will fulfill the remainder of the Elijah prophecies.

The parallels between Elijah and the two witnesses are inescapable. The two witnesses have 1,260 days; Elijah's ministry was three and one-half years. Fire from heaven demonstrated who Elijah's God was; fire destroys the enemies of the two witnesses. Elijah prayed that it would not rain for three and one-half years, and it did not rain for three and one-half years; the two witnesses have power to shut the sky that no rain may fall during the 1,260 days. Elijah rose into heaven; the two witnesses go up into heaven in a cloud.

Yes, there will be a counterfeit Elijah at the end. Satan will have the beast and the false prophet, and God will have the two witnesses. And people will have to decide who is of God and who is not.

James K. Bartholomew

Everett, Wash.

To be continued

I received the Nov. 21 issue of The Journal on Dec. 5. I still haven't got it all read! I have no complaint with its contents. I appreciate the publication very much, except in one area.

The way you put it together is driving me batty.

The first thing I do when an issue arrives is to staple the left margins together so I won't have pages falling all over the place. I don't mind doing that.

Here is what ticks me off.

On page 1 you start five articles. The lead article, "More Feast-Keepers Send Reports, Photos," ends with "See Brethren, page 14." I turn to page 14, "Brethren Keep Feast of Tabernacles, Differ in Approach." That segment of the article ends with "See Albury, page 15."

I turn to page 15. The article continues under the heading "From Albury to York, Feast Reports Arrive at Journal." That segment of the article ends with "See Tabernacles, page 16." I turn to page 16. The article continues under the heading "Tabernacles Observance Includes Weddings, Baptisms."

This segment ends with the instructions "See Observances, page 17." I turn to page 17 and the article continues under the heading "Observances Range from the Eclectic to the Traditional." This segment ends with the instruction "See Fellowship, page 23." I turn to page 23. The article continues under the heading "Fellowship Among Brethren is the Mark of the Feast."

This segment ends the article.

Between page 1 and page 23 I've had to turn pages five times and continue the article under five different headings. By the time I find the end of the article, I forget what the beginning was. Utter confusion to me! Have had to read it several times to get any sense of it.

Please send me another copy of this issue of The Journal so I can cut both copies up and paste the articles back together so each article can be read as one piece intact.

The Ambassador Report spoiled me. At my age all this turning of pages is confusing. The Bible states that God is not the author of confusion. Then who is dictating policy in the layout of The Journal?

Margaret Cox

Plymouth, Ind.

What covenant?

The Hebrew word for "covenant" is beriyth (Strong's No. 1285). It means, according to Strong's, "a compact," which is an agreement or a contract. In Exodus 24 there is a mention of the book of the covenant, which is a written contract between the Eternal and Israel. It is a contract because of God's Word to them and their word to do as He said (Exodus 24:3, 7).

The people's promise is registered here, but the agreement or promise on God's part is written in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. In Genesis 41:32 we read that because a thing was repeated a second time it was to show that the thing was established by God. This covenant or contract was then repeated for the purpose of letting it be made known for all time that this was emphatically established by God.

Notice this covenant by God that the people agreed to do as it is recorded in Leviticus 26 with the promise of great blessings, verses 1-13, and notice the promise of curses through verse 39. Then, in similar words, the promises of Deuteronomy 28:1-14 and the curses in verse 15 through Deuteronomy 29:1. This is what we all refer to as "the Old Covenant." It is God's contract with His people.

The New Covenant is a better one because the promise is eternal life in addition to the great promises of the Old Covenant, and we do not have to worry about keeping the Commandments, statutes and laws of the Eternal because He has written them on our hearts.

Do Christians have to live by this Old Covenant today? Jesus testified that we do (Luke 4:4). We are to enjoy all the material blessings of the Old, plus the greater promises of the New. We do all, however, as Christians come under both the curses of the Old and the curse of the second death under the New if we refuse to listen to the plain, simple words of God and choose to follow what some man says about these words, twisting and perverting them to his own destruction (2 Peter 2).

The Word of God is quick and powerful (alive and working) today as much as it was in the beginning (Hebrews 4:12).

I am a member of the United Church of God, an International Association. However, that is not in any way making me any better than the members of any of the other 100 or so offshoots of the WCG. It is Christ dwelling in the person that means something. Wherever you are, no matter what the corporate organization that you belong to, if Christ dwells in you, He has made you a promise (John 14:1-3).

I belong to the UCG-AIA because it is the only church that I know of that was not founded by a man. Wherever you are, I love y'all very much. God teaches us that love, and it is so much joy to know that.

Harold M. Haviland

Geneva, Ala.

The unity God doesn't like

There is a fast that God does not like (Isaiah 58:4). There is an offering that God does not like (Jeremiah 6:20). There is a sorrow that God does not like (2 Corinthians 7:10). Could there be a unity that God does not like?

Just as there is a godly sorrow that works good and a worldly sorrow that works wickedness (2 Corinthians 7:10), there is a godly unity that works good and a worldly unity that works evil.

The word unity sounds so good, and scattering sounds so bad, but what does the Bible show us about these words? Biblical accounts show us that Satan uses unity for his own evil ends.

In Genesis, the foundation book of the Bible, we see that Satan does not want people to be scattered. Satan wants people to be unified under a man (Genesis 11:4)..

The first scattering was caused by God (Genesis 11:8). Satan wants God's people to be unified under a man or an organization. That way he can use the leaders whom he can deceive to deceive God's people.

On the other hand, we see that God has allowed His people to be scattered for a good purpose, Acts 8. This scattering spread the gospel all over the known world.

In the New Testament we see the word unity used only twice: once in Ephesians 4:3, "unity of the Spirit," and 4:13, "unity of the faith." There is no mention of being united under a man or organization.

The difference between godly unity and worldly unity is the source of the unity. If it is from God's Spirit working within a person, then the unity is good. If it is from unity imposed by a man or an organization, it is bad-even if that organization calls itself the Church of God.

God wants us to be free to choose His way (Deuteronomy 30:19). He does not respect orchestrated obedience. The right kind of unity, which comes from within through God's Spirit, is beautiful: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1).

God is not talking about organizational unity here. He is talking about the unity that comes from within God's people through His Spirit.

Many have said the problem with the WCG was government. That is partially true. A big problem with the WCG was that unity was being forced upon the membership. That was a worldly type of unity. That unity was built upon a lie.

The lie was that a small group, ordained by men, not by the membership of the Church of God (God's people), were God's representatives on earth and that they had authority over God's tithes and God's people.

Exodus 18 was taken out of context to justify this lie. Deuteronomy 1:13 clearly shows that the nation of Israel chose its elders, not Moses.

Under this lie a fleshly unity was established, not built on God's Spirit working within the membership, but imposed upon the membership by an immature ministry more interested in the corporate welfare than God's people's welfare. This unity had a certain appeal to the flesh, provided you were not stepped upon unjustly by it.

Pentecost in 1995 was an example of godly unity. More than 12,000 members came out of a church that had abandoned God's law to worship with a group that offered hope. This was not caused by man, but by God's Spirit working within God's people.

There was a conference six months later whose events were orchestrated by a small group. Some who wanted to be led by God's Spirit were silenced by a group of men with private agendas. Worldly unity was more important than open discussion.

There were two spirits at this conference: (1) The spirit of Indianapolis (local-membership control of money and administration; leadership accountability; inclusion of membership in the decision-making process); (2) the spirit of the Tower of Babel (centralized control of money and local leadership; no effective leadership accountability; ignore the membership while pretending to listen).

There was an unspoken cry at this conference: "Unity at all costs." This propaganda was not from God. God tells that we should not be equally yoked with anyone who believes differently (2 Corinthians 6:14).

There should have been a peaceful separation between the two groups at this conference. Instead, there was a spirit of compromise for the sake of worldly unity. God is not interested in compromise or worldly unity.

Those who wanted to return to the WCG way of doing things won the day. It did not seem to matter that the WCG way of doing things ended in disaster.

The end of this age will see the biggest effort to unify everyone under one church. God's people will be martyred: not because they will have done anything wrong, but because they resist this unity.

Could there be a unity that God does not like? Yes! Paul says we should not allow ourselves to be put under this worldly bondage (2 Corinthians 11:20).

"For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face" (2 Corinthians 11:20).

Unity to a man or an organization can be an idol. We should seek out teachers of God's Word who do not have private agendas. We should fellowship with those who are like-minded and not compromise for the sake of unity.

Harry Curley

Altadena, Calif.

Encouraging approach encouraged

I read the news regarding the removal of David Hulme as president of the UCG-AIA on the Journal Web page [] and wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for covering the event.

It is my hope that as new leadership emerges over the next few months it will address the mistakes and abuses that have occurred in the past few months, not just with a blanket apology but with a sincere offer to correct wrongs and reconcile with those who have been disaffected.

That would certainly be an encouraging approach and lead to a more truly "United" body within the greater Church of God.

Ben Mauldin

Waco, Texas

They're our brethren, but--

I would like to comment on some remarks attributed to Paul Suckling, pastor of the UCG congregation in Boston, in a recent article of The Journal (Nov. 21 "New England UCG Congregation Splits Over Governance, Personal Responsibility").

According to the article, an area of disagreement in Hartford has been the visiting by some members of this congregation with other fellowships in the Churches of God. Several such persons were removed from positions of leadership and responsibility, partly because of this practice.

In defending the actions of pastor Tom Fitzpatrick, Mr. Suckling (who is a regional pastor with UCG and pastors the congregation in Boston) declared that, "if you're going to speak for United and give sermonettes, then you should be loyal to United. You can't appoint yourself to every little group."

Mr. Suckling seemed to acknowledge (in principle, anyway) that people in other Church of God groups are regarded as brethren. But, when pressed by the interviewer, his answer was revealing:

"Maybe this is something United has got to internally resolve for itself, because two can't walk together unless they are agreed, even if we consider them brethren. We're not telling anybody who to fellowship with. We're only saying if you're going to speak for United in a leadership role, then your loyalties should be to United."

I am sure Mr. Suckling is well meaning. Perhaps he merely needs to clarify his views. But I wonder if he understands what kind of message such statements send and how sharply his words here appear to contrast with the spirit expressed by the apostle Paul:

"Now this I say, that every one of you says, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).

We see the apostle chastising the Corinthians for identifying themselves too strongly with "loyalty units" within the church. By contrast, we see that Mr. Suckling's statements actually promote, intentionally or otherwise, the idea that we must, through uncritical support and exclusive attendance with one group, declare our allegiance to that loyalty unit. Anything less than full and unconditional loyalty may be justification for having your license to serve suddenly revoked.

How about you? Was the UCG crucified for you? Was Global crucified for you? Mr. Suckling cites Amos 3:3 as a justification for dividing brethren into strict organizational camps. What many leaders (and other members) of these organizations fail to perceive, sadly, is that two Christians can't learn to agree unless they sometimes walk together first.

Why don't they understand this? We are not talking about being unequally yoked with unbelievers. We are talking about extending the hand of fellowship to those that we acknowledge (at least we acknowledge this in word, if not in deed) to be our brethren in Christ. We are talking about edifying one another.

The idea that an organization representing Jesus Christ should reproach its members, or strip them of the opportunity to serve, for freely fellowshipping with other parts of the Body of Christ or for attending services at times with another such group has no precedent in the Bible and no place in the Body of Christ.

Call it what you will, but to relieve a person of service opportunities in a congregation is a thinly disguised form of disfellowshipment. There are several ways to remove a nonconformist. A not-so-subtle way is to officially declare him (or her) disfellowshipped. A more subtle way, and one that is less messy and more expedient these days, is to relieve him of his responsibilities.

A more subtle way still is simply to stigmatize such people and create an environment so unwelcome that they are forced to seek fellowship elsewhere.

I have seen the subtle approach used with great effectiveness in a number of organizations, and numerous congregations, in recent years. The great irony is that people who have been stigmatized and pressured out ("separated") for noncomformity are usually labeled as "divisive elements" by their accusers. This is a phenomenon I call "reverse divisiveness."

According to a dictionary, to "divide" means "to part or separate into pieces; . . . to cause to be separate, to keep apart, as by a partition or by an imaginary line or limit."

Isn't this what we do when we insist on drawing party lines between fellowship groups within the Body of Christ? Or when we stigmatize our brothers in Christ for nonconformity?

On the other hand, some people refuse to say, "I am of Paul" or "I am of Apollos" or "I am of Cephas." Discern for yourselves which of these two philosophies is actually promoting division. Some folks believe that, once the nonconformists have been driven out, then they will have achieved real unity, and God will then grant their organizations growth.

These people are bound to be disappointed. They will continue to see flagging morale and dwindling attendance in their congregations if they do not learn. They have forgotten that genuine unity, "unity of the Spirit," is forged in the bond of peace, not in the setting up of organizational boundaries.

Why do so many of the leaders of these organizations, while acknowledging other groups to be their brethren in Christ and knowing that it is the will of God that various groups of faithful believers not divide themselves into "loyalty camps," persist in promoting these divisions by their words and actions? I can only conclude that what motivates this contradiction in terms is fear and frustration. I can only guess at what they are afraid of.

Jason Churchill

Davis, Calif.

Wanted: short sermon summaries

I really appreciate Dave Havir and Melvin Rhodes sharing their thoughts with us in the brief, meaty articles they write. I would like to see more articles by both authors in addition to articles from more ministers from a wide range of organizations.

Such articles used to be common in In Transition and were thought-provoking and, in many cases, beneficial to Christians regardless of their affiliation. They need not be several pages long. Sometimes all it takes is a brief article that can be used as a springboard for further personal study or meditation.

How about you ministers writing up a summary of one or more of your better sermons or ask a designated member of your congregation to do so? If it has been beneficial to your congregation, please share it with more of us.

If your organization has a publication, why not submit articles to be reprinted in The Journal? Share your inspiration and study with the rest of us for our edification.

Cynthia Gordon

Nashua, N.H.

Parable of the sheep

We thought your readers would be interested in an update on the Church of God Victoria's status re the United Church of God (The Journal, August 1997, page 20).

After our congregation of 30-plus was tossed out of UCG-Canada in April '97 for asking some perfectly legitimate questions, we contacted the chairman of UCG-AIA's council of elders, Bob Dick. At his request, we put our concerns in writing.

We spent nearly two months drafting a letter to him detailing a number of irregularities (doctrinal, financial, administrative) in the Canadian branch of the church. We presented evidence that the Canadian council had not been truthful regarding its handling of an issue over false doctrine being preached. We were given to understand that this information would be put before the U.S. council.

This letter was sent to Mr. Dick (with a copy to David Hulme) by registered mail in the first week of June '97. As of this date (January '98), neither of these men has had the courtesy to reply, nor to acknowledge that they have read our letter. We are amazed that a church that preaches love and caring fails so miserably in its practice.

So it is not in the least surprising to read in issue after issue of The Journal that UCG congregations are either leaving or being thrown out, as we were.

I once thought the following quotation (author unknown) applied to the WCG, but now I believe it has a much wider application:

"A prince hired a shepherd to tend and feed his sheep. He started the shepherd with 100 sheep and told him he would be sending him 100 more each week for the next four weeks. The shepherd asked if he had complete authority over the sheep, and the prince said, 'Yes, I am entrusting them to you.'

"At the end of four weeks, the shepherd gave this report: 'Things are going well; the sheep are learning to obey. I have been feeding most of them, except the independent ones that try to eat where I cannot see easily. I put them in a pen where they will not influence the others; they are getting thin, and some of them have died, so that is teaching the others that disobeying does not pay.

" 'We had a wolf come in once, but fortunately I woke up before he killed very many. Some sheep were so scared and stupid they got in a big pile and suffocated! A few of the old rams were fighting off the wolf, but I threw them out of the pasture for that; they should not be doing my job.

"'I have not had time to mend the fence, so we have had many run away. I catch and whip the ones I can find easily but do not waste time on the ones that stray far; we do not need that kind of sheep here, anyway.

" 'Another thing that is working well: I have had a lot of nice lamb dinners and have been able to stay warm with the skins when it is cold. I think we have over 200 sheep out there, so just keep sending them every week and this flock will keep growing! Any chance of me getting a raise?' "

Bob Etheridge

Victoria, B.C., Canada

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