Letters from our readers
My Church of God Web page contains various E-mails, letters and documents relating to the Global Church of God split [see "Web Site Covers Both Sides of Global Split," Dec. 31 issue].
South Yorkshire Police advise that any requests for money from David Alter (also known as David Stansfield Alter) of Doncaster, England, should be ignored.
Think it'll rain?
Mr. and Mrs. Chalmer Pifer, longtime members of God's church (having first had their minds opened to God's truth in 1946 and being baptized in 1950), will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary Feb. 21. Because of age and health reasons they are mostly housebound and unable to attend Sabbath or festival services. It is requested that a massive "card shower" be given them. Please ask as many of our brethren wherever they may live, wherever they may attend, to send anniversary cards to them at 315 E. Monroe St., Sullivan, Ill. 61951, U.S.A.
This year in Thailand
Attention, all former Ambassador student participants in the foundation projects in Asia and Church of God members who have been to Thailand or have always wanted to visit: We would like to see if there is enough interest to have a Feast site in Thailand this year.
The Feast in Thailand did a lot in former years to bring God's people into the spotlight with Thailand's leadership and provided a Feast for Karen brethren to attend.
Although there is no guarantee we will be able to get all or even any of our brethren to the sites in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, it is worth a try. We need 100 participants to make it work with hotels, etc.
For six years, from 1987 through 1992, Church of God members enjoyed getting together with brethren from all over the world to keep the Feast of Tabernacles in the Kingdom of Thailand. Sometimes, if the political situation would permit, our Karen brethren would join us. We all enjoyed a rich and rewarding cultural as well as spiritual experience, visiting palaces, temples and hill-tribe villages and meeting for services in elegant hotels. This opportunity is again available.
I was the point man for the Feast there for the first three years it was sponsored by the Worldwide Church of God, arranging hotel accommodations and cultural visits, particularly to Chitralada Palace, the residence of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit.
The Thailand site will be open to all Church of God groups without discrimination. Elders from various fellowships will be invited to attend and present sermons to the participants. Costs should come in under $2,000 per person for shared accommodations.
As before, this would cover round-trip airfare Los Angeles to Bangkok and Chiang Mai, all accommodations, food, ground transportation and other fees.
To make this work, I need to know how many people would be interested in keeping the Feast in Thailand in 1999. If you are seriously interested, please contact me with (1) the number of people in your family who would attend and (2) your contact information, such as mailing address, telephone number, fax number and/or E-mail address.
At least 100 participants are required to make this work. So please call me at (972) 412-4909 or send a fax to (972) 412-7886 or E-mail information to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible so we can know if we have enough participants interested. Please act fast!
The Bible on ordination
I would like to comment on the condition of God's church. I believe I can do this with some authority. I have been a baptized member for 30 years. My parents started listening to Herbert W. Armstrong before they were married in 1939. I was taught the Sabbath before my mother was baptized in 1958, and I recently attended my 40th Feast of Tabernacles. Yes, I have been around for a while. (My wife, Betty, and I attend the UCG in Durango, Colo., where I strive to serve as a deacon.)
We have seen the church scattered as false doctrine was introduced; we have seen members accept it without question, change associations and just quit. Ministers have done the same. Why? Because of ordination of the ministry.
I have great respect for Mr. Armstrong. I believe he was converted and was used by God. I also realize he was a man and not infallible. He made mistakes, one of the most damaging being his failure to follow the instruction in the Bible on ordinations.
His goal for Ambassador graduates should have been to train them and then send them out to prove themselves. A diploma, new wife, expense account and keys to a new Chrysler did not qualify them to pastor churches (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
If we look at the instructions from the apostle Paul to a minister, Timothy, we see the problems. Verse 2: "They must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior."
Yet these young people were barely adults, with not much history to look at except in the controlled environments of home and college.
We know that some sowers of wild oats turned into solid and dependable, mature adults, yet we see some who to this day still want to stretch their wings because they were confined.
According to Paul, elders should be "hospitable and able to teach." We can usually see an ability to teach at a young age, but have they had time to prove what they are about to teach, or are they going to recite what they know is expected of them?
If you haven't proven what you are teaching, how will it come across to those being taught? Those being taught will be shortchanged by the teacher, who is not totally convinced himself. Can these teachers be hospitable when they are in the midst of day-to-day struggles of making a living and raising a family? They have not had a chance to prove themselves.
Verse 3: They should be men "not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous."
Just out of college is not sufficient time to measure these qualities.
Verse 4: An elder must be "one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence."
A young pastor and his wife do not have their own house; they got married only yesterday so do not have children. So how was this measured?
Verse 5 specifically says: "For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?"
These men had not had the opportunity to have, much less the experience of ruling, their own house, so how did we know how well they did? These young people didn't have life's experience in ruling (caring for their own homes and families), yet were expected to care for the Church of God.
Verse 6: A minister must "not a novice" be, yet these young people had been baptized at most four years earlier and had not had to live in the real world, where they would be tested on their convictions. They were novices! Novices are in danger of "being puffed up with pride" and falling "into the same condemnation as the devil."
Verse 7: "Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."
They had not had the experience living in the world outside for the world to be able to give them a good report. In the first part of the verse they "must have a good report," yet they did not!
Mr. Armstrong made the mistake of sending out novices, inexperienced overseers, those without any report from the outside, not tried and tested to be shown to be able to care for the Church of God--and we are seeing the consequences of this in the church.
These men and their wives were still kids! Yes, I was a kid too. Instead of going to Ambassador College, I was on the 1-W work program at minimum wage in lieu of going into the military.
These young men for the most part did not have to face the draft boards to take a stand as a conscientious objector; they were exempted as ministerial trainees. Young men coming out of the military were usually more mature because of the things they were part of and witness to, yet we all had to mature.
Many young ministers and their wives went out to serve, set out to prove things to themselves and did their utmost to fulfill the job given them and have proven themselves worthy of the office. Those who just went along have been unable to hold fast to what they taught because they never had to prove themselves and put their convictions to the test in real life. Life to them was a paycheck from the church they were supposed to be serving, and the threat of losing the paycheck was greater than that of losing the truth.
I hope the Church of God can learn from this experience and follow the instruction from the apostle Paul more closely in the future.
Can men be shepherds?
In the Nov. 30, 1998, issue of The Journal, Joe Kirkpatrick clearly understood and exposed a problem among the leaders of the Worldwide Church of God splinter groups ["Essay: Do We Consider Ourselves to 'Belong to All the Others'?"]. Although Joe understood the problem, he clearly did not understand what caused the problem or where it originated.
Mr. Kirkpatrick appealed to ministers and elders of WCG splinter groups to understand that each "belong[s] to all the others." Joe believed the leaders were focused on themselves. "All we can see is personalities, which man is in charge, when in fact we need to see God."
Leaders of the splinter groups of the WCG imagine they are shepherds and therefore apart from the sheep they shepherd. This is a false impression. Herbert W. Armstrong cultivated this impression in the minds of church members for decades. Mr. Armstrong was not the originator of the concept that spiritual leaders could be called shepherds, but he did not discourage it.
Long before the WCG was incorporated, simple men in the Ozark Hills near Branson, Mo., spoke of a beloved man as their shepherd. In The Shepherd of the Hills, written by Harold Bell Wright in the late 1800s, the fourth most widely read book in publishing history, the story of the shepherd is told.
The shepherd was known as a shepherd for two good reasons. First, he herded four-legged animals called sheep. Second, he was greatly loved and respected by those he spiritually guided.
The shepherd of the hills had given up a vain and ceremonial life in a major city to live among and learn to love those he taught. He was an educated man who shared his knowledge of life with the simple, uneducated men of the Ozark Hills. He gave his life to the people. In return, the people gave him the title of shepherd.
Five generations of my ancestors lived on a farm 60 miles from Harold Bell Wright's Ozark setting. The simple men who knew the stranger so loved and respected him that they saw him as a shepherd.
I so respected Mr. Armstrong 30 years ago that I would never disagree with anyone who spoke of him as our shepherd. However, Mr. Armstrong knew he could not claim the title of shepherd for himself. He knew the title must be given to him by Christ, or we the flock could respectfully give him the title. The same is true of all ministers and elders. That title belongs to only one person of the Bible: Christ. The flock gave this title to Mr. Armstrong, not Christ.
Mr. Kirkpatrick explicitly referred to himself and other elders and ministers as shepherds. This is a title that sets the leaders apart from the rest of the flock and allows them to rule over the flock as if they owned the flock themselves. The New Testament King James Version's references to sheep, shepherd and flock do not give a spiritual leader the right to claim the title of shepherd for himself.
The passages referred to conclude the following:
In these New Testament scriptures there is only one who can take the title of shepherd to Himself. No human on earth has the right to take the title of shepherd to himself.
In Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, Vol. 1, page 306, he wrote: ". . . I came to this part of my life history where church officials and preachers began using deceitful and foul means to discredit the work God was doing through me--to steal the 'flock' or, like hungry wolves, to devour the sheep God had given for my labors, and spiritually kill the shepherd."
This quote of Mr. Armstrong cultivates an impression that existed in the minds of WCG members in March 1959: the impression that Mr. Armstrong was a spiritual shepherd who had been given sheep because of his (Mr. Armstrong's) labors in doing God's work. If you will read the quote again you will see this carefully crafted sentence allows us to maintain that impression of Mr. Armstrong if we so desire. Actually, Mr. Armstrong said no such thing. He knew better.
Note Mr. Armstrong did not say God had given the sheep to him for his labors, nor did he say he was the shepherd. Although Mr. Armstrong did not lie to us, he did allow us to hold the impression that he was our shepherd. Mr. Armstrong could have made clear to us the title of shepherd must come from Christ or from the flock. Mr. Armstrong clearly understood these facts and thus carefully worded his comment.
The following two excerpts from Mr. Armstrong's autobiography picture why he would plant or cultivate a misleading impression in the minds of men.
On pages 139-140 Mr. Armstrong describes his first lesson in resourcefulness (the fifth key to success). The lesson was given by a Mr. Spaulding, who created an impression in the minds of men that caused them to vote as he wished. No consideration was given to the truthfulness of the impression. Emphasis was placed on whether the impression was useful to Mr. Spaulding and whether it served a purpose he believed in.
On pages 147-148 Mr. Armstrong used this resourcefulness to create an impression in the minds of men. The impression caused them to act as Mr. Armstrong desired. Once again the impression was of benefit to its creator. (It paid 25 percent commission.) It furthered a purpose deemed good by Mr. Armstrong. Once again no consideration was given to whether it was a false impression. In both instances Mr. Armstrong referred to the aspects of human nature that allowed men to fall prey to a created image. He called it a sheep's nature. He treated this sheeply nature with disrespect.
Decades later former WCG elders are still promoting themselves as spiritual shepherds. Doesn't the blind continuation of this false impression prove in itself that elders are sheep following blindly along with the rest of us sheep?
Eat more soup
Woodvale School is a private school in Big Sandy established by Church of God members in 1983. It was started by concerned parents who wanted an alternative to public education. We have kept the tuition low to help parents provide their children a Christian educational environment.
We have to do fund-raising and depend on faithful donors to keep our doors open. It is a labor of love and sacrifice to give these children the skills and educational foundation to help them be successful adults.
One important way to obtain equipment for our school is to collect labels from Campbell's products. As participants in this project we can earn free educational and athletic equipment such as audio-visual aids, playground equipment, computers, reference books and even a minivan--just by redeeming Campbell's product labels.
Eligible products include Campbell's soups; Pepperidge Farm bread, cookies and Goldfish; V8 and tomato juices; V8 Splash juice; Franco-American SpaghettiOs; Prego sauces; Swanson broths and poultry; Pace salsa and Mexican sauces; and Foodservice products.
If you are interested in helping our children, please send labels from any of these products to Woodvale School, P.O. Box 266, Big Sandy, Texas 75755, U.S.A.
I am responding to Kay Curd's letter to the editor in the Dec. 31, 1999, edition re the "Priesthood of scholars."
To begin with, I do not believe that I am part of any such elite "priesthood," nor do I consider myself a scholar at all. I'm just a believer in Yeshua the Messiah who has a passion for Bible study, especially from the perspective of Hebrew roots.
Since I left the WCG nearly 20 years ago, I have never been "paid to study the Bible." In all but one instance that I can think of, it has always cost me at least some money to teach it, and I do that only where I am invited to do it.
Older Christians ought to be able to teach the basics of Scripture (Hebrews 5:12). Our collective mandate is to "make disciples"; that is, talmidim, or students (Matthew 28:19).
I believe there is a need in the church for true scholars, but all too often they are not welcome because some perceive them to be a threat to the status quo. And, granted, there are scholars who can, and do, undermine the faith of the faithful. That sort should be avoided.
The best scholars must first be deeply converted, and Spirit-led, believers, for "spiritual things are spiritually discerned." The goal of a true scholar, it seems to me, should be to follow the truth wherever it leads. He or she should be as objective and honest as possible, but also as spiritual as possible.
If my earlier remarks sounded condescending, I apologize. I can see how they could be taken that way. I admit that tact is not my strong suit. Yet is it not true that there are people in the church who resist new or deeper understanding? Are there not some who cling to error even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are incorrect on some point?
As far as "hiding" my beliefs is concerned, I have never done that. I have answered anyone who has asked me about them honestly and openly. However, there are Scriptural injunctions that modify how we ought to answer people: wisdom, avoiding offense, casting pearls, milk before meat, etc., etc.
To me, growing in knowledge is an exciting, exhilarating experience. I want to understand the Bible as well as it can be understood in our times. Then I want to live it. After that, I want to faithfully teach it.
Those three principles, it seems to me, are embodied in Ezra 7:10. The last thing I want to do is offend someone, but that's getting easier and easier to do these days. In the current climate of splits, endless leadership crises and structural uncertainty, emotions run high. Since leadership has created most of these problems, leadership is understandably under fire (not that I consider myself part of the current leadership).
As Christians, however, we should seek peaceful and constructive resolutions to our now numerous differences. Acquiring a deeper and better understanding of Scripture can help in that quest. These days I have almost no concern about the authority of men, but I have great concern about the authority of Scripture, correctly understood.
As far as "the scattering" is concerned, I probably share your view, at least in part. I think the breakup of larger, monolithic, autocratic church organizations is a good thing, though some insist on trying to reconstitute them.
What is important is that we share resources and fellowship in the Spirit, understanding, mutual love and concern. There's only one Church of God, and it's not identifiable in organizational terms. It's the Body of Christ, with all of its rich and varied manifestations. We need to recognize that and drop the exclusivistic denominational barriers. Over time we can work together to develop common understanding--if we are willing to do it prayerfully and in love.
Stretching the envelope
Many in the Church of God tradition have an arrogant, holier-than-thou attitude that limits their ability to grow spiritually. They do not believe that anyone outside of the WCG experience can possibly know anything about the Bible. After beginning my study into the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith, I began to realize just how biblically ignorant (and arrogant) I had been.
We began CRMI (Christian Renewal Ministries International) as a way to stretch the envelope for those who would attend our Feast site. We were only four people: myself, my brother Rick and his wife, Susan, and our friend Crystal. We did an absolutely insane thing and rented an entire convention center in a resort area on the coast of Washington.
That first year (1997) we invited Samuele Bacchiocchi, Eddie Chumney, Brian Knowles, Ken Westby and Doug Dolly to speak. Both Dr. Bacchiocchi and Eddie Chumney had written books about God's festivals, but neither of them had actually observed Sukkot (Tabernacles). They both provided us with a lot of valuable information, and we provided them with the experience.
Because of the speakers we had invited, we attracted a mix of attendees from the WCG spin-offs, Messianics, Seventh-day Adventists, Church of God (Seventh Day) and others.
The following year we had many more published scholars and theologians speak at our Feast. Again we received a lot of valuable information, and again we provided these teachers with the experience of actually observing the Feast.
Did you catch the subversive side of what we are accomplishing here? We have been criticized for having teachers at our festivals who have not actually kept the festivals even though they have written about the need to keep them. Many think we are partners in hypocrisy.
Actually, we have influenced these teachers and given them a desire to continue to keep God's feast days. It has been a valuable exchange for both sides here.
The fastest-growing movement in Christianity today is known by several names: Jewish Roots, Hebrew Roots, Restoration, Messianic Israel, Messianic Jewish. It is a major reform movement that is springing up spontaneously all over the world: in the U.S.A., Brazil, Korea, Norway, Australia, South Africa, etc. God is beginning the final restoration, and we of the tradition can either ride the wave and fulfill the purpose that God has prepared us for, or we can let pride, arrogance and ignorance steal our crown.
This is the CRMI strategy: (1) Influence prominent Christian theologians (push them over the edge, so to speak); (2) influence average Joe Christian by inviting him to share in our joy; (3) open the minds of COG members to see the wonderful work God is accomplishing in spite of us (and without our help).
It is so sad once again to see that circumstances have given rise to blaspheming God through the leadership of organizations that are His namesake and bring public reproach upon the Church of God.
All of this has one source.
Those who have often tasted power and prominence become too comfortable with the trappings of their position. It has been said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
It is a heady thing to believe that you are God's representative. People in this position seldom maintain integrity. They forget who they really are. They also lose all sense of accountability.
Arrogance severs relationships. Although arrogance is cloying, no one can afford it; it is far too expensive.
It is required of all of us to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
The prescription for curing arrogance is in Habakkuk 2:4: "Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith."
The proud have faith in themselves; faith supplants arrogance.
Consider that Lucifer became the adversary because he did not have faith in God but thought he could run things himself better.
Laws concerning relationships are consistent. That is why incidents keep occurring again and again. It is only when the paid ministry and administrators can both act and pray to say sincerely "I am willing to give up my ministerial authority" with true humility in faith toward God that arrogance will be put away, divisions will cease and peace will prevail.
For a long time on my Web page, and in a recent Journal, I predicted that the 65th anniversary of the Worldwide Church of God would most likely see its meltdown, because of the symbolism linked to this event.
The actions of Herbert W. Armstrong's successors did indeed cause the WCG to reach spiritual meltdown at this time, as the following information confirms.
The California receiver invaded the WCG's HQ on Jan. 3, 1979, in a Satan-inspired attempt to wreck God's church, as Herbert W. Armstrong pointed out at the time. This event brought Joseph Tkach [Sr.] to prominence.
Upon succeeding him, Mr. Tkach said he would walk in Mr. Armstrong's footsteps.
He did. Backwards.
666 x 10 + [6 x 6(+6)] days inclusive later, the WCG--having rejected its founding father, and following his successor's path--officially became a Protestant organization on May 9, 1997, when it joined the largest evangelical association in the U.S.A.
No. 888 is the numerical equivalent and symbol of "Jesus" but in its negative form symbolizes the false Jesus. That is, Satan.
Then 8 x 8 x 8 days later, or 6 + 6 + 6 days before the 65th anniversary of the WCG, its representatives at the two-day EMNR (Evangelical Ministries to New Religions) conference in Chicago (Oct. 3-4, 1998) declared Mr. Armstrong's teachings heresy, and confirmed they were actively working against them.
This is tantamount to calling Mr. Armstrong a heretic.
The WCG has thus officially crossed the line from being God's church to being an organization opposing God's church, after experiencing the great prophesied falling away from truth (Revelation 3:9; Hebrews 6:4-6; 2 Thessalonians 2).
A total of 6 + 6 + 6 days inclusive after the 65th Anniversary of the WCG (which fell 666 weeks exactly after HWA died), eyewitnesses reported the most direct attack yet in Pasadena services against Mr. Armstrong and what he taught on Sabbath, Nov. 7, 1998.
Thus the lampstand does appear to have been removed from the WCG--as Christ warned would happen if repentance was not forthcoming--and around its 65th Anniversary.
Since it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, and then fallen away, to be renewed to repentance, things are bound to get progressively worse in the WCG.
Only about 100 people faithful to God's truth are reported to still attend Pasadena. This reminds one of the account of Sodom and Gomorrah just before their destruction.
A copy of the official tape containing WCG comments at the EMNR conference is posted on a UNIX server at the private sites listed below and can be heard using RealAudio. Only one or two can access these sites simultaneously. Therefore, if interruptions are experienced, try again later:
The official EMNR site is at www.emnr.org/default.htm.
For further evidence of where we are in prophecy now, visit: http://members.xoom.com/hwa_elijah. Understanding that Mr. Armstrong was the end-time Elijah itself tells you that the WCG heresies constitute the great prophesied falling away from truth that Elijah restored, that the Day of the Lord is therefore fairly near, and that the tribulation is even nearer.
Elijah the prophet
Many believe Herbert W. Armstrong was the Elijah written of in Malachi 4. However, when we put together Matthew 24 and Malachi 4, we can make a strong case that Elijah is still to come.
"Except those days be shortened--no flesh shall be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" (Matthew 24:22).
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse [utter destruction]" (Malachi 4:5-6).
If God is intervening for the elect's sake, something has to happen first to get rid of this strife and division: ministers after their own ends, lay members bitter towards the ministry. In our current condition, would God save the earth because of us? (Matthew 24:22).
Interestingly, God also tells us to remember the law of Moses, His servant (Malachi 4:4), which the WCG told us was not required anymore.
It is useless for us to appeal to the ministry to end division. We need to appeal to God to intervene speedily and send Elijah to bring our hearts back together.
No 'strong meat,' please
I have been following the discussion in The Journal on the nature of God, and I would like to comment. The articles and some of the letters express some really strong opinions. As is par for the course in this type of theological debate, the rhetoric can be technical and confusing to the average member.
I also detect more than a hint of scholarly arrogance in some of the articles and letters. I get a kick out of people who claim that men have the authority to set doctrine, based on God's use of the prophets, and later the apostles to set doctrine. What these people forget is that people in the past did not have access to God's revelation in written form; they needed direct revelation. Today we have the Bible to set doctrine for us.
I sometimes get the impression from certain individuals that God is not able to make His revelation plain to the average person without the help of scholars, theologians or a ministerial priesthood. The constant insistence by many of the churches in the WCG tradition that the corporation has the final say on doctrinal matters, or that the average person cannot properly understand God's Word without the help of his minister, has fostered the attitude among many brethren that they cannot trust their own minds to understand the Bible.
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 has some interesting things to say about "wisdom" and whom God has chosen to understand Him. I am not saying that teachers of God's Word are not important, but these teachers must be committed to teaching what the Bible plainly says, not bent on exalting their particular corporation or pushing their pet theories.
Nothing is going to get resolved by this ongoing debate. I doubt if more than a few people, if any, change their position on God's nature. We will someday fully understand God's nature. But, before we can go on to "strong meat," we must master the basics: love, faith, mercy and justice. The sad situation in Global is the most recent, but certainly not the last, example of the type of situation that develops when Christian love is immature or absent.
As long as we are divided in our hearts, arguing with each other, choosing up sides and not expressing Christlike love to each other, we are babes in Christ, at best. Spiritually we have not mastered first-grade math, and yet we want to move on to calculus.
You know what the nature of God really is? It is love (1 John 4:7-8) and all its wonderful manifestations: patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, gentleness. We should be more concerned with having God's nature in our hearts, not in our heads.
It is amazing what one finds in The Journal. I had no idea that there were so many ways to be wrong about the nature of Christ and His origins. Isn't it fascinating what scholarship can do to and for us? We don't just get one but a selection of artfully contrived heresies to choose from.
If we are to believe what some are presenting as fact, we are being introduced to one of the greatest miracles of the Bible. Imagine God creating all things by Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:9) and that all things were created by Him (John 1:3) before He ever came on the stage of time and without possessing divine power. Most extraordinary! Some trick: a creation before the creator arrives on the scene.
In technical and scientific circles, controversial articles don't get published in respectable journals without peer review. Maybe the theological community could profit from some similar discipline.
Who can know the Creator?
Please get rid of those sick, know-it-all people pretending to know who or what our great, loving, merciful, compassionate Creator of all is! It's absolutely sickening you are wasting good paper when something worthwhile could be published, something to help our Father's disciples that we do need.
Oh, did you hear? Shem could be Melchizedek. I hope I'm not starting a new belief. I did hear it. I played the tape twice, hardly believing my ears. If this turns out to be so, I'll have to eat crow, huh?
The faithful witness
I started writing to [WCG] headquarters on this subject [the nature of Christ] in 1978, and it has gone entirely ignored. The United Church of God ignored similar papers sent three years ago.
I will begin my 85th year in about three months. I believe you are my last hope of ever trying to get God's ministers and people to begin to get rid of error.
In Revelation 1:5 John testifies that Jesus Christ is a faithful witness. In Revelation 3:14 Jesus is quoted as calling Himself the faithful and true witness. The testimony of this witness is the subject of this letter.
At the time of Jesus' death and even up to and beyond the time of the writing of the book of Revelation, there was no canonized book of the New Testament as we have it today. Thus in chapter 1, verse 2, it seems clear that John was calling the Old Testament as we know it the "Word of God" and the New Testament as we know it the "Testimony of Jesus Christ." Jesus Christ gave His testimony to all of His disciples and apostles and some 60 years later called Himself the faithful and true witness.
In John 17:17 the true witness testifies that the Old Testament as we know it is "truth." In John 20:17 He testifies that His God and Father is our God and Father. In Deuteronomy 6:4 we read a simple statement that Jesus has testified to being "truth." The word Lord in this scripture has been translated from the tetragrammaton [YHWH]. The literal translation should read: "The Eternal self-existing one, our God is one Eternal self-existing one"--not two, not three, just one.
Not only did Jesus testify as to this being the truth, He also quoted this verse of the Old Testament in Mark 12:29, where the Green translation of the tetragrammaton is kurios. Strong's Greek lexicon, No. 2962, says kurios denotes "supremacy." Thayer's Greek lexicon notes on page 365 that the Greek translators gave this title to God as ruler of the universe in the Septuagint.
This Greek translation of the Old Testament was done by Palestinian Jews several centuries B.C. Isaiah 57:15 says that this high and lofty one inhabits eternity. Jesus testified that this is truth. He also testified that His God and Father has no equal (Isaiah 40:25; 46:5).
He also testified that His God and Father created everything, stretching forth the heavens alone, that He spreads forth the earth by Himself. (Note also Isaiah 42:5; Zechariah 12:1.)
There is absolutely no quoted testimony of Jesus Christ anywhere in the New Testament where He claims to have created anything. The private interpretation of the translators has introduced error into the New Testament testimony of Jesus. The apostle Paul was not taught by man but by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12).
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:37 that the things he writes are the prescribed instructions of the Lord. He writes in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus was the firstborn of all creation.
Paul says that Jesus (before He emptied Himself out and took on the form of a servant) did not think of seizing equality with God. Notice the error of private interpretation by the King James translators in Philippians 2:5-7.
Jesus says Himself that He was the beginning (first, commencement; see Strong's No. 746), in Revelation 3:14, of the creation of God.
A short word about Jesus being Melchizedek: In Hebrews 7:15 the word another in the Greek means "different," the same as in verse 15. Also, check the word order from the Greek taxis, No. 5010, as used in Luke 1:5-8. Besides a fixed succession, this word denotes character, fashion, quality, style. This is from other Greek dictionaries.
A question for you, dear reader: If John 1:3 is not a misleading translation, who formed the spirit in the thousands of those who were born while Jesus was a baby and young child?
Recently I have been bombarded with all kinds of literature from groups and individuals who try to prove to me from the Scriptures, and from Hebrew words, etc., the proper name to use when referring to the God of Israel or the God of the Torah or the God of Abraham, Isaac or Jacob or Moses, etc., etc. There are some groups that tell you that, if you don't use their particular names, then you are somehow blaspheming His name or that He will not hear and answer your prayers, nor will you be allowed to attend their worship services.
The sacred-namers are starting to annoy me. None of them can agree with one another, and all of them think they have the right name or title to use. You listen to one group and they say His name should be pronounced Yahweh, another says call Him YHVH, another says Jehovah, then another comes along and says there is no J in the Hebrew alphabet, then others say His name should be Yehoah, Yahuweh, Yahueh, Yahuwah, Yahuvah, Yahvah, Yahwah, Yehovah or even names such as Hashem or El Shaddai, etc., and everyone thinks he is some kind of Hebrew or Greek scholar.
Since I am not a Hebrew or Greek scholar, and since I must rely on those who are, it didn't take me long to figure out that the sacred-namers were at odds with each other and that they themselves seemed confused. I began a little study on my own.
Why don't we heed the many words of Yeshua the Messiah on this subject? He tells all His followers to pray as follows: "Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name" (Matthew 6:9).
Nowhere in the Scriptures does Christ tell us to call His heavenly Father by any other name than "Father."
Serious charges need answers
Here is a letter I sent to the Global Church of God:
"In his latest letter to members of the Living Church of God, Rod Meredith wrote the following:
"'I am tempted to answer all the allegations and stories that the dissidents are getting out (many of them are truly wild and unbelievable!), but I deeply feel that I can better serve you and the Living God if I simply go forward and "do the Work" and not try to indulge in repeated verbal jousting and character assassination. Let's leave that to others. We know who we are. And we know the "fruits" of those who have been faithful to God. The attitudes of hate, jealously and vindictiveness do not befit true servants of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.'
"This is simply not good enough! The allegations made against Rod Meredith and Don Davis in the Dec. 8 letter from the Global board are of such a serious nature--attempted misappropriation of funds and false testimony--that to brush these allegations under the carpet as Rod Meredith is apparently attempting to do in his letter dated Dec. 11 leaves one feeling that there may be some truth in the allegations.
"I cannot believe that any innocent party, faced with such serious character staining allegations as those made by the Global board, would remain silent. An innocent party would make every effort to clear one's name of these derogatory statements. The fact that Rod Meredith has chosen to allow these allegations to pass unanswered leaves a great question mark hanging over this whole sordid affair."
By the way
Yet another of the Churches of God (Global) has fallen by the wayside [page 1, Nov. 30 and Dec. 31, 1998, issues].
It's interesting to note that Global's founder, Dr. Roderick Meredith, like David Hulme before him, has admitted that he was wrong concerning church government.
Didn't Jesus say, "I will build My church," not churches? Didn't He also warn that, unless they repent and do the first works, He would remove their lampstand from its place?
I submit to you that, when the WCG turned to "another gospel," He did just that. He moved His lamp from Pasadena to Edmond, Okla., where it still burns brightly.
Who else [but the Philadelphia Church of God, based in Edmond] has dared, in the face of persecution, to publish and distribute to anyone who wants it Herbert W. Armstrong's greatest book, Mystery of the Ages? Who else is "trumpeting" out the warning message of the soon-coming great tribulation?
Why did these two intelligent founders of churches, Dr. Meredith and Mr. Hulme, not seek and find where Christ had replaced His lamp, but instead chose to go out and found yet two more "Churches of God"?
Come on, scattered brethren? Will you wake up now and follow that lamp, or will you wake up to find yourselves in the great tribulation?
Didn't God say that He places before us, individually and collectively, life and death? Therefore choose life! For why will you die, O (spiritual) house of Israel?
P.S.: As with In Transition, in my opinion there is much in The Journal that is trivial and irrelevant. However, among the dross I do occasionally find nuggets of gold. One such was the article on the back page of the Oct. 30, 1998, issue by Craig White about the decline of civilizations ["New Book Warns of Conflicting Cultures"]. He seems to be one who is heeding Jesus' admonition to watch! May God inspire many more of us to do the same.
Follow God's Anointed
I don't know how you feel about the splits and resplits. Are they of God? Of man? Of the devil? I find it sad that most brethren of many Churches of God would like to meet with one another, even if for fellowship only. Some do.
What I find most disturbing is the attitude of a lot of the ministry (not all), especially the ones at the so-called top. Can anyone tell me just how many of the Lord's anointed or God's apostles are now within the Churches of God as a whole? Enough to make up a football team?
I know that Christ is the Anointed One, as I understand the meaning of the name from the Greek Christos. Jesus said that "many will come in My name saying, 'I am the Christ [the Anointed] and will deceive many" (Matthew 24:4-5). But that surely couldn't happen in God's true church, could it?
"If anyone says to you look here is 'the anointed one' or there, do not believe it. For false anointed ones will arise and show great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even the very elect" (verses 23-24).
So shouldn't we as brethren take great care in what we hear and see and believe? The real Christ--the Anointed One--tells us also in Revelation 2:2 that "those who say they are apostles and are not" are found to be "liars."
Brethren, unless you are young in the faith (and I feel sorry for you if you are confused and frightened about what has been happening in all of God's churches), you have heard for many, many years: Don't believe us; check it out in your own Bible.
What does God say? What does Jesus say? What would Jesus do in this or that situation? Believe and do what He says.
Read John 10:1-16 regarding one shepherd. Read Matthew 7:15-16 about being on one's guard against false prophets. Even a minister can be wrong or deceived.
How can we know that we are on the right track and that our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? Jesus said to do the lawful things they tell you, but don't do what they do (Matthew 23:1-8). Read it. He was talking to His disciples and the multitudes.
Do you believe the Anointed One when He tells you the form of church government, or do you believe what men tell you? (There is nothing wrong with organizations unless everybody is trying to be top dog or the chief apostle, the Lord's anointed, etc., etc.)
Are we Jesus Christ's disciples because we know the right hour or day of the Passover more than others? Is it because we know the true real name of God the Father and His Son? Is it because we have the calendar just right?
What did the Anointed One say in John 13:34-35? "A new commandment I give to you that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Do you kick out your physical son or daughter, grandchildren, etc., if he or she cannot pronounced "father" or "mother"? Perhaps your child or grandchild can say only "Dada" or "Mama."
Brethren, use your own God-given mind. Listen and believe something if you can align it with God's Word.
I suppose I am lucky. I have a minister who, I hope, is my friend. I certainly do not think he looks down at me. I enjoy his company and that of his wife.
But I can tell you this: If a man tells me something that is not in the Bible or is contrary to the words of God, I examine it in the light of Jesus Christ's life.
Does love for each other shine out of your church, my brothers and sisters? I hope so.
The ministers I have heard or met with over the last 30 years have given me great knowledge and insight into God's Word. But people, including ministers, grow old. Perhaps they, like others, suffer from Alzheimer's or brain tumors. Let's remember the good that we have been taught but reject what is wrong in the light of Scripture.
Our English versions of the New Testament--the Word of God as we Greek-impaired normally experience it--use the word member to denote a person who belongs to God's household.
It occurs to me that it is confusing for mere mortals to use that same word to denote loyalty to and affiliation with an organization that is but a faction of the whole household of God.
Instead of saying, for example, "I am a member of the United Church of God," wouldn't it be more reverent towards the Word of God to say, "I am affiliated with the United Church of God"?
Would it not be more in keeping with the example Jesus set to think and speak of it in that manner? (John 2:23-25).
Overall nonfuzzy mood
I hesitated in renewing my subscription because:
In the beginning In Transition [a Church of God newspaper published from May 1995 through January 1997 and not directly related to The Journal, although some Journal staffers served on In Transition's staff] was uplifting and informative. That positive mood has steadily changed to become a very negative mood. A "different" spirit--producing negative, rather than positive, articles, transmitting negative feelings and attitude to the readers--seems to prevail.
Frankly, after reading even part of The Journal I'm left with a feeling of depression rather than being inspired and uplifted.
Perhaps this is the overall mood of the church in general at this time in its history and you are just relaying the message. However, this is not God's Spirit of love being expressed; Satan's wavelength is being transmitted. From this God's people need not only to resist but turn away from and flee! The Journal does not leave one with a good warm, fuzzy feeling, to say the least.
You may ask, then, why am I renewing my past-due subscription. The Journal is still the most informative of sources in the Church of God today.
However, if the strong, negative, bleak mood continues, I may have to decide next time that I'm better off uninformed.
I strongly feel this letter explains why you are steadily losing subscribers. Some have told me so.
I do admire the continued dedication of the Journal staff.
It was brought to my attention this last Sabbath day in an announcement before services that Harold Smith, from Washington state, will be doing some of the World Ahead telecasts since Roderick Meredith is gone from Global.
Harold Smith is like Rod Serling when it comes to his prophecy sermons. They are pure speculation and take you out into the outer limits. When Harold Smith does the World Ahead telecast, it will be like Rod Serling doing The Twilight Zone.
Our will be done
Where is the love of God in the infighting we find among the "Church of God"? The Church of God in the beginning was not incorporated under a humanly devised name. The recent war in the Global Church of God is a good example of men not caring about God's people but wanting their own way, which is not their way but Satan's.
Rod Meredith [founder and former presiding evangelist of Global who recently founded the Living Church of God] is a hard man; he wants things done his way. The board members want things done their way. Whatever happened to putting your arms around one another and thinking first of what God wants and then getting down on your knees and asking God the way to solve these human differences?
God's people get along; it is the human leaders who can't seem to work under God's guidance. Just because "we" think this is the way to go, does it make it right?
Satan thinks he is right, and Satan is guiding some who are over us. We need leaders, but these leaders should show the love of God.
I attend with Global, yet I am not Global. I give tithes to Global because of the work being done, not because I follow a man. We need to fast and pray for all of God's people because Satan is among us, and he is angry, and there is anger among the branches, each thinking it is right.
I would like to ask God's people to kneel down and fast, not for an organization of men but to put God and His wishes first. Let us not allow Satan to destroy us anymore, but to get back to the basics of God's way of life.
God is the Revealer
I am reading your article about attempts on the part of Don Tiger and others to reproduce Herbert W. Armstrong's works ["Group Says HWA Public Property," Oct. 30]. When statements such as "Faith delivered to the Body of Christ through Mr. Armstrong" are made, I shudder to think that we have become so idolatrous as to give credit to a man for revelation that God says only He can give (John 14:26; 16:13; 18:37; Isaiah 44:18; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Isaiah 48:3-8; Ephesians 1:17; Psalm 147:19; Jeremiah 33:6; Ecclesiastes 8:17; 2 Corinthians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 16:8-9; Colossians 4:2-3; Revelation 6:6; etc.; etc.).
Nowhere does God say He reveals "truth" except through His Spirit (Nehemiah 9:20). Even Moses could not do this (Deuteronomy 4:10).
The "shepherd" is not the revelator; the shepherd is the servant (Matthew 20:26-27), the helper in our joy.
But joy comes from God (John 15:11), not from the helper.
Mr. Armstrong was the golden calf to whom we gave praise for bringing God's people out of Egypt (Exodus 32:4; Nehemiah 9:18). Yet none of his prophecies was fulfilled (Ezekiel 14:9).
Amos 3:7 says God let someone know what was about to befall the churches in '91. He did, but it was not Mr. Armstrong. This is how we know Mr. Armstrong was not a true prophet. Was God testing us as He did ancient Israel? (Deuteronomy 13:3; 2 Chronicles 32:31). If so, have we not failed?
Woodman, let 'er rip
After receiving The Plain Truth for 45 years, I received a note from [the Worldwide Church of God] saying this was my last free issue. I guess it's just as well. Here are my comments on the WCG's Christmas issue:
Not many virtues there.
I would respond with Deuteronomy 12:30-31: "How did these nations serve their gods, even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God."
To echo the words of Rick Beltz's letter ["State of the Churches," Oct. 30, 1998, page 2]: Love for one another in the Churches of God is nonexistent; communication is unheard of.
When I communicate with others in the churches, I have to initiate the call. No one ever calls or writes to me. Every year, just before the Passover and spring and fall holy-day seasons, I send out from 30 to 50 cards to brethren, including ministers, whom I have met at various Feast sites, just to say hello and wish them a healthy, happy holy-day season.
I have been doing this since I came into the church more than 15 years ago. I have received very few responses, and the last five years I have not received one phone call or card or letter.
I believe in the command to love one another as Jesus Christ has loved each one of us. I will keep on sending out cards. Who knows? One day I just might hear from someone.
One world government
The Bible says the great tribulation and the reign of the Antichrist come before the "rapture" (Mark 13:24-26). How will the anti-Messiah arise to become a world leader and cause all to receive the dreaded mark of the beast? (Revelation 13:16-17). How might this happen?
The economies of the world will eventually fail. Whether it's the Y2K problem, failures of the Asian economies, South American bank failures or some other disaster causing a severe worldwide economic depression, this is when the Antichrist makes a move to become the world's religious and political leader. He will achieve a one-world government by the miracles he performs, by his resulting immense popularity and by promising to solve the world's economic problems.
How will he do this?
The Antichrist will claim to be the Messiah. His claim is shown to be false because of Matthew 24:29-31.
The anti-Messiah will perform great miracles to attempt to prove that he is the true Christ, which is also a falsehood. (See Matthew 24:24; Revelation 13:14.)
He will come on TV, radio and the Internet and telepathically proclaim that He as the Messiah for all religions is already here and will gain worldwide popularity by promising to miraculously cure the world's problems. (See Mark 13:21-22.)
He will convince the world's leaders to allow him to set up the one world government by the magical powers he possesses and by the immense worldwide popularity he has received. He will then politically and religiously gain control of the world.
He will blaspheme the Bible (the Word) and His holy name, YHVH (Revelation 13:5-6; Ezekiel 43:7-8).
The Antichrist will be rather mild and peaceful for a time but will turn against those saints who, fearing they would lose their souls (Revelation 14:9-11), refuse to receive the mark of the beast. Those saints will then be subject to great tribulation of torments, and some will be slain for their faith (Revelation 13:7-10).
The Antichrist will refuse to allow any money traded without his mark on it (Revelation 13:17). Example: Your homes could be lost because you could not pay your rental or mortgage payments or your taxes.
His reign of power will continue for three and one-half years (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 12:14; 13:5; 11:2).
The Antichrist's reign of power will end at the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16-19; 19:20-21).
There will be a reign of terror on God's people. What shall we do?
Make sure you remain zealous for the Bible truth. Keep the Commandments, not the commandments of men, and pray you will be accounted worthy to escape the new world order of a coming religious holocaust upon the true saints.
No man will lead you to the place of safety; only the Holy Spirit will call out of this world and provide the way there. The only place of safety will be the ancient city of Petra. Our Creator will have and has the power to protect and care for us who believe and are worthy (Revelation 12:14-15; Isaiah 16:1-5; 35:1-10; Jeremiah 9:1).
Those who help themselves
Regarding Drury Sylvester's article about Y2K ["The Y2K Debate Grows Frustrating," Dec. 31]:
I, too, think we should make whatever reasonable preparations we can for Y2K. After all, the Bible talks quite a bit about preparing for things to come, both in a physical and spiritual sense. Plus, it is not at all complimentary about people who do not provide for their families. To neglect to do what we can shows a lack of love and as such does not reflect God in us.
A way for people to stock up without spending much is simply to use the money they spend on junk food for basics that can be stored. For instance, instead of that bag of chips, buy a can or two of beans. Or, for the price of a pizza, you can buy a 25-pound sack of lentils or split peas, which will make many meals. And don't forget the spice. It's cheap.
Buy a large sheet of plastic. You can keep yourself dry and warm with it. You can collect a whole lot of rainwater with it. You can even use it to help grow food by making it into a greenhouse. If you have a well, buy or build a hand pump, which you can put in beside the existing electric pump.
There are so many things we can do with little money if we just want to and care enough to do so. We are to look to God to supply our needs, just as He provides for the rest of His creation.
So, like the birds and other creatures that are busy all day providing for themselves and their families, so should we store up what we can. Of course, we must remember that it is not in the things we possess that real safety lies but God. That doesn't give us an excuse to sit on our hands and hope someone else will provide for us.
P.S.: Thanks for The Journal, it is always an education.
Don't waste Scripture
To you the editors and to all to whom your newspaper reaches and influences; to all who would be leaders; to those who claim the authority to influence others, especially the household of God; to all groups and organizations that represent the called, the elect, to the real modern-day Israel, the church; and to those who were of us who now deny that we were God's true church:
You are wasting a lot of Scripture on the wrong people, especially in regards to end-time prophecy and the great tribulation. Don't put the great tribulation and the wrath of God off on the world, which is cut off. Put them on the people of God, the church, the ones God is judging, the ones God has had a direct and personal relationship with, the ones to whom the Scriptures are directed, the only ones who can understand, on the potential firstfruits of God.
Let us all see that it is God's plan and not ours, as Job had to come to see.
To the Jonahs out there: Repent and yield to God before He jerks you up and shakes you till your teeth fall out and you choke on your unmerciful tongues.
Two or three at the Feast
I would like to pass along to the brethren some insights of our experience in observing the Feast of Tabernacles as an independent home church the past two years.
It is hard to improve on the quality of services in a group of fewer than 20 (on any day) when you have togetherness and the focus is on Scripture and desiring to learn more about what the Feast represents to our future.
How could you improve on readings and discussions of those thousands of inspiring scriptures?
Matthew 18:20 does not tell us there must be two or three dozen, two or three hundred, two or three thousand or more. God places His name where two or three are gathered together in His name, and He is there in their midst through His Spirit, which is in them.
Our services consisted of opening prayer, song service, announcements, special music (via a CD player). I spoke on the two holy days and on the weekly Sabbath, and in lieu of a sermon on all the other days we had scriptural readings and lengthy discussion, which were inspiring and quite profitable.
There were no other planned extracurricular activities, except when we all opted to have meals together at the same restaurant.
Anyone desiring to have a truly Scripture-filled, spiritual Feast should give this a try. I think that if you try it you will like it because your purpose and focus are where they should be.
Where in all the Scriptures is it commanded that we should all travel to some far-distant location to worship God and keep the Feast of Tabernacles? Keeping it locally assures that no widow gets left behind and no poor person who can't afford to travel and stay out of town has to be left behind. Anyone who wants to can attend.
Anyone who would like to share this experience with us, simply contact us by mail or call us: P.O. Box 1805, Kennesaw, Ga. 30144, or (770) 428-5719.
In 1998 for the first time in the Worldwide Church of God Christmas services were held in the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena and no doubt in other congregations. In the December Worldwide News Joe Tkach Jr. discussed guidelines concerning Christmas observance ("A Call to Unity About Christmas," page 9).
Mr. Tkach stated that "every pastor must provide meaningful worship opportunities during the Advent season for members who desire to celebrate the Incarnation of the Son of God."
Is there to be reciprocity in requiring that pastors also provide meaningful worship opportunities for those desiring to observe the feast days?
A directive from Mr. Tkach in the September 1998 Worldwide News (page 7) indicates that pastors are to "support and encourage those who wish to meet on any of these days (biblical or extrabiblical), and will lead in such a way that Christ is honored, preached and taught."
The box at the bottom of the above-cited article also indicates that this is WCG policy: "Our goal with festivals as a denomination is to provide spiritual leadership while allowing members to observe festivals from two traditions . . ."
However, these statements do not necessarily mandate meaningful worship opportunities in the sense that meat in due season is provided to Feastgoers. For several years now feast-day-appropriate messages have not been provided in some locations, notably at WCG headquarters. Other than Pentecost, worship services in these locations on feast days and festival seasons have been general, with little or no recognition of the biblical or traditional meanings of these days!
The fact that Christ is to be honored, preached and taught is as it should be, but this should be a part of every message. Inasmuch as these general non-feast-specific messages are routinely preached at WCG headquarters, it is evident that it is official WCG policy that the significance of the biblical feast days be omitted or at least severely limited.
It is good that pastors are to provide worship opportunities for those holding differing beliefs, but let us be evenhanded and make all those worship opportunities meaningful for the occasion. I realize that there are differing ideas concerning the New Testament meanings of the feast days, but for now let us avoid pontification from headquarters and let the local congregations and their pastors determine those meanings with the proviso that it be done in such a way that Christ be honored, preached and taught.
There is so much yet to learn from the acting out of the biblical feast days that we should allow Christ in each of us to teach and lead us into ever greater paths of truth. Let us trust God to do this. Jesus promised that the Spirit of truth would guide us into all truth (John 16:13).
This year's festival video message was remarkable in that it showed how a diversity of worship styles can all be meaningful and honoring to God. Various worship styles are acceptable to God as long as we are unified in worshiping the true God, we in Him and He in us. Let us also apply this concept of unity in diversity in allowing each member to enjoy meaningful worship on the days to which God leads us!
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