Letters from our readers

College in good hands

Several years ago my husband and I bought a fixer-up house just outside the limits of Big Sandy. On Feb. 22 the rafter next to the stovepipe caught on fire. We contained the fire until fire trucks could get here. We ended up with the Pritchett and Big Sandy volunteer brigades and an unknown fire truck.

The unknown firefighters were professional, courteous and caring. House plants were moved, furniture covered. They did as little damage as possible to the ceiling. Who were they?

We were excited to find out that they came from our former Ambassador College. I say "our" because most church brethren felt they owned at least a little piece of the college and were devastated when it sold.

Let me tell you the college is being put to good use. We are sure that the people working on the former campus will be a credit to the community.

I asked The Journal's editor whether he had written any articles regarding what is being done out there. He said yes. He mentioned that maybe we do not take The Journal.

My reply: "No, we don't, because, although we enjoy the good articles, we were sick and tired of the squabbling."

It seems to me that too often we gloat over our keeping the Sabbath and holy days and forget to love our neighbor. Or we gloat over our good works and forget the Sabbath and holy days.

Just maybe we should find out what Jesus Christ and the Father really like or dislike and pattern our lives (from the heart) after Them. There is no magic in that.

We were sure glad those young men from ALERT didn't ask us if we kept Sunday or anything else regarding religion before putting out the fire.

Just maybe, when we start really doing what Christ says, there won't be time to squabble.

Judith Biggs

Big Sandy, Texas

Tribute to Dad

When I think of my dad, Mitchell Smith [who died March 16; see an article by Mr. Smith and his obituary on page 12], I think of the evenings I used to sit in the yard swing talking to him while he watered the garden. Some of the most memorable conversations we ever had took place there.

He would tell me about the adventures he had when he was growing up, the things he got in trouble for and the things he got away with. He told me stories about his dad and his granddad.

Whether we called Mitchell Smith husband, Father, Pop or friend, we have memories of him. I thank God every day that He blesses us with memories to help us in our times of sorrow. Sometimes those memories are the only joy we can hang onto.

My dad was a wonderful man. I would use three words to describe him: strong, determined and talkative.

Most of you know him as strong. He was a leader, no matter what he got his hands onto. This can be seen in the seminars and Feast sites he helped with. He was strong in his beliefs, morally and spiritually, in our family and business.

Some of you knew him as determined, always willing to stick it out to the very end, determined to lead in a godly direction, determined to run a successful business and persuade anyone to his way of thinking on biblical views.

Last but not least, everyone who knew him would testify that God gave him one of the most wonderful gifts: the gift of gab. He loved to talk--to anyone who would listen--and he never met a stranger. Whether it was work, family, biblical views, he could talk your ear off.

Most of all, he was a wonderful dad, the best. At times he was strict, but his strictness was for good reason. Even though Dad kept our family running, he knew Mom did the maintenance work, and he loved her for that. Mom steered him in the right direction with patience and love.

Not only did he have pride and love for Mom and their marriage of almost 38 years, but he had pride and love for the fruits of their marriage, all five of us: Gary for his research in historical and biblical events; Lisa for finally getting her accounting degree and most recently for the birth of a daughter, Rebekah; Gina for her grades in school and her flute-playing; Cryssi for her talent in art and piano; and me. I think he would be proud of my strength at his funeral.

Ican't wait to water my garden in the evening and tell my own future children about the adventures in my life, the things I got in trouble for and the things I got away with. Most of all I can't wait to tell them about my dad--what a wonderful dad he was and how much I loved him.

Leona Cryer

Felt, Okla.

Dealing with discrepancies

After Sabbath I read my mail and came across Ed Burson's article in The Journal ["Christians Must Deal With Discrepancies in the Preserved Text," Jan. 31, 2001].

Mr. Burson's statement that "God has presented a perfect translation of a perfect text . . . over the course of their entire lives" is beautiful.

But I would encourage him to take another look at "called, chosen and faithful." When he writes about protecting "those who are not being called," he appears to be talking churchspeak from WCG times.

I would suggest a different wording. Change "those who are not being called" to "those who have not chosen the calling in this age."

Many are called, but God has not chosen them because they have not chosen Him.

Mr. Burson's use of the word convict was an excellent choice. He is absolutely right about "willful ignorance."

Anytime someone plays a musical solo, performs in a play or writes an article, he puts his neck out there on the line and takes a risk. I hope Mr. Burson will take this letter as hand-clapping, loud-whistling, foot-stompin' applause.

Bill Bartholomew

Fresno, Calif.

Helpful tool

I would like to thank Dixon Cartwright and staff for their efforts in preparing and producing The Journal each month.

First Ienjoy reading the letters because I feel they provide me with a cross section of what's happening within the Churches of God.

Next Iread the articles. Many of them can increase our knowledge and understanding of God's Word. Although not all articles edify, they give me the opportunity to do as the Bereans did and examine the Scriptures every day to see if the information is true (Acts 17:11).

Our goal as Christians should be to have a life worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1). We should be gentle and patient as we bear with one another (verses 2-3). There is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father who is above all, through all and in all (verses 4-6).

Thank you for providing us with a tool to help us take personal responsibility and focus on the Bible.

Gerald Gill

Kunkletown, Pa.

Fair use

In response to Paul H. Reyes' comments published under "Offensive Word" [Jan. 31, 2001, page 2, regarding the use of the word cult in an editorial that ran last November], I say first that I appreciate the obvious fairness of your editorial policy as demonstrated in the many articles and excerpts published in The Journal over the years.

I, for one, often have disagreed with the views of various writers, yet I have respected their right to their opinions.

Your willingness to publish such a diversity of positions is ample testimony to a broad-minded approach of journalistic integrity. Obviously I disagree with Mr. Reyes that you should act as censor.

For the record, I consider that you did an excellent job in excerpting from my lengthy original letter ["Leaders Who Won't Lead Should Pull Over," Nov. 30, 2000, page 3], especially in terms of preserving both the intent and wording of my comments.

With regard to the word cult itself, I defend the usage as correct in light of the publicly available evidence. Many if not all of the corporate Churches of God organized by various ministers in recent years have advanced the concept that the ministry is a superior class of brethren who somehow must serve as "servant leaders" to guide and direct the laity of the church.

One such organization goes so far as to define member only as an ordained minister credentialed by it. In that particular "church," the laity by contrast must be recognized only as members of the general public who happen to attend functions sponsored by that organization, with its permission, of course.

Other ministerial xCGs are more totalitarian in their governmental structures, even to the point of recognizing a sole evangelist as somehow more important or superior to the other ministers associated with a particular organization. In these cases especially, a personality worship begins to ensue with the concomitant fear of expulsion and enforced conformity of thought.

In so many cases of disfellowshipment, we have seen that obedience to the ministry and demonstrations of respect for ministers' "offices" have been far more important than adherence to doctrine. More specifically, exaltation of the ministry seems to be their primary doctrine, which the rest of us are expected to obey, with them sitting as judge and jury.

Those who understand the word cult recognize the several characteristics already described above.

William Allen Walker

Saucier, Miss.

No time to waste

In your Nov. 30, 2000, edition, you reproduced a letter by an apparently hurt and angry man, William Allen Walker ["Leaders Who Won't Lead Should Pull Over"]. I have no idea what his problem is, but it should never have been published.

I have been a member of the United Church of God since the beginning, and the UCG has the most humble, inspired and loving ministers there could be. They treat each of us (sheep) like pure gold and value our opinions.

I do hope Mr. Walker gets over whatever it is that has him in this attitude and gets his life on track.

Paul Dale

Via the Internet

Absolutely free

If you saw an old woman being robbed, would you help her? If you knew a child was being sexually molested, would you report it to the proper authorities? If you knew a woman was being abused by her husband, would you help her?

If you knew about any of the above, would you look the other way if the one needing your assistance was not affiliated with your church group? If you saw a person in your church being mistreated by other brethren or by the ministry, would you assist or befriend your brother or sister?

Or would you look the other way?

I was in a situation before I ever heard of the Churches of God in which my now ex-husband beat me to the point of unconsciousness. I don't remember much about the ambulance ride. As soon as I could I went next door to talk to the young woman who called the police and probably saved my life.

By this point I had been severely beaten many times over the course of two years by this man. No one had ever called the police before when hearing me scream. People even walked in when I would scream and would tell my ex-husband to keep the noise down.

Do people as a rule help when they see a need? My experiences say no, they don't. Unless a woman can find good counsel through a shelter, it is hard for her to get any help or support to enable her to break from the family-abuse cycle. It may take years to actually get physically free of the abuse.

In my case it took me four years to get out of the abusive relationship and several years before I stopped having nightmares.

On Nov. 17, 1999, I was suspended from the United Church of God, an International Association. On Oct. 26, 2000, my husband, Darwin, and I were disfellowshipped from the United Church of God.

While dealing with the ministry in this organization, we saw confusion, abuse of power, control of people and a craziness that just cannot be put into words and related to others.

We noticed that, when we tried to tell people what happened or was happening to us, they looked at us as though we were crazy. We had to stand back and ask: Would we even believe our own story if someone else told it?

We thought: No, we wouldn't.

The main ingredient to stop abuse in any situation, whether family or church, is to talk about it. Do not remain silent. By telling your story you not only help other people, but you expose the abuse. When an abuser is exposed, he loses his power to hurt.

The abuses going on in some of the Churches of God are too numerous to list, so I'll state only a couple of them.

  • When a minister tells you that you have caused another person to stop talking to you, shun you or mistreat you in any way, he is abusing. You are not responsible for the bad actions of another person.
  • When a minister uses confusing wording, such as "Unbound does not mean free to remarry," or when he says "We recommend" when he really means "We command you," he is abusing. Do not keep silent when you know that you or someone else is being abused.

Darwin and I are only two people, but we want to help bring peace to the Churches of God and stop the abuses. We are not counselors, but we are willing to listen.

We are ordinary people who have had the opportunity to document the abuses we experienced in the fellowship we were a part of. Our document is 98 pages long at this point. We are offering our story free to anyone who writes for a copy.

We will not remain silent when we know our brothers and sisters are being hurt. We urge everyone to speak out and stop the cycle of abuse within the Churches of God. We are commanded to love one another. By this all will know that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35).

There aren't too many options for Church of God services in the Bismarck, N.D., area. So in June 2000 we opened our home to have fellowship with others and for Bible study.

We are not a big group, but we welcome with open arms all people from any organization. We are an interdependent group that usually has Bible studies every six weeks on a Friday night.

We send out the information via mail for anyone who is interested. In the future we hope to open our home for possible phone-hookup church services and fellowship on Saturdays. Write to be put on our mailing list.

Laura Lee

P.O. Box 2333

Bismarck, N.D. 58502, U.S.A.

Puzzle pieces

Should we hold onto beliefs we can't back up in the Scriptures, even though we have believed them for years? It is hard to get out of the spiritual ruts of our past, but we need to be 21st-century Bereans.

My wife and I attend a UCG congregation, but we visit brethren in other groups, and we support the work God is doing through them.

We don't think any one group has all the pieces of the puzzle. It takes a piece here and a piece there. We should not be afraid to read literature or listen to tapes from another group. It may have a piece of the puzzle we don't have.

Time is getting shorter. Let's strive to be one in spirit, asking God to give each of us wisdom and understanding. If we ask, seek and knock, God will open the door for us.

Dennis Whited

Lewiston, Idaho

Saved but obedient

Regarding a letter in the Jan. 31, 2001, issue, page 2, titled "Get Real, Alan":

It is clear to me that I am saved by grace and by grace only. There is no consideration in my mind that keeping God's law could in any way amount to my salvation. My righteousness before God is just like a bunch of filthy rags. So says God Almighty.

So why, then, do I--one who is saved by grace, or rather being saved by grace--keep God's law? To be saved?

Certainly not! As I just said, I realized that no amount of keeping of the law of God could amount to my salvation. I keep God's law because I love God. I keep it out of love and respect for the Being who saves me by the grace that comes through the sacrifice of His Son.

That Being revealed Himself and His character through His law, else would I continue to lie, murder, hate, speak evil and break the Sabbath.

Since God is love, it is out of love that He gave me His law to keep so that it might be well with me and all the generations that come after me.

Sasha Veljic

Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Can't live with them

The truth about the true nature of the relationship between God and mankind has been hidden for nearly 6,000 years. I believe this has been one of Satan's greatest success stories.

Our God is a God of relationship. Throughout the Bible runs the continual story of man's separation from God through sin and God's redemptive work through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Satan has done a pretty good job of deceiving us to believe that religion is about days, sacrifices, rituals, ceremonies, clothing, hierarchy, government, the work and tithing, ad infinitum.

Some of these things are important, but these physical things tend to obscure the more-important spiritual things.

A damaging tenet of our faith is the belief that men are "in charge," that God's government is from the top down, that only men can minister and teach, that they are somehow higher on the food chain and women are lesser beings.

This has not always been said in so many words, but it has been believed by most of us for many years.

Here are some dangers we face from a male-dominated hierarchy:

  • It obscures the true relationship between God and mankind. We must look directly to God as the source, not men.

Christ came as our High Priest; the veil has been rent; we no longer have the need for a fleshly mediator. We have direct access to the Most High God. God said His Spirit would lead us into all truth. We must have faith that God means what He says and act upon that faith.

  • It obscures the true function of the church, the Body of Christ. God has given us all spiritual gifts for use in the Body.
  • It obscures the true husband-and-wife relationship.

Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. To be a true Christlike husband, a man must put his flesh to death daily for his wife.

God created man and woman and said, "Exercise dominion over all the creatures of the earth." He did not give man dominion over woman. We have been cursed for thousands of years by the idea that man is to dominate women and children. Man has a God-given responsibility to be the true spiritual leader of his wife and children.

Men were designed physically to be natural leaders, and women to respond. In a Christlike family, the husband leads his family lovingly. The natural response is to follow.

  • It is spiritually damaging to the man himself. Because men believe they are better, smarter, more spiritual and entitled, they miss out on the true spirit-to-spirit relationship with God that He desires. Men's self-righteousness prevents a truly humble walk with God.
  • It prevents the growth, development and service of 50 percent or more of God's church. Women in God's church have been oppressed, suppressed, squelched, shushed, ignored, used, disparaged (especially from the pulpit), laughed at, sneered at and sexually harassed, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

This is not right. This is not Christian. This is not humane. It is time for a change.

I have mentioned controversial subjects here. It was not my purpose to offend, but I am sure some will be unsettled by my comments.

Surely we are no longer babes in the faith needing milk but can intelligently discuss diverse ideas and opinions and the weightier matters of the law.

Paula Wik

Cave Creek, Ariz.

Taking risks

I have watched for some time as serious charges have been brought against Don Tiger [see "CD-Distributing Member Will Appeal Ohio Forgery Conviction," page 23]. I'm concerned about this because this situation is an outgrowth of Don's efforts to reproduce the complete works of Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God free of charge. It has been Don Tiger's desire to preserve the very teachings that many thousands of us still hold.

I, and many others, have been the recipient of many compact discs that Don has produced, and we didn't pay anything for them. This can't be denied even by some who accuse him or have been quick to circulate negative reports and newspaper articles about him.

Many who read this letter were members of the Worldwide Church of God. Our tithes and offerings paid for the booklets and articles we are now denied access to. We see this as part of the continued effort of Satan to stop the work of God.

Many of us saw, after the death of Mr. Armstrong, that the new leaders in the Worldwide Church of God began trying to change our beliefs. Not only did they try to change them, they set out to destroy the record of our beliefs. They even told the membership to throw away old literature.

Most of us sat and did nothing. Don Tiger didn't. He collected and copied all of what was produced, from the 1930s to sometime in the early '90s. He probably has amassed the largest collection anywhere of those works. He has also been the most active in trying to get them into the hands of everyone.

Most of us left the WCG because of the changes in doctrine. Some of us became members of the Philadelphia Church of God, as did Don Tiger. The PCG appeared to want to take up where the WCG left off. This is where the CD program began, but by 1998 it became clear that the PCG wanted only selected booklets reproduced and the rest suppressed.

It was at that time that many of us left the PCG and formed what we called the outcasts of the church of God or simply "The Church of God." When we found out that Mr. Tiger was also out of the PCG, we offered to help him continue his work. We, through the leadership of the two ministers who were with us, volunteered to pay for the CD reproduction and the free distribution.

In addition we planned to pay Mr. Tiger a small amount to support him and his family.

The minister who was put in charge of the finances for this project began to withhold from Don Tiger the money he had been promised. I was in Wisconsin at the time and became familiar with both sides of what was going on. Finally Mr. Tiger had to move on if he wanted to complete the CD program that he had begun.

This was when David Pack of the Restored Church of God offered to help finish this work.

But instead of the Restored Church of God helping, it appears to have wanted something else, part of which was the mailing list Don Tiger had collected through the years.

It seems that none of the Churches of God wants to help complete this project because of the fear of being sued by the WCG.

That's what brings us to this present situation. Don Tiger was not guilty of the things he was accused of by the Restored Church of God. Those accusations were unfounded. The only thing that was found in a search of all that he owns was a false ID.

Before everyone picks up a stone to cast at Don Tiger we might ask ourselves why did he have the ID?

Few have the guts to risk being sued by the WCG, but that's not the reason he had the false ID. After a lot of research into the copyright laws and help from a law firm in Chicago, Mr. Tiger is not afraid of a lawsuit. What he is concerned about is how far some might go trying to destroy his archives.

He explained this concern to me more than a year ago. The false ID wasn't for fear of being sued; it was out of concern for his family. Satan has always used evil and desperate men to destroy the truth of God, with no concern for women or children. Why would he be any different now?

The false ID wasn't for defrauding anyone of anything. It was used in an attempt to protect his family from possible harm.

A good question regarding this concern is why did we need an end-time Elijah to restore the truth of God? It was because Satan was so successful in the first century at destroying it along with many faithful people of God.

We are living in perilous times (2 Timothy 3:1). In this computer-driven age it is almost impossible to hide from anyone who would want to do you harm. Evil men are waxing worse and worse (verse 13). Some would stop at nothing to destroy these writings.

Look at how far the WCG has gone already in its lawsuit against the PCG. Why are WCG leaders spending so much money to stop the PCG from publishing a few of the works of HWA when they don't care about them? [See several articles that touch on the WCG-PCG suit and the copyright issue in the Feb. 28, 2001, issue of The Journal.]

Paul gave the answer in Ephesians 6:12: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood ..." Who are we wrestling against? When it comes to God's truth, we wrestle against Satan!

Many thousands who have received free copies of the CDs thanks to Don Tiger have sat back in silence while others spread the rumors and false accusations. Read 2 Timothy 3:1-5, which describes the times we live in.

Part of our job is to identify those who are doing good apart from those who are described in these verses. Don Tiger has wanted only to preserve and make available to anyone the truth of God and the history of the end-time church.

Bill Nichols

Via the Internet

The past as future

When I first came back to church in '95 (I had been disfellowshipped in '68), I would not allow anyone to say anything against Herbert Armstrong in my presence. I defended him even when I was alienated from the people of God because I knew I was a sinner and, though the minister's reason for putting me out may have been wrong, God allowed it to happen.

I was now the black sheep to the rest of my family (still in the WCG). They were not allowed to speak to me or to share The Good News with me. My husband divorced me. I was cut off from my Savior and I knew it.

I can remember waking up nights and thinking about the horrors of the lake of fire and crying and praying that God would not resurrect me because I thought I was lost anyway.

When the minister you have depended upon for truth and guidance tells you your prayers are now "sin," all hope is gone. Your friends are gone. There is no support system. You find yourself alienated from everything you held dear.

I was astonished in '95 when God let me know He would have me back. I began to understand at that time as I had never understood before that God is the faithful God (Deuteronomy 7:9) whose faithfulness and loyalty never fail. He alone will save His people, not any man or organization.

Statements about leaving the past in the past seem a little short of reality. If we leave the past in the past, what happens to the future insofar as learning not to repeat the past mistakes is concerned?

What about the Scriptures that tell us about our roots and the mistakes and sins of those with the same carnal natures that infest our own bodies? (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Myra McQueen

Via the Internet

Hostile takeover

I just wanted to comment on the recent issue of The Journal [Jan. 31, 2001], especially after comparing it with your interview in The Churches of God Newsletter [see the last item in "Notes and Quotes," page 24]. I am curious as to just how much of a shot in the arm you give the dragon when you promote the current idol (Herbert W. Armstrong). He must have some stock in that little paper!

I had to ask myself, and the answer is obvious: Did the Armstrongites give some extra pay in order to get their man promoted, or are you just overly optimistic about this system of bondage?

Jake Harmina

Via the Internet

None on this planet

Comments by Rob Elliott in the Feb. 28, 2001, issue ("Was Mr. Armstrong Fallible or Infallible?") prompted me to write.

First let me say I am glad The Journal printed Rob's article. His article will actually help some people to see the fallacy of overemphasizing Mr. Armstrong.

  • Rob began his article: "The key to coming out of mass confusion that grips people is to understand who Herbert W. Armstrong was."

Say it isn't so. Paul corrected saints in Corinth for rallying around men (1 Corinthians 3:1-5). Paul instructed them not to glory in men (verse 21).

In the parable of the 10 virgins, all the virgins temporarily slept (Matthew 25:5). The wise became ready for the marriage (verse 10). The groom told the foolish, "I don't know you" (verse 12). If you want Jesus Christ to know you, concentrate on what He said (John 8:30-31) and what He did (John 12:25-26). That is what's important.

  • Toward the end of his article Rob wrote: "Those few who have honored him [Mr. Armstrong] as God's servant have grown in understanding of end-time events."

Accepting private interpretations of prophecy should not be construed as spiritual growth. Since the Bible warns not to add to or take from the Bible (Revelation 22:18-19), why do people place names of present-day men into the book of Revelation?

Why would people use speculation to emphasize any man when they can read the Scripture and give allegiance to the Son of the Highest (Luke 1:32-33; John 5:23; Acts 4:11-12; Philippians 2:9-11)?

  • In the middle of his article Rob revealed a major misconception that influences various theories. He wrote: "We learned these truths through the teaching of Herbert W. Armstrong ... Certainly no other minister on this planet was teaching them."

What? There was no other person on this planet disseminating those teachings? What an amazing theory!

Such a theory influences people to set Mr. Armstrong up as a filter in their relationship with God.

Saints must build a relationship with the Father through the Son. But saints must not seek to build a relationship with the Son through any man (deceased or living) or any group of men.

Dave Havir

Big Sandy, Texas

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