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Letters from our readers - Issue 93
Encouraging Communication among the Churches of God
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Letters from our readers

Crisis of marriage

I ask a favor. Please send me another copy of the last Journal. My wife got hold of the last Journal and started underlining Dave Havir's book report, saying: "Yes, He's got it. That's right. Yeah."

I can't Xerox it and share it now with anyone! We got into a fight! Anyway, this is an easy fix to this marital problem.

Please extend a thank-you to Dave Havir for the report [a review of Crisis of Conscience, by Raymond Franz, in the Sept. 30 issue].

Name and location withheld

It can take years

Dave Havir's article ["A ' Crisis of Conscience' Opens Eyes," The Journal, Sept. 30] was indeed quite a powerful one. I often underline important and striking passages in articles. If I were to do such with this one, the whole article would have been underscored!

This article must have some people shouting for joy and others shaking in their boots.

There are a couple of points I would like to make.

Dave mentions how indoctrinated people become, even to the point of putting the dictates and desires of the organization above that of the will of God. Yet leaving an organization becomes a struggle with the deeply ingrained teaching of exclusivity: "We are the one and only organization through which God is dealing with humanity."

In my own experiences, in continually examining my feelings, I have found how hard it is to break with that idea of "organization equals God's authority on earth." It becomes easier when one sees more of the ungodly behavior of the leaders in the organization, their abuse of authority and their utter disdain for the children of God (like the attitude of the Sanhedrin toward Peter and John, considering them "uneducated and untrained men," Acts 4:13).


This relates to another pressing problem in the modern Church of God. In regards to selecting and retaining ministers, Paul wrote to Timothy, "Some men's sins are clearly evident, proceeding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden" (1 Timothy 5:24-25).

Paul here declares that it is not always obvious what the true character of a man is. It may take many years of close association with a man to know him well enough to determine his spirit and qualifications for leading and teaching others of the children of God.

The problem is that very few get the opportunity to know a man that well, considering that the brethren are far scattered and can get together, in most cases, for only a few hours a week in a controlled situation. This takes such intimacy out of the picture.

So who is left to make such determinations for the people? The organizations! These do not make such decisions based upon an intimate knowledge of the man's character, in most cases, but based on a sanitized application procedure: Follow the rules, fill in the blanks and you're in!

Not only is it necessary to know a man's character by those who would raise him to the ranks of a leader, but the general membership needs to know if he is a wolf in sheep's clothing, like Diotrephes (3 John 9-11), so members can determine whether to follow his teachings or not.

Another point, one that Dave does not cover in his article, is fellowship with the disfellowshipped. When persons are politically disfellowshipped or leave for matters of conscience, they often find themselves alone.

However, Scripture declares that we should not forsake assembling together with others of the children of God (Hebrews 10:24-25). How can the disfellowshipped feel connected to the Church of God? Does Raymond Franz [writer of the book Dave Havir reviewed] address this issue?

Bob Cronin
Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Church of God Fellowship Club

Our family recently returned from the Feast of Tabernacles and saw John Dickson's little article about the private social club [" Not Your Ordinary Club," "Notes and Quotes," The Journal, Aug. 31] and had some questions:

  • How is the concept of false doctrines determined?
  • Is that by majority vote or what?
  • How are short hair and modest dress determined? We live in a big Eastern city.
  • Does your club in any way discriminate based on race, creed, color, age, gender or sexual orientation?

Hope you had a wonderful Feast, Mr. Dickson. Am looking forward to hearing from you.

Ken Svehla
Downers Grove, Ill.

The importance of structure

It is exciting that Guy Swenson and Bill Jacobs are energizing Church of God members to evangelize and make disciples [see " They Came to Conference for Answers to Questions," The Journal, Sept. 30]. May I add another evangelizing ingredient? Isn't it time for many COG fellowships to acquire their own building?

Many will say: "We can't afford it." Or "We're too small." Here are six points to dispel such notions:

  • The Terre Haute, Ind., congregation purchased an upholstery shop and converted it into an attractive and uplifting meeting hall. The cost, including decorating and renovating, was about $100,000. The down payment was nominal, with payments like rent.

    Their accomplishment is an inspiration to all.

  • I have seen small Protestant groups that start out in a public school, but in just a few years a sign appears announcing they are building their own facility. You have probably observed the same thing.

    How can start-up Protestants do it and COGs can't?

  • The Swenson-Jacobs seminar cites examples of larger groups sponsoring start-up daughter groups. Could larger COGs sponsor start-ups? Or could larger COGs help a small COG acquire a building? After all, without an expensive headquarters draining away funds, aren't those funds available for evangelism?

  • A former WCG group (now part of the UCG) rents space in a Seventh-day Adventist sanctuary. On one wall is a plaque to honor the members responsible for the SDA building. How many? Just 35!

    It is sad to note these former WCG members have rented meeting places for 40 years. Yet for all those years they were from three to 10 times larger than 35 members.

    How ironic that, with their tradition of renting, some COG organizations even offer booklets telling others how to manage their finances. What if you found out your financial planner had rented for 40 years?

  • The SDAs' second tenant is a Sunday fellowship. COGs hesitant about buying their own church building might factor in the possibility of renting it to others.

  • My wife and I found a Baptist building that the Statesville (N.C.) CGI congregation purchased in 1991 for $22,000 with $2,000 down. Included were an acre of land and oak pews that seated 100 people. (We had only 30 members.) Experts said the pews alone were worth a good portion of the purchase price.

Some might still wonder why owning is so important. After all, the WCG met in rented halls when it was growing 30 percent per year.

One answer (among several) is that people are far more affluent today. Americans of 2004 live in bigger houses and drive more-luxurious cars. To grow, COGs have to acknowledge change and today's need for more-inviting, more-established meeting places.

Guy and Bill point out that the SDAs have about one million baptisms per year. One wonders how big a factor their attractive sanctuaries are in that surprising success.

Some COGs will say: "Our message is what is important. New people shouldn't care about the physical; they should want to hear our better messages." In other words, "our better product is the thing, not how it is packaged."

My answer: Try telling that to manufacturers who spend millions of dollars designing the package their products are put in. Try telling them they are wasting money, that people will select the best product no matter how bad the package. Or try telling that to companies that insist that their representatives drive newer automobiles and be well dressed.

Guy and Bill rightly emphasize the importance of a healthy congregation to invite new members into. But isn't it just as important to have an attractive, permanent and visible meeting facility? Are members comfortable inviting others to a rented meeting place?

Guy and Bill have started the evangelism ball rolling. I want to push that ball along by encouraging COGs to acquire their own church facilities. It can be done. Many have done it. Let's break out of our tradition that not only stifles and suppresses evangelism but prevents church ownership as well.

Frazier Spencer
Indianapolis, Ind.

Sacrifices could be near

Several apparently unrelated events are preparing the way for the prophesied restoration of Jewish animal sacrifices and the subsequent abomination of desolation that will announce their halt for 2,300 evenings and mornings, or 1,150 days (Daniel 12:11).

An earthquake rocked Jerusalem and all Israel on Feb. 11, 2004, badly damaging the roof of the Dome of the Rock.

Whether the dome collapses due to an act of God or man, if the Muslims blame the Jews for its destruction, it could precipitate World War III.

According to Gershon Salomon, leader of the Temple Mount Faithful, which has the goal of building the Third Temple on the site of the Dome of the Rock: "Israeli seismologists [state] that in the near future there will be a major earthquake which will have the Temple Mount and Jerusalem at its epicenter," which would destroy the Dome.

Salomon also notes that the Wailing, or Western, Wall and several other walls on the Temple Mount have begun to collapse since the 9th of Ab in 2001, including one wall that is likely to cause the Al Aqsa mosque to fall down.

This October, on the 26th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's election, Radio Netherlands reported that the European Union wanted to move into the Middle East in a way that will overwhelm Israel. That is precisely what Daniel 11:40-45 prophesies will happen, which will force the renewed sacrifices to be stopped.

To start the sacrifices requires an altar.

Three days before the pope's anniversary, on Oct. 13, probably the first Sanhedrin in 1,600 years was convened in Tiberias, launching the highest Jewish legal tribunal in the land of Israel. This is the exact organization in Jewish religious law necessary to authorize the building of an altar. Seventy-one rabbis received special ordination according to Rabbi Maimonides' traditional rulings.

For the sacrifices to be stopped for 2,300 evenings and mornings, they first have to start. They may start "when Judah [sees] her wound" (Hosea 5:13) and appeals to God for help.

In the increasingly hostile environment of the Middle East, renewed sacrifices probably won't last long before the armies Christ predicted will surround Jerusalem and stop them, replacing them with the Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:15; Luke 21:20).

At one of his last ministerial conferences, Herbert W. Armstrong told the ministry that "the temple in 2 Thessalonians refers to the church." After his death, a Man of Sin, sitting in that spiritual temple of God, showed himself--not the whole world--that he is "God," in the sense that he presumed to change the law of the one Lawgiver.

He subsequently died. The idolatry he caused precipitated the great falling away from truth, which scattered the true church.

In the context of the above information, and much more than is readily available--and the increasingly vulnerable position of America (and Britain), on whom the state of Israel relies on for survival; and the growing military capacity of their enemies--the prophesied renewal of Jewish sacrifices may not be too far away. May the watchmen of God be alert.

Geoffrey R. Neilson
Fish Hoek, South Africa

Seeing red

Did you ever see the Bible belt? (Hint: Look for red against a blue background.)

All of us stupid, ignorant, snake-handling, Wal-Mart-shopping, pickup-driving rubes just can't match the deep, nuanced, sophisticated understanding of the (euro)Peon Union (PU).

We actually don't want God, Jesus, Moses, the Bible and the Commandments removed from our schools, buildings and monuments.

We will make you stop sucking the brains out of the heads of unborn babies.

We will do whatever it takes to prevent same-sex marriages.

No, keep your stinking hands off our guns.

We will force you to stop raising our taxes to pay for failed socialist programs and the worthless international schemes of the likes of Goofi Annan.

As we smash radical-Islamic terrorism, we won't give a flip about sensitivity or global tests.

Bill Stenger
Big Sandy, Texas

Earnestly seek

It's almost the eve of one of the most important elections since Roosevelt's third-term election, insofar as America's future is concerned. By the time you read this we'll have a better idea of how much time before our dominant role on the world stage will end in preparation for the Lord's return.

If you've had a chance to check out John Kerry's record, you know he does not have America's best interests at heart. So his victory would seem to materially shorten the time of our demise, etc., etc.

I just received The Journal's renewal letter and am in somewhat of a quandary. On the one hand, having been a member of Worldwide for 36 years, with God using the Armstrongs to bring me to Him, is deep in my heart.

On the other is the constant squabbling over minuscule, insignificant twigs, which only amplifies and underscores the pride-and-vanity motivation of the litigants.

Anyone with a lick of sense, and, I might add, earnestly seeking the Lord's will, should realize this kind of bickering is not the Lord's way.

David Albert's book Difficult Scriptures clarifies any questions one could still have.

It just occurred to me that if all the above were resolved suddenly you'd be out looking for a job. Sorry about that!

Enough of this rambling by an erstwhile employee of the mother church. Stories like the one on my old comrade Mr. Kelly [" Church Official Discusses Future Role of the WCG," The Journal, Sept. 30] spur me on.

Budde Marino
Sedona, Ariz.

Not always happy

Thanks, [Journal writer] Bill Stough, for the PDF version [of the article " Church Official Discusses Future Role of the WCG," The Journal, Sept. 30]. I do appreciate the manner in which this was reported. We have not always been happy with the way various groups quote, misquote, twist and distort what we say or do. You did a nice job.

Ron Kelly
Pasadena, Calif.

No justification for the war

With reference to Timothy Henry's letter in the September 2004 issue of The Journal ("Turn, Turn, Turn," page 4), I find it utterly impossible to concur with his exclamation, "God bless our troops!"

I strongly doubt that God is either helping or hindering the U.S. military and its little helpers in Iraq.

Rather, I suggest that God is confining Himself to watching implacable humans take matters out of His hands and make a complete shambles.

The situation inside Iraq deteriorates from day to day, disorder reigns, kidnapping and murder are rife, and the collapse of the Iraqi state is a real possibility. The U.S. death toll has surpassed 1,000, and something like 100,000 Iraqis have been killed, many of them innocent men, women and children.

Is this justice? Is this righteousness? What possible justification can anyone offer for this carnage? Can anybody seriously think for an instant that God approves of it? When has warfare ever achieved anything except to smash societies to pieces, injure everybody and require massive but never complete healing afterwards?

Sorry, but Bush and Kerry are no better than each other. As Shakespeare put it, there is small choice in rotten apples. Both are captives and creatures of the political system; both represent, lead, support and trust in a system that is corrupt from head to toe; both evidently and obviously worship the god of fortresses and munitions.

Did George Bush decree the military campaign against Iraq in God's name? If he did, then in the name of which god?

Why can't our self-professing Christian leaders rely on God to fight our battles for us? (2 Chronicles 32:8).

Whatever happened to believing God when He says He reserves vengeance unto Himself? (Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalm 94:1; Romans 12:19).

What about praying for one's enemies, not cursing them (e.g. by bombing them)? (Matthew 5:44).

What about being afraid of nothing on the basis of our faith? (Mark 4:40, Hebrews 11:23).

What about trusting in God to protect our nations on the basis of their obedience to God? (Proverbs 16:7, especially in the NRSV rendition).

By the way, it doesn't matter that the entire nation is not godly. God was willing to save all of Sodom if there were in it a mere 10 righteous people. Surely in the modern United States and Australia the ratio of godly to ungodly is just as high. Or is it?

We all know very well what Jeremiah says: "Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord" (17:5, NRSV). We all know very well what Isaiah says: "I have stretched out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts, a people who provoke me to anger continually to my face" (65:2-3).

Our leaders, U.S. and Iraqi alike, lead in godless behavior. How can we in the Churches of God support their murderous policies?

My concluding exclamation? Maranatha!

Walter Steensby
Canberra, Australia

'A Poem for the French'

This is a great poem that was passed on to me. (I understand it was written by Don Fichthorn, a retired Marine major.) I hope no one takes offense. I didn't, and I'm half French.

Eleven thousand soldiers
Lay beneath the dirt and stone,
All buried on a distant land
So far away from home.

For just a strip of dismal beach
They paid a hero's price
To save a foreign nation,
They all made the sacrifice.

And now the shores of Normandy
Are lined with blocks of white:
Americans who didn't turn
From someone else's plight.

Eleven thousand reasons
For the French to take our side,
But in the moment of our need
They chose to run and hide.

Chirac said every war means loss.
Perhaps for France that's true,
For they've lost every battle
Since the days of Waterloo.

Without a soldier worth a damn
To be found within the region,
The French became the only land
To need a Foreign Legion.

You French all say we're arrogant.
Well, hell, we've earned the right--
We saved your sorry nation
When you lacked the guts to fight.

But now you've made a big mistake,
And one that you'll regret;
You took sides with our enemies,
And that we won't forget.

It wasn't just our citizens
You spit on when you turned,
But every one of yours
Who fell the day the towers burned.

You spit upon our soldiers,
On our pilots and marines,
And now you'll get a little sense
Of just what payback means.

So keep your Paris fashions
And your wine and your champagne,
And find some other market
That will buy your aeroplanes.

And try to find somebody else
To wear your French cologne,
For you're about to find out
What it means to stand alone.

You see, you need us far more
Than we ever needed you.
America has better friends
Who know how to be true.

I'd rather stand with warriors
Who have the will and might
Than huddle in the dark
With those whose only flag is white.

I'll take the Brits, the Aussies,
The Israelis and the rest,
For when it comes to valor
We have seen that they're the best.

We'll count on one another
As we face a moment dire,
While you sit on the sideline
With a sign, "Friendship for hire."

We'll win this war without you
And we'll total up the cost,
And take it from your foreign aid,
And then you'll feel the loss.

And when your nation starts to fall,
Well, Frenchie, you can spare us.
Just call the Germans for a hand.
They know the way to Paris.

Joanne Woodring
Tyler, Texas

Peace and safety

Today on the news they were talking about the factors contributing to the safety of the United States, which are that President Bush has aggressively pursued the war against terror away from our own soil and we have achieved much success in capturing and killing insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq.

These factors have resulted in no further terrorist attacks on our soil since 9-11. Thus, deciding who could better provide for our nation's safety was an important voting issue in the election.

After this, the talk switched to how Yasser Arafat has been a stumbling block to Middle East peace, and they were wondering if his death could mean that progress toward peace might now be possible.

The Day of the Lord, as we know, begins with the opening of the seven seals and the first four horsemen. The first horseman goes forth conquering and to conquer. This, I believe, will be the beast going forth to conquer the world.

Why is the first horseman the beast? Because it says in Revelation 6:8 that these four horsemen together bring about the death of one fourth of the earth's population: by sword (referring to the second horseman), by hunger (referring to the third horseman), by death (referring to the fourth horseman) and by beasts of the earth.

Following the pattern, beasts of the earth must refer to the first horseman, who goes forth conquering.

There is a scripture that describes the condition of the world scene just before the opening of the Day of the Lord when this great worldwide destruction of one fourth of the earth's population shall take place. It is 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3:

"For when they shall say, peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."

As we begin to notice more emphasis in the news placed on our national safety and Middle East peace, I cannot help but wonder how long it will take for our nation to become seemingly successful in achieving those aims and how long the apparent peace and safety will last before the great opening destruction of the Day of the Lord comes.

Marie Casale
Salinas, Calif.

Could be

Paul and Micki Herrmann's letter to the editor ["Confusing About Tithing," The Journal, Sept. 30] came to some of the same conclusions I have come to see. Ancient Israel was to set aside the 10th animal as the tithe to God, not the first animal.

In other words, a man was to take care of his family first before tithing on his increase. Doesn't God, as a Father, practice what He teaches? (1 Timothy 5:8).

When I have questioned some of the leaders among the COG organizations concerning how ancient Israel was to count a second and third animal for a second and third tithe, they have never gotten back with an answer for me.

Could it be that there was no second or third tithe and that the tithe (a 10th) was to be brought before the Levites to be distributed as God instructed? Did the widow and orphan have to wait three years before they were allowed to share in the tithe?

Marj Coulson
Edgewood, Md.

Confusing about healing

This is in regards to the letter "Why Don't We Have Healings?," by Jerry Lewis, in issue No. 92.

The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 11:18-34, especially verses 29-30: "For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep."

"Recognizing the body of the Lord" is not about the church in any way but has everything to do with what John focuses on so much in his gospel and letters: Christ coming in the flesh, recognizing who and what He was. (Be sure and check out Strong's on "recognizing" and "discerning" in verse 29.)

As the articles and letters in The Journal have shown (and personal conversations as well), there is much confusion about this subject and therefore no healings (except in, and by, the ones who know the truth of this subject).

By healings I mean miraculous, spontaneous healings as Christ and the apostles did, not some kind of drawn-out affair, because the body can heal itself given time and lack of interference by man. This is my opinion, anyway.

Michael Turner
Plano, Texas

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