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Letters from our readers - Issue 94
Encouraging Communication among the Churches of God
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Letters from our Readers
(November 2004 Issue)

Read Letters from October 2004's Issue

Rich meets his match

Jennifer Sarsfield and I were married in a small ceremony in the White Mountains in New Hampshire a few weeks ago. We said our vows in front of a fireplace before a justice of the peace. I was hoping to have pictures to post at the same time I made the announcement but we are still waiting for them.

It really hit me that I was actually married when Jennifer asked the justice of the peace about the paperwork to change her last name from Sarsfield to Griffiths. To be honest, I grabbed a bottle and had two or three glasses of champagne to steady myself.

I met Jennifer at the Board of Higher Education in Boston, where I was working as policy analyst. She was attending Suffolk University and working at the board as a student intern. We sat next to each and over a period of months became friends. When I met someone else at a conference it prompted her to ask me out for lunch, and the rest is, as they say, history.

One rather interesting coincidence is that, because I am part Irish and a history buff, I have always used "Wild Geese" as a password. Wild Geese is the label for the Irish soldiers who were exiled for centuries from Ireland to fight all around the world.

The most famous of them was a wild, dashing and powerful soldier named Patrick Sarsfield.

Rich Griffiths
Kingston, Mass.

Seeking the lost

Regarding " E-Mail Evangelism is the New 21st-Century Evangelistic Tool" [by Alan Ruth, The Journal, Oct. 31]:

E-mail evangelism seems to be a great tool (its service is offered through The Bible Study Web site), but it looks as though the concept is directed at the past members of the Church of God rather than true evangelism: seeking the lost.

How would we apply this idea to our local area, which has little or no COG contacts?

There has to be some way to attract those who might be searching but without the knowledge of our basic doctrines and principles.

Al Green
Coos Bay, Ore.

Note: For the sake of clarity a response to the above Email concerning Email Evangelism was submitted by the author of the Journal article in question. The response stated:

"Email Evangelism's goal from its beginning has been to preach the gospel to those with no previous Church of God (COG) experience or exposure. As was stated in the article, was created years ago to be "generic" in nature and Web address (not branded as a COG-related site or assuming a COG audience) so that it could best reach brand new people, not COG brethren, with the gospel. The only significant Church of God involvement in Email Evangelism comes from fact that all those answering questions are long time COG members.

Out of now 3,800+ questions sent to site for answers, all of which have been personally read and distributed, I have found that less than 2 or 3% of them come from those with ANY COG-related exposure. To further illustrate Email Evangelism's direction of reaching out to "the lost," not one of the eleven or so known baptisms occuring through the site's help has seen a TV program, heard a radio broadcast, or read a magazine, either past or present, sponsored by any Church of God-related group. Email Evangelism is the newest, and verifiably one of the truest forms of mass evangelism in the church. "

Beware the box

The one ray of light in the Oct. 31 issue of The Journal was Bill Stough's article, " The Journal Is Divisive; Cancel My Subscription."

Good work, Bill! You echoed my own sentiments on many issues, but especially that of a free press for the Churches of God. When a church organization sponsors and pays for a publication, it is understandable that it be an advocacy publication; that is, one that slavishly adheres to the point of view of the sponsoring group. The Journal is not sponsored by a denomination, therefore it is not bound by that tradition.

Personally I too have heard much criticism of The Journal. I've heard some of the same things Bill has heard, and others besides. Most criticized are the contents of the ad-articles. I've heard some say things like, "They provide a forum for all the crazies."

I've had people ask me why I write for The Journal . After all, it is anything but an ego trip, and there's certainly no pay for it. The onions far outweigh the orchids when it comes to responses from readers.

I write because I care and for no other reason. My column is called "Out of the Box" for two reasons: (1) I'm out of the box myself, and (2) I want to help others think outside of the box.

Terms like liberal or divisive mean nothing to me. Truth means everything. The Churches of God people need a publication that is above denominational politics and that can cover the whole scene. They need stimulus to think beyond traditional and familiar boundaries.

We all have a proprietary interest in how all this plays out, because, no matter what, we are brethren.

Keep up the good work, Dixon and Bill.

Brian Knowles
Monrovia, Calif.

Bill's broad brush

As a pastor of three United Church of God congregations, and as a subscriber to this newspaper from its inception, when it was called In Transition, I would love to respond to Bill Stough's article in the Oct 31 issue [" The Journal Is Divisive; Cancel My Subscription"].

In it he makes the statement that "the church I see facing the greatest danger now is the United Church of God an International Association."

I wish not to repeat the rest of the quote, but it ends with: "That is why some of the leaders are speaking out against publications like The Journal."

Well, after I got up off the floor from being run over by one of the biggest broad brushes I've heard in a long time, and after soaking in a vat of paint remover (specially designed to remove unsubstantiated paint), I want to respond.

First, I hardly think that what an elder in New Zealand said is a typical reference to leadership in our church organization. Out of 12 members of the council of elders, I have heard of one stating that he did not want to give input to The Journal--and I do listen closely for this kind of output.

As a monitor and moderator of the church's Elders' Forum [on the Internet] since its inception, I have witnessed only three or four elders over an eight-year period make similar remarks, in comparison with well over 450 elders in our church.

Like the membership of our organization, ministers do have their own opinions. Do I agree with every administrative decision that our management makes? No. Is the United Church of God controlling? No. Are there a few elders left from the old school who tend to be this way? Perhaps, and probably yes. Is this representative of our church organization? Emphatically, no.

While I do not agree with all policies and judgments among us, I am grateful for the latitude and lack of control given to members and ministers alike.

This is a church that is unified under the major doctrines and the "weightier matters of the law." It is not made up of minds that assume "one size fits all." I am proud and grateful to be a part of it.

Since Mr. Stough wields the mighty power of the pen, I only wish he had the facts and true picture of United, rather than a few unique instances that do not paint an accurate portrayal of us.

Since its inception, members in my congregations have and do read The Journal, and we have shared many a good discussion over various subjects and articles in it over the years.

I sure hope I don't have an encounter with the mighty broad brush from a Journal writer for a while. That paint remover is tough on my skin.

Stuart Segall
Eureka Calif.

In the above letter Mr. Segall refers to The Journal as being the same newspaper as In Transition. Although The Journal, which began in February 1997, is similar to John Robinson's In Transition (which ended in January 1997), it is not the same newspaper with a different name. It is an entirely separate publication.

The importance of concluding

The Oct. 31 issue of The Journal printed my letter [" The Importance of Structure"] that urged COG groups to purchase their own meeting facilities as part of their evangelizing efforts.

Unfortunately, due to space limitations the conclusion apparently had to be left out of the letter.

In conclusion, then, advantages to buying instead of renting include these examples:

  • The Statesville, N.C., congregation was brought closer together when it purchased its own building.
  • Not only were we solidified, but our own building brought us a sense of comfort and stability.

  • Our own building gave the Statesville COG a visible presence in the community.

  • Our 7-24 roadside sign brought in guests and at least one new member.

  • Overall, membership nearly doubled in just four years of owning our own facility.

  • The Terre Haute, Ind., church, which owns its own building, has also grown since going independent two years ago.

  • Owning instead of renting is just good sense and is widely endorsed as financial wisdom.

Thanks to The Journal for printing my conclusion in this edition. You can probably think of even more advantages for buying instead of renting.

Frazier Spencer
Indianapolis, Ind.

Don't look down

I was excited about reading "What's the Sanhedrin . . .?" [by John Warren in the Oct. 31 issue] and then was dismayed by the use of the Catholic encyclopedia, and then the concluding thoughts: "... From my point of view, it was the work of the Sanhedrin that culminated in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ . . ."

Scripture says God blinded those through whom the plan of God was accomplished in the betrayal and death of the "Lamb of God," for, had they known that aspect of the plan of God, it would not have been accomplished.

Anti-Semitism is recorded in the book of Esther. Haman wanted to destroy the Jews for a very petty, personal loathing of another human being, not for anything truly big.

I don't blame anti-Semitic feelings on any teaching from our "Worldwide" background, because many people teach it, directly or indirectly. But we should know that it was the Catholics who declared themselves (the Catholic Church) the Israel of God. And we should know that God abhors anti-Semitism.

When Yeshua spoke to the Twelve and the community of believers, all of whom were Jews, He plainly told them that the days were coming when "they that kill you will think they are doing God a service."

Yet some of us are shamelessly holding onto our attitude that we have a right to look down on "them" because of what a handful of them were involved in more than 2,000 years ago.

Hence the holocaust doesn't shame us to the core, and we don't value that having a Sanhedrin just might precipitate the sacrifices that just might hasten the Kingdom.

Judah is approaching Joseph, just like the set readings for Dec. 18 recounted (Parashas Vayigash; Genesis 44:18 to 47:27 and companion Haftaras; and Ezekiel 37:15-28).

Please understand: Not all Jews do not believe in Yeshua. The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations is one of the largest organizations of Messianic Jews. Firstfruits of Zion is another. Then there's the Messianic Israel Alliance.

I, for one, am thankful that many of our former Worldwide families have found places to worship God more fully in some of these places, and many are loving the Jews and praying for them and for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).

Elizabeth Wenger
Big Sandy, Texas

Bonnie blue flag

Think there's any chance this might make it into a future hymnal? (I'm fulfilling my role as an equal-opportunity offender.)

Sing this to the tune of "The Bonnie Blue Flag." You can listen to it at or

We are a band of brothers and native to the soil,
Fighting for our liberty with treasure, blood and toil.
And when our rights were threatened
The cry rose near and far:
Raise on high the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.


Hurrah! hurrah! For Christian rights hurrah!
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star!
As long as Worldwide was faithful to her trust
Like friends and brethren, kind were we and just.
But now when Worldwide treachery attempts our worship to mar,
We raise on high the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears the single star.

(Chorus again)

First gallant Birmingham nobly made the stand,
Then came Big Sandy and took her by the hand.
Next quickly Mississippi, Indiana and Florida
All raised on high the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears the single star.

(Chorus again)

Mac Overton
Gilmer, Texas

Encourage Laodiceans

Just a comment in regards to Donald Wheatley's info on the Church of Laodicea ["Poison of Laodice," The Journal, Aug. 31, page 4]:

If I remember right, Paul even wrote to the Laodiceans to encourage them at times. If they are among the elect, aren't they to be considered "brethren," just as are the rest of the seven churches?

Maybe Mr. Wheatley's problem is that he considers that God called him through a man instead of through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, as the Scripture claims happens to those who are called.

Myra McQueen
Sulphur Springs, Texas

Give thanks

"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

The aforementioned verse may be familiar to most of you. As we prepared for another Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, it behooved us to consider or reconsider the apostle Paul's admonition.

This verse is not the only biblical reference on the subject of thanksgiving. According to Strong's, the Bible makes mention of giving thanks to God 103 times. It is an important matter to our Creator, and it should be important to us not only during this festival but all the time "in all things."

We as Americans are richly blessed. Even though many problems exist in this country and in other spots of the world, freedom is still a right that is enjoyed by all of us. It is true that the Patriot Act limits our freedoms to some extent, but we are still governed by a Constitution with its Bill of Rights specifically setting down our freedoms. Let us not forget to bow in gratitude for these rights.

Let's further remember our government leaders: a newly reelected President Bush and those who will serve with him in his next term.

Let's be sure to remember our troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places who willingly lay their lives on the line to protect our way of life.

Don't forget the needy, those who are hungry, indigent, homeless, sick or in prison. In any way we can, let us be of service to these as well as to the widow and orphan (James 1:27).

Let's be sure to offer thanks for our families, our health, our jobs and careers and for the bountiful fields that produce our abundant crops, for the farmers who raise and harvest the poultry and livestock from which comes our meat.

Most important, let's be eternally thankful for the gift of salvation made possible only by faith in Jesus. This certainly is the greatest blessing to consider when giving thanks.

Tommy West
Wake Forest, N.C.

The sacrifice of thanksgiving

One of the things that darkened the minds of the Greeks after they knew of the existence of God was that they did not give thanks (Romans 1:21).

God warned the Israelites against forgetting Him after they came into the land (Deuteronomy 8:6-18).

Jesus never forgot. When He received food He gave thanks (Matthew 14:19; 15:36). He followed the lead from Psalm 103:1-5, which tells us to bless (praise and acknowledge in word and thought) God, who has given us so many things.

People misunderstand and think they are asking a blessing on the food. That is certainly proper. But, predominantly, when the Scripture states that Jesus "blessed," it means He blessed God, who is the source of all good things.

In temple times under the Levitical priesthood, provisions were made for the "sacrifice of thanksgiving." It was part of a peace offering (Leviticus 7:11-15).

Nehemiah followed the lead of David and Asaph and appointed singers for the express purpose of giving thanks in worship to God (Nehemiah 12:8, 31,46). We read in the New Testament to give thanks for all people, "for kings and all who are in high positions" (1 Timothy 2:1-2, RSV).

We are to make a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalm 107:22; 116:17). We are to come into God's presence with thanksgiving (Psalm 95:2). We are to enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100:4).

Paul followed Jesus' example of giving thanks for food (Acts 27:35). He also thanked God for the brethren as he remembered them (1 Corinthians 1:4; 14:18; Philippians 1:3). He thanked God when he met the brethren who had traveled so far to meet him (Acts 28:15).

Paul thanked God for triumphs and victories from God and in and through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14).

Here is a New Testament command: "Giv[e] thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20, NKJV).

When we come to God with our petitions, supplications and requests, we are to make them with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). Note that creatures far greater than we give thanks day and night (Revelation 4:8-11).

Do you want to be God's friend? Would you have a friend whom you gave to all the time but who never thanked you for anything?

We are urged to do all in Christ's name while "giving thanks to God through Him" (Colossians 3:16-17).

We can and should give thanks for Him and the gift of forgiveness and grace because of Him. That amounts to the greatest of all our gifts.

David L. Antion
Pasadena, Calif.

The church isn't incorporated

In The Journal dated Sept. 30 it was so encouraging to read the articles "Couple Sponsors Food Bank; Hubby Does Radio," by Dave Havir, and "They Came to Conference for Answers to Questions," by John Warren, in addition to "Evangelism Conference Is a New, Healthy Beginning," by Pam Dewey.

I'm so encouraged that I want to subscribe to The Journal to keep up with how the Spirit is moving in the Body of Christ.

Could it be that the Holy Spirit is showing us by the Heinz 57 varieties of Churches of God, Inc., or the Baskin-Robbins 31 flavors of the Churches of God, Inc., that He is not in "Church, Inc."? In other words, the Church of God, or Body of Christ, ain't "Church, Inc." Rather, UR the chURch.

I strongly believe that, because of my experience in the old Worldwide Church of God, God's church is not about power (except the power of the Holy Spirit) and not about money or even a steady paycheck and not about buildings (except the building up of the saints into the temple where God dwells and to which He will return) and not about men lording it over other men in a hierarchical structure (because that is the image of the beast or the "great whore" and is a form of idolatry), because at the death of Messiah the veil of the Holy of Holies was rent in two and any earthly high priest was out of a job--to paraphrase Linda Ross.

"Church, Inc." equals "churchianity." Being led by the Holy Spirit equals Christianity.

So you see the church is not really divided, and God is not the author of confusion, but men use "Church, Inc." to divide and confuse, because men love to have the preeminence. Each member of the Body has his or her ministry as the Spirit leads him or her (1 Corinthians 12). How do we discern who is doing the work of God? Answer: By their fruits and by following the example of the Bereans.

Eric S. Hall
Pasadena, Calif.

Staying alive

It appears there is so much pressure in the Churches of God to stay alive organizationally and in numbers that there is little concern for the individuals who make up the collective Body of Christ.

How can it be good for the organization's image if it fails to address individual concerns for emotional and spiritual growth and well-being if all they do is concentrate on being right on doctrine and to be seen in the eyes of the world as doing a work for God while ignoring privately the hurting members who often are afraid to communicate their feelings to their superiors up the corporate ladder?

We should make it a church policy to teach ministers true godly counsel and compassion for lay members and prospective members, who often have deep problems to wrestle with in their lives. After all, none of us was perfect when we first came into the church, and I'd say none of us is perfect today either.

Paul Christophy
London, England

A funnel thing happened

Herbert Armstrong described and pictured members of all churches (except the WCG) as having funnels laced in the tops of their heads into which their respective leaders poured their own biased doctrines.

Listen up! Every survivor of HWA's WCG knows for sure that a funnel was placed in the top of his head and HWA had his hierarchy pour into the funnel whatever he decided was God's truth, given by God to God's "only true church" on the face of the earth.

That was the past.

But what about us today? Are you still a funnel head?

Paul and Micki Herrmann
Metarie, La.

Gideon's army

I really enjoy your paper. I just wish people would stop squabbling and stick their noses in their Bibles.

I hope you will publish this poem. Sorry I couldn't type it. I just moved here from Florida and my typewriter came up missing and my computer and printer fell victim to an electrical problem.

I am 77 and a member since 1960. (I lived in Ohio until 1979, then Florida and now Ohio again.)

By the spring of Herod camped Gideon.
By Moreh's north hill camped Midian.
The Lord said, "All glory belongs to Me,
And the people with you too many be!"

"If I gave to you all Midian's band,
You would say, 'We won by our own hand!'
So send away all who tremble and fear!"
Of thirty-two thousand, ten stayed near.

"By the water's edge they shall meet a test:
Away with the kneelers! Keep the rest!
With these three hundred men to battle go
To the camp of Midian far below."

So, Phurah to scout the camp was sent;
Down to the outpost his servant went.
There the enemy lay, like a locust band,
And camels were as many as desert sand.

An Amalekite's dream to his friend did tell
Of a tumbling leaf, that his tent did fell.
He said, "'Tis Gideon, from Israel's land!
God has give our nations into his hand!"

When Gideon heard his servant's tale
He worshiped, saying, "We cannot fail!"
He sent his men to surround the camp,
Each with a trumpet and each a lamp.

At midnight they blew, and their torches blazed.
"For our Lord and Gideon!" They cried, amazed--
As the enemy panicked and rushed about,
Killing each other amidst the shouts.

Today we fight for our Lord again,
And with His help we will always win.
Like Gideon's army, join the fray
And meet our Lord in His glorious day!

Betty Leonard
Moraine, Ohio

Christ outranks Elijah and Moses

During the transfiguration (Mark 9:1-10), which shows the future Christ talking with Moses and Elijah, notice that Peter wanted to build a temple for not only Christ but Moses and Elijah.

God spoke out quickly to show Peter's error in placing Moses and Elijah equal with Christ: "This is My Son, the beloved one. Be constantly listening to and obeying Him."

God left Moses and Elijah out of His glorifying of His God-Son, Christ.

Ken Westby and his followers, like Peter, also need to be reprimanded for describing Christ as just another man of God but not God.

A vicious trend exists in the attempts to relegate Christ to the status of man only and not one who emptied Himself of glory as a fellow God in order to save His creation, man (Philippians 2:6-8).

As a wife and husband are "one," so too with both Gods: One God family exists.

Read the simple scriptures explaining this. Start with John 17-18. It shows we as God's new sons are one with Christ and the Father. Christ is now our brother!

Study God's Word only. Don't believe carnal man. Your leaders don't know the truth. The truth is a stumbling block to them.

Here's an idea: Ask them for a seminar on tithing!

(Thank you, Mickey Ashcraft, for your input.)

Dean Neal
Carson City, Nev.

Don't just walk on by

As a UCG member, I say many thanks to Marie Casale of Salinas, Calif., for expressing herself in regards to the UCG's doctrine against voting (The Journal, Sept. 30, page 2, "Just Walk On By").

The principles she outlined are perfectly valid and should be considered by all of us.

The founding fathers of the United States of America established a government of the people by the people for the people. Each citizen must evaluate what that means to him or her and decide whether to participate in our democratic republic's elections or not.

This is our personal responsibility and individual right before God. It is our choice to do so if we wish.

We currently have dual citizenship in this world, just as Paul had in his day (Acts 21:39; 22:25-29).

As Christians we look forward to being a part of God's government in the Kingdom of God. That is in the future, but we must live on this earth in the here and now too.

Can we just walk on by as observers and be complacent about what's happening all around us?

Do we really care about our "under God" nation or not?

Do we want righteous leaders to direct the course of our country, or do we just drop out and watch it go down like a sinking ship in a troubled sea?

Freedom is a precious gift as long as it is preserved. Voting is a free exercise of one's conscience if he or she wishes to use it. If we use this privilege wisely, then we can make a difference!

I am thankful my vote was counted with the 51 percent of my fellow citizens of the United States of America, and my prayer now will be for God to continue to bless the U.S.A. and our president for four more years.

Edward I. Clapp
Redding, Calif.

Read Letters from October 2004's Issue

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