Monday, September 26, 2011

The Meaning of the Day of Trumpets

We in the true Church are called to an understanding of the Bible and the true gospel that mainstream Christianity does not have. Perhaps less than one person out of 100,000 on the face of the earth has the knowledge God has given us. That knowledge carries with it a responsibility, and we will be judged by God on how we handle that responsibility. "And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:47-48).

We have to overcome and do God's will in our lives if we are to stand in the judgment.

We have the privilege of understanding the holy days. Not all even in the Church of God have that knowledge. Most in Church of God Seventh Day do not have that knowledge. Some mainstream Christians understand that the holy days have meaning, but they think they can understand that meaning without keeping the days. But God gives understanding to those who fear and obey him (Psalm 111:10). The commands to observe the holy days are in force for the true Church today (Leviticus 23:1-44, Matthew 5:17-19).

The Day of Trumpets represents several things. It represents God's direct intervention in this world to bring judgment upon the world for its sins. The next major event in God's plan is the great tribulation which comes primarily upon Israel as punishment for her sins, and we in the Church of God know that "Israel" includes the United States (the tribe of Manasseh) and Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa (the tribe of Ephraim). See Genesis 48:12-20. We do not know the exact date of the tribulation, but we know that it starts shortly before the return of Christ, which happens at the close of this age. We are nearing about 6,000 years of man's history, which will be followed by the 1,000 year millennial rule of Christ just as the seventh day Sabbath of rest follows the six workdays of the week (Revelation 20:1-6, 2 Peter 3:8, Genesis 2:15-17, Genesis 5:5).

After the tribulation comes the heavenly signs (Matthew 24:29), then after the heavenly signs comes the Day of the Lord (Joel 2:31). During the Day of the Lord are the seven trumpets, each signaling a disaster or series of disasters that strikes mankind (Revelation 6:12, 17, 9:1-21, 15:1). At the seventh trumpet Christ returns, and the saints, those in the true Church of God who overcome and endure to the end, will be resurrected, immortal, into God's kingdom to rule the earth with Jesus Christ (Revelation 11:15, 20:4-6, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

This is the time we look forward to, and this should motivate us to strive to overcome and do God's will to the end. "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:7-8). "if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:11-14).

"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).

Yet this world with its materialism and its traditional religions is deceived by Satan (Revelation 12:9). Many, especially in the industrialized countries, believe there is no God, that this universe just exists by itself, and that there is no true hope of life after death. Many religious people believe man has an immortal soul that goes on to paradise or to punishment at death. But this Day of Trumpets teaches us that there must be a resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:16-19). The soul is mortal, and when we die we are unconscious, as asleep. But at the resurrection, God brings us back to life.

The events pictured by the Day of Trumpets are ahead of us, the next holy day to be fulfilled in God's plan for the salvation of mankind. When the fulfillment of that day comes, it will be too late for any Church members who have not prepared themselves and made themselves ready. We do not have an unlimited time.

Let us make the best of the time we have now to prepare ourselves so we can stand in that day without fear.

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Day of Trumpets - the Second Coming of Christ, Chapter 2

Friday, September 16, 2011

New Appointments in COGWA

In a September 15 member letter on the website of the Church of God a Worldwide Association (COGWA) Jim Franks announced several appointments to leadership positions.

The Ministerial Board of Directors (MBOD) approved Doug Horchak as operation manager for Ministerial Services and Clyde Kilough as operation manager for Media. Both of these men are members of the board, so they will have to resign from the MBOD to accept these positions. With Mr. Franks also having to resign from the board, this will create three vacancies out of the seven positions on the board. These will be filled by an election with all elders eligible to vote. The election will take place from September 19 through October 3. COGWA ministers will be receiving instructions.

The list of men who will be on the ballot was not announced in the member letter, but if I understand the governing documents correctly, the number of men on the ballot will be twice the number of positions to be selected by vote, so since three men are to be elected, there will be six men on the ballot. Those men will be the ministers who received the most votes in the last election to the board who were not elected to the board. In the last election, 7 men out of 14 candidates were selected, leaving 7 men who did not win election to the board. The six out of those seven who received the greatest number of votes will be on the ballot for election to fill the three vacancies.

The seven men on the last ballot who were not elected to the board are David Baker, Arnold Hampton, Mike Hanisko, Leslie McCullough, David Register, Larry Salyer, and Lyle Welty, so six of these men will be on the ballot, the one with the fewest votes not being on the ballot.

The board also approved the five members of the Doctrine Committee: John Foster, Bruce Gore, Don Henson, David Johnson, and Ralph Levy.

Members of the Moral and Ethics Assessment Committee (MEAC) are yet to be appointed, and Mr. Franks said that will probably not happen until after the Feast.

He also said that he expects the headquarters office to have a staff of about 8 to 12 people. Clyde Kilough, Dave Evans, Dave Johnson, and Jason Lovelady are members of a task force to study options for a headquarters location and are expected to present their recommendation to Mr. Franks within the next couple of months.

Below is a link to the letter:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Will United Church of God Liberalize Doctrine? - How to Prepare

Is United Church of God getting ready to liberalize doctrine? Some believe that is happening. Some believe that a desire on the part of the current leaders of UCG to liberalize doctrine, to water down the truths of the Bible and of the Church of God, has been an important cause of the split. According to this view, now that the current leaders of UCG have strengthened their power, they will move to change doctrine, to move in the direction of traditional, mainstream Christianity as Mr. Tkach did in Worldwide, slowly and gradually perhaps, but in that direction nevertheless.

I personally do not know if this is true. It might be. There have been clues and hints, but so far no smoking gun that I can identify to prove the case. So this is a hard question for me to answer definitively. And I do not advocate any member of UCG leaving that fellowship just because of rumors that they may change doctrine in the future.

But I can answer how to prepare. If you are a member or attendee of UCG and you want to be protected from wrong doctrines, I think I know how you can prepare. The steps you should take are good steps to take even if doctrinal change does not take place, and they will help you see through any errors if change does take place.

If change comes, there will be a great effort to make the changes appear right. Many scriptures will be used to support the changes. That is how it was in Worldwide. There will be some truth and maybe some error mixed in. One point of truth that is likely to be included is the truth that we are to grow in grace and knowledge and be willing to be corrected by the Bible and learn new knowledge from the Bible. And that is a true and valid principle. UCG teachers may say that members should not be afraid of changes in doctrine if those changes are right and needed, and that is true. They may say that changes should not be rejected just because they are changes and sound different but that we should examine what the Bible says on the subject with an open mind, a mind willing to admit error and be corrected.

Nevertheless, the actual changes themselves might not be right.

So how can a member know? And how can a member be protected from deception in such a case?

This applies not just to members of UCG but all of us Church of God members wherever we may fellowship.

We have to know our Bibles. We have draw close to God in an attitude of meekness, humbleness, and willingness to believe God and the Bible more than man. And we have to put in the time to really study the Bible in an attitude of belief, to prove for ourselves what we believe and what we have been taught. This takes time. It takes time away from TV and entertainment. It is a sacrifice we must make if we want to be on solid ground. This kind of study can't be improvised suddenly at the last minute when you have to make a decision.

Prayer, meditation, and fasting can also help one draw closer to God.

Then if changes come, we will have the overall background in Bible knowledge, not based just on Church of God literature, but based on our own study of the Bible, and we will have the attitude and habit, built up over many months or years, of proving what God says and believing Him. With that attitude and background, we can examine any proposed change in doctrine in the Bible itself, and the Bible, which is God speaking, will tell us if the change in doctrine is true or false.

We have to apply the principles of Bible study that God Himself teaches through the scriptures:

"Test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

" 'Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, you who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you; for I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him' " (Isaiah 51:1-2).

"For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness' " (Romans 4:3).

"And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness' " (James 2:23).

"...just as Abraham 'believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness' " (Galatians 3:6).

"And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness" (Genesis 15:6).

" 'For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,' says the LORD. 'But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word' " (Isaiah 66:2).

"But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:14-16).

"And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:18-19).

"You will say then, 'Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.' Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off" (Romans 11:19-22).

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31).

Notice that Jesus Christ said that faith is a weightier matter of the law. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Matthew 23:23). Faith is more than believing God exists (James 2:19). It means believing what God says. And that is a matter of law, as this passage shows. It is a violation of God's law, one of the three weightier matters of the law, to disbelieve what God says, and therefore since sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4), to disbelieve God is sin. Notice that those who do not believe God will not be in the kingdom of God: "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).

It is a serious matter to refuse to believe the Bible in matters of doctrine. If I understand these scriptures correctly, you could lose your salvation if you disbelieve what God says. We all make mistakes, I do not say any of us will lose salvation because of sincere mistakes. But we better have an attitude that trusts God and His word to be true and is willing to believe God more than man.

There is one more point about being protected from deception, and I make this point in my book Preaching the Gospel. If we want to have God's help to have spiritual discernment so we are not deceived, we better be careful that we do not ourselves deceive others in anything. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7). Don't lie to anyone. In any situation, speak the truth or keep silent, but don't lie. If we lie and deceive others, God may let us become the victims of deception, letting us reap the consequences of what we sow. If you study the life of Jacob, you will see that after Jacob lied to his father to obtain a blessing, God let Jacob suffer many things because of how others lied to him. See Genesis 27:1-35, 29:18-25, 31:7, and 37:31-35. God let Jacob learn the hard way the consequences of lying. There may be a lesson in that.

Something to think about.

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Our Attitude and Approach Towards God's Word, Chapter 1

How to Understand the Bible, Chapter 1

Focusing on the Bible, Chapter 5

The Source of Our Beliefs, Chapter 6

Faith, Chapter 6

How Could Trained and Experienced Ministers Be Deceived?, Chapter 5

Friday, September 2, 2011

Jim Franks is President of COGWA

The COGWA Ministerial Board of Directors has named Jim Franks as president, David Johnson as secretary, and Jason Lovelady as treasurer of COGWA. Here is a link to the announcement from COGWA:

Mr. Franks is a member of the board, and so will have to resign from the board before he takes office as president.

Of all the positions in COGWA, the most powerful is the presidency. The entire board is more powerful in the long run, but no one man of the seven men on the board is as powerful as the president. It is fitting that the most powerful position be filled by one who is judged as most competent and qualified, and since the ministers in electing the seven members of the board presumably voted for those they felt were the most competent and qualified, it is not surprising that the president would be one of the seven board members.

Clyde Kilough, Dave Johnson, Dave Evans, and Jason Lovelady have been named to a task force to research a permanent headquarters location and advise the president.

What still needs to be done is to name five members each of two committees (Doctrine Committee and Moral and Ethics Assessment Committee) and to name operation managers for departments such as ministerial services and media (preaching the gospel). Also, the vacancy on the board that will be created when Mr. Franks resigns to accept the presidency will have to be filled. The board can still operate with six members, but some decisions must be made by a vote of 5 ballots of all board members, so it may be important that the vacancy be filled relatively soon.

Qualifications for membership on the two committees include the requirement of 20 years of service as a minister, and for the Moral and Ethics Committee include the requirements that members be at least 60 years old and not members of the board. Members are nominated by the president and approved by at least five members of the board.

Operations managers are nominated by the president and approved by a simple majority of the board.

The vacancy on the board left when Mr. Franks resigns to become president will be filled by an election by the ministry. There will be two men on the ballot. As I understand it, those two men will be those two who received the most votes in the last election among those who were nominated but were not elected to the board.

To fill all these positions will take a few weeks, so it is understandable if this process goes to around the time of the beginning of the Feast. I would think that Mr. Franks will move quickly to nominate important operation managers and these can be approved by a simple majority vote of the board, which would require four board members voting to approve. Since at least four board members besides Mr. Franks approved his selection as president, it is likely those same board members will approve his recommendations for director of ministerial services, media director, etc. So I think these matters, which may be the most critical for the effective administration of COGWA, will be taken care of quickly.

The requirement that many decisions require approval by five out of seven members of the board will not be a major problem organizationally as long as there is general unity among the ministers in COGWA. Right now, that unity seems to exist. There is an apparent spirit of cooperation. This may be partly because of the recent trial these ministers have gone through together coming out of UCG, as well as a sincere desire on the part of many ministers to behave like Christians. A shared trial can create emotional bonds. But in the long term, if that spirit of unity and cooperation does not continue, it can be a problem. There can be deadlocks.

Suppose that four years from now when new members of the board are elected there is division among those on the new board. Suppose they are divided 4 on one side and 3 on the other on some important issues. How would they appoint a president when his present term expires, either re-electing Mr. Franks or electing a new man? Someone would have to compromise. If the division becomes as sharp as it was in UCG before the split, there could be a deadlock. Probably that won't happen for a long time, but it is a possibility.

But for right now, COGWA seems to be moving ahead with its organization. I expect the next announcements will be about the nomination and approval of the major operation managers or about the election to fill the vacancy on the board left when Mr. Franks resigns to assume the presidency.

More to come...