What's ahead in the world?
The last year and a half have been very eventful in the Church of God. Perhaps the next year will be quiet for the Church. Perhaps the big news in the next 12-14 months will be events in the world. I hope not. That is, I hope there will not be big news in the world. If there is, it is not likely to be positive. But I hope we have quietness and peace in the Church of God for a while. More events must yet happen, but I think we need a break.
There is an election coming in the United States. 2012 will be full of campaigning. That is known. But there are dangers on the horizon.
It really does look like Iran is close to making an atomic bomb. And it really does look like some kind of war with Iran may be close. If such a war comes, oil from the Persian Gulf could be disrupted and diminished, and gasoline prices would jump. That could further hurt a fragile world economy.
How fragile? Will a war crisis break the world economy? We may find out.
The Iran situation has developed slowly for a very long time. A war should be a surprise to no one. It has been much anticipated. What is unknown are the consequences. World history is full of examples of wars that were expected to be short, but turned out to be long. Men do not know ahead of time what war can bring. The whole world is like a trap ready to spring.
I saw some figures recently on the national budget deficit and debt. They were shocking. As much as I knew we have been spending ourselves into ruin, it was still shocking to me. It hit me in the gut. Why haven't we collapsed yet, I asked myself. How can we go on like this, even for another year or two? It truly is "scary" as they say. God's protection and mercy is the only hope of a Christian.
There are a number of interesting posts in Robert Thiel's COGwriter blog. Bob Thiel has posted numerous times about the Iran situation and our national debt. Here is a link to his blog:
The troubles the United States is in as a nation are troubles of our own making. We got ourselves into this mess through our own foolish decisions. Maybe half the country, or less, sees the seriousness of our condition, and the other half is blind to it. But almost no one outside the Church of God understands the true spiritual angle. About half the country sees that we are spending ourselves into oblivion. They see the solution as political. Elect leaders who will be conservative. Cut spending. Reduce the deficit. But they do not see their own sins.
The nation just finished celebrating a winter holiday that is said to represent the birth of Christ, but in actuality represents rebellion against God. Atheists and materialists often observe Christmas in a secular way, while many church-goers keep it for its religious meaning, but neither group seems to know how wrong it is.
About three years ago, the majority of American voters elected a president and Congress that is very "liberal", using the political label. That label represents a collection of views and policies that often come as a package. It includes massive government spending, and that spending is now ruining us. It is setting us up for a fall. The country is in a dilemma. Americans are addicted to a level of government spending far beyond what the government collects in taxes, yet the government cannot raise taxes without hurting the economy that generates those taxes. But members of Congress would be committing political suicide to cut spending as much as it needs to be cut. Every special interest group would say, "not us!" Not enough Americans grasp the need for sacrifice, for personal suffering now to avoid greater suffering later. Or, they see the need for others to sacrifice, but not "me", not "now".
So we drift (or race) into ruin.
Probably, at some point, there will be a severe worldwide economic crisis or collapse, then a recovery. The American economy would suffer the most during the collapse and come back the least during the recovery. When the smoke clears, the United States would be much diminished as a nation. Europe would lead the recovery and become strong.
There is one thing about all this that conservative Americans may see, but the liberals do not. When all our deficit spending catches up with us and we have to pay the price, the price will be have to be paid not just because our nation has elected politicians who massively spend us into debt, but because we have elected politicians who believe in abortion and other obvious immorality. It is the same group of people. In that sense, our own sins will punish us. By voting into office people who stand for allowing women to have abortions for any reason, for allowing men to have civil unions with men and women with women and call it "marriage", for promoting a godless agenda in the educational system, we have also elected into office people who spend government money at such a rate that we bankrupt ourselves. It is the same group of people.
Yet conservatives are not without sin.
While God may allow the liberals to be the instrument of our punishment, the whole nation, liberals and conservatives alike, is guilty.
The whole nation is guilty before God, but the religious segment of our society doesn't see their half of the guilt. I mentioned Christmas. The religious part of our nation thinks it is pleasing God by observing Christmas. I think Christ hates Christmas with a passion because it represents open disobedience towards God and a disrespect and disbelief towards God's word. But few people see that.
We in the Church see it. We know it is wrong because more than seventy years ago Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong started a work to preach the truth he learned from the Bible to the public, and most of us know what we know because he and others sacrificed to "preach the gospel to the world".
We now have the obligation to make the same kind of sacrifice to share that same knowledge with others in the United States who have not heard it before. We have to sacrifice just as Mr. Armstrong and Church of God members sacrificed in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s to get the truth out. If we do not, we become hypocrites if we claim to live by every word of God. The need is more urgent than ever.
That is why I am concerned when a Church of God fellowship so organizes and structures itself that it does not have the money it needs to do more than a very small work of preaching to the public. That can happen because it is overloaded with paid ministers who cannot be laid off because the leadership is committed to protecting their salaries in return for their votes.
Well, perhaps that problem could be solved. Many problems contain seeds of opportunity within them. The opportunity is that such a fellowship, having an abundance of professional ministers on salary, has the manpower to produce much published content in a short amount of time. Articles, booklets, and books can be produced. Then if, IF God chooses to empower that group to do a strong work of warning the United States and other nations, IF the leadership of that fellowship is willing to make hard decisions, then ministerial payroll can be cut, pastors' congregational responsibilities can be consolidated, and money can be freed up to publish and broadcast that content to a wide audience.
I think Church of God a Worldwide Association (COGWA) is on the right track to ask ministers and members to contribute content for preaching the gospel (Link to their announcement: http://members.cogwa.org/news/announcements-for-december-24-2011/). The leadership of that Church is wise to suggest collaboration between pastors who can provide strong content and others who have writing skills to shape and polish that content. They are starting an Internet work because that can be cheap, and right now that is the only way they can start.
If this opportunity is handled wisely, the coming year or two could be a golden era for COGWA in the production of content that can be published or broadcast.
My suggestion is that they use this opportunity to not just write short articles, but to follow that up with longer booklets and books and to write scripts for a TV or radio broadcast, even if the money is not yet available to publish printed literature or to record and broadcast radio or TV programs. Use the window of opportunity for writing while it is open - the money for using it may come later.
Consider also the copyright issue. There has arisen, within all the division within the Church of God, a tradition that is not good. Literature is written by ministers employed by a Church of God organization. That literature is copyrighted by the organization. Then, there is a split, many ministers and members leave that organization to start a new one, but they cannot use their own writings! The organization that has copyrighted them owns the rights and won't give "the other guys" permission to use them.
Yet these books, booklets, and articles really belong to God. They are produced with GOD'S tithe, and that tithe belongs to God. If you pray for God's help and inspiration in the writing and editing of this material, and Christ inspires your writing, He does it for the benefit of those who will read or hear the material, nor your benefit. The material belongs to Christ. It is not just for the benefit of an organization.
So why should its use be restricted?
Why should one Church of God organization use copyright protection to restrain another Church of God organization from using its material to publish the truth of God's word to a world that needs it?
So my suggestion is, consider putting some or all of this new material in the public domain, or consider a policy of allowing other Church of God organizations to use it to preach to the gospel to the world. Or, if you don't do that, consider how you would answer someone who says, "If this material is for the benefit of God's work and is intended to help people, why would you restrain others from getting it out to people so it can do them good?" Or consider how you would answer, "If God is financing and inspiring the writing of this content, doesn't it belong to Christ, and if so, should one Church of God organization prohibit another Church of God organization from publishing it to the world, which is what Christ wants anyway?"
It is a shame to the whole Church of God that we are so divided we cannot share copyrights for the good of new prospective members God is calling who need to know about the truth of God and for the good of the nations that need to be warned about the tribulation to come if they don't repent. And while many leaders in the organized ministry claim to serve Christ, their copyright policy is a witness that they are serving themselves.
The recent split between UCG and COGWA puts a spotlight on this whole issue. If UCG simply gave COGWA permission to use the body of literature copyrighted by UCG, but produced and paid for by many members and ministers now in COGWA, what would be wrong with that? What is the purpose of this material? Is it to help people outside the Church who have not been involved in our Church divisions and infighting? And who does this material belong to? Does it belong to Christ?
Look at Paul's attitude: "Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice" (Philippians 1:15-18). Did you get that? Paul REJOICED when others, even out of a spirit of envy and strife trying to hurt Paul, preached the gospel! Why? Because Paul was serving Christ, not himself. With that kind of love for the gospel, do you think Paul would have denied these people the right to publish his own letters if there were copyright laws in those days? I doubt it.
Come to think of it, COGWA might not really want that permission from UCG. Why? What would COGWA do with it? They do not have the money to publish. Right now, they have an excuse for not spending money on TV, radio, and printed literature and a magazine. "We have to produce content, and that takes time." But what would happen to that excuse if UCG handed them a whole body of literature on a silver platter? They cannot say the content is not sound, because the ministers and members of COGWA helped to produce it when they were in UCG just a short time ago.
I think COGWA would be on the spot. UCG would seem to capture the high ground morally and ethically because they would seem to be showing love towards others by sharing the right to produce the literature. The permission could contain the requirement that the literature would not be edited without the permission of the copyright owner (UCG), except the contact info (Church name and address) would be changed to the publisher who pays the expense of printing and mailing it (COGWA). Authors' names, when included in the literature as published by UCG, could not be removed. But in giving permission, UCG could force COGWA to explain why they are not publishing it.
Actually, LCG could make the same offer to COGWA. The doctrines are mostly the same, except for governance, and Church literature for the public rarely speaks about the governance issue. No major Church of God organization has ever done this. Any Church of God leader with literature compatible with COGWA beliefs could offer COGWA permission, and if he did he might shake things up a bit. What would COGWA say? "We can't publish it because we don't have the money?" Why don't they have the money? "We have too many paid ministers in proportion to our members?" Why do they have too many paid ministers?
I started this post about conditions in the world and prospects for the year ahead, and look where that led. Train of thought. One thought leads to another. Start with the national debt and end with copyright sharing in the Church.
Yet everything ties together. There is a direct connection between events in the Church and events in the world. It is all the same issue. A warning message and the true gospel have to go out as a witness to the American people and people of other nations, especially in Israel. Everyone in the United States should hear a warning so they know that the disaster that is coming is not just because some liberals have been elected but the WHOLE nation, conservatives also, are sinning against God. But the divisions in the Church make it more difficult to get that warning out. Governance is also a part of that same issue, because a governance that makes it hard for a leadership to make tough budget decisions, decisions unpopular with a voting ministry, also makes it harder to find the money to preach a warning message.
The Church of God needs to warn the American people that they are doing wrong and will face the tribulation if they do not repent. They need that warning so they will know God was fair to warn them while they had time to repent, and they need to accept responsibility for ignoring the warning. The more the Church of God follows God's Word, the Bible, in everything including governance, the more effective we can be in getting that warning out.
And if we fail to get the warning out because of our own disbelieve or disobedience, then the blood of the nation is on our own head (Ezekiel 33:1-6).
Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:
The Responsibility of a Watchman, Chapter 3
The Ezekiel Warning, Chapter 3
The Effect of the Holocaust, Chapter 4
My Comments and Conclusion, Chapter 4
The Two Witnesses and God's Fairness, Chapter 4
The Church, Chapter 4
Why the Gospel Must Still Be Preached to the World, Chapter 4
Church Government, Chapter 7
CHAPTER 8 - GOVERNMENT IN THE CHURCH OF GOD