Friday, May 31, 2013

Proof We Have Free Will

Some in mainstream churches have taught the idea that people are predestinated to be saved or lost. We in the Church of God have understood that predestination has to do with when we are called to our opportunity for salvation, not with the choice we will make and whether we will be finally saved or lost (Romans 8:28-30, Ephesians 1:3-12).

Every person ever born has an opportunity for salvation. No one will be permanently lost, condemned to perish forever in the lake of fire, due to circumstances not under his or her control.

We understand that the billions who are not called in this life, who are not drawn to Christ by the Father in this 6,000 year age of man (John 6:44), will have their chance for salvation in the millennium or in the white throne judgment, the general resurrection (Ezekiel 37:1-14, Revelation 20:11-15).

But when a person's chance for salvation comes, whether that person "makes it" or not depends on the choices that person will make. No one is forced to lose out. We all have a chance. We all have free will.

God promises that He will not allow us to be tested or tempted more than we can handle. "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The principle of free choice, free will, free moral agency, is stated in Deuteronomy 30:19-20: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."

Here is a proof text that we all have free will and no one is predestinated or forced by circumstances to be lost. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). God is not willing that ANYONE be permanently lost.

Some, unfortunately, will be lost. "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out" (Luke 13:28). Yet, it is not God's will that any be lost. Now, if it is not God's will that any be lost, yet some will be lost, the only explanation is that those who will be permanently lost will be lost because of their own wrong choices, choices freely made.

Circumstances of birth, of upbringing and environment, of heredity, of all that go into our personality and character before we are called, CANNOT override God's will that we be saved, because the God who created the universe is able to control all circumstances of our lives.

The only thing that can override God's will that we be saved is our own free will and choice. God allows that. It is His will we be saved, but He won't force us to choose rightly. He allows us to be lost if that is what we choose. He won't like it, it's not His will, but He will allow it because He doesn't want robots as sons.

We all have free will and free choice. Each of us can make it, if we do our part. God will do His part and give us all the help we need.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Subject of Pentecost Is an Opportunity for Preaching the Gospel to the World

Pentecost is past, and we are now in that part of the holy day season between the last holy day that has been fulfilled in the history of God's plan for salvation and the next holy day, Trumpets, which is the next day to be fulfilled in the plan of God.

Pentecost represents the gift of the Holy Spirit and the start of the New Testament Church of God. That has happened. The Day of Trumpets is the next holy day in the calendar, and it represents the second coming of Jesus Christ in power and glory to rule the earth. It also represents the resurrection of the saints, the resurrection of the true Church of God. Pentecost represents the start of the first fruits of God's harvest, and the Day of Trumpets represents the completion of the first fruits when we are made immortal, resurrected sons of God. It is those who receive the Holy Spirit, represented by Pentecost, who are in the first resurrection, represented by Trumpets. We are awaiting the fulfillment of Trumpets. We are now in that part of the Holy Day season that represents the Church age we are in now until the return of Christ.

The Day of Trumpets also represents the Day of the Lord, which is part of God's punishment upon this world. Before that is the great tribulation, which falls primarily upon Israel (Jeremiah 30:7).

We have a job to preach the gospel to the world as a witness and to warn Israel of the coming tribulation if Israel does not repent of its sins (Ezekiel 3:16-21, Proverbs 24:11-12, Matthew 24:14).

The subject of Pentecost and what it represents is a good subject for the Church of God to write and speak about when preaching the gospel to the world.

One of the main differences between Church of God doctrine and the doctrine of mainstream churches is our understanding of and observance of God's annual holy days. That is even more important than the weekly Sabbath. Many mainstream, traditional churches understand and accept the idea of keeping a weekly sabbath, though most think it was changed to Sunday. It is in the ten commandments, so for many members of mainstream churches, it is a bit hard to totally ignore. Some, such as Catholics, think it was changed to Sunday. Some, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, actually observe the correct day, the seventh day Sabbath.

But very few observe God's annual holy days and festivals. Yet, they are key.

The annual holy days and festivals of God show God's plan for the salvation of mankind. Most, or all, of the entire true gospel of the kingdom of God and the Ezekiel warning can be taught through the festivals and holy days, yet it is necessary to keep these days and observe them in order to understand that plan because God only gives understanding to those who believe and strive to obey Him.

The annual holy days are also a good point to include in any warning we teach about the nations' need for repentance and the coming punishment if we don't repent. Why? We are to cry aloud and spare not and tell our peoples their sins (Isaiah 58:1). But what sins should we cry aloud about? There is a long list, and as time and resources allow, we can preach about all of them, such as abortion, pornography, idolatry, profaning the weekly Sabbath, lying, adultery, hatred and murder, violence, stealing, taking God's name in vain, injustice, etc. But if resources are limited, what is the most effective point to concentrate on?

The sin of profaning God's annual holy days, His annual sabbaths, may be the most important sin to warn the nation about. Why? Because it is nearly universal, and by warning people about that sin, you warn everyone.

If we had only the time to strongly warn about one sin, which sin would we choose? Abortion?

If you warn about abortion, millions of Catholics will think, "Right on. I'm glad I don't have that sin. I have nothing to repent of."

If you warn about using images in worship, millions of Protestants will say, "Yes, those Catholics need to repent, but I am ok". And if you warn about profaning the seventh day weekly Sabbath, Seventh Day Adventists and Church of God (Seventh Day) members will say, "Good, I am ok, I keep the weekly Sabbath so I don't have anything to repent of - I'm safe from the punishment".

But if you warn our nations that they will go through the tribulation if they don't repent of profaning God's annual sabbaths, His holy days, you have effectively warned nearly everyone as far as major religions and churches and their doctrines are concerned. There are very few outside God's true Church that properly keep Passover, the holy days, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

The holy days are even a better test of a person's willingness to believe and obey God than the weekly Sabbath for the very reason that the command to keep the holy days is not as clear in the Bible as the command to rest on the seventh day. You have to really search the scripture in a spirit of faith in God's word to know God's will in this matter. It is the test that separates the men from the boys, spiritually speaking, more than the weekly Sabbath.

And the holy days and festivals are the key that opens the whole rest of God's truth. They are pivotal.

If we warn Jacob (chiefly the English speaking nations - see Genesis 48:14-16 and Jeremiah 30:7) about the tribulation to come, the time of Jacob's trouble, about their sin of refusing to observe God's annual feasts and holy days, no one will have the excuse, "God didn't warn me."

Pentecost can be a key subject for teaching the holy days and the whole truth of God.

Sometimes to get a point across to people to teach them something new, it helps if you can first establish common ground with them. "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you" (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). See also Acts 17:22-23, 28 and Acts 16:3. Once you have established some credibility by talking about something your audience is familiar with and speaking to them from their point of view, you can then lead them step by step into new knowledge.

Pentecost can be that common ground.

Pentecost is the one annual holy day that mainstream churches accept and observe. I suppose one reason they observe it is because it always falls on a Sunday. Another reason may be that its fulfillment is recorded in the New Testament book of Acts, and its fulfillment is clearly associated with the day itself.

But for whatever reason, traditional, mainstream Christian churches observe and accept Pentecost. They do not understand its full meaning, but they understand part of the meaning. They understand that Pentecost represents the coming of the Holy Spirit and the start of the New Testament Church. They do not fully understand the concept of "first fruits" in the context of God's plan, though they may know the term.

Mainstream churches know that Pentecost means something, and on Pentecost Sunday many of them hear sermons in their churches about Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the founding of the New Testament Church. They do not understand these things perfectly of course - they have a mixture of truth and error - but they have enough truth to give us some common ground with them in speaking about Pentecost.

Pentecost is an example that proves the point that all of the holy days and festivals of God have meaning.

Using Pentecost as a starting point, we can explain the meaning of first fruits, that God is not calling everyone now. We can also show that, just as Pentecost, given to ancient Israel, has meaning for the Church, so the other commanded holy days and festivals have meaning also. We can explain that Passover represents the sacrifice of Christ. Most mainstream churches understand that representation, even though they do not observe Passover - they still know that the Passover lamb represented Christ.

Those two days help to show that the annual days God gave Israel have meaning for Christians. From there we can show that the other annual days, the Days of Unleavened Bread, Trumpets, Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day - days which most members of mainstream churches never heard of before in a Christian context - also have meaning for Christians. From there we can explain from the Bible what the meaning of the holy days are. We can also explain how the weekly Sabbath helps illustrate the 7,000 year plan of God.

Once we have done that, we have preached the whole framework of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning. Anyone who reads or listens that far will have been warned about the tribulation to come.

After that, we can show that these holy days need to be observed. At some point, someone reading may ask themselves, "Why do most churches not understand and teach the meaning of these days?" That question leads to the answer, "Because they do not observe these days as God commands". "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10).

When someone has the opportunity to see the proof that these days need to be kept, he has the opportunity to see his need for repentance and that he needs to keep observe the holy days. Most will reject that - they won't make the sacrifice to obey God, to tell their families and their employers that they have to go to the Feast of Tabernacles, for example.

At that point, they have no excuses. When the tribulation comes upon them, they can remember that they were warned and that they rejected God's word and warning. That will make it easier for them to trust God because they will know that God was fair to give them a warning. It will also make it easier for them to repent because they can accept responsibility for their decision to ignore God's truth and profane His annual holy days. That is better than letting them have the attitude, "God isn't fair, it isn't my fault, no one told me I had to keep these days".

The few whom God is calling in this age can read our teaching about Pentecost and the holy days and respond as God opens their minds to fully understand not only the truth of the Bible but their need to obey. For those few, this decision can be life or death, spiritually speaking. Many of those will accept God's calling and come into the Church.

Pentecost, as a subject for articles, booklets, websites, and TV broadcasts, can be an effective way of preaching the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to members of traditional, mainstream churches.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

We Must Do Our Part to Build God's Church

The book of Haggai has something to say about building God's Church in our time today.

Haggai teaches certain principles, principles that applied during the time of Haggai and can apply at other times as well. There is a passage in Haggai that seems to describe to a "T" the condition of the scattered Church of God today and how we should respond.

You can read the whole book. I will quote a few parts and comment on it. This has to do with Pentecost, because Pentecost is about the Church of God. The Church started on Pentecost. I believe these verses in Haggai can directly relate to the scattered condition of the Church of God today.

Haggai was written after the Jews had gone into captivity and some of them returned to Jerusalem to build the temple again. The prophecy was given in the days of Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest.

"Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: 'This people says, "The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built." ' Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 'Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?' Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways!' " (Haggai 1:2-5).

There is a familiar ring to this. Like the temple at the time of this prophecy, the Church of God today might be said, to a degree, to "lie in ruins". Not totally in ruins, but in ruins compared to what we were before. We are scattered. In Worldwide, under Mr. Armstrong's leadership, we once had a magazine circulation over seven million. All the Churches of God together do not have that today. And we are seriously divided among ourselves. In that sense, the Church lies "in ruins" today. And the temple in the prophecy of Haggai can represent the Church, because we are the temple of God. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Now, if the Church is the temple of God today, and if the Church of God is in a sense in ruins because we are scattered and relatively ineffective compared to our power before we became scattered, then in a real sense God's temple today lies in ruins as it did in the days of the prophet Haggai. And the prophecy of Haggai is not just for the people at that time, but for our learning today.

God wanted the people to build the temple, but they were saying, this is not the time to build the temple. Likewise, today some are saying, this is not the time to preach the gospel, to make disciples, to grow the Church of God. Yet in the days of Haggai, people were building their own houses. They had more love for their own houses and lives than for the house of God.

" 'You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.' Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,' says the Lord. 'You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?' says the Lord of hosts. 'Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands' " (Haggai 1:6-11).

Notice God says, "Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple". Symbolically, mountains can represent nations. This can represent the nations of the world today. God is saying, go to the mountains and get material for building the temple. Going to the mountains and bringing wood can represent going to all nations, preaching the gospel, and making disciples of all nations to build God's spiritual temple today, the Church.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20). Notice, the command to make disciples of all nations and teach them God's way of life continues to the end, because Christ says He will be with us in this to the end of the age.

Then, going on in Haggai: "Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him; and the people feared the presence of the Lord. Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, spoke the Lord’s message to the people, saying, 'I am with you, says the Lord' " (Haggai 1:12-13).

So note these parallels:

Haggai: "Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple".

Matthew: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".

Haggai: "I am with you, says the Lord".

Matthew: I am with you always, even to the end of the age".

But remember, because the people in Haggai's day at first did not give priority to building the temple, God withheld physical blessings from them. Likewise, if we do not give priority to building the Church of God today, God may withhold blessings from us, both physical and spiritual.

But afterwards, once the people repented and worked to build the temple, God gave this message to Haggai: "Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you" (Haggai 2:19).

I have only quoted a few passages, but I encourage you to read the whole book of Haggai. It is a short book, only two chapters, but it is rich in meaning for the Church of God today.

Christ started the New Testament Church of God on the day of Pentecost by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit. But the building of the Church, the spiritual temple of God, continues today. We have a work to do to do our part to help finish it.

How can we do this? With our prayers, our service, and our tithes and offerings.

The day of Pentecost is one of the opportunities we have to give an offering. Let's show God that we have greater love for building His spiritual temple, His house, than for building our own houses.

"Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?" (Haggai 1:4).

Friday, May 17, 2013

We Need the Holy Spirit to Overcome Our Sins

As we struggle to overcome our carnal nature, we learn lessons. One lesson is, we cannot, of our own human power alone, overcome Satan and our sinful nature. We need God's help, and that help comes through God's Holy Spirit. We still need to make our own effort and strive with all our might (Judges 16:29-30), but it is God's Spirit that gives us the extra power we need to overcome.

The Holy Spirit helps us understand God's word. It helps us understand how to apply God's word to the decisions and choices we have to make. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26). "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For 'who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). The Holy Spirit can help us see through our own rationalizations and see ourselves as we really are. It can give us the motive to desire God's will more than our own.

Yet, our evil, carnal nature remains with us in this physical life and wages war against God's Spirit in our minds, tempting us to sin. "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish" (Galatians 5:17). "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin" (Romans 7:14-25).

As this war goes on in our minds over a long time, we learn more and more how evil and worthless our fleshly nature is, and how worthless we are apart from God.

No man or woman can be truly righteous apart from God's Spirit. It is God's Spirit in us that is righteous. All we can do is to choose to go where the Holy Spirit leads us.

This can be a humbling lesson to learn, but God wants us to learn that humility. "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:10-14).

It is only the power of God's Holy Spirit, added to our personal effort, that enables us to please God and live according to His will. "Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

Here are links to other posts in this blog related to Pentecost:

"Pentecost is Unique", published June 7, 2011, link:

"Pentecost Should Remind Us to Be Thankful", published June 9, 2011, link:

"Pentecost Helps Us Understand What the True Church Is", published May 14, 2013, link:

"Pentecost Teaches Hierarchy", published May 15, 2013, link:

"Lack of Controversy about Holy Spirit in New Testament Text - What That Tells Us", published May 16, 2013, link:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lack of Controversy about Holy Spirit in New Testament Text - What That Tells Us

Traditional churches teach that God is a trinity and that the Holy Spirit is a person. But if this was the teaching of the first century Church, why do we not read of controversy with the Jews about the nature of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament books of Acts and the epistles?

The Jews knew the Holy Spirit, also called the Spirit of God, exists. There are references to the Spirit of God in the Old Testament. Here are some examples.

"The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2).

"And Pharaoh said to his servants, 'Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?' Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you' " (Genesis 41:38-39).

"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship" (Exodus 31:1-5).

"As they were going down to the outskirts of the city, Samuel said to Saul, 'Tell the servant to go on ahead of us.' And he went on. 'But you stand here awhile, that I may announce to you the word of God' " (1 Samuel 9:27). "Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man" (1 Samuel 10:6). "So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them" (1 Samuel 10:9-10).

"Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded. And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: 'Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you' " (2 Chronicles 15:1-3).

"The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life" (Job 33:4).

"Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah" (1 Samuel 16:13).

"Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:11).

The Jews understood that the Spirit of God was God's mind and power in action, just as we understand it today in the Church of God, but not a person, like a third person of a trinity, as traditional, mainstream churches believe today.

The early Church must have understood the truth about the nature of God and whether the Spirit of God is a person distinct from God the Father and Jesus Christ, as today's mainstream churches teach, or the power of God that comes from God, as the Jews believed. And if the first century Church taught that the Holy Spirit is a person, that would have created as great a controversy with the Jews as the teaching that Jesus Christ is God. Yet we see no evidence in New Testament writings that there was any controversy between the Church and the Jews about the Holy Spirit.

But there was plenty of controversy about Jesus Christ.

The Jews thought of God as one person. Any teaching that Jesus Christ, a person distinct from God the Father, was also God, came across to the Jews as teaching that there is more than one God, which would have been idolatry. We understand that the Father and Christ are two persons but one God, that is, one God family. But the Jews would never accept the concept of one God but more than one person who is God.

That same difficulty for the Jews would appear if the early Church taught that the Holy Spirit was a person, distinct from God the Father, yet also God. That would have seemed to the Jews to be just as much a teaching of multiple gods as teaching that Jesus is God, and they would have labeled it idolatry and heresy.

Why do we read of no controversy about the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts or the epistles? There was no controversy because the original, first century Church did not change the doctrine of the Jews that the Spirit of God is the power of God by which He acts in His creation, an understanding they got from the Old Testament.

The lack of controversy between the Jews and the first century Church about the nature of the Holy Spirit is one more point of evidence that the early Church did NOT teach that the Holy Spirit is a person, and therefore did not teach that God is a trinity.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

God's Purpose for Mankind, Chapter 2

The Holy Spirit, Chapter 2

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pentecost Teaches Hierarchy

As with the other feast and holy days, Pentecost has many lessons to teach.

Many people outside the Church of God do not understand why God requires that we observe the holy days. But God is in the business of shaping our character and teaching us lessons. God is the great Teacher, and He uses physical means to teach spiritual lessons. Each feast and holy day can teach us lessons.

One of the lessons of Pentecost is that only the first fruits are being called to salvation in this age, and that in turn teaches the lesson of hierarchy in God's kingdom.

The majority of mankind is not being called to salvation at this time. God is not trying to save or convert the world right now. He wants mankind to experience the full effect of Satan's way of life for 6,000 years so there will be no doubt that Satan's way does not work.

But God is calling a few now to salvation to prepare them to rule the earth with Christ in the millennium and beyond. Those few are us, those in God's true Church.

We have a harder test and trial than the majority of mankind will have when their opportunity for salvation comes during the millennium or the white throne judgment period. We have to overcome Satan now in this life, but Satan will be put away at the beginning of the millennium, and those who are called later will not have to struggle against his influence as we do.

But we who overcome Satan in this life, the first fruits represented by Pentecost, will also have greater rewards and higher positions in the kingdom of God. We will rule with Christ on His throne.

"And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations" (Revelation 2:26).

"To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Revelation 3:21).

"So Jesus said to them, 'Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel' " (Matthew 19:28).

"Then came the first, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned ten minas.' And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.' And the second came, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned five minas.' Likewise he said to him, 'You also be over five cities' " (Luke 19:16-19).

There will be hierarchy and organization in the kingdom of God. We will not all be at the same level of authority. The Church is a model. Just as there are different positions or ranks of authority in the Church (Ephesians 4:11-17, 1 Corinthians 12:27-28), so it will be in the kingdom of God.

Pentecost, by teaching us that there are first fruits today who will rule over mankind in the millennium, is a reminder of the lesson of hierarchical government and organization in God's kingdom.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Pentecost - the Gift of the Holy Spirit, Chapter 2

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pentecost Helps Us Understand What the True Church Is

When speaking about the Church of God, the term "church" can mean different things depending on the context.

Sometimes "church" can mean an organized fellowship. Each has a unique name, usually made of the phrase "Church of God", plus some descriptive qualifier to set it apart from other organized fellowships that also call themselves "Church of God". So you have "Living Church of God", "United Church of God", "Church of God, a Worldwide Association", etc. Often, each organization is also incorporated, so the name of the fellowship is also the name of a corporation, as in the preceding three examples.

So in that context, "church" can mean a particular organized fellowship among many other organized fellowships, not the whole Church of God.

But "church" can also mean the spiritual body of Christ, the whole collective body of those who have God's Holy Spirit dwelling in their minds. When used in this context, there is only one true Church of God.

It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the mind of a man or woman that makes that person a true Christian in God's sight and a member of God's one true Church. "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you" (Romans 8:9-11).

Pentecost reminds us of this. The Feast of Pentecost represents the gift of God's Holy Spirit and the actual start of the New Testament Church of God, for it was on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples who first made up the Church.

"If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:15-18).

"If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:23-26).

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7).

"And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, 'which,' He said, 'you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now' " (Acts 1:4-5).

"When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:1-4).

"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14).

Mr. Armstrong correctly taught that the true Church of God is not an organization but the collective body of those who have God's Holy Spirit dwelling in their minds. As I remember it, he used the example on the radio of a congregation of 100 people, 99 of whom have the Holy Spirit and are therefore converted and one does not. In that case, the 99 are truly members of the Church of God while the one not converted is not, though he attends the same congregation with the 99 who are converted. Or, you might have 99 who are not converted and one who is converted because he has the Holy Spirit. In that case, the one is a member of the Church while the 99 are not.

It is the Holy Spirit that begets us to immortal, spirit life making us sons and daughters of God (2 Corinthians 6:18).

It is the body of Christ, the collective body of those who have God's Holy Spirit dwelling in their minds, that Jesus Christ is the head of. "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23). "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18).

That body of Christ is certainly organized, as Mr. Armstrong taught, but it is not necessarily restricted to one fellowship. It is organized because Christ is the head and He has placed different persons in different positions (Ephesians 4:11-16, 1 Corinthians 12:27-28).

Does Christ, as head of the Church, supervise and lead each member individually and directly, or does He lead the members through the apostles, evangelists, and ordained ministry? It can be either, depending on the kind of decisions being made, and sometimes neither.

In matters of personal salvation, our relationship with God, our faith, and our obedience to God's law, Christ leads each converted Christian directly - minister or lay member, man or woman - it doesn't matter. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). The ministry does not stand between us and God in matters of faith. "Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand" (2 Corinthians 1:24). Each of us is being judged individually by Christ. It is in this context that we must sometimes obey God rather than man when there is a conflict, even if that man is a minister or leader in the Church of God (Acts 5:29).

But in the decisions regarding the organized work of the Church such as determining official doctrine to teach, preaching the gospel to the world, feeding the flock, administering aid to the poor in the Church, resolving disputes between brethren, etc., Christ primarily leads us through the human leadership and ordained ministry He has established in the Church.

And in matters of family decisions, such as child discipline, Christ leads the wife, not through the ministry, nor primarily directly, but through the husband, who is the head of the family. "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Ephesians 5:22-24).

I wrote about this in more detail in my book, Preaching the Gospel. Please read the section, "Organization of the Church and Limitations on the Authority of the Ministry", in chapter eight, "Government in the Church of God". I provide diagrams I am not reproducing here. Link:

It is important to keep in mind how the word "church" is used, because if we are not careful, the distinction between the whole Church of God and a particular fellowship can become blurred in our minds. There is a difference, for example, between leaving a Church of God fellowship and leaving the whole Church of God, that is, abandoning the truth and losing the Holy Spirit. When you hear or read a minister say, "don't leave the Church", is he talking about the particular fellowship the minister is in or the whole Church of God? You have to keep the distinction in mind even if the minister doesn't make the distinction clear in his speaking or writing. Most ministers do not mind if you leave a different fellowship to become part of the fellowship the minister represents, but he usually doesn't want members of his own fellowship to leave to go to a different Church of God fellowship.

In our obedience to God, Christ leads each of us individually, and Christ leads us primarily through the Bible and through the Holy Spirit helping us understand the Bible and how to apply it to the choices and decisions we have to make.

Here are links to other posts on this subject in this blog:

"The 501(c)(3) Issue", published February 4, 2013, link:

"Should a Church of God Fellowship Be Incorporated?", published July 3, 2011, link:

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Organization of the Church and Limitations on the Authority of the Ministry, Chapter 8

How Is the Church Organized?, Chapter 7

A Brief History of the Scattering of the Church, Chapter 5

The Source of Our Beliefs, Chapter 6

Faith, Chapter 6

Can We Make an Idol out of a Man or Church?, Chapter 6

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Update on Drought

In a post I published July 19, 2012 titled, "We Should Pray for Rain", I said that we should pray that God gives the United States more rain to help alleviate the drought. Here is a link to that post:

Much of the United States is still in drought, but conditions have improved in the last four months because of the abundance of rain and snow much of the country has had. We are still in drought because it takes time for moisture to be replenished in the soil, but there has been substantial improvement.

Here are figures from the United States Drought Monitor for conditions May 7, 2013 compared with January 1, 2013, a little more than four months. I have rounded percentage figures to the nearest percent. Figures are for the whole United States.

The amount of the country that is free from drought has increased from 29% to 44%.

Abnormally dry or worse drought areas have decreased from 71% to 56% of the area of the entire United States.

Moderate or worse drought areas have decreased from 51% to 41%.

Severe or worse drought areas have decreased from 35% to 28%.

Extreme or worse drought areas have decreased from 18% to 12%.

Exceptional drought areas have decreased from 6% to 4%.

Here is a link to the table in the Drought Monitor site where I got these figures today, May 12, 2013:

Here is a link to the Drought Monitor home page which gives maps of where the drought is located:

Here is a link to an animation showing the change in the drought map over 12 weeks:

A video about the drought in the Weather Channel's site seems somewhat misleading to me. For some reason, they keep comparing current figures with figures from a year ago to show how much worse things are. But a year ago the United States was not in a bad drought yet. They are not showing the positive progress over the last three months. Also, they focus on particular areas where drought has gotten worse but not on areas where drought has lessened. It is my impression they are painting an overly negative picture - I don't know why they would do that. I found nothing in this video that mentions the overall improvement over the last three months. For this link, you may have to scroll down to find the video on "The Latest on Drought":

This is not a direct link to the video, so over time their videos on this page will change. If you read this post several weeks from now, the video I refer to may be gone or replaced.

I give thanks to God for the improvement in drought conditions that have occurred over the last three months. But we still need more rain, especially in the southwest.

Drought can reduce crop yields and hurt the American economy. A time will come when God will use weather to severely punish the United States, either shortly before or during the great tribulation. "I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze" (Leviticus 26:19). God can bring this country down by withholding the rain.

But there is a pattern God seems to follow. Before He punishes, He warns. He has given the Church of God the job of warning the people of the United States, but few have heard that warning. We have not finished the job of getting that warning out, and the warning should come first before the punishment so the people know that God was fair to warn them. There are millions of members of traditional churches that are religious and think they are serving and obeying God and don't know they are doing wrong in their traditional practices. The punishment is for them too, but they need a warning first.

Until that warning goes out to everyone, I pray that God will protect and bless the United States and protect our economy and our freedoms so the Church of God can get that warning out and the true gospel with increasing power.

I continue to pray that God will give us more rain in the areas that need it.

On the subject of weather and climate, I found this article interesting. It is titled, "Climate Scientists Struggle to Explain Warming Slowdown". Apparently, global warming is not occurring as fast as scientists thought it would. Link:

Here is a related post in this blog titled, "Good News - Snow and Rain Reduce Drought Conditions", published March 5, 2013. The videos that post links to are no longer available though. Link:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Should Church of God Members Wear Crosses?

From time to time, the question of wearing crosses comes up with some members in the Church of God. Should members of God's Church permit themselves to wear crosses?

We know we are not to use images of God in our worship to help us visualize what God might look like, as an "aid" to worship (Exodus 20:4-6). But one might argue, a cross does not have to have an image of Christ on it. It can just be a decorative cross, intended to look beautiful and decorative, but not intended to be an object of worship or an aid to worship.

Yet, a cross is a symbol. It represents something. Before you consider wearing a cross, you have to understand what it represents and why it represents it.

Consider the swastika, which was adopted by Adolf Hitler as a symbol of the Nazi party. Would you wear a swastika as a decoration? Probably not. Why? Even if you thought it is decorative, you would not likely display or wear it because you do not agree with what it represents. The Nazi swastika represents Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party that ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945 and brought horrific death, destruction, and misery to millions during World War II.

The swastika represents the Nazi party and all that it stands for. Why? How did it come to represent Nazism?

Adolf Hitler, as leader of the Nazi party, chose the swastika as a symbol of the Nazi party in its early years and kept it as a symbol as long as the Nazi party existed through all of World War II.

He used it as a symbol and displayed it everywhere until everyone in Germany, and in much of the world, recognized it as a symbol of the Nazi party.

In other words, it came to represent the Nazi party and Nazi thinking and way of life through common usage. Because the Nazis used it extensively, it came to represent them as a symbol, until everyone in Germany, whether in agreement with the Nazis or not, associated the swastika with the Nazis. When people saw the swastika, they thought, Nazi. It became an automatic association.

Likewise, through common usage, the cross has come to symbolize something, to represent something in the minds of people who see it. What does it represent? The cross represents traditional, mainstream Christianity, and all of its teachings. Not the Christianity of the Bible and the first century Church of God. But the Christianity of the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, and most Protestant churches.

It represents a religion, or collection of religions, that teach that God is a trinity, that man has an immortal soul, that those who live and die without being saved in this age will be tormented forever in hellfire, that Sunday is the day Christians should rest and assemble for worship, and many other errors.

You might think of a cross as decorative only. But others see it as a symbol. By wearing or displaying it, you declare your agreement with what it represents to most people who see it. If you wear it, you are voicing your agreement with what it represents: the traditional beliefs of the mainstream churches of this world.

Is that what you want?

If the cross had never been used as a symbol of the beliefs of the churches of this world, you might use it decoratively, just as you might use many geometric forms that do not symbolize or represent anything.

But that is not the case. The cross is a symbol just as the Nazi swastika is a symbol. Those images represent the beliefs and ways of life of those groups that have adopted those geometric forms to represent them and their beliefs.

We in the Church of God understand God's truth which He has given us, and we should not wear symbols of the beliefs, traditions, and practices that we know are false.

That is one reason (not necessarily the only reason) why we in the Church of God should not wear or display crosses.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

David Barrett's Book About the Breakup of Worldwide Church of God

The Fragmentation of a Sect: Schism in the Worldwide Church of God, by David V. Barrett, is a book about the breakup of Worldwide Church of God. David Barrett is a sociologist of religion with no connection to the Church of God who has studied and written a number of books about religious movements. In this book, he analyzes the human processes of decision making in the breakup of Worldwide to understand and learn lessons about how a Church group can change after the death of its leader.

I have not read the book, and I have only skimmed some of the reviews and descriptions. Yet I can say that there is not a snowball's chance in hell that a sociologist, not a member of the Church of God, will correctly understand the causes and processes of the breakup of Worldwide Church of God. I have nothing personal against the author. I am sure he is a sincere man and he may be a very competent researcher and analyst. If he chose other church groups for his study, his interpretation of events and conclusions might be right on the mark. But Worldwide Church of God is a bad choice of model to understand how human beings normally act in a situation when the leader of their group dies and a new leader makes changes to the group.

Worldwide might seem like a good model for such a study. The events that happened there were extreme. Few if any religious groups have undergone change in doctrine of the magnitude that occurred in Worldwide in about one decade after the death of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. It was an interesting situation, and it is easy to study because there is so much material readily available. But there is something unique about it that makes it a bad choice for study by anyone who is not a member of the Church of God. The causes of the events that took place cannot be well understood by anyone outside the Church of God.

The reason is simple. Such studies, made by scholars and experts outside the Church, by their nature, leave God out of the picture. I do not mean they leave the concept of and belief in God out of their study. They know about people's beliefs. But they do not know God. They do not know God's plan for mankind. They do not know that the Bible is inspired by God, and even if they know that, they do not understand and believe the Bible.

And God Himself was deeply involved in the Worldwide Church of God and the events in the growth of that Church and in its breakup, and God has been involved in the groups that have come out of Worldwide. And if you do not understand how God, through His Holy Spirit, influenced and guided converted ministers and members in their decisions, you are not going to understand what happened in Worldwide. It would be like trying to understand how an automobile moves without knowing anything about an internal combustion engine or even that such an engine exists.

The breakup of Worldwide was not an ordinary human event, but something different, maybe not unique in Church of God history over 2,000 years, but certainly different from the usual main course of human organizations.

There was a spirit war going on in Worldwide in the decade after Mr. Armstrong's death, and if you don't understand that, you can't understand the causes of the breakup of Worldwide and the scattered condition of the Church of God today. Spiritual influences were at work in the decisions human beings made. Some in Worldwide did what they did because they were being led by the Holy Spirit of God and some did what they did because they were inspired by a different spirit. Without conversion and a deep understanding of the Bible, outside scholars cannot help missing the true causes and motivating factors in what took place.

God's Holy Spirit led converted members to make certain choices, and Satan and his demons led others to make different choices. This world's sociologists and scholars do not understand that. It isn't taught in their sociology courses they studied in colleges and universities.

"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

David Barrett may be a very competent scholar, researcher, sociologist, and writer, but he doesn't have a hope of understanding the breakup of Worldwide because he is trying to analyze it from a human, materialist point of view, how human beings react to organizational change and division in religious bodies, but he doesn't understand the spiritual dimension of what was happening.

The messages to the seven churches in Revelation (chapters 2 and 3) show a progression of eras in the true Church of God from the time Revelation was written about 1,900 years ago until now. The Philadelphian era of God's Church started with Mr. Armstrong, and as promised in the message to Philadelphia, God gave Mr. Armstrong and the Radio Church of God, later renamed Worldwide Church of God, an open door, and that is the reason why Mr. Armstrong and the Church grew so powerfully while Mr. Armstrong was alive. It was God's blessing and intervention that did it. God performed miracles to cause the growth. God also opened Mr. Armstrong's mind to understand new doctrinal knowledge from the Bible. It was Christ, as head of the Church, who gave Mr. Armstrong and the Church the open door as He promised in Revelation 3:8. It was Christ who did the work through Mr. Armstrong, not Mr. Armstrong doing the work by his own human ability. How can an outsider understand that?

Yet, as Mr. Armstrong probably observed when he said that many of us just didn't "get it", many of the members of the Church were drifting into the Laodicean condition, which was the condition of the next and last era of the Church of God. Not only that, but there were probably many unconverted tares among us, as Christ talked about in His parable (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). So once the majority of even the converted members was Laodicean, Christ did what He said He would do in Revelation 3:16 - He vomited us out of His mouth. Christ led Mr. Armstrong to name a successor that Christ knew would not keep the true doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught from the Bible, but would get rid of those doctrines and steer the Church towards mainstream Christianity, which was not the true Christianity of the original, first century Church of God. And that is what happened. As a result, the converted membership of the Church of God was tested. And we were scattered because we were not zealous for God as we should have been. That scattered condition remains because we are in the Laodicean era and the majority of us are in the Laodicean condition. The physically scattered condition we see in the Churches of God is a reflection and result of our spiritual condition as described in Revelation 3:15-20: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked - I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me".

A sifting and separating has taken place and continues to take place. We in the Church of God are being tested and judged by the great God who created the universe. He is working out His plan to reproduce Himself in mankind, and that requires that He build His holy, righteous character in us, His firstfruits. God has created the circumstances to force us to make choices, to separate those who believe and serve God from those who do not, yet while giving us time to repent and become zealous so that more of us can be saved.

How can an outsider, who is not trained in God's word but in this world's university system, understand that?

Even we in the Church of God, we who are supposed to understand the Bible and have God's Holy Spirit, we who have lived through it, only partly understand exactly what happened and why. "For we know in part and we prophesy in part" (1 Corinthians 13:9).

If you want a secular view of what happened to God's Church in the 1980s and 1990s, ascribing every effect to a material cause, with spirit forces such as God and Satan left out of the picture, this book might be an interesting read. But it won't help you understand the real reasons it happened, nor how it happened. And it may be a poor model for even the world to study if it wants to understand how normal, human religious groups typically change and divide when a leader dies.

For a related post on this subject, see
"Did Christ Choose Joseph Tkach?", published March 12, 2013, link:

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

A Brief History of the Scattering of the Church, Chapter 5

Sunday, May 5, 2013

How Should We Prepare to Resist Satan's Deceptions?

We know that Satan is the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, Revelation 20:7-10, Revelation 20:2-3). We know that a great worldwide deception is coming with the beast and false prophet and with great signs and wonders (Revelation 13:4-17, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). We know we are warned to be careful that we ourselves are not deceived (Matthew 24:4-14, 24-25).

We are also to bear witness to the truth and preach the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world (Matthew 24:14, Ezekiel 3:16-21, 33:1-11, Proverbs 24:11, Isaiah 58:1, Matthew 28:18-20, Revelation 12:11).

How should we prepare to meet, to resist, and to counter Satan's deceptions? How should we prepare to answer his lies?

Should we study Satan's prophecies in order to know what lies he will tell so we can prepare to answer him? Should we study pagan prophecies to know how he will twist things so we can prepare an answer that will show the fallacies of what he will teach?

We play a dangerous game if we think we can know or "figure out" what lies Satan will teach based on ancient pagan prophecies and then prepare our answers based on those prophecies. For that may be exactly what Satan wants us to do.

It is an old trick. Make the enemy think you are going to attack at one point, then come at him from a different direction. The United States, Great Britain, and Canada did this with the 1944 invasion of Europe in World War II. We made Hitler think we would land our armies in the Pas of Calais. Instead, we landed at Normandy.

Satan may teach lies based on past pagan prophecies or he may deceive the world with entirely new and different lies. Do we want to play the game of trying to oursmart him about the details of how he will deceive the world by studying his prophecies, contrary to God's instructions in Deuteronomy 13:1-3, Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:9-14, and Leviticus 20:6?

There is a better way to prepare ourselves to resist Satan's lies and to show the fallacies of his lies to the world.

We are to study the truth of God's word, the Bible, and make it a part of us. Our faith in God's word will protect us from Satan's lies, and our knowledge of God's truth and the Bible will prepare us to preach the truth to the world and give an answer to those who question us. It is the truth that protects us, and it is the truth we should study and believe and live.

"I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth" (John 17:15-19).

"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple" (Psalm 19:7).

"But He answered and said, 'It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" ' " (Matthew 4:4).

"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 3:14-17). Notice that the word of God can make us complete, and thoroughly equipped for every good work. That doesn't sound like we need Satan's prophecies to be completely equipped to do God's work.

"If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken)..." (John 10:33).

" '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).

Jesus Christ is the word of God in person. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1-2). "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). "He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God" (Revelation 19:13). The Bible is the Word of God in print. We are to feed on Christ, the Word of God, till His words abide in us. "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7). "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me" (John 6:57). We are to study the Bible, regularly read it from cover to cover, spend more time with Bible study, prayer, fasting, and meditation than with TV, movies, and games. Then, when a situation comes up where we have to know how to apply God's word to make a decision or to know what to answer, the Holy Spirit will help bring to remembrance the things we have read and studied. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26). "But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit" (Mark 13:11).

Bible study combined with godly faith and obedience is the defense agaist Satan's deceptions, not studying Satan's prophecies.

We must prove what we believe from the Bible and believe and obey God's word more than men, more than tradition, and more than our opinions and human desires. If we do that, God will give us the wisdom to know how to answer any lies that Satan comes up with.

Look at our past experience. When we were in Worldwide, who went along with the changes and who stayed faithful to the truth? And how did those who stayed faithful to the truth accomplish that? By studying false prophecies and doctrines? I don't think so.

Did those who went along with the changes do so because they proved the truth from the Bible and believed and obeyed the Bible? I think not. Rather, those who never did prove the truth in the Bible were the ones most likely to be deceived. Those who studied and obeyed God's word in an attitude of faith and who PROVED the truth from the Bible, and who had built the habit and character of always looking to the Bible for answers, were never in danger. They didn't resist deception by studying Catholic or Protestant theology. They resisted deception by knowing the Bible.

The man who reads Deuteronomy 13:1-3, Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:9-14, and Leviticus 20:6 and fears God and His word enough to obey these passages by avoiding non-biblical prophecies is safer from Satan's deceptions than the man who has so little respect for God's word that he disobeys those passages and studies pagan prophecies to try to know Satan's deceptions ahead of time. Why? No man by his own strength alone is able to resist Satan's deceptions, but only the man whose spiritual strength is from God will be able to resist Satan's deceptions, and God helps those who obey Him. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10). "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). How can a man who lives by every word of God and trembles at God's word ignore Deuteronomy 13:1-3, Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:9-14, and Leviticus 20:6?

Christ in the temptation in the wilderness countered Satan's temptations, not because he knew Satan's prophecies, but because He knew the scriptures (Matthew 4:1-10). His defense was the word of God and His faith in that word.

Some may justify reading pagan prophecies by quoting this passage and similar ones: "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is" (Mark 13:33). "And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!" (Mark 13:37). "Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times" (Matthew 16:3). But "watching" primarily refers to staying spiritually alert and close to God. Notice this passage: "Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, 'Sit here while I go and pray over there.' And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, 'My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.' He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, 'O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.' Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, 'What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak' " (Matthew 26:36-41). What kind of "watching" was Christ talking about? What kind of watching did He want His disciples to do? Watch world news on TV? Go to the public square or marketplace to hear what is going on in other parts of the world? No, they could not go to where world news was being discussed because Jesus said, "stay here". Besides, Jesus was not trying to hear world news. He was praying. That was the kind of "watching" Christ wanted His disciples to do. He wanted them to pray, to seek God, to be spiritually alert and aware.

There are certainly signs of the times we can be aware of, and this can include world news as well as history. But it does not include studying and learning about that which God has forbidden, that is, the occult and demon inspired prophecies.

Some may justify using pagan prophecy because Paul used pagan writings. "Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you....for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring' " (Acts 17:23-28). "One of them, a prophet of their own, said, Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.' This testimony is true" (Titus 1:12-13). But there is a big difference between pagan writings and pagan prophecies about the future. There is a big difference between ordinary opinion writing from non-Christian authors, and non-Christian writing claimed to be inspired by the spirit world, claiming to predict the future beyond what human opinion and reasoning can guess or estimate. Paul refers to a statement by pagan poets, but that is not the same as going to the occult, to demon-inspired prophecies about the future. Nor is the statement about Cretans a pagan prophecy - it is simply a human observation, though it is made by one who is called one of their prophets. Likewise, today we are free to read newspapers, editorials, history, poetry, etc. - but not the occult, magic, demonism, witchcraft, astrology, and demonic-inspired prophecies about the future. If the pope makes a speech against abortion, it is not wrong to listen to it. If he makes a speech against big business, likewise, it is not wrong to read it. But if a religious leader claims to have a vision from God, a dream, or some spirit speaking to him, revealing the future, but we know that man does not believe and follow the Bible, we should not study or spread his "prophecy".

Some say this passage justifies reading Satan-inspired prophecy: "...lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11). Let's look at the whole passage to get the context. "But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). Notice the plural of the word "device". Satan has more than one device, he has devices. And Paul said that he and the Corinthians were not ignorant of Satan's devices. They knew about them, no doubt from Paul's instructions and from their experience fighting temptations.

What was the particular device or devices that Paul is warning about? It was something Satan could use to take advantage of the Corinthians, that is, cause them to sin. What was that device? Paul just instructed the Corinthians to forgive the one who had sinned and repented. If they refused to do so, they would make themselves vulnerable to Satan's devices. Lack of forgiveness would be one. God will only forgive the Corinthians as they forgive others. "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15). Satan accuses the brethren day and night before God (Revelation 12:10). If the Corinthians refused to forgive, they would give Satan something to accuse them of. Satan could say before God, "They refuse to forgive, so how can You forgive them?" By harboring resentment, they distance themselves from God and weaken the influence of the Holy Spirit in their minds, leaving them open to more of Satan's influence and temptations to sin. By focusing too much on the faults of one person, they would tend to compare themselves with that person, thinking they are better than he, and would not examine and humble themselves and continue to work on their own faults as they should (2 Corinthians 10:12, 13:5). Moreover, the effect on the person who repented but was not forgiven by the congregation would also be damaging. He could be discouraged and feel that God had rejected him, and that feeling of discouragement could tempt him to return to the same kind of sin, feeling, "What's the use?" Those are some of Satan's devices Paul could have been talking about.

But Satan has many devices. Here is another one.

Satan can try to cause someone to compromise with God's law and God's instructions, God's word, just a little bit. It can be in the spirit or the letter. He can help the person justify it by putting the suggestion in his mind that it will do good in the end. He will think he is helping someone by compromising with God's law. Maybe he can help God's work that way, he thinks.

Examples: If I lie to that person, I will protect his or her feelings, and that is good. Or, if I fudge my timesheet a little bit at work to get paid more, I will have more money for an offering for God's work. Or, if I use a little bit of foul language at work, I can get along better with the other people and they will accept me, then sometime I may be able to teach them God's truth. Or, if look at a picture of Jesus when I pray, that will better help me to visualize Him and God will seem more real to me, and that will help me to pray and get closer to God.

Or, if I study pagan prophecies, prophecies inspired by Satan, contrary to God's instructions to avoid that kind of thing, I will have a better understanding of how Satan will deceive the world later, and I can prepare myself and others in the Church with answers to his lies. Moreover, if I teach pagan prophecies, I will get more attention from the people in the world who find that kind of stuff fascinating, and I can use that attention to preach the true gospel to them.

There are a thousand and one justifications Satan can pump into our minds for a hundred and one little compromises with God's law and way of life.

But if we yield to this device of Satan, what we don't see is that a little bit of compromise sets us up for bigger sins later. When we sin, even a little bit, we weaken the influence of God's Holy Spirit in our minds. We might "grieve" or "quench" God's Spirit that way (Ephesians 4:30, 1 Thessalonians 5:19). When we sin, we draw farther from God, and we are weaker spiritually, thus less able to resist more of Satan's temptations. When we compromise a little bit, we damage our conscience and we are more likely to compromise more in the future (1 Timothy 4:2). We build the habit of compromise. Sin leads to more sin. Sin, even a little sin, affects our minds and damages our character. Sin, like leaven, grows (1 Corinthians 5:6, Galatians 5:9).

When we compromise with God's law, we open the door for Satan, maybe just a crack, but that is all he needs. From there, he can push the door open wider as he leads us to sin more and more. Former alcoholics understand the mental process involved. For some of them, just one small drink can open the door, and it can be downhill from there.

How should we prepare to be ready to give an answer and to give a defense for what we believe (1 Peter 3:15)? We do it through Bible study, believing God's word, proving the things we believe from the Bible, and striving to live the truth day by day. Then we can trust God to help us remember the scriptures we need to know the truth and to give an answer when the need comes (John 14:26, Mark 13:11). That is how Jesus answered Satan's temptations (Matthew 4:1-10). That is how faithful members responded to the changes made in Worldwide after the death of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. Not by reading pagan prophecies.

"Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1). Could this be a prophecy about someone we know?

How foolish we are if we think we can escape being deceived by "doctrines of demons" by "giving heed" to them, by studying them. Study Satan's lies to know the truth? How stupid!

By the way, does it seem strange that one who claims to be a true prophet of God would have to look to pagan prophecies to know in advance what kind of lies Satan will use to deceive the world? Would God not reveal that directly to His prophets?

So we have a contrast. There are two ways a person can attempt to prepare to resist Satan's future worldwide deceptions.

Here is one method, the method that might be preferred by someone who extensively researches Satan inspired prophecies to know the future:

1) Research every non-biblical prophecy in history you can find that seems to be inspired from the spirit world, but not of God. Work hard at it. Study Satan's prophecies and teachings. Go to libraries, invest in rare books, visit other cities and countries to seek out every non-biblical and pagan prophecy you can find. Immerse yourself in the teachings and writings of the prophets of every false or odd religion you can find. Learn all about them. Become an expert in these things.

2) From those non-biblical prophecies, accumulate quotes and passages that can serve either of these two purposes: a) they can give us clues as to the exact lies Satan will inspire the beast and false prophet to teach to deceive the whole world, when the time comes, and b) they can provide interesting, fascinating accounts of the future that people will love to listen to and read about, juicy details that God does not give us in the Bible, yet are very interesting and MIGHT be true.

3) Write about these prophecies and teach them to the public and to the Church of God in books, video messages, articles, and blog posts. But use them two ways. Use them to attract attention from the public, then take advantage of that attention to teach the true gospel from the Bible. The second way is to use them to teach the Church of God, and the public too, what lies Satan may promote in the future so we can be prepared ahead of time to resist these lies and to answer them. Thus, we will not be caught off guard by Satan's future lies and deceptions because we will have heard them before and we will be familiar with them and will have time to figure out why they are wrong (assuming Satan pulls no surprises and sticks to the same lies he has always taught).

Here is another, contrasting method, preferred by those who tremble at God's word:

1) Obey God's commands to avoid the occult given in Deuteronomy 13:1-3, Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:9-14, and Leviticus 20:6. Avoid reading or hearing pagan, non-biblical, Satan or demon inspired prophecies about the future. Strive to live by every word of God and to fear God and tremble at His word. Above all, do not teach Satan's prophecies, which God has forbidden, to others in the Church of God or in the world, lest you cause others to sin.

2) Strive to live by every word of God and feed on Christ. Immerse yourself in the Bible. Read the Bible cover-to-cover many times in your life, and study the Bible for doctrine. Prove every important doctrine you believe from the Bible, and believe the Bible more than any man or minister, more than any Church of God leader, more than your traditions, and more than your own opinions. Let the Bible correct you in everything, and be willing to grow in knowledge as God teaches you more in more in the Bible. Put everything you learn from the Bible to practice as a way of life. Know the truth of the Bible in every area of life, whether it be prophecy, child rearing, marriage, work, or anything.

3) Trust God, that as you obey Him, He will help you with every temptation, test, and challenge and will protect you from deceptions because you believe and obey what He says. Trust that when questions and issues come up, God will give you the wisdom and understanding you need to handle them. Through His Holy Spirit, He will bring to mind the scriptures you need to remember to answer Satan's deceptions, whether you know in advance what Satan will say or not (John 14:26, Mark 13:11). Trust God also that he will open doors for you to preach the gospel or to support the preaching of the gospel without using Satan's prophecies, but using prophecies from the Bible only.

Which method do you want to use? It's your choice.

Here is a link to a related post in this blog on this same subject:
"Do Not Cause Others to Sin", April 28, 2013, link:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Does God Accept Our National Day of Prayer?

Today is a national day of prayer in the United States. According to Wikipedia, the first Thursday in May each year was designated by the United States Congress as a day when people are encouraged to turn to God in prayer and meditation. This day was made an official annual observance by Congress in 1952. The law calls on the President to make a proclamation designating the day of prayer each year.

Yesterday, President Obama issued the proclamation designating today as a day of prayer. Some quotes from his proclamation: "I join the citizens of our Nation in giving thanks, in accordance with our own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and in asking for God's continued guidance, mercy, and protection." "Today and every day, prayers will be offered in houses of worship, at community gatherings, in our homes, and in neighborhoods all across our country. Let us give thanks for the freedom to practice our faith as we see fit, whether individually or in fellowship." "...Americans have prayed as a means of uniting, guiding, and healing. In times of hardship and tragedy, and in periods of peace and prosperity, prayer has provided reassurance, sustenance, and affirmation of common purpose." "Prayer brings communities together and can be a wellspring of strength and support. In the aftermath of senseless acts of violence, the prayers of countless Americans signal to grieving families and a suffering community that they are not alone. Their pain is a shared pain, and their hope a shared hope. Regardless of religion or creed, Americans reflect on the sacredness of life and express their sympathy for the wounded, offering comfort and holding up a light in an hour of darkness."

Here is a quote from a "National Day of Prayer" website ( in a link at the bottom "How to Pray": "Talk to the Holy Spirit. Tell Him you want to know Him."


Wikipedia article:

Presidential proclamation:

National Day of Prayer website:

National Day of Prayer website page on "How to Pray":

On this day, there are often public gatherings for prayer and speeches and prayers are given by politicians and religious leaders.

What does God think about all this? What would Jesus Christ say about this if He were on earth today? Would he commend the nation for its day of prayer? Or would He rebuke us for our hypocrisy?

"But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46).

"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words" (Matthew 6:5-7).

President Obama, in his proclamation, said he joined the citizens of the United States in praying according to our own "faiths and consciences". He also gives thanks for the freedom to practice "our faith as we see fit." In other words, there is the implication that it doesn't matter what you believe or what god you pray to. The important thing, in this proclamation, is that you pray to somebody. There is no mention of Christianity. You can pray to any god, to Buddha, to Baal, to any demon, as long as it is prayer. Our ancestors in the time of Elijah would have felt comfortable with that kind of tolerance. "So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, 'O Baal, hear us!' But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made" (1 Kings 18:26).

When this nation prays, who does it pray to? The true God of the Bible? Most people do not know God, nor do they want to know the true God, because if you show them what the true God of the Bible teaches, they turn away. Do they pray to a trinity? Do they pray to a god they have invented in their own imagination, a god that approves of what they do, a god that agrees with their religious traditions?

He also said he asked for "God's continued guidance, mercy, and protection". "Guidance?" He wants God's GUIDANCE? The Bible is full of God's guidance, which this whole nation, not just the president, rejects and despises.

"Also on your skirts is found the blood of the lives of the poor innocents. I have not found it by secret search, but plainly on all these things" (Jeremiah 2:34).

"Moreover they have done this to Me: They have defiled My sanctuary on the same day and profaned My Sabbaths. For after they had slain their children for their idols, on the same day they came into My sanctuary to profane it; and indeed thus they have done in the midst of My house" (Ezekiel 23:38-39).

"You have despised My holy things and profaned My Sabbaths" (Ezekiel 22:8).

"These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times" (Leviticus 23:3).

"Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple" (Jeremiah 10:2-4).

"Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it" (Deuteronomy 12:32).

I could go on, there are many more commands and instructions and guidance from God that we as a nation reject.

I think the hypocrisy of many religious people and political leaders who pretend to be religious is so thick here you might need a chain saw to cut all the way through it.

Look further at President Obama's proclamation. It is full of the secular, materialistic view of prayer. Prayer is not looked upon primarily as a way of communicating with God. It is looked on as a method of self-comfort, that is, the idea that prayer has a psychological effect on our minds to make us feel better, whether God exists to answer our prayers or not, and the idea that group prayer gives people a sense of community and mutual support. God is mentioned very little if you read the whole proclamation, but this sense that prayer, with or without God's answer, is self-comforting is there: "Americans have prayed as a means of uniting, guiding, and healing," "prayer has provided reassurance, sustenance, and affirmation of common purpose," "prayer brings communities together and can be a wellspring of strength and support," "the prayers of countless Americans signal to grieving families and a suffering community that they are not alone. Their pain is a shared pain, and their hope a shared hope. Regardless of religion or creed, Americans reflect on the sacredness of life and express their sympathy for the wounded, offering comfort and holding up a light in an hour of darkness."

Not one word about seeking God so that God actually answers our prayers.

I don't think there is much in the proclamation that an atheist or agnostic would strongly object to.

Certainly it is good to pray to the true God of the Bible, and God knows the hearts of those who are seeking God through Bible study and have a willingness and desire to believe and obey God's Word. And these people, who are sincere, may not yet know much of God's truth, but they will learn. God does not reject the prayers of everyone outside His true Church. Some may have accepted their mainstream traditions because they have not heard the truth yet and they do not understand the Bible. God is able to judge each man's heart to know if his ignorance is innocent or willful.

There is an example in Mr. Armstrong's autobiography of a man who prayed for healings and God answered his prayers even though the man did not keep the Sabbath. Then Mr. Armstrong showed him the truth about the Sabbath from the Bible, but the man rejected it. And from that time on, God no longer answered his prayers for healing. Until that man had the opportunity to know the truth, God did not hold his ignorance and sin against him and He still answered his prayers. But once he rejected the truth, God rejected him.

God can look at each person and know his or her heart.

But most people in the United States are not willing to believe and strive to obey what God says in the Bible. The person who is willing to believe and obey the truth when he or she sees it in the Bible is the exception, not the rule.

What we really need is a National Day of Obedience. We need a National Day of Confessing Our Sins. We need a National Day of Believing What God Says in the Bible.

"One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination" (Proverbs 28:9).

We in the Church of God should pray for the good of our nation, that God may give us more time to get a warning message out and so the nation has more time to repent, that He will bless and protect the United States till the Church can get a message of repentance, the true gospel, and the Ezekiel warning about the tribulation to come to everyone. And anyone in or out of the Church of God who sincerely wants to learn from the God of the Bible and strive to do what He says should pray, not just on this one day, but every day for the good of our country. And I think God will answer our prayers. But I do not think He will answer the prayers of the majority of people who treat his word contemptuously, not willing to believe Him, not trying to obey Him, but making a god out of their traditions and opinions.