Friday, June 24, 2022

The Supreme Court Has Overturned Roe vs. Wade

Today it was announced that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe vs. Wade.

This is welcome news.  Roe vs. Wade has always been a bad decision both legally and morally.  The overturning of Roe vs. Wade has been long overdue.

Now states can ban or restrict abortion.  Some already do, and many more may now do so.

Also, Congress has the power to ban or restrict abortion for the whole country, if it chooses to do so and if it can get past a presidential veto.

There is much that can be said about this, about abortion, about Roe vs. Wade and its reversal, about what the Bible says about abortion, and about God's judgment.

But I want to just point out one thing.

The responsibility, and guilt, for allowing abortion will now fall more directly and completely on the heads of the people, on the heads of the voting public.

God is teaching us lessons, and the great tribulation to come will be a lesson for the United States and other Israelite nations.

Up until now, in judgment, the people could say, "Abortion is not our fault.  The Supreme Court, which we have not elected and whose justices we cannot remove, has forced us to allow abortion".

That will no longer be true.  This decision does not end the issue and the controversy.  It simply moves it from the courts to the legislatures.  It will be an immediate issue in the state legislatures.  Some states will outlaw abortion and some states will not.  Women who want an abortion who live in states that prohibit it can make a trip to a state that allows it to have their abortion.

But the issue, in years ahead, can also be decided for the whole country by the Congress and the President.  The United States Congress can pass a law banning abortion and the President can sign it, and if that happens, abortion will be banned in the entire country.

Or, and this may be overlooked but is important, the Congress and President can pass a law that FORBIDS STATES FROM BANNING ABORTION.  Federal law overrides state law.  Congress and the President, in the future, can pass a law that has the same effect as Roe vs. Wade - it will make abortion available in all states - not because of the force of the Constitution but because of the force of federal law over state law.  

Here is the difference.  With Roe vs. Wade in effect, the ordinary voting public can blame abortion on the Supreme Court, over which voters have no direct power to install or remove justices.  They can say to God, in effect, "This is not our fault - we didn't pick these justices who force abortion on us".  But now, this issue is under the control of the voting public.  They elect liberal or conservative senators and members of the House of Representatives.  They elect liberal or conservative presidents who sign or veto bills.

Right now, it is unlikely there will be a federal law banning or allowing abortions.  The House of Representatives and the presidency are controlled by different parties.  The House would never pass a bill requiring the states to allow abortion, and the President would veto any bill that banned abortion.

But this will be a hot election issue in the future.

If the American people want to stop abortion, they can elect conservative members of Congress and a conservative president who will pass a law banning abortion in all fifty states.  But if the American people want to allow abortions in all fifty states, they can elect liberal members of Congress and a liberal president who will pass a law legalizing abortion in all fifty states, and that federal law will override state law.

I do not think the Supreme Court would overturn a federal law legalizing abortion.  I could be wrong, but the basis of this would be different than Roe vs. Wade and would not be so easy to overturn.

So the whole issue will be more directly in the hands of the people than ever before.

And if the people - the voting public - decide to legalize abortion nationwide - look out!  The blood of the innocent children killed will be more directly on the heads of the people than ever before.  

We are being made ripe for punishment.

God is teaching us lessons, and He is allowing Satan to set us up for the great tribulation in a way such that our national guilt will be very obvious to the people who must go through the great tribulation.

As a nation, if we allow abortion to continue, we will not be able to say to God, or to ourselves, "The Supreme Court made us do it".

When the great tribulation begins, God wants the nation to know that it is guilty and that God is just and fair to punish us for our national sins.  National sins bring national punishment, and we are being set up for it.

God is taking away our excuses.

It is possible that in the 2024 election, abortion will be a hot issue, and the majority of the voting public will be in favor of abortion and will elect a liberal Congress and liberal president, and that Congress and president will pass a law, maybe in 2025, legalizing abortion in all fifty states.  Our nation will be more guilty than before and without excuse.






Thursday, June 9, 2022

Don't Become Vain If God Uses You in His Work

We just celebratedd Pentecost, and as with all the feasts and holy days, God uses it to teach us lessons.

Pentecost teaches us about the starting of the New Testament church and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It teaches us the lesson of first fruits, that the Church of God is a small, early spiritual harvest compared to the greater harvest to come after the return of Jesus Christ to rule the earth.

But Pentecost is also a reminder of the work of the Church in preaching the gospel.  One of the first things Peter and the other apostles did after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit was to preach the gospel to the crowd, and about 3,000 people were added to the Church that same day (Acts 2:1-41).

God's way of life is the give way of life.  God teaches us the give way of life to prepare us for eternity in His kingdom as His children.  He teaches the give way of life through His law, through the example of Jesus Christ, through His word, the whole Bible, through His Holy Spirit working in us, through the Church and the instruction of the ministry, and through circumstances.  We learn not only by instruction, but by doing.  We learn to give and love our neighbors by practicing the give way of life.

God is doing a work in the Church and the world to prepare for His kingdom, and He gives us the opportunity to participate in that work.  That is one way we learn by practicing the give way of life.  There are many parts to God's work, and God gives different gifts and opportunities to different members in the Church.  All of us can participate in God's work through our prayers.  Most can contribute tithes and offerings.  Some have the opportunity to help feed the flock through sermons and sermonettes.  Some serve the needs of other members.  Some are able to write articles for the Church or for the work of the gospel.  Some are pastors and can serve by speakng, counseling, and baptizing.

God can use each of us in a small way or a large way.  But however God uses us, all credit goes to Him.  He provides the gifts we need to do any kind of work, and He provides the opportunities.

No matter what kind of gifts or opportunities God gives us, and no matter how greatly He may use us in His work, we must never become vain, proud, and puffed up about the work we do.

If God uses any of us in a powerful way, that does not mean we are righteous!

If God uses a person in a powerful way, can that person still lose out on salvation?

Yes!

Doing a powerful work, doing God's work, does not guarantee a place in His kingdom if we do not develop God's holy righteous character - if we do not really practice the way of faith and love.

Consider this passage, which I will quote at length, though most readers are probably familiar with it.  "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.' Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You? Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:31-46).

Note that those who were rejected because they did not really put love towards their neighbors into practice protested that they did great works in Christ's name.  But their works did not save them.

God gave gifts to many Old Testament Israelites in the wilderness after they came out of Egypt.  Notice these examples.

"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. And I, indeed I, have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you" (Exodus 31:2-6).  God inspired and used these men to build the tabernacle.

" 'I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now - if I have found favor in Your sight - and do not let me see my wretchedness!' So the Lord said to Moses: 'Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone" (Numbers 11:14-17).  Later, these seventy men prophesied (Numbers 11:25).

But though God gave spiritual and mental gifts to these men, gifts of skill and ability, then used them to do a work, God did not bring them into the promised land.  They died in the wilderness.  God only brought Joshua and Caleb into the promised land because of their faithfulness (Numbers 14:29-30).

"But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness" (1 Corinthians 10:5).  Who does that include?  It includes Bezalel and Aholiab and other gifted artisans who built the tabernacle in the wilderness (Exodus 31:2-6).  It includes the many whose spirit God stirred up to contribute to and do the work of the tabernacle (Exodus 35:4-35, 36:1-7).  It included the seventy elders who prophesied (Numbers 11:25).  God used them to do the work, but in the end they were not faithful, and God was not pleased with them.  They died in the wilderness.

Look at Solomon.  God loved him (2 Samuel 12:24-25).  God gave him wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-14).  God used him to build the temple and to write books of the Bible (much or most of Proverbs, all of Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes).  Yet, Solomon did not remain faithful "Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David" (1 Kings 11:6).

Consider king Saul.  God selected him and used him, yet he was not faithful and God later rejected him (1 Samuel 9:15-17, 1 Samuel 10:1, 23-24, 1 Samuel 15:10-34, 1 Samuel 16:1).

Joab fought battles for king David and helped David in a number of ways (2 Samuel 12:26-30), but he was a murderer and was executed for his crimes (1 Kings 2:5-6, 28-35).

Or consider Judas.  He was one of the original twelve apostles.  He served Christ and God.  He went out along with the other apostles, and healed the sick, cast out demons, and preached the gospel (Matthew 10:1-15).  He probably baptized (John 4:1-3).

Did God not perform miracles by the hand of Judas?  Judas must have been as successful in doing God's work, in general, as the other apostles, for when Jesus said that one of the twelve would betray Him, the other apostles did not know who He was talking about (John 13:21-30).

Here was a man who served Christ by helping to do the work, probably performing miracles and helping to bring the truth to others, yet Christ said he would have been better off if he had never been born (Matthew 26:23-25)!

If God gives any of us the gifts and opportunities to do a powerful work, let us not become puffed up in pride and vanity, thinking the work we do makes us righteous.  We have to make sure our hearts are really right with God.  And we have to be humble, giving all credit to God for any good work He does through us.



Sunday, April 3, 2022

Passover Self-Examination, CGA Preaching the Gospel, Fasting to Overcome Bad Habits, and the Ukraine

UPDATE:

See comment for added scripture.

 

Hi, it's me.

I'm not dead, yet.

It has been a long time since I posted to this blog, and I want to update on a few things.


PASSOVER SELF-EXAMINATION:

Before taking Passover, we should examine ourselves.  Self-examination is part of preparing ourselves to take Passover in a worthy manner.

"Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep" (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

One way we can examine ourselves is by comparing ourselves with the standards of the Bible.  "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Here are passages in the Bible I have found useful in examining myself.

The ten commandments are listed in 2 places, Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.

The sermon on the mount is in 2 places, Matthew chapters 5-7, and Luke chapter 6.

Christ's messages to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are also good to review.  Regardless of what era we are in, any individual can fall into any one, or more, of these seven categories - that is why Christ says let him who has an ear hear what the Spirit says to the churches - all of them.

Also, 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, is a good passage to review for self examination.


CHURCH OF GOD ASSEMBLY (CGA) STARTS TO PREACH THE GOSPEL AND THE EZEKIEL WARNING TO THE PUBLIC

Mr. Sheldon Monson, pastor of Church of God Assembly (CGA), announced at Sabbath services April 2 the start of a CGA effort to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public.  CGA will run radio ads on station WSM AM 650 Nashville.  The radio ads are one minute in length and are narrated and mostly written by Mr. Kevin Lee.  I believe the ads point to a new website CGA has set up for the public.  The website address is themillennium.org.  This website links to the CGA website which links to literature the reader can download from the HWA library.

This radio station is 50,000 watts and can reach 38 states at night.  It is a clear-channel radio station, one that Mr. Armstrong once used.  I think that clear-channel means that no other station uses the same frequency at the same time.  This means that it is easier to hear this station from far away, especially at night.

You can also check out the website WSMonline.com to try to listen to the radio station over the Internet.

CGA has signed a one-year contract with the station.  They plan to run ads 20 times a week for the next 4 weeks to start.

You can also download WSM Mobile App for you mobile device to listen to the station.

The ads and websites are set up for four booklets or topics so far, and the goal is to add two more each month, so in a year about 24 booklets will be set up to be advertised.

Mr. Monson and Mr. Fritts plan to record videos, about 20-30 minutes in length.  These will be posted on one of the websites and later may be made available as podcasts.

I am glad CGA is now starting to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public.  I hope and am praying that they will be successful.

In the past I have expressed concern that God will not give a wide-open door for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to CGA if CGA is not willing to follow the example of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong of learning new knowledge and correcting past mistakes and if CGA is not willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible and believe the Bible more than their own traditions just as they are asking members of the public to do.  I am still concerned about that.

But it may be, that for the sake of some members of CGA who are truly zealous for the gospel and are willing to learn new things from the Bible and believe the Bible more than COG traditions, that God will give CGA a door that is open, perhaps only a little, for preaching to the public.

Every little bit helps.

And if I am completely wrong, and God gives CGA a huge wide-open door, I will be glad for the sake of the gospel, whether I understand the reasons or not.  I will be glad to be wrong if it means the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning goes forward and prospers.

One thing I have appreciated about Living Church of God is that they publish public information from auditing by an accounting firm of their finances once a year.  From those statements, anyone can see how much LCG is spending on preaching to the public vs. feeding the flock.  This is useful for anyone whose heart is in the gospel and the work to evaluate LCG to see how well they are working to get a message out to the public, so individuals can decide whether or not to support LCG.

I realize that CGA is still getting organized, but I hope that at some time in the future CGA will in some way publish similar information, such as total income for a year, how much is spent on feeding the flock (total of minister salaries, hall rentals, travel expenses, etc.), how much overhead, and how much on the gospel (websites and hosting, radio ad expenses, etc.).


USING PRAYER AND FASTING AS A TOOL FOR OVERCOMING BAD HABITS

The Church of God has long advised the use of prayer and fasting for overcoming sin and drawing closer to God.  There is scriptural support for this.

There is no direct statement I have found in the Bible that says that you can overcome Satan with fasting.  But consider these passages.

"And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 'Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.' Then Jesus answered and said, 'O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.' And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, 'Why could we not cast it out?' So Jesus said to them, 'Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, "Move from here to there," and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting' " (Matthew 17:14).  See also Mark 9:17-29.

Also, Jesus, before being tempted by Satan fasted for forty days. After and while fasting, He overcame Satan and all Satan's temptations.  After that He began preaching the gospel.  See Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-15, and Luke 4:1-15.

This fits with the parable of the strong man.  "Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house" (Matthew 12:29).  See also Mark 3:27 and Luke 11:21-22.  Satan is ruler and deceiver of this world.  He is a strong man.  To plunder his house, that is, successfully preach the message of God's truth to Satan's world, we must first bind the strong man and then we can plunder his house.  In a figurative sense, this is what Christ did when He conquered Satan in the temptation in the wilderness.  He overcame Satan by resisting every temptation Satan threw at him.  Then Christ could plunder Satan's house by preaching the gospel.  But notice that fasting was one way Christ prepared Himself to conquer and overcome Satan.

Christ has fully overcome Satan.  But we also should follow the example of Christ in using fasting as a tool for overcoming Satan.

Finally, notice that on the Day of Atonement, when we fast, Satan is bound for a thousand years - see Leviticus 16:7-29, Leviticus 23:27, Numbers 29:7, Revelation 20:1-3.

The Bible therefore associates fasting and prayer with overcoming Satan.  We overcome Satan both to overcome our bad habits and to be successful in preaching God's truth to the world.

But some members may have had the experience of fasting to overcome a problem, yet find that fasting has not helped them.  Things not only do not improve, but may get worse.  They are tempted to conclude that fasting does not work.

But we are to walk by faith, not by sight.  "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).  

Where do you place your trust for the decisions you make and the things you do, in personal experience and observation or in faith, trust, and belief in God's word, the Bible?

We should believe God's word more than our experiences and observations.  

God sometimes tests us, and He may test our faith in His word by not giving us the help we want and expect right away.  But we are to continue to believe God.  God's word teaches that fasting is a way to overcome, and we should believe God's word, trusting Him that He is telling us the truth, and stick with it until we get the results.  If God is testing our faith, we need to make sure we pass the test.

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).  Fasting is a way of diligently seeking God.  He will reward us though He may test us for a while.


THE UKRAINE

I do not have a lot to say about the war between Russia and the Ukraine.  Some things are obvious to those in the Church of God who understand prophecy and the doctrines of the Church.  By invading the Ukraine, Russia is giving Germany and all western Europe a motivation to develop a strong military for their defense.

I do not know how the war will turn out.  Putin could be overthrown by others in Russia who see this as a mistake.  Putin may push ahead and force a victory by superior military force.  He may use poison gas or nuclear weapons.

Russia can be hurt by American-led economic sanctions, but by applying those sanctions the United States can hurt its own dollar.  You can use a weapon against an enemy, but in the process you wear out or use up or damage your weapon.  There is a price to pay.

Sanctions do not just hurt Russia.  They economically hurt countries that impose the sanctions.  Not every country is willing to pay that price, and those that do not will find ways other than the dollar to trade with Russia.  If you are a country not so committed to supporting the western powers against Russia, and there are many such countries, would you rather use dollars to pay a higher price for a commodity from another country or use some other medium of exchange to buy that commodity from Russia at a lower price, thus saving money and helping your own economy?  Some countries will use a different medium of exchange to trade with Russia, and the effect of this will be to weaken the dollar.

So the long-term effect of this war may be to motivate Europe to build a strong, united military and to contribute to the eventual downfall of the dollar.  And if the dollar fails, there will be great inflation in the United States, especially with anything traded internationally.


Everybody, have a great Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Don't forget to clean or throw out your toaster.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Passover Teaching - Spiritual and Physical Healing

We are coming close to Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, and preparations are beginning.  Members may begin to prepare by making plans and by examining themselves spiritually (1 Corinthians 11:27-32, 2 Corinthians 13:5).  Scheduled sermon and sermonette speakers and those who conduct Passover services are making plans on what to say in their messages.

We are taught that by Christ's stripes we are healed.  "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6).

The stripes refer to the beating Christ took before He was crucified.  He suffered so we can be healed.

In the old days of Worldwide Church of God while Mr. Armstrong was alive, the Church emphasized that Christ's suffering paid the penalty for our physical sins - our violations of the laws of health - so we can be physically healed.  This was emphasized so much that I do not remember ever hearing or reading of the spiritual application of that, that we are also healed spiritually.  I do not remember the words "heal" or "healing" ever being applied to our spiritual condition - our character - but only to physical diseases and disabilities.

There is nothing wrong with placing emphasis on certain things to drive home lessons.  Physical healing has not been a doctrine of many traditional churches we came out of, so it needed emphasized teaching.

But spiritual healing is important, and today it should not be neglected.  To be silent on this may be an affirmation that Christ's suffering did not include paying the spiritual price of our sins so our character can be healed.

I have posted about this before for those who want to look up past posts to research this.

Does the Bible ever use the concept of "healing" or "sickness" to refer to spiritual matters, or only to physical diseases?

"Jesus answered and said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" (Luke 5:31-32).  Here Christ directly compares physical sickness with the spiritual need for repentence.

In the Old Testament, God prophesied concerning Israel: "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from him" (Hosea 14:4).  Here, God applies the concept of healing to a spiritual matter - backsliding.  The same Hebrew word for "heal" is used here as is used in Isaiah 53:5 that says that by Christ's stripes we are healed.

So in the Bible, healing does not just refer to physical healing.  It refers to spiritual healing also.  In the Church of God, we may call that character building, but it refers to the process of turning from sin and becoming like God and putting on the righteousness of Christ by the power of God's Holy Spirit. It includes getting rid of bad habits and building good habits and learning to live by every word of God as a way of life.

So the passage in Isaiah that refers to being healed by the stripes Jesus Christ suffered includes both physical and spiritual healing.

Does the Church of God acknowledge this?  Or do we deny the role of Christ and His suffering in making possible our spiritual healing?

The Church and its speakers can teach about the healing taught in Isaiah several ways.  A speaker or writer can simply say that Christ's suffering enables our healing without mentioning spiritual or physical healing.  Or, a speaker or writer can refer to "physical healing" and not include spiritual healing.  Or, he can refer to both physical and spiritual healing.  I believe that last way is the best and most accurate way to teach the meaning of Isaiah 53:5.

Among the Churches of God, this seems to vary.  I know of one group that seems to deny the role of Christ's suffering in enabling our spiritual healing by saying that we are healed physically by His stripes, but saying nothing about being spiritually healed.  Another group simply says we are healed without specifying if we are healed physically or spiritually or both.  Yet another group does say we are healed spiritually and physically.  I have not checked all the groups.

If the Church denies the importance of Christ's suffering to pay the penalty of our sins so we can be spiritually healed, what does Christ think about that?  He endured the suffering so we can be healed both spiritually and physically.  He was motivated by love to do this for us.  If we knowingly deny his role in suffering so we can be spiritually healed, because of fear of men or because of unwillingness to believe what God says, what does Christ think about that?  If we do not acknowledge the importance of the suffering He endured in making possible our spiritual healing, are we not denying Christ and showing a lack of appreciation for what He has done for us?

Christ was willing to suffer so we can be spiritually healed.  Are we unwilling to acknowledge and appreciate that?

"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33).  This is a broad principle.  It can include many things.  There is more than one way to deny Christ.

The Church of God and each of us individually are being tested on many matters.  This might be one of them.

And how hard of a test is this, anyway?  How hard would it be for the Churches of God to simply acknowledge that Christ's stripes make possible both our spiritual and physical healing?  Is this a big deal?  We still keep the doctrine of physical healing.  Is it heresy to say we are also healed spiritually by the stripes of Christ just because Mr. Armstrong didn't include that in Mystery of the Ages?


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The Bible Shows that the Elijah Work of Restoring Doctrine Continues Today

I will cover this very briefly in this post, then refer to other posts in this blog that cover this in more detail.

The Bible shows that the Elijah work of restoring doctrine, that is, "all things", continues today and into the future.

There are people who claim that Herbert W. Armstrong completed the work of restoring doctrine and that, because he completed that work, we should never correct or add to what he has taught.  Assuming they are sincere in wanting to follow their Bibles and live by every word of God, they are making a serious mistake.

Jesus said, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things" (Matthew 17:11).

I, and many others, think that Herbert W. Armstrong was the Elijah to restore all things.

But that does not mean his work is yet complete.  It continues today.  The Church of God today has the responsibility to finish the work started through Mr. Armstrong.  But it is still Mr. Armstrong's work.  He restores all things even today through the Church of God, which God raised up through him for this time, and which Mr. Armstrong trained to finish the work.

This is what the Bible teaches.

Some of those who say we should not change Mr. Armstrong's doctrines because he was the Elijah to come ought to do a Bible study on Elijah, starting with the first Elijah, and be careful not to sweep the scriptures under the rug.

Are scriptures about the first Elijah prophetic?  Can we learn something about the Elijah of our time from what the Bible says about the first Elijah?  If not, why call him Elijah?  Why call Mr. Armstrong Elijah unless that name has some meaning - unless it represents something about the first Elijah we can learn from?

God gave Elijah a job.  He was to do three things.  He was to anoint Hazael as king over Syria, Jehu as king over Israel, and Elisha as prophet in Elijah's place (1 Kings 19:15-16).

Think of this as God giving Mr. Armstrong a commission to restore all things.

Did Elijah do all these things directly himself?  Do your own Bible study.  He did not.  At least one thing he did indirectly through the work of those who followed him, delegating the job.

It was Elisha who anointed Jehu after Elijah was gone, and even he did not do it directly but through an unnamed son of the prophets (2 Kings 9:1-10).  You can think of Elijah and the sons of the prophets as like the Church of God today, continuing the work of Elijah even after Elijah was gone.

This is the principle of delegation, and there are examples throughout the Bible.  One of the clearest is that Christ baptized, not directly but through His disciples (John 4:1-3).

When someone delegates a job to someone else, the first person has the authority, but the ones he delegates the job to are the ones who actually do the work in the name of the first person.

Mr. Armstrong taught and prepared the Church of God to continue his work of restoring all things, even as Elijah delegated the work of anointing Jehu to Elisha, and Elisha delegated it to an unnamed son of the prophets.

If not, what do these scriptures mean?  If those who came after Elijah were not to continue the work God had commissioned Elijah to do, even after Elijah was gone, what does this example show?  Because that is exactly what happened with the first Elijah.

Mr. Armstrong's work of restoring doctrine is to continue through the Church of God he supervised and trained in his lifetime.  That is our responsibility.  And it is Mr. Armstrong's work, and it is attributed to him, even as we do it today, because he started it, he trained us, and we continue his work.

Mr. Armstrong restored all things to the Church of God by teaching us to believe the Bible more than our traditions and by teaching us to understand the Bible by letting the Bible interpret the Bible.  He set that process in motion.  It continues today, but at a slower pace because of the resistance of many COG leaders to changing tradition.  I believe the pace will quicken after God tests us a while.  But it is Mr. Armstrong's work because he set the process in motion.  Mr. Armstrong restores all things today and in the future, because he started the process and we continue in his work.

It has been more than 35 years since Mr. Armstrong died.  God has been testing the Church of God and all its leaders, ministers, and members since that time.  God used Mr. Armstrong to teach the Church, both by his example and his doctrines.  The lesson of his example continues through his autobiography and his other literature and audio recordings, and God is testing us to see how well we learn our lessons.

No group today has a wide-open door for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world.  For some groups, the door is open a little, and wider for some than for others.  For some, it is not open at all.  Maybe when God finishes testing us He will open a door wide for someone.

We should learn from Mr. Armstrong, but is his example important?  Some hold on to a list of doctrines but throw his example out the window.  But Christ said that one perfectly trained will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40).

Mr. Armstrong's example, available through his autobiography, teaches us to believe the Bible more than any man, church, minister, or tradition, to learn new knowledge from the Bible, and to correct mistakes in doctrine.  If we learn from his example, we will follow in his footsteps.  We will change doctrine in order to grow in knowledge of the truth as he did.

We continue the Elijah work of Mr. Armstrong of restoring lost doctrine today, as he trained us, just as Elisha and the sons of the prophets continued the work of the first Elijah.

We either believe the Bible or we don't.  If we reject the Bible, we reject the God who inspired it.

I am not trying to cause division.  I want peace in the Church of God.  But God, in the Bible, warns and corrects those who need correction, and His words are not always gentle.  He also instructs us to warn those who need a warning (Proverbs 24:11-12, Ezekiel 3:17-21).

These warnings and corrections should be given in love, just as a father corrects his children in love, for their good.  God corrects and rebukes and warns in love, and we should do so from the same motivation.  And those who are wise will heed correction and not resent it (Proverbs 9:7-9).

Not everyone who offers correction is causing division.  You can correct someone, in love, and still be a peacemaker.  If the correction is true and if those you correct heed the correction, divisions can be healed and there will be more peace, not less.

"Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold
Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear" (Proverbs 25:12).

What we may call, "the Ezekiel warning", has two parts.  One is the warning Ezekiel, and those of us like Ezekiel who have the knowledge of the warning and the opportunity to deliver it, are to deliver to Israel.  But a second part is the warning to Ezekiel himself, and us also, if we fail to deliver the warning.  If we do not deliver God's warning, blood guilt will be on our heads.  In other words, God will count us as murderers (Ezekiel 3:17-21).

I want all Israel to hear that warning before tribulation begins, all 500 million people, while there is time for anyone to repent and escape.  I want them to hear it so they know God was fair to warn them and give them a chance.  This glorifies God's name for eternity because it shows God's fairness and compassion.

I also want the Church of God members in all fellowships, and those scattered and at home, to escape the judgment of blood guilt for not doing their part to warn those who need a warning.  That is why I encourage the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public.

Being willing to practice what we preach is a necessary part of that work.  We cannot close our minds to new knowledge, new truth from the Bible and history, then ask the general public to learn new truth, contrary to our own example.  If we do that, we are hypocrites, and cannot expect good success in delivering God's warning to others.  And God may count us as murderers because we had an opportunity to warn, and we didn't.

We can warn.  We can glorify God's name and reputation for fairness and help Israel by delivering God's warning.  But we must pay a price to do so.  We must leave our comfort zone and be willing to follow the example and work of Mr. Armstrong.  He always put the Bible first, and any new knowledge he found in the Bible, over and above any traditions or teaching of men, even in the Church of God.

If we close our minds to that example, if we turn away from new truth we find in the Bible, if we make it church policy not to go beyond Mr. Armstrong's teaching and never add to it or correct it, as he himself did all his life, we fail, through our own fault, to obtain the open door for giving the warning.  God will put the blood of the people on our heads.

That is what I want to avoid.

I am not trying to cause division.  I am not seeking a personal following.  I am not making any money from this.  No one even knows who I am.  I want peace in the Church of God, but peace that comes from all of us following God's teaching in the Bible.


Here are related posts in this blog. You can find these posts in the column on the right or copy and paste the link into your browser:


TITLE:  Is There a Contradiction Between Learning New Knowledge and Recognizing Herbert W. Armstrong as the Elijah to Restore All Things?
DATE:  Thursday, December 24, 2020
LINK URL (website address, copy and paste in your browser):
http://ptgbook.blogspot.com/2020/12/is-there-contradiction-between-learning.html


TITLE:  How Did the First Elijah Do God's Work?
DATE:  Wednesday, December 30, 2020
LINK URL (website address, copy and paste in your browser):
http://ptgbook.blogspot.com/2020/12/how-did-first-elijah-do-gods-work.html


TITLE:  Elijah (Again)
DATE:  Saturday, January 2, 2021
LINK URL (website address, copy and paste in your browser):
http://ptgbook.blogspot.com/2021/01/elijah-again.html

Monday, August 23, 2021

Why Are We Here?

As Mr. Gerald Weston pointed out in a sermon recently published by Living Church of God (LCG), Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong often started his holy day sermons by asking the question, "Why are we here?".

On a holy day, why are we here?  Why do we assemble for holy day services?

We are here because Mr. Armstrong believed the Bible more than the Church.

The Church of God Seventh Day did not keep the holy days.  

Mr. Armstrong knew Christ was the head of the Church of God.  But he never assumed that the Church of God leadership correctly followed Jesus Christ.  Christ leads the Church through the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and circumstances, but Church of God ministers and leaders do not always follow where Jesus Christ leads.  Mr. Armstrong never assumed that the doctrines of the true Church of God were all correct.  He never assumed that the Church had the right interpretation of scripture.  If he saw something in the Bible different from what the Church taught, he believed the Bible, not the Church.  He believed God and His word more than men, even the leadership and ministry of the true Church of God.

So when he saw that the Bible taught that we should keep the holy days, he believed God, not the Church.

That is why we are here.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Only Those Who Will Believe God More than Man Will Have the Philadelphian Open Door

I recently heard an inspiring sermon on the Internet from a Church of God minister, and I want to share my reactions with my readers in the spirit of "iron sharpens iron".  Some COG members, in different groups and scattered and some at home, may struggle from time to time with questions and issues of, "Who should I support?", and, "Where should I attend?".  When COG members communicate with each other about common problems, we can sometimes help each other with ideas, ideas we can check independently with God's word.  So here I will offer my ideas and thoughts.  You can check what I say in your own Bible studies.  I have also given a number of posts in my blog over the past year on the things I will speak about, and I go into more detail in those posts.

The sermon was about trusting God.  It was given by the leading pastor of a small group that has existed for a short time compared with other Church of God groups.

This pastor is energetic, courageous, bold, hard-working, and intelligent, and he seems to be zealous for God's law and exercising faith in God's protection and blessings.  He is a very inspiring and charismatic speaker.  I enjoyed the sermon, and felt inspired by it.  No doubt many members of this group, and those from other groups or scattered members who stay at home, were inspired by this sermon, or will be if they hear it in the future.

He and the members of his small group seem to have strong faith in God's protection.

And it seems that God has blessed this man and this small group in a way He has not blessed many other Church of God fellowships.  Based on fruits, it seems that God is rewarding their faith and trust in Him.

God may be using this man and the small Church of God fellowship he pastors to teach the whole Church of God - all COG fellowships and scattered members who stay at home - a lesson about faith and trust in God.  God responds to and rewards faith and trust in Him.  He blesses those who are zealous to do His will, who keep His commandments, and who trust Him for their protection.

We can all learn a lesson in that.

And it may be that this is part of why Christ raised up this group, or allowed it to start and prosper.  Christ may be using this group and its pastor to teach lessons to the whole Church of God - all the scattered members and fellowships - about the importance of trusting God in trials and being zealous to do His will.

And for that reason I have considered supporting this group and recommending them to others.  But I can't.

There is a problem.  That problem has not gone away.  Regular readers of this blog probably know where I am going with this.

They are not preaching the gospel to the world or the Ezekiel warning to Israel, which God commands and is God's will.  They are not getting a warning message out to the public, which the people need.  Our nations need that warning, even if they do not heed it, so that when the punishment comes upon them, they will know that God was fair to give them a warning first, and seeing God's fairness and righteousness, to be able to trust God and repent and be teachable, those who survive, in the millennium.  But if they don't hear a warning before they were punished, they will tend to blame God and say, "No one warned me - if God had warned me before He punished me, I would have heeded the warning and repented",  It will be harder for them to trust God enough to repent and be converted.  Some may lose their eternal lives because of this, if they can't see that God was fair to them.

And God is fair to warn.  The Bible shows this.  From the warning to Cain in Genesis to the warning at the end of the book of Revelation, GOD WARNS.  Do a Bible study on this some time.  You may end up reading the whole Bible.

But this small group and its leader - who gave such an inspiring sermon on the blessings of trusting God and having courage to obey Him - has not begun to warn our nations in God's name.  The warning is God's message to the nations, not our message.  We are the delivery service God has commissioned to deliver His warning message.  We have received the message from God's hand, put it in our pocket. and sat on it without delivering it, many of us.  That does not honor God and magnify His name.

Many members of this group have come out of one or more groups that are getting the warning message and the true gospel out to the nations.  By departing from those groups and forming a group that does not preach the gospel and the warning to the public, they have hurt and diminished the work of God.

But maybe this group is getting ready to start a work, a powerful work that God will empower and bless, to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning about the tribulation to come to Israel.  Maybe God will reward this group and its leader for their zeal and trust in Him by giving them the open door for preaching the gospel promised to Philadelphia, and maybe God will empower them and lead them to go through that open door with great power and awesome results!

Not likely.

Why?

This leader and group have, in works, denied the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced that enabled God to give Mr. Armstrong an open door for the gospel and the warning message.

In past posts I have expounded on this at length, and I encourage you to read those posts in this blog.

But if you have questions about this, read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, and ask, why did God give him and his early supporters an open door for preaching the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public?

Mr. Armstrong did not start the Church of God.  He learned from and began to attend with the Church of God Seventh Day.

But God did not start a Philadelphia work with Church of God Seventh Day.  He started it with Mr. Armstrong and the group he led, first called the "Radio Church of God" and later renamed "Worldwide Church of God".  And God didn't start the Philadelphia era until Mr. Armstrong began to separate from Church of God Seventh Day.

Why?  

There was an important difference between Church of God Seventh Day and Mr. Armstrong.  They did not practice the same way of life exactly.  That difference qualified Mr. Armstrong for the open door and helped make him a Philadelphian.  That same difference disqualified Church of God Seventh Day from being used by God to preach a powerful message to the public.

That difference was simple.  Mr. Armstrong was willing to believe God more than man.

He was willing to believe and follow what God says in the Bible more than he believed and followed any man, more than any minister or Church of God leader, more than any church organization, and more than any tradition.  He was willing to change his traditions to follow God's word wherever it led him, even if it meant overturning previous Church of God teachings and traditions, and even if it meant adding new knowledge to what the Church of God already had.  

He was also willing to correct his own errors when God corrected Him through the Bible.

He was willing to change.

And that is a vital difference.  Church of God Seventh Day was not willing to correct its errors, not willing to change its traditions, and not willing to learn new knowledge.  In short, they were not willing to change.

And like Church of God Seventh Day, like the Catholic Church, like the Protestant churches, the small group and its leader I mentioned who gave such an inspiring sermon on trusting God are not willing to change. They will not let the Bible correct them in doctrine.  They will not learn new things from the Bible.  Instead, they are committed, at least the leader, to sticking with the teachings of Mr. Armstrong.  Mr. Armstrong was willing to correct his own errors and learn new things from God, but it seems this leader is not.  He will not correct Mr. Armstrong's errors and he will not correct his own, as I understand him from what he has publicly said.  He seems not willing, so far, to learn anything new that Mr. Armstrong did not teach.

In this, he is showing more faith in Mr. Armstrong and his teachings than he shows towards God and His word, the Bible.  And this means he is making an idol out of Mr. Armstrong.  Why an idol?  Because faith must always be towards God, not man.  To have faith in a man, any man, is to give that man the faith that should belong only to God.  Faith is a form of worship.  To have faith in a man is to make an idol of that man.

That is not the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced.

How ironic!  In publicly committing himself to believe everything Mr. Armstrong taught he is denying the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced.  In words he shows love to Mr. Armstrong, but in works he denies him.  Sound familiar?  Many in the world do the same thing with Christ.  They show praise towards Christ with their mouths but in works they deny Him.  They will not live the way of life Christ practiced as an example.

Why was it important to God that the Philadelphia work be led by one (Mr. Armstrong) who was willing to believe the Bible more than man and was willing to be corrected by the Bible and learn new things from the Bible?

Because to preach to the public, we must ask them to do exactly the same thing.  Whoever has an open door for preaching the gospel must ask the public to learn new things, to change their beliefs and traditions, and to believe the Bible more than any church or man or tradition.  And whoever does that kind of preaching had better practice what they preach.  

When you read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, look how many times God tested people on this.  Loma Armstrong was tested.  Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was tested.  Church of God Seventh Day was tested.  A Sunday keeper who had the gift of healing, who taught Mr. Armstrong about healing, was tested.  Radio listeners who heard Mr. Armstrong say, don't believe me, believe God, believe your Bible, were tested.  And we are tested today.

Will God give the pastor of the small group I mentioned, who gave such an inspiring sermon on trusting God, an open door for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public?

So far, God has not.  And as long as that man is publicly committed to believing Mr. Armstrong's writings and not being willing to believe the Bible first and correct Mr. Armstrong's mistakes or learn new knowledge from the Bible that Mr. Armstrong did not have, I don't think God will give that man an open door for the gospel.

Could I be mistaken in this?

I hope I am.  I don't see how.  But I hope I am wrong.  I hope Christ gives that man an open door and he does a powerful work of preaching the gospel.  If that happens, I won't easily understand it, but I will be glad for the sake of the gospel.

No one has emailed me or entered comments to show me where I am wrong in this.  So if I am wrong, I don't know it.  I don't think I am wrong.

Any Church of God leader or group that wants the open door promised to Philadelphia should be willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible and believe the Bible first over any Church of God teachings or traditions, and not try to "hold fast" to Mr. Armstrong's teachings, contrary to the way of life Mr. Armstrong himself practiced.  

If we ask the public to be willing to learn new things, we must also be willing to learn new things.  If we won't, I don't think God will give the open door to hypocrites.

Getting back to the speaker and group I mentioned at the beginning.

I don't see that willingness to practice the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced in that pastor or his followers and supporters.

And yet, he seems to have zeal for trusting God for protection, and God seems to have blessed him for that zeal.  He gave a powerful sermon that we can learn from.

That man, and his group, may be useful in other ways for God's purposes.  He has lessons he can teach the Church of God.

I am not against him.

But his group does not seem to be a home for Philadelphians.  And I do not encourage Philadelphians in a group that has an open door for preaching the gospel, and is going through that door, to shift their support to a group that does not have an open door for the gospel and is not likely to have it in the future, unless they repent of making an idol of Mr. Armstrong and his teachings.

Look at the messages to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.  Christ teaches us to read all the messages and examine ourselves in the light of those messages.  Even though we are in the Laodicean era, any message can apply to any individual among us.  And Philadelphians are not the only church that receives only praise.

Look at the message to Smyrna.  "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: "I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death' " (Revelation 2:8-11).

Smyrna is not Philadelphia.  They are not promised an open door for the gospel.  Yet, Christ has no criticism or them, but rather says they are rich, implying they are spiritually rich (since they are physically poor).  He praises them and encourages them to continue.

I am not saying that any group today is Smyrna.  But I bring this out to show you do not have to be Philadelphian to be spiritually rich.  The promise of the open door is not for everyone.  God can give one leader or one group a job and a different leader and a different group a different job.

What if God, in His wisdom, has raised up this leader and group, not for preaching the gospel, but to teach the lessons of zeal for God and trust in God in times of trial?  And what if God has given a different job, the job of going through an open door for preaching the gospel, to a different leader and group where most of the Philadelphians already are?

There is great value in being a Philadelphian.  A Philadelphian loves God and wants to magnify His name and reputation.  He is intensely zealous for getting the message out that will show all creation for all eternity God's righteousness and fairness to warn before punishing.  He also loves his neighbors as himself and is very concerned that they get a warning while there is time for them to repent and escape God's punishment.  And like Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Armstrong's early supporters who heard him on the radio, a Philadelphian is willing to believe God more than any man or church or tradition and is willing to learn new things from God's word, just as he asks the public to do.

Though the group and their pastor who gave such an inspiring sermon I described in the beginning may do good works in many ways, they will not be, in my opinion, a suitable home for Philadelphians who have an open door for the gospel.

But if this man and his group are not Philadelphian, and if God is not with this man, why is God blessing him?

There is a myth in the Church of God, and that myth says that God only works through one man at a time.  But the Bible does not teach that.

God worked through many prophets at the same time.  He worked through Ezekiel and Jeremiah at about the same time.  He worked through Nathan and David at the same time.  He worked through several prophets in the time of Ezra.  He worked through Peter and Paul at the same time.

God can work through one leader in our time to preach the gospel and one or more other leaders to serve other groups, or even the whole Church of God, in other ways.

God can teach the whole Church of God lessons about trust and zeal through this man while preaching the gospel through a different man and group.  God can also use this man to serve the needs of those who are not Philadelphian but are in some other spiritual condition.  God loves them too.

Will God condemn a man for making an idol of Mr. Armstrong?

None of us is perfect, and we all have faults to strive against.  Look at the example of Gideon.  After God used him in a powerful way, he became a ruler in Israel and made an idol and it became a snare to him.  Yet, he is mentioned in the faith chapter in Hebrews, and it is therefore likely God forgave him.

In Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, there was a Sunday keeper, apparently unconverted, who had the gift of healing.  He prayed for people to be healed, and God answered his prayers.  God did not reject him just because he did not keep the Sabbath.  And God used him to teach Mr. Armstrong about healing.  But when God's time came, God tested this man by having Mr. Armstrong show him the truth about the Sabbath from the Bible.  He rejected the Bible, stayed with his tradition, and failed the test.  Then, God rejected him and no longer answered his prayers for healing.  He lost the gift.  But before this, for for a time, God was patient with his faults, answered his prayers, and used him in a powerful way to teach Mr. Armstrong.

I hope the speaker I mentioned in the beginning and his group enjoy success in whatever role God assigns to them.  But unless that man repents of not being willing to learn new things from the Bible and not being willing to correct any mistakes of Mr. Armstrong, I do not think God will give him a wide-open door for preaching the gospel.  So far, God hasn't.

If you have zeal for the gospel message and Ezekiel warning, and if you are willing to learn new things from the Bible and to believe the Bible more than your group leader or Mr. Armstrong or any Church of God tradition, and if you want to be counted by God as a Philadelphian and have the promised open door, I urge you to support a group that already has that open door, and don't move to a group that does not have the open door and disqualifies itself from having that open door.

There may be several groups that have an open door for the gospel, and for some the door is open wider than for others.  I have said this before and I still say it - in my opinion, despite not being perfect, the fellowship that is right now doing the best job of going through an open door for preaching the gospel is Living Church of God.