Monday, August 30, 2010

Is United Church of God Serious about the Gospel?

I want United Church of God to be successful in preaching the gospel to the world. I do not want them to be a little bit successful. I want them to be very successful.

Right now, God has given a small amount of success in preaching the gospel to several groups, but United Church of God would have a very long way to go to match the accomplishments of Herbert W. Armstrong even in the 1960's. Yet even Mr. Armstrong only reached a small portion of Israel with the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning. That means UCG has a long way to go to even reach a small portion as Mr. Armstrong did. There are about 400 or 500 million Israelites that need to be warned about their sins and the tribulation to come if they do not repent.

It should be obvious that God has not greatly blessed and empowered any Church of God fellowship to do more than make a tiny dent in the work that needs to be done. God is not going to bless and empower those who are half-hearted, or are zealous in word but not zealous in mind and in deed. It should be apparent that we need to change. There are faults in us that need to be corrected before God will fully empower us to preach the gospel with the power and effectiveness that is needed.

I have often heard various leaders of Church of God fellowships call for church-wide fasts, and they give reasons for the fast, things we should be beseeching God for. But never have I heard a leader of a fellowship ask the brethren to fast so that God would show that fellowship collectively and the leader himself in particular what they are doing wrong. Never have I heard a leader say, "Fast and pray that God will show me what I am doing wrong and why God is not blessing us more. There is some fault in us but I don't know what it is, and it may be in me. We need to beseech God that He will show us what is wrong with us, what is wrong in our fellowship, and what is wrong in me as human leader, so I can change, so we can change and be fully in sync with God so He can bless us and empower us to finish His work of preaching the gospel to the world as a witness and the Ezekiel warning to all Israel." I have never heard anything like that, but maybe that is what is needed.

We cannot succeed in really finishing the work of warning Israel unless our foundation is rock solid. And part of that foundation is that we must practice what we preach. I do not think God will greatly empower a group that is preaching one thing but doing another.

How can United Church of God preach to the world the good news that Christ will come and abolish democracies and voting and politics if UCG shows by its behavior that it does not really think that is good news? If UCG thought it was good news, they would practice the way of life that Christ will teach the whole world when He returns. We are suppose to be living that way of life now, as a model and an example, and preaching the same way of life we are living. We are supposed to be a demonstration that God's way works. UCG wants to preach to the world that it is good news, but their actions show that they think it is bad news. How can God fully bless UCG in its efforts to preach the gospel if they are setting such a bad example of God's way of life?

What will UCG ministers say in the millennium, if they make it into God's kingdom and are in the first resurrection, to populations of people who want to vote and elect their leaders? Will they teach them that democracy, the selection of leaders from the voting of those under the authority of the leaders, is not God's way, that it bears bad fruit, that we should trust Christ to appoint the leadership from above? Then will the people say, but you didn't do that in the Church? If you practiced voting, why can't we?

We must not be like the Pharisees, whom Christ called hypocrites, who did not practice what they preached (Matthew 23:1-4).

Some say, there is no commandment in the Bible against voting in the Church of God.

Yes there is.

How was the first century Church of God governed? How were positions of leadership, at all levels, filled? Was it by appointment from above or by election by balloting from below? If you had no experience with the Church of God in our time, if you were reading the Bible for the first time with no preconceptions, and you did a Bible study of Church of God governance in the original New Testament Church of God, what would you conclude? You would have no choice but to conclude that men were appointed to positions of authority from above. That is what every example shows. That was the practice and the tradition of that Church.

God commands through Paul that we keep the traditions of the original first century Church of God. "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). "But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us" (2 Thessalonians 3:6). "Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you" (1 Corinthians 11:2). In effect, since we can know from the examples in the New Testament that the first century Church of God practiced governance by appointment from above, not by balloting, this is equivalent to a command against balloting as a form of governance in the Church of God. We are commanded to follow the traditions of the Church of God that existed during the time Paul wrote his epistles, and that tradition did not include voting.

God also commands that we live by every word of God, and the Bible teaches that the examples are for our teaching as well as the direct commandments (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3, 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11, Hebrews 4:11, James 5:10, 1 Peter 2:21, 2 Peter 2:6, Jude 7). The examples in the Bible show a pattern that God wants to follow. It shows government by appointment from above, not by balloting. God never chooses someone by balloting of the people for leadership in His Church.

God shows us right patterns so we can follow those patterns (Exodus 25:40, Exodus 26:30, Acts 7:44, 1 Timothy 1:16). We are to pattern our behavior according to the pattern God shows us. "Then Jesus answered and said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner' " (John 5:19).

I sincerely hope that United Church of God will be successful in preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, and I have no doubt they will at least have some small measure of success, and that is better than nothing. But I want the Church of God to succeed powerfully, completely, and that will not happen until our foundation is right.

God commands that we live by every word of God, and that includes not only the command to follow the traditions Paul spoke of, which does not include balloting, but to also live by the examples in the Bible which were written for our learning. If we preach to the public that they should live by every word of God, we must do the same.

We have to practice what we preach so God will bless the preaching and make it successful.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Why the Gospel Must Still Be Preached to the World, Chapter 4

Government in the Church, Chapter 5

Is the Church Commissioned to Preach the Gospel to the World?, Chapter 5

Practicing What We Preach, Chapter 6

Following the Bible -- Pattern of Government, Chapter 6

Church Government, Chapter 7

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Will There Be a Real Reconciliation in United Church of God?

I have listened to the presentation Mr. Dennis Luker gave to the Council of Elders on Monday, August 9 prior to the meeting between the Council and Mr. Leon Walker to explore reconciliation.

Here is a link to the UCG blog posting giving the link to the presentation:

Here is a link to the page that has the presentation. You can view it on this page or download it in .mp3 format:

I found the message to be very good in terms of teaching right principles of loving our neighbors and living at peace with one another. He points out that God will make sure that the job He wants His Church to do will get done, and if we are not faithful, He will use someone else. He challenges us to examine ourselves to see if we love one another enough to resolve differences peacefully and if we love God enough to seek God's will more than our own. He points out that we should love even our enemies, have humility, and work to be peacemakers.

The presentation is 26 minutes long, and is a good admonition for focusing on right spiritual principles of love towards God and neighbor and having an attitude and approach that leads to peace.

Will there be a reconcilation?

I think a true and complete reconciliation will have some important characteristics. You can look for those characteristics, and if they are there, a reconciliation is in progress and that reconciliation is likely to be real, in my opinion. But if those characteristics are not there, I think there will be no reconciliation, but rather, the division will increase. Those characteristics will be based on actions, not words.

Now if these characteristics are not present, and there is no reconciliation, that does not by itself indicate which side is at fault. One side might be at fault, or the other side, or both sides. It takes only one side doing the wrong things to create division but it takes both sides to create reconciliation. If you are seeking to judge which side may be at fault, or if both sides are at fault, you have to look at all the facts.

But the characteristics that will be present, in my opinion, for there to be a real and complete reconciliation, are these.

A reconciliation would include a restoration of salary, a re-hiring or a canceling of the decision to fire, towards Mr. Leon Walker and the ministers under his supervision and a restoration of financial aid to the whole Latin American region including the ministers and members under Mr. Walker's supervision.

Secondly, there would be a reinstatement of Mr. Walker and all the ministers under his supervision to their status as ministers in UCG eligible to ballot on issues that come up before the General Conference of Elders and to elect or remove members of the Council of Elders.

If both sides, Leon Walker and the ministers under his supervision, and the Council of Elders and Dennis Luker, all do the right thing and behave with godly love towards each other, such a complete reconciliation is possible. But if one side or the other does not do the right thing, there may be no reconciliation such as what I just described.

And I think if there is not a complete reconciliation, after hopes have been raised and reconciliatory words have been said, it is likely that positions will harden on both sides, and then any reconciliation will be more difficult and more unlikely than ever. It is easy to forgive people for what they do when their emotions have been high, because all of us can understand that when we are angry, our judgment might be impaired. But if in the cold light of morning, when we are calm, we still cannot live at peace with each other, if one side or both coldly and calmly and with eyes wide open, not being under the influence of anger or high emotion, make decisions that severe relationships, how can that be reconciled?

This may be the last chance both sides may have to avoid long lasting division.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Weekly Sabbath Day, Chapter 2

The Days of Unleavened Bread - Repentance, Chapter 2

God's Purpose for Mankind, Chapter 2

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Can a Philadelphia Fellowship Exist in the Laodicean Era?

John Carmack posted about eras of the Church in his blog. In his post, he accuses Bob Thiel of inconsistency for saying that LCG is Philadelphian while also saying this is the Laodicean era.

Here is a link to John's post:

Robert Thiel replied to John's post in his COGwriter blog. Here is a link to that reply:

Whether or not Bob Thiel is correct about LCG being Philadelphian, he is not inconsistent.

A single organization, such as LCG or some other group, can be Philadelphian during the Laodicean era if the majority of the WHOLE Church of God, the collective body of every person who has God's Holy Spirit, is Laodicean.

My understanding of the doctrine of the eras of the Church is that the characteristics listed in each of the seven messages in Revelation describe the PREDOMINANT condition of the Church during the era the message corresponds to. I think that is how Herbert W. Armstrong described it. So if the predominant characteristic of the whole Church in our time (and that could simply mean the characteristic of the majority of the members) is Laodicean, then you can call this the Laodicean era on that basis. So if 70%, for example, of all those who have the Spirit of God dwelling in them and are therefore part of the Church, regardless of which organization they attend, are Laodicean in attitude and spiritual condition, then this is the Laodicean era.

You can still have individual members who are in the Philadelphia condition, or the Sardis condition, or some other condition described in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, but they will not be the majority of the whole Church of God. This is why Christ tells everyone to listen to what the Spirit says to ALL the churches, because each of us can individually be in any of the seven conditions described (Revelation 3:22). Mr. Armstrong taught that we were in the Philadelphian era, but he also taught that not everyone in the Church was Philadelphian in spiritual condition. So no matter what the era, every member should examine himself in light of all seven messages, because any individual person could fall into any one of those categories, even though the characteristic of the era predominates during that era among most members.

Could there be enough Philadelphians in one fellowship to make that the predominant characteristic of that fellowship, even while the majority of the Church as a whole including all organizations is Laodicean?

It is possible. Today, the Church of God is split up into many organizations. One fellowship could be Philadelphian while a majority of members in other fellowships and in the Church of God as a whole are Laodicean.

So it is not inconsistent to teach that this is the Laodicean era while teaching that a particular fellowship, which is just a small part of the entire Church of God, is predominantly Philadelphian.

Is that the case at this time? Is there a Church of God fellowship that is in the Philadelphian condition right now?

I think Bob Thiel thinks there must be a Church of God fellowship that is Philadelphian at this time because there must be such a fellowship that will finish the work and go to a place of safety before the tribulation. And while I agree that there will be a Church of God fellowship that will be mostly Philadelphian before the tribulation begins, I do not agree that such an organization MUST exist now. Bob Thiel might be right. It might exist now. But there is another possibility.

It may be that NO existing Church of God fellowship has the majority of its members in the Philadelphian condition. But when God's time comes, He can gather most true Philadelphians into a small group, maybe one that does not exist now, and it would be that group that finishes the work and goes to a place of safety before the tribulation, while rest of the Church of God, the majority of all members in all other fellowships, are Laodicean and do not go to the place of safety.

Philadelphia is promised an open door to preaching the gospel (Revelation 3:7-8, Colossians 4:2-4, 2 Corinthians 2:12, 1 Corinthians 16:8-9), so perhaps one measure of how many Philadelphians are in an organization is how effectively that organization is preaching the gospel to the world.

And while some groups are more effective than others, I do not see any group today that is as effective in preaching the gospel to the world as Mr. Armstrong was.

This is a time when every member of the Church of God, regardless of organizational affiliation, should examine himself or herself in light of all seven messages to the churches in Revelation, and strive to be zealous and 100% faithful to God and His word. Laodiceans have time to repent. Philadelphia is a goal to strive for.

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Should the Church Feed the Flock Only, Introduction, Chapter 5

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

Finding the Solution, Chapter 5

Following the Chain of Events Backward, Chapter 5

Finding the Root Cause of Laodiceanism -- False Doctrine?, Chapter 5

Was Preaching the Gospel to the Public a Cause of Laodiceanism?, Chapter 5

What About Tares?, Chapter 5

Comparing Ourselves Among Ourselves, Chapter 5

When and How to Judge, Chapter 5

The Cause of the Church's Scattered Condition, and the Solution, Chapter 5

Focusing on the Bible, Chapter 5

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Preparing for Trials

This world and our country are getting closer and closer to serious trials, and some of us are getting closer to trials in the Church of God as well. We need to draw closer to God to prepare for those trials.

It is God who gives wisdom and understanding for making decisions, and the decisions we may have to make can have dramatic effects on our future destinies (Deuteronomy 34:9, 1 Kings 3:12, 1 Kings 5:12, Psalm 111:10, James 1:5). We need to draw close to God so we will make right and wise decisions.

One of the ways we can draw close to God and prepare for trials is to spend more time reading or studying the Bible. We should immerse ourselves in God's word.

The Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is God speaking. And God commands that we live by His word.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He answered every temptation Satan threw at Him by quoting from scripture. "Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.' 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 4:3-4).

The Holy Spirit can bring to our mind the scriptures we have read when we need them in time of temptation or when facing a decision (John 14:26). But we need to do our part to read the Bible so that we have the scriptures in our minds, so God can help us remember them when we need them. But we cannot remember what we never knew or read.

Many Church members have never read the whole Bible through cover to cover. If you have not done so, I encourage you to try it. Start with Genesis, read a little each day, use a bookmark to keep track of where you have left off, and keep it up until you finish Revelation. I recommend a literal translation such as the New King James version, which tries to be as close as possible to the original language that God inspired.

We cannot live by every word of God if we have not read every word of God.

The Bible is the Word of God (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3, Proverbs 30:5, Mark 7:10-13, John 10:34-36). Jesus Christ is also called the Word of God (John 1:1-2, 14, Revelation 19:11-13). Mr. Armstrong explained that the Bible is the Word of God in print and Jesus Christ is the Word of God in person, the same word. We are to feed on Jesus Christ (John 6:53-58), and one of the ways we can do that is by studying the Bible.

The Bible shows us the mind of God and how He thinks, and by studying God's word in an attitude of belief and profound respect, and then applying what we learn, we can with the help of God's Spirit develop the mind and character of God and receive the wisdom to make right decisions and the character and help to endure trials (Philippians 2:5). Studying the Bible is a way we can stir up God's Spirit within us (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

"Thus says the Lord: 'Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? 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 66:1-2).

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

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

How to Understand the Bible, Chapter 1

Focusing on the Bible, Chapter 5

The Source of Our Beliefs, Chapter 6

Faith, Chapter 6

God Speaks Through the Bible, Chapter 6

Friday, August 13, 2010

What Kind of Unity?

Church of God ministers often preach a message advocating unity. It is a common theme in the Church. Church organizations that do not have it plead for it. Those that have it boast about it. And we should have unity in the Church of God. But what kind of unity and how do we obtain it?

There is a way of life that leads to peace and unity, and we need to practice that way of life. It is the way of life defined by God's law, the way of life of loving God with all our being and our neighbor as ourselves. It is the way of living by every word of God. Unity and peace comes as a byproduct of that way of life. When we strive to believe and obey God in everything we think, say, and do, peace and unity result. We do not achieve unity by striving for unity. We strive to obey God, and unity results.

Unity is like happiness that way. No one achieves long-term happiness by striving for happiness directly. But happiness comes in the long run as a result of faith and obedience towards God. So will unity come that way.

Unity apart from God is worthless in the long term. We should seek to be unified with God first, and then unity and peace with each other will also come.

Also, unity within individual parts is not unity of the whole.

When we were all together in Worldwide while Mr. Armstrong was alive, we had a measure of unity and peace in the Church of God. Now, we are scattered into many organizations, and there are many scattered brethren who stay home. We are scattered and divided. Yet that does not stop individual organizations from boasting about the unity they have. And some COG fellowships enjoy a measure of peace and unity in their own organization. But not with other organizations in the Church of God.

Each of us individually, and each Church of God fellowship, should practice the way of life that leads to unity with God, and as we all draw closer to God, we will draw closer to each other, not just within organizations, but between organizations.

But it takes two to make peace and only one to make war. If you believe, trust, and obey God, you cannot be unified with someone who is not willing to believe, trust, and obey God. And the responsibility for disunity falls on those who do not fully strive to live by every word of God, not on those who are separated for their belief and faithfulness to God and to the Bible (Luke 6:22-23, John 16:1-2, Matthew 10:34-39).

Some ministers in an organization may plea for unity and may resent someone outside their organization telling them or their members that there is something seriously wrong with their doctrines or policies. They may feel that such a person is trying to create disunity within their organization. Yet, while they plea for unity within their organization, they may be following practices that divide them from other Church of God fellowships, and from God. That is not the kind of unity that God wants.

So we end up with several organizations, each trying to achieve and maintain the highest level of peace and unity within their organization, but without practicing the way of life that would lead to unity in the whole Church of God.

Then when one of those organizations splits up, the smaller fellowships that result each boast how much peace and unity each one has within itself.

Suppose sometime in the future, maybe a year from now, maybe ten years from now, United Church of God splits right down the middle because of the divisions and different views within it. I am not predicting that, but suppose it happens. Then instead of one organization with 20,000 members, you have UCG-A with 10,000 members and UCG-B with 10,000 members, each following slightly different doctrines and policies. Now UCG-A says, "What wonderful unity we have, brethren." And UCG-B says the same thing to its members. But there is no unity between UCG-A and UCG-B even though both are Churches of God and both are part of the body of Christ.

Is Christ divided? Paul asked that question of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:13). His point was not that the Church could not be divided. In fact, he asked the question precisely BECAUSE the Corinthians were divided. He was rebuking them for their division. He was telling them, in effect, Christ should not be divided, but in their case, the part of the body of Christ at Corinth WAS divided. It was not Christ causing division in His body. It was not that Christ was failing to lead. It was the Corinthians who were failing to follow Christ. We will have unity as we follow Christ, but God does not force us to follow, and to the degree we do not follow Christ we will have division in the Church of God.

What is needed for unity in the whole Church of God is a deep commitment on the part of every minister and member to fully believe and strive to live by every word of God.

But if this is the Laodicean era, and I believe it is, that is unlikely to happen among everyone in the Church before the tribulation begins. But some are committed to living by every word of God now, and more will be in the future, and in time I believe God will bring those together and they will have unity with God which will lead to unity with each other.

I have just learned that Mr. Leon Walker met with the United Church of God Council of Elders at the home office in in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 11, 2010, so it looks like both sides are making an effort towards reconciliation. This is good news. A spirit of bitterness does no one good. If nothing else, at least this will give everyone time to calm down and try to recapture a spirit of love and forgiveness towards each other and to make right decisions about the future based on God's law, not on anger. Reconciliation and forgiveness is God's way.

Here is a link to the UCG post announcing the meeting:

It may be that God is answering the prayers of ministers and members concerning this situation. Prayer does make a difference.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

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

The Cause of the Church's Scattered Condition, and the Solution, Chapter 5

Focusing on the Bible, Chapter 5

Will the Whole Church of God Re-unite?, Chapter 5

Church Government, Chapter 7

How Is the Church Organized?, Chapter 7

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finally, Melvin Rhodes and Dennis Luker Agree with Me!

My writing and posting to this blog has not been in vain!

I have been hoping to persuade United Church of God ministers, from the Bible, that governance of God's Church by a process of balloting is not God's way.

One of my points has been that there is a conflict of interest when those under authority choose those over them in authority. Now, it seems that Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker agree with that point, at least in principle.

Recently, they published Update on the Situation in Latin America and with Leon Walker, August 6, 2010.

In that document, they criticize a process, suggested or supported by Mr. Leon Walker and the Latin American ministry, whereby the regional director in the Latin American region would be appointed by a board made up of certain Latin American pastors and can only be removed by 2/3 ballot of those pastors, yet the regional director has authority over those pastors, including the authority to remove them from the board. In effect, the ministry can choose the regional director who will have authority over them. Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker call this an "inherent conflict of interest". See pages 4 and 5.

This is progress. I didn't think these men could see that there is a conflict of interest here, but there is. That conflict occurs whenever those under authority choose those over them in authority in the Church of God. Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker didn't explain what that conflict is.

There are actually several conflicts. The biggest conflict is between our obligation to men and our obligation to God. Who would the director report to and try to please, those who voted him into office and have the power to remove him, or Jesus Christ? Who really has the authority, the ministers who give authority to the director by voting him into office or the director who has authority over the ministers? Will the ministers vote for the man they think will please them or the man who will please God? Will the director try to please the ministers so they do not remove him or will he try to please God? And if he tries to please God more than the ministers, will the ministers remove him from office? Then there is also the conflict of interest between the principles of respecting the office of those over you and freely giving and receiving counsel about whether to vote them out of office.

This is the conflict of interest I wrote about in my blog posting UCG Council of Elders letter.

However, I do not think Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker yet recognize that this same conflict of interest exists in United Church of God as a whole. But if they can at least recognize the principle that a conflict of interest exists when those under authority select and can remove those over them in authority, it may be only a matter of time till they learn to apply that principle to UCG governance by ballot.

Now, if I can only get Roy Holladay, Victor Kubik, and Aaron Dean, as well as Clyde Kilough, Jim Franks, and Larry Salyer to recognize and acknowledge the same principle, that will be real progress.

But it is a hard sell.

Many UCG ministers and the headquarters leadership are making an idol out of their decision 15 years ago to establish UCG governance by ballot. If you are a member or minister in UCG, try suggesting to your pastor or supervisor that the decision on governance made fifteen years ago was a mistake, and see the reaction you get. You might need courage to try this. Probably, you would not get as strong a reaction if you questioned the Sabbath, the Holy Days, the identity of the lost tribes of Israel, tithing, clean and unclean meats, etc. Maybe if you questioned the existence or the faithfulness of God or the truthfulness of the Bible you might get a sympathetic response, not sympathetic in the sense of agreement, but a willingness to talk and help you understand. But governance? UCG ministers made a mistake? How dare you! Rebel! Out, out!

And if you do find a pastor or leader in UCG willing to patiently explain the reason for UCG's governance and why it was NOT a mistake, you are not likely to get an explanation based on the Bible. Instead you will get a account of WHY men made that decision 15 years ago, their human reasons for doing so, as if that should be the deciding factor. They will say that they didn't want a repeat of one man changing doctrine. They will say that they didn't know who God would work with so they wanted to cooperate with other ministers. They will misapply the scriptures that teach, in a multitude of counselors there is safety, even though voting is not offering counsel. Voting is power. Voting, or "balloting", is authority, not counsel. It is not advice offered to someone who makes a decision. Voting IS the decision.

I posted a comment to Inside United: Realtime, where I asked the question, could UCG ministers have made a mistake about governance fifteen years ago? That question hit somebody's button, because my comment was immediately deleted.


Why can't this be discussed?

Why should UCG ministers be so sensitive about the question? Why should that question be off the table? Everybody makes mistakes. Why is it wrong for someone to say, "Did we make a mistake?" Is it wrong to ask if a move to Dallas would be a mistake? Is wrong to ask if the appointment of a man to an office might be a mistake? Would it be wrong to ask if the allocation of money to this or that part of the budget is a mistake or not? Can issues be discussed? Or is it only the question of the form of governance that is taboo, untouchable, even "sacred"?

Why the extreme, almost fanatical allegiance to a decision made by men fifteen years ago?

That is why I say that ministers are making an idol out of their own decision fifteen years ago. It is as if they can admit they make mistakes in every other area, but not that one. It is sacred. Changing that decision must not be considered. To even suggest that it was a mistake is heresy.

Why can't that decision be revisited? The decision on Dallas was changed. Why not governance? Are the ministers who made that decision fifteen years ago human and fallible or not? And if not fallible, why the division today? And if they are fallible, why couldn't they be wrong about governance?

Do the leaders and ministers in United Church of God mean to give the impression that they think they are above mistakes?

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Government in the Church, Chapter 5

Following the Bible -- Pattern of Government, Chapter 6

Church Government, Chapter 7

How Is the Church Organized?, Chapter 7

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dennis Luker's Sermon on God's Sovereignty

Mr. Dennis Luker gave a sermon August 5 entitled "God's Sovereignty in the Church and Our Personal Lives". Here is a link to the UCG post that announced the sermon:

Here is a link to the page where you can download the sermon:

I have listened to the sermon. Mr. Luker emphasizes God's power and control of events. He says his intent is to encourage the brethren and strengthen their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as we go through trials including the trials that are occurring in the Church.

At one point early in the sermon, he states that God is always in control of all things that occur in the world, the Church, and our lives.

But as I listened to the sermon, I was listening for a statement to the effect that, while God has power to help us in our trials, He does not exercise control over the choices we make between right and wrong, good and evil. I never heard that statement made. Nor did he speak about the fact that we reap what we sow, or that we will be judged for what we say and do.

So I would like to mention that truth here.

God does have all power. But he doesn't control what we choose to do and say. He gives that control to us. He gives us free moral agency. He teaches us the right way to go, but requires that we individually choose the right way to go (Deuteronomy 30:15-19). And He judges us for our choices (Romans 14:10-12, 1 Peter 4:17-18, Matthew 25:14-46, 2 Corinthians 5:10). God uses His power to bring the consequences of our choices, good or bad, upon us. What we sow, that we reap (Galatians 6:7-9). Sometimes God puts us through trials to teach us the harmful consequences of what we have done.

God can help us make right choices, He can encourage us, but He doesn't force us, and He does not make our choices for us and does take our free will from us. Often we make choices He is not happy with. He is not in control of all things in that sense.

God allows us to make wrong choices, unwise choices, choices He does NOT want us to make, but He allows us to make them, then He brings on us the fruits of those choices (Jeremiah 17:10, 2:19, Hebrews 12:5-11, Revelation 3:19).

God is not the author of the division that exists in UCG, but He allows it. He may even withhold the help UCG might need to avoid division or to repair division, if He sees that a correction is needed in views about governance. If our views are wrong about something as important as governance, if we are mentally twisting scriptures and not being honest with ourselves and with God about what the Bible teaches about governance in the Church of God, we may pray for healing and unity, but God may not give us that healing and unity till we learn our lessons. The foundation has to be right before the rest of the building can be repaired. God can allow Satan to stir up a spirit of bitterness in the United Church of God until it comes apart at the seams, if that is what is needed to teach the lesson. That is how God deals with the world. God is allowing the world to get a bellyful of Satan's ways, as an object lesson, and God can deal the same way with the Church of God to the extent we bring the world's ways into the Church.

Jesus Christ has all authority and power. But that is not an endorsement of the actions of the present Council of Elders, the chairman of the Council, or the president of UCG. Neither is it an endorsement of the actions and words of Mr. Leon Walker and ministers in the Latin American region. God will not take away the free moral agency of these men to choose between right and wrong or between wise or unwise decisions.

Simple logic must show that God cannot be happy with the decisions of the present leadership of UCG and simultaneously be happy with the decisions of Leon Walker. God does not enjoy conflict, and He does not pit one side against the other for the entertainment of watching a boxing match between the two sides. One side or the other must be wrong, or both sides are wrong. Either way, both sides are not right.

If one says, "God has all power and controls everything, therefore everything that happens is according to His will, and God is behind the decisions of the Council of Elders, and if you disagree with the Council, you disagree with God", then by the same logic you can say, "God has all power and controls everything, therefore everything that happens is according to His will, and God is behind the decisions of Leon Walker, and if you disagree with him, you disagree with God." Both of those cannot be true.

Mr. Luker has not said in the sermon that the fact that God has all power means that he endorses the decisions of the Council, but some might read that implication into the sermon (whether Mr. Luker intends that or not), and I am pointing out that the fact that God is sovereign does not mean that He is pleased with the decisions of the Council.

Mr. Luker goes through the messages to the seven churches in Revelation. He acknowledges the doctrine of the eras of the Church. When he goes through the individual messages to the seven churches, he puts emphasis on how God works with each of us individually, working with us by correcting us for our faults and encouraging us and commending us where appropriate. I agree that each of us individually should examine ourselves in light of all seven messages, and Mr. Armstrong I believe taught the same. But we should also not forget that these messages were originally delivered to specific congregations, and some of the problems are problems of a whole congregation or fellowship. The words of correction and rebuke Jesus gives in these messages can apply to us individually but they can also apply to an entire organization or fellowship or era.

All power and authority have been given to Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). But Christ does not control the words and actions of Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker and Mr. Walker to the degree that they cannot make mistakes or wrong decisions. Christ does not use His power to FORCE any of us to do the right thing. This is made clear by Christ's statement about His servants. "And the Lord said, 'Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, "My master is delaying his coming," and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers' " (Luke 12:42-46).

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

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

The Cause of the Church's Scattered Condition, and the Solution, Chapter 5

Focusing on the Bible, Chapter 5

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

Will the Whole Church of God Re-unite?, Chapter 5

How Is the Church Organized?, Chapter 7

UCG Pastor Graemme Marshall Resigns

UCG Current Crisis blog has reported that UCG pastor Mr. Graemme Marshall in Canada has resigned. Here is a link to the post which gives further details:

More ministers will probably leave United Church of God, but I think most will try to wait till after the Feast of Tabernacles. But I think many will leave before next Passover. To me, a big question will be, how will they organize and what kind of governance will they choose? Will they set up governance similar to UCG's present form of governance? Will there be balloting? Will they say, "We have seen the ugly results of one-man rule in our former association (Worldwide)"? It seems to me that it will be harder for them to claim that as a justification for balloting when governance by balloting has also produced ugly results in UCG.

Will they all organize together or will some pastors remain independent? Way back when UCG was getting started some pastors left or were put out of Worldwide and functioned independently for a short time before joining UCG. For example, I believe that was the case with Mr. Robert Fahey, and it may have been the case with others also. If I am not mistaken, Mr. Fahey functioned independently for several weeks before joining UCG. Who did he report to administratively after leaving Worldwide and before joining United Church of God? He reported to Jesus Christ directly. Why a pastor would remove himself from Christ's direct supervision to report to a body chosen by the balloting of men is beyond me.

Mr. Graemme Marshall may face the same issue. He seems to be waiting for a larger organization to form from more ministers who will leave UCG. But in the meantime, who does he report to? Who is his direct supervisor as he pastors the flock God has entrusted him with, today, tomorrow, and for the next several weeks or months? Jesus Christ! Now, if Christ leads him to remain independent, fine, but if Christ shows him that he should report to another minister who is better qualified and has shown by his fruits that God is working through him, it may be a wise decision for Mr. Marshall to report to that man as long as that man reports to Christ. But why should a minister place himself under the authority of men chosen by voting, not by Christ?

How does God choose a man and make the choice known? By announced appointment and/or by fruits. There are examples of each in the Bible, and sometimes, as in the case of Joshua, it was both. Moses announced that God had appointed Joshua (Numbers 27:15-23, Deuteronomy 1:37-38, 3:26-28, 31:1-3, 14), and then God backed up Joshua with supernatural signs to show by the fruits that, as He was with Moses, so He was also with Joshua (Joshua 3:7).

But I know of no case either in the Bible or in Church history where God has made His choice known through the voting of men. Nor do I think that in Church history being written right now, Christ is showing by the fruits that He has chosen wise and faithful leaders in UCG by the voting of men.

You can't justify everything that happens by saying, Christ is in charge, so He wanted it to happen.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

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

The Cause of the Church's Scattered Condition, and the Solution, Chapter 5

Government in the Church, Chapter 5

Following the Bible -- Pattern of Government, Chapter 6

Church Government, Chapter 7

Monday, August 9, 2010

Conflict of Interest?

United Church of God has published an "Update on the Situation in Latin America and with Leon Walker" from Mr. Melvin Rhodes and Mr. Dennis Luker as a pdf file dated August 6, 2010. Here is a link to the file:

One thing in this update caught my attention. Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker describe a document Mr. Leon Walker talked about entitled "The Administrative Structure of the Spanish Region of the United Church of God, an International Association." This document expresses the wishes of the Spanish ministry on how the Spanish Region of UCG should be administered. Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker criticized this document. According to Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker, this document states that the regional director should be appointed by an administrative board consisting of pastors under the authority of the regional director, who can be removed by the regional director, and only by the votes of two-thirds of those pastors may the regional director be removed. Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker then state that there is a conflict of interest for the director to be able to remove the subordinates with the subordinates having the power to remove the director (page 5). Later Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker say that no organization in its right mind would allow a supervisory employee to be selected or removed by employees under the authority of the supervisor (page 6).

But isn't that exactly how United Church of God governance works on the larger scale? It is the pastors and elders under the authority of the Council of Elders who select and remove members of the Council. There is indeed a conflict of interest, but this is built-in to UCG governance, and you cannot remove the conflict without changing the governance.

It also raises a question about the governance that will be set up for new organizations by those separating from UCG. Will they also have governance by balloting? Or will they have top-down governance? And if they have governance by balloting, what will they have learned? How can those who leave UCG or are forced out explain how this happened? As UCG leaders often point out, the governance in UCG was agreed to by the UCG ministers 15 years ago. So why isn't it working? Is it a mistake to have governance by balloting or not? If not, why is there such division in UCG? And what will those who separate do differently to make sure the division that has come about in UCG will not also come about later in any new organizations that are formed?

Here are links to answers to the Melvin Rhodes / Dennis Luker update.

This is a response from Mr. Leon Walker:

This is a response from Mr. Larry Roybal about things said about him in the UCG update:

More related links:

UCG posts from Melvin Rhodes and Dennis Luker:

Here is the UCG post giving the link to the update pdf document:

Links to recent posts about the UCG crisis in COGwriter:

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Government in the Church, Chapter 5

Following the Bible -- Pattern of Government, Chapter 6

Church Government, Chapter 7

Monday, August 2, 2010

Douglas Winnail Sermon - Characteristics of the True Church

Dr. Douglas Winnail of the Living Church of God has given a sermon on March 20, 2010 entitled "Ten Characteristics of God's True Church." It was just posted to the Living Church of God website on or around July 30, 2010. In this sermon, Dr. Winnail offers ten characteristics of God's true Church. He gives the ten characteristics in question form, as questions someone should ask when searching for the true Church that Jesus Christ founded. I think the list of questions is good and useful for someone looking for a Church of God fellowship to attend with and support.

You can find the sermon at LCG's website at
Look for the link named "Sermons" near top of page.

One thing he mentioned that I thought was particularly good was in his point about prophecy. He said that the nations of Israel today need to know what is going to happen and why or else the punishment will not make any sense. Without hearing our warning, those who go thru the tribulation would ask, why is God letting this happen to us since we go to church regularly?

That is an excellent point. Many people who appose the preaching of the gospel to the public think that the only reason for preaching the gospel to the world is to bring new members into the Church of God. Since they see the Church as being divided and not setting a good example, they think God does not want to bring new members into the Church right now. But that is not the only reason or even the main reason necessarily for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. God says the gospel will be preached as a WITNESS (Matthew 24:14). People need a warning so that they know that God was fair and merciful to give them the warning before the tribulation comes and it is too late for them to escape. They need a warning so that in the tribulation they will remember that they heard the warning but ignored it. So instead of saying, "God never warned me so it's not my fault," they can say, "I heard the warning and I should have listened." Many religious people today think they are serving God by observing the traditions of their churches. They don't know they are doing wrong. They never heard the message of the Church. Failure to give them a warning gives them an excuse, and Satan an opportunity, for them to blame God, which will make their repentence more difficult later. Giving them a warning now, before the tribulation begins, will help them accept responsibility during the tribulation for their decision to ignore the warning, and that will be an important step towards real repentance.

Our time is unique in Church of God history in the last 2,000 years because most of the people who will be the first generation of humanity in the millennium are alive today. That first generation has already been born. We can start teaching them. Most will not understand or believe now, but they will remember later that they heard our message. As the millennium begins, they we remember what we have said to them now. That has never been true before. And they will remember in the tribulation. They will understand the reason for the tribulation and what they need to do to repent.

The list of characteristics of the true Church Dr. Winnail gave in his sermon are good, and I would like to offer another characteristic to the ones he gave, one which Herbert W. Armstrong looked for when he was first converted.

Herbert W. Armstrong faced this question when he was coming into the Church. He was looking for the true Church that Jesus Christ founded.

One of the characteristics that Mr. Armstrong looked for, according to his autobiography, was a willingness on the part of the Church to be corrected by the Bible in doctrine and to learn new knowledge from the Bible. He reasoned that the true Church would be GROWING in grace and in knowledge (2 Peter 3:18). So to see if this was true of the Church of God, Seventh Day, he performed a test. He tested that Church by sending them two doctrinal papers giving new knowledge from the Bible, knowledge which that Church did not have. One was the new knowledge of the identity of the lost tribes of Israel. The other was a doctrinal paper correcting an error that COG7D had in its doctrines. Mr. Armstrong did not mention in his autobiography what that doctrine was about, but it might have been about the holy days. Mr. Armstrong sent in these doctrinal papers to see how the leadership of the Church of God, Seventh Day would respond, to test them to see if that Church had the characteristic of being willing to grow in knowledge and in truth and be willing to be corrected by the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16).

They did not accept this new knowledge submitted by Mr. Armstrong, even though they did not refute it.

I believe that one of the reasons God could not use that Church to do a great work of preaching the gospel was because they were unwilling to practice what they preached. Those who preach the true gospel to the public are saying, "Give up your traditions and be corrected by the Bible," but if those who preach are not willing to do the same, how can God bless those who say, but don't do (Matthew 23:1-4)?

But Mr. Armstrong was willing to be corrected by the Bible. So was Loma Armstrong. A Church of God, Seventh Day member showed Mrs. Armstrong the truth about the Sabbath in the Bible. Mrs. Armstrong, who was raised in a Sunday keeping tradition, accepted this new knowledge (new for her) from the Bible. She believed the Bible more than her traditions. She then gave it to Herbert Armstrong. At first he did not accept it, but once he had proved it in the Bible, he also allowed himself to be corrected by the Bible and to learn new knowledge, knowledge he never had before and knowledge contrary to the traditions he was raised in. So God used a Church of God member to bring the truth to Mrs. Armstrong, and then used her to bring it to Mr. Armstrong. Now God began to use Mr. Armstrong to bring new knowledge to the Church of God, Seventh Day, not about the Sabbath, which they already had, but about the lost tribes of Israel and about the holy days. The test of faith in God's Word had come full circle. God used the Church to test Loma Armstrong, then used Loma Armstrong to test Herbert Armstrong, then used Mr. Armstrong to test the Church, each in turn being tested on willingness to accept new knowledge when shown it in the Bible. Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong passed the test. Would the Church of God, Seventh Day pass the test?

You can read the story in Mr. Armstrong's autobiography.

By the way, Mr. Armstrong was not ordained as a minister when he submitted his doctrinal papers to the Church. He was still a lay member. His ordination came later.

Mr. Armstrong thought that Mystery of the Ages was perhaps the most important book he had written, and it probably is as a summary of all the things he taught. But for Church of God members, I have long thought that, out of all Mr. Armstrong's books, his autobiography was the most important book a Church member can read because it covers some important principles that are covered in none of the literature written for the public.

A few decades after Mr. Armstrong tested the Church of God, Seventh Day on their willingness to learn new knowledge and be corrected by the Bible, when Radio Church of God / Worldwide Church of God was growing, he published an article, "Should We Listen to Others?" In this article he answered the question, what should a member do if he finds something different in the Bible than what the Church of God teaches? Should he hide his eyes from it? Should he believe the Church rather than the Bible? No! Mr. Armstrong said he should take it to his pastor or write to headquarters. If he is wrong, the Church would show him where he is wrong, but if the Church is wrong, Mr. Armstrong would make the correction for the whole Church. In the meantime, the member is not to cause division by talking about it with other members.

I think that is good policy, and is consistent with the scriptures (1 Corinthians 13:9, 2 Peter 3:18, 2 Corinthians 1:24, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3, Romans 4:3, James 2:23, Genesis 15:6, Isaiah 51:1-2, Mark 11:22, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18, 2 Timothy 3:16, John 10:35, 1 Corinthians 1:10).

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Effect of the Holocaust, Chapter 4


The Two Witnesses and God's Fairness, Chapter 4

Why the Gospel Must Still Be Preached to the World, Chapter 4

Practicing What We Preach, Chapter 6

Changing Doctrine, Chapter 6

A Lesson from the Autobiography, Chapter 6

Should Each Member Promote His Own Opinion?, Chapter 6

A Possible Problem in the Church, Chapter 6

A Summary -- the Nineteenth Truth, Chapter 6