Monday, December 31, 2012

Bob Thiel's Prediction

First, I have to correct myself. In yesterday's post, I said about Bob Thiel's Continuing Church or God: "They have not had their own Sabbath services yet, not even one meeting, not even one sermon as far as anyone knows." But I did not read Bob Thiel's post thoroughly - I only skimmed it. In his post about love, he says Continuing Church of God held their first service last Sabbath and that love was the subject of the sermon they heard. Here is a link to Dr. Thiel's post:

I am not sure if the service Dr. Thiel refers to is simply the video group he hosts and if the members were aware, before they arrived, that they were attending the services of a new group, not LCG. It is possible that all LCG members attending the video group were informed of events by telephone. It is possible that Dr. Thiel held a separate service for those who wanted to be part of Continuing Church of God.

In Bob Thiel's "News of Those Once Affiliated with the Global Church of God" page, in the entry dated 12/30/12, he makes a "prediction" that Continuing Church of God will reach more people in its first 30 days with the message of the Church of God than any Church of God coming out of Worldwide did in their first 30 days.


This is not a difficult thing for Dr. Thiel to accomplish for the simple reason that every other group had to start from scratch to build an Internet presence, but Bob Thiel has already built a sizable Internet presence that was built with the support of Living Church of God (or Global before that) and the Living Church of God brethren. By "support" I do not mean financial support, I mean traffic. The traffic to his COGwriter website, first from Global and Living Church of God brethren and later from brethren from many Churches of God has helped Bob Thiel achieve high Alexa ratings, high search engine rankings, and high sales rankings for his books (I am sure many COG brethren have purchased one or more of his books). Moreover, in building his blog over the years, he has written extensively, and he can now use his writings in his new group. That is something that other Church of God leaders were not able to do when they raised up Churches of God. Why? Because they were employed fulltime by the Church they left and their material was written while working for them and the copyrights stayed with the Church of God organization they left.

For example, when Roderick C. Meredith raised up Global Church of God, he had no inventory of literature he could use because the writing he did before then was done while he was an employee of Worldwide, and Worldwide owned the copyrights. Dr. Meredith actually did extensive writing for Worldwide in his career, but he could not use his own writings. He had to start from scratch. He could not use the old Ten Commandments booklet he had written because the copyright for that booklet belonged to Worldwide, so he had to write a new booklet.

Moreover, he could not build a very big work in just 30 days when he started Global because the Internet was not as big then as it is now, and he had to use radio, which is more limited, for the first few weeks. It may be hard to even get radio time arranged in that timeframe.

Dr. Thiel's situation is somewhat unique. He was able to work under the umbrella of Global, then Living for a number of years, building web traffic, building an inventory of writing, and building publicity and sales for his books, yet because he was not an employee of Global or Living, he keeps control of everything he has built. And Global/Living has helped him, indirectly, to build the traffic to his websites and his book sales. So unlike others who have raised up Churches of God, Bob Thiel has a head start. He leaves LCG, but he doesn't lose his website or his writings. He doesn't have to start from scratch as other COG leaders did.

Ask yourself, how did he build traffic to his site?

It was someone in the LCG ministry that asked Dr. Thiel to start his website. I have heard that he received encouragement from Dr. Meredith. If memory serves me, at one time Global and/or Living Church of God provided a LINK to the COGwriter site from the Church's website. There may have been a link in the Church's website to a page called, "Related Links" or something like that - I don't remember the details. That is how I found his site many years ago, through the Global or Living Church of God website. And because he was a friendly advocate for Global/LCG, word among the brethren in Global/LCG spread about his site. Over time, traffic to his site grew, but it grew because Global and then Living brethren "tuned in" to his site on a regular basis, and they did that because he was a fellow member. As his site grew, it caught the attention of members in other Church of God fellowships as well.

The brethren of Global and Living Church of God, by giving Bob Thiel's site traffic, helped to build its web presence, and it is because of that traffic that Bob Thiel now enjoys a high Alexa rating, high search engine rankings, and high book sales.

So he is not starting from scratch as other COG leaders had to do.

Now I am not saying this to belittle his effort or desire to get the gospel message out.

I do not want to see funds diverted from LCG to CCOG. I think, dollar for dollar, tithe money sent to LCG will accomplish more good than money sent to Bob Thiel's new group.

But if tithe money does go to Dr. Thiel, I am glad he wants to use it to preach the gospel to the world. I say this even though I fault Dr. Thiel for some of his teachings.

My attitude about this is similar to Paul's when he said, in Philippians 1:15-18, "Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice." Paul was saying that even when the truth is preached by those who are not sincere or are carnal, he rejoiced that the gospel was going out, no matter who was getting the message out (I am not accusing Bob Thiel of being insincere).

So if Dr. Thiel is successful in reaching people with the true gospel who never heard it before, I will be glad of that success, but Living Church of God is already doing that, and I think LCG will be more effective with God's tithe in preaching the gospel than Bob Thiel will be.

For anyone who wants to support the gospel, I think sending tithe money to Living Church of God will do more good for more people in getting the message out than sending it to Continuing Church of God. So if the choice is between sending God's tithe money to CCOG or to LCG, I hope people will send it to LCG. But if it is a choice between sending God's tithe money to CCOG or spending it on junk food, movies, video games, toys, vacations, and restaurants, then it is better to send it to CCOG.

Dr. Thiel will have to work at getting the message out to more people in the first 30 days than any other COG group in their first 30 days - it won't happen automatically. And I hope he tries and I hope he succeeds (with his own money I hope, not tithes drawn from LCG members). But if he does succeed, it will not be so remarkable, simply because he has a head start no other leader of a Church of God group had starting out. And the fact that he has "predicted" this will also not be so remarkable, and should not be considered a "prophecy" fulfilled.

His particular circumstances, and the shape of media today, make it easier for him to reach a lot of people in the first 30 days than other leaders of COG groups were able to reach in their first 30 days. The "shape of the media" I refer to is the fact that the Internet is more dominant today than it was in the past. The circumstances I refer to is the fact that he was able to build up a web presence, search rankings, inventory of literature, and commercial book sales, over a number of years, under the "umbrella" in a sense and with the encouragement and support of one of the largest and most dynamic Church of God fellowships since Worldwide, and (here is the key) TAKE ALL THAT WITH HIM WHEN HE LEAVES. No other Church of God leader had that opportunity because no other Church of God organization gave so much support to someone who was not an employee and who owned their own websites and copyrights.

For Bob Thiel to achieve his goal for the next 30 days of reaching more people than any other COG group did in its first 30 days (which is not really a lot after all), all he has to do is take advantage of the opportunity that Dr. Meredith and the brethren of the Living Church of God have handed to him on a platter.

I'll be glad if his does it (with his own money, not God's tithes drawn from LCG members), and he better try hard at it now that he has gone out on his own, but I won't be impressed very much if he does it.  He needs to do a lot more than that over a longer period of time.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Follow Up on Robert Thiel's Recent Actions

I don't have a lot to add to yesterday's post, but I noticed something in Bob Thiel's COGwriter site that I thought was noteworthy, plus I have had a few additional thoughts I want to add that I did not include yesterday.

At the bottom of his December 29, 2012 post entitled , "The Philadelphia remnant: it is really all about love", is a series of links to related articles in Dr. Thiel's website. That is routine. What is interesting is the last link in the list: "Continuing Church of God The most faithful of the COGs to the word of God."

Here is a link to that post:

Now, is that to be the full name of the new church? Or is the part that starts "The most faithful..." just Bob Thiel's description? Only the "Continuing Church of God" is a link, so the rest must be a description. But what is it based on? Is it based on CCOG's track record of faithfulness since last Friday afternoon?

On what basis can anyone say that a church that has hardly begun, is really not much more than an intention in the mind of one person, and was not even started in any sense at all until as recently as about 48 hours ago, is the MOST FAITHFUL of all the Churches of God to the Word of God?

Where is the track record? Even Abraham had to be tested before Christ said, "now I know that you fear God" (Genesis 22:12). This test came YEARS after Abraham had started following and obeying God, and the implication was that this final test was needed before Christ was absolutely sure of Abraham's total faithfulness.

But after a track record of two days, Continuing Church of God (CCOG) is already more faithful than every other Church of God organization. They are not yet organized. They have not had their own Sabbath services yet, not even one meeting, not even one sermon as far as anyone knows. They have no publications for the public to preach the gospel other than books that talk about pagan prophecies, and these are not given away free but sold in bookstores. No budget, as far as anyone knows. No work of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, none that is effective. God has not blessed them with any open door. As far as anyone knows, they have no members other than Dr. Thiel himself.

But somehow, miraculously it seems, "they" have proved themselves the "most faithful".

In just two days!

Watch out! This is a very fast church!

I would like to know what basis Bob Thiel uses to evaluate a church's faithfulness to the Bible and how he figures CCOG is the most faithful of all the Churches of God.

Or does he simply mean that he, Robert Thiel, is the most faithful?

How does he know no other Church of God is more faithful than he is? Does he know every Church of God? There may be hundreds. Grant you, some are only living room churches of God, but even those groups likely have more members than Bob Thiel's group. Even if he knew all of them (which is impossible because they do not all have websites), how can he be up-to-date, not just up to date but up to the minute? Because, to be fair, since Bob Thiel's "group" (if it is that), is only two days old, you must count other COGs only two days old in the comparison. But how can you since you do not even know who is right now starting a group? So you can have a small Church of God made up of a handful of members which just started five days ago, which may have more members, greater zeal, more love, more faithfulness to the Bible than Dr. Thiel's group, but no one, including Bob Thiel, knows about them because they haven't started a website yet. Yet Bob Thiel knows that no such group exists! If this is true, then he must be a prophet indeed.

And even if it is true that CCOG is the most faithful of all Churches of God, does Dr. Thiel need to say it? Is this not boasting? What is the point? Does the Bible say we should compare ourselves with ourselves (2 Corinthians 10:12)? In effect, Bob Thiel is saying to all the Churches of God and all the brethren, "We are more faithful to God's Word than you." And the irony is that this is at the bottom of a post about love.

"love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely" (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

Describing his new group as the most faithful COG after only two days, if nothing else, shows a lack of wisdom on Bob Thiel's part.

Bob Thiel is right to teach the importance of love. He should not describe his group as the most faithful until it proves its faithfulness with a track record of faithfulness over time. Two days is not enough. Even over time, if CCOG proves its faithfulness, it is better to let the fruits speak for themselves. Claiming to be more faithful than others is not wise - it offends unnecessarily. We should wait for God to praise us, and we should not praise ourselves.

Now, apart from the above, even before I saw Dr. Thiel's claim that CCOG is the most faithful of all the Churches of God, I had the idea for posting about what criteria Dr. Thiel uses to evaluate if a COG is Philadelphian.

For years Bob Thiel has been saying that LCG is the Philadelphia Church. He has been saying this right up to last Friday. Until then, his website had been full of posts and articles claiming that Living Church of God is Philadelphia.

But now he says that for a year or so he has wondered if LCG has lost the Philadelphia "mantle", and now he is certain that LCG lost the Philadelphia mantle in 2011 or 2012 (what is a "mantle" anyway - I should look that up). But that means two things: Bob Thiel has been teaching that LCG is Philadelphia even for a year during which he himself was not sure if it was Philadelphia. How can he honestly teach something if he is not sure it is true? Also, this means that now Bob Thiel thinks that LCG has not been Philadelphia for about a year during which Dr. Thiel was teaching that it is. Even apart from the honesty thing, this shows that Dr. Thiel was in error.

This is even more serious because it seems that the main reason Dr. Thiel gives for leaving LCG is that it is not Philadelphia. I am all in favor of every Christian striving to trust, believe, obey, and please God in everything and pray to be accounted worthy to escape the tribulation to come. I am all in favor of Christians being zealous to go through any open door that God provides and to support those who preach the gospel most effectively. In that sense, I think striving to have the characteristics that Christ praises in His message to Philadelphia is a worthy goal. In that sense, we should all strive to be Philadelphians wherever we may attend. And for some people, leaving a group that is not effective in preaching the gospel or is not faithful to the Bible in order to attend and fully support a group that is faithful may be a viable option and a good choice. But you don't have to leave a group that is not Philadelphia in order to be a Philadelphian.

Being a Philadelphian in God's sight is a spiritual condition. In has little directly to do with what organization you attend. Now, it is natural for those Christians God sees as Philadelphian in character to want to attend and support whatever organization is most faithful to God and the Bible, but that is not what makes one a Philadelphian. It is God's judgment call, and He looks at the heart. Philadelphians are those who have a little strength, have kept Christ's word, and have not denied His name (Revelation 3:8), and those who have kept Christ's command to persevere (verse 10). It is because of these characteristics that God gives Philadelphians an open door to preaching the gospel and will protect them from the tribulation to come. Organizational affiliation is secondary.

For example, you might have a member attending UCG or COGWA whose spiritual condition is Philadelphian in God's sight, according to God's judgment. Now, does that person have an open door to preaching the gospel? Yes, Christ promises that person an open door. How? Maybe not through UCG or COGWA directly, if those organizations are not effectively preaching the gospel. But if that person prays that the gospel be preached as a witness, God can answer that person's prayers, if not through the efforts of UCG or COGWA, then through some other organization that is preaching the gospel effectively.

So that person is effectively supporting the gospel because God is answering his or her prayers for the gospel. Prayers count. "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). Why does God answer that person's prayers? Because God judges that person as having a little strength, has kept Christ's word, and has not denied Christ's name, thus a Philadelphian in God's sight.

Yet, in a group that is preaching the gospel effectively, and I will use LCG as an example because I think they are doing a pretty good job of that compared with many other COGs, you might have someone praying for the gospel who is not keeping Christ's word and does deny His name. Will God answer his or her prayers the same way? No. The open door promise, including answering prayers for the gospel, is to those who are faithful, not those who attend an organization.

So a man may attend COGWA, which as an organization does very little right now to preach the gospel (mostly because they don't have enough money), but in God's eyes that man has a little strength, keeps God's word, and does not deny Christ's name - that man has an open door to preaching the gospel. God will answer that man's prayers for the gospel, and that is how he contributes to the gospel, that is how he goes through the open door. Yet God will not answer the prayers of the unfaithful man in LCG. But how does God answer the first man's prayers if COGWA doesn't have enough money to preach the gospel? God answers his prayers through the work of LCG. Because the man is not praying just for "his" church. He is praying for God's work, and God can answer that prayer by the works of another group.

God doesn't see the divisions in the Church of God as men see them. To God, it is all one Church and God's work is one work with many departments.

So a member in COGWA (or UCG or some other group) may be more Philadelphian and may have an open door to having his prayers answered for the gospel that many members in LCG do not have because they are not really Philadelphian in character and spiritual condition.

So God may prosper the TV broadcast and public Bible lectures in LCG to help get the gospel message out, not just in answer to prayers of LCG members, but the prayers of COGWA members, UCG members, and any member anywhere who has the faithfulness of a Philadelphian.

I received an email about a year ago and corresponded with a woman who was a prospective member just starting to attend the Church of God. She found my online book, Preaching the Gospel, and was reading it, and she thanked me for it and said she was learning from it. At the same time, she was starting to attend with United Church of God and was being instructed by a UCG minister. I do not know what she found first, my site or UCG, but she seemed to be learning from both at the same time. We corresponded a bit.

I thanked her for her email, I encouraged her, and I told her I was glad she had a minister in the Church of God to instruct her personally. I was careful to say not one word of criticism of UCG and its governance or anything against the UCG ministry. God, in calling her, led her to UCG, and a new prospective member does not need to know all the controversies in the Church of God, controversies that occur because of division among ministers, which should not be, but is. In time, God may lead her where He wants her to go, and if He does, He does not need my help. If she wants to correspond with me some day about governance or which group is effective in preaching the gospel, I will be happy to answer her questions.

After a while, she emailed me to say she was baptized, and I rejoiced in that.

I guess I went off on a tangent there, so I will get back to my main point.

Bob Thiel needs to answer some questions for those who read his blog. He seems to be saying that he felt obligated to leave LCG because he feels LCG lost their Philadelphia "mantle". If that is the case, being Philadelphian or not must be very important to Bob Thiel. So he should answer some questions about this without beating around the bush. If being part or not being part of an organization that is Philadelphian is important enough to Dr. Thiel that he would leave LCG over it, then it is important enough for him to explain it more thoroughly.

What is a "Philadelphia mantle" EXACTLY?

Is being a Philadelphian mainly a matter of what organization you attend, or is it a spiritual condition?

Can you have members who are Philadelphian in God's sight attending a fellowship in which the majority of the members are NOT Philadelphian, and if so, is that member obligated to quit, and why?

On what basis have you judged for the last many years that LCG is Philadelphia? Why has that changed? Has LCG changed or has your criteria changed?

If LCG lost its "Philadelphia mantle", how and why does that make it "necessary" that you leave LCG and start your own group? Can't you be a faithful Philadelphian in LCG even if 51% in that group are not? Isn't God going to judge you and me as individuals?

Are you a prophet, yes or no?

Is it because you believe you are a prophet that you quit LCG and started your own group?

On what basis do you judge yourself or the group you started as the most faithful to the Bible of all the Churches of God?

Even if you think that, why do you have to say it? Why compare yourself with other groups and say, "I am more faithful". Doesn't humility teach us to not praise ourselves but wait for the praise that comes from God? Doesn't wisdom teach us that this kind of comparison offends unnecessarily and that it is better for the fruits of what we do to praise us over time?

"Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:15-20). If Christ says we are to know true or false prophets, or good trees from bad trees in the general sense, by fruits, then members of the Church of God must judge by fruits, and that takes time. How can you claim to be more faithful than other Churches of God when there has not been time for Continuing Church of God to show any fruits so members can judge by fruits as God commands?

Do you believe that CCOG, as young as it is, has the "Philadelphia mantle", and if so, by what criteria do you judge this?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Robert Thiel Leaves Living Church of God to Start a New COG Group

Bob Thiel has announced that he has left Living Church of God and he is forming his own group called Continuing Church of God.

Here is a link to his announcement:

The reason, according to Bob Thiel, is he no longer believes LCG is the Philadelphia remnant at this time that Christ speaks to in Revelation chapter 3. He now believes that LCG lost the "Philadelphia mantle" in 2011 or 2012. Why? Dr. Thiel had been wondering about LCG being Philadelphia for some time, but he felt the proof that LCG is no longer Philadelphia was in a letter he received from Dr. Roderick C. Meredith, presiding evangelist of LCG. For Dr. Thiel, the "proof" was the letter's tone, statements Bob Thiel thinks are inaccurate, accusations, and unwillingness to directly address issues Dr. Thiel wanted to address.

In this matter, I think Dr. Thiel is wrong and is making a serious mistake.

I do not know the contents of the letter, nor do I know if Dr. Meredith told Dr. Thiel in the letter that he was being disfellowshipped. According to Bob Thiel's account, the initiative to leave LCG was his, so I will address this event from that point of view, that this was Robert Thiel's decision to quit, not Dr. Meredith's decision to disfellowship him. If that is wrong, if Dr. Meredith disfellowshipped him, then that information will come out later. But people who are disfellowshipped have the opportunity to repent, and if Bob Thiel was disfellowshipped for contradicting LCG or for wrong things he has said in his books that cause embarrassment for LCG, he should repent and submit to Dr. Meredith's authority.

Interestingly, Dr. Thiel stated that he had suspended his membership in LCG on July 14, 2012. This may be news to many LCG members who have been reading his blog thinking he was a member of LCG. I wonder if it will be news to the members of the video group he leads or hosts. If a man "suspends" his membership in an organization only in his own mind, but makes no announcement to the rest of that organization, what meaning does it have?

Although I think Dr. Thiel is making a mistake (I will say why later in this post), this may work out for the good of LCG in the long term, though not for the good necessarily of Bob Thiel.

Is LCG Philadelphia? By that I mean, is the spiritual condition of the majority of LCG's ministers and members that which is described by Christ in His message to Philadelphia in (Revelation 3:7-13)? I do not know. But it is clear to me they have an open door to preaching the gospel, which is one of the characteristics of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:8, 1 Corinthians 16:9, 2 Corinthians 2:12, Colossians 4:2-4). Now, that door is not open wide, but it is open wider for LCG than for any other group, in my opinion. So even if the majority in LCG are not Philadelphian, they may have more Philadelphians, both in numbers and in percentage of members, than any other Church of God group today. But only God knows that for sure - I do not.

Disagreements between Bob Thiel and LCG have been brewing for some time. I do not have all the facts, but I will mention a few things I have noticed. Bob Thiel has contradicted LCG's ministry in a few doctrinal areas. He has taught that it is wrong to watch football because it is a violent sport, but LCG does not teach that, and in fact, Mr. Wally Smith has taught in his blog that watching football is NOT inherently wrong. He has taught that Habakkuk 2:3, 5, 6-8 applies to the United States, but LCG has taught, correctly I think, that these verses do not specifically apply to the United States or to the tribes of Israel. LCG has recently taught that the great falling away referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 does not only refer to a falling away from the truth in the Church but can refer to a worldwide deception and turning against God among the general public that has never been in the Church of God, and when I heard an explanation of this, I felt that LCG is probably right, though I have not studied the issue in detail. Dr. Thiel disagrees with LCG about this.

I do not say that these issues are the only points of disagreement, or even if they are major ones that led Dr. Thiel to his decision, only that these are things I have noticed over the last 6 months or a year or so.

My view is that Bob Thiel should have submitted to the authority of Dr. Meredith and the LCG ordained ministry in these matters as long as he was a member of or attending with LCG. He should not have contradicted LCG in public, though it is not wrong for him to offer his views to the LCG leadership in private. I think that in contradicting the leadership of a fellowship he is attending with and presumed to be a member of, he has been disobeying the principle taught in 1 Corinthians 1:10 that we strive to all speak the same thing. If he felt that any of these matters are so important they justify leaving LCG (the ones I mentioned above are not that important), he should have left LCG first, and then he could teach whatever he wanted. By publicly contradicting LCG's ministry while he was attending LCG he has contributed to division and confusion in the Church of God, in my opinion.

God has given the leadership and ministry of LCG certain authority over LCG members. This authority comes from the top down from Christ through the ordained ministry in that Church. While that authority has limitations, it includes the authority to make binding decisions about what LCG will officially teach its members (Ephesians 4:11-16). Bob Thiel should have respected the authority of that office more and not undermined that authority in the eyes of LCG members by contradicting that authority. He crossed a line he should not have crossed, not once, but repeatedly as a pattern of behavior.

It is not a matter of LCG ministers not making a mistake. Of course they can make mistakes. But even if Bob Thiel is right and LCG wrong about one of these doctrinal issues, the LCG leadership and ministry have the official job from Christ, through ordination, of teaching LCG members, not Bob Thiel.

If Bob Thiel were not a member of LCG or attending with LCG, he would not be under that authority - he could teach what he wanted, just as ministers and members in UCG, COGWA, and other groups are not under Dr. Meredith's authority. LCG members would know he is not a member of LCG and would be more cautious when reading his blog, being diligent to separate the wheat from the chaff, always with the awareness that they were reading a blog by someone not a member of LCG. Some would not read it at all. But while attending with LCG and presumed to be a member, he has been under Dr. Meredith's authority and should not have been publicly contradicting him and other ordained ministers working for Dr. Meredith.

None of the matters of disagreement that I know of are so major that they are worth leaving LCG over. They are not foundational. Football is not foundational. The prophecy in Habakkuk about debt is not foundational. The falling away, whether it applies only to the Church or the world also, is not foundational. Bob Thiel could simply keep silent in his blog about these things - there are plenty of other worthwhile things to post about.

There is one major thing I find wrong with Bob Thiel's teachings, and I do not know LCG's position on this, so I do not say it is a cause of separation, but it indicates to me Dr. Thiel's lack of spiritual perception and lack of wisdom.

"Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:31). "For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you" (Deuteronomy 18:14).

Now, I am sure that Bob Thiel does not seek mediums, familiar spirits, soothsayers, and diviners in his personal life and decisions - I certainly do not accuse him of that. However, there is a spiritual principle involved here, and that is, we should not be paying attention to spiritual sources that are not from God to get insight into what the future holds as far as the fulfillment of prophecy is concerned. What God has given us in the Bible is sufficient. We can study the prophecies of the Bible and we can watch news and current events to see how prophecy is being fulfilled, but we should not be looking at ancient or modern prophecies of religious groups or teachers if we see their prophecies are not of God. We should not be following "prophecies" given by people or groups that show by their fruits they are not following the Bible in order to try to learn details about the future. Nor should we look at these prophecies and quote them in order to "back up" or confirm to outsiders what the Bible teaches about prophecy. If we do that, we are in danger of reading and spreading prophecies given to men by Satan and his demons. We should not do that. Satan and his demons may indeed know some details of future fulfillment of Bible prophecies, but they are not a trustworthy source. They do not have our best interest at heart. We should not knowingly listen to them.

We are not setting a good example to the world in this if we quote from pagan prophecies. We are not being consistent. How can we warn the public against reading Harry Potter books, watching movies about the occult, or dabbling in occult practices, while at the same time we quote prophecies possibly inspired by the spirit world, but not inspired by God in the Bible?

God tells us what we need to know in the Bible. We should not go to Satan to back up or confirm God's word or to get more details that God does not give us.

Yet Bob Thiel has written extensively about prophetic writings that are not from the Bible. I think this is a major problem.

I have read Bob Thiel's blog regularly for years for news about the Churches of God and about world events, but I have learned to carefully avoid reading his posts about non-biblical prophetic writings and I have not purchased or read his books, nor do I intend to do so. I feel an obligation to obey the spirit of Leviticus 19:31 and Deuteronomy 18:14 by avoiding those things.

While I see evidence that LCG has a significant number of true Philadelphians among them, and for their sakes Christ has opened the door to the preaching of the gospel wider for Living Church of God than for any other COG group, I do not see evidence that Bob Thiel has the characteristics described in Christ's message to Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13).

He says that the letter he received from Dr. Meredith is proof that Living Church of God is no longer Philadelphia based on its tone, inaccurate statements, accusations, and unwillingness to address certain issues Bob Thiel wanted to talk about.

So what?

So Dr. Meredith writes a letter to Bob Thiel that Dr. Thiel doesn't like. Maybe the tone is harsh. Dr. Meredith writes things in the letter Dr. Thiel thinks are mistakes. Dr. Meredith accuses Dr. Thiel of doing something wrong (this is called "correction" I think). And Dr. Meredith declines to discuss the subjects Bob Thiel wants to discuss. Suddenly, many members of LCG that have been Philadelphian, members whose prayers God has been answering for LCG's work of preaching the gospel, are no longer Philadelphian, all because of a letter Dr. Meredith wrote to Bob Thiel. That makes no sense to me.

What about LCG's TV broadcast that brings in something like 5,000+ responses weekly? What about LCG's magazine circulation, the Bible correspondence course, the inventory of booklets, the website, all working together to preach the gospel to the world as a witness and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, a warning our nations desperately need to hear? What about the growth in LCG, the new people coming in and being baptized every year? What about the top-down government LCG practices? What about the public meetings that LCG conducts, meetings which have helped to bring many people to conversion? What about the fact that LCG is doctrinally sound, not necessarily perfect in every doctrinal detail (we won't be perfect till the resurrection), but overall balanced and sound? What about the fact that LCG yearly publishes its budget and financial situation as audited by a respected public accounting firm and that these financial reports show that LCG is spending a relatively large amount on preaching the gospel and a small amount on administrative overhead compared with other COG groups? Then there is the work everyone does to build Living University to teach the next generation of LCG leaders.

For the work that LCG employees are doing, when I think of their small numbers in comparison to the work they accomplish, I tend to think they must be one of the hardest working groups of people employed by any COG group. I think these people must really be sacrificing, putting in long hours, and I do not think most of them are doing it just for a paycheck. I think their heart is in God's work.

I do not remember the details, but it seems there was a time when Mr. Armstrong dealt somewhat harshly towards Dr. Meredith in the old Worldwide days and excluded him from important influence in the Church. But later, Mr. Armstrong brought him back and once again gave him important work in the Church. Did Dr. Meredith get offended, walk out, and start his own group? NO. He remained faithful during that time. That is a good example of respect for authority, but Dr. Thiel is not following that example. Perhaps Mr. Meredith was being tested by God at that time, and perhaps because Mr. Meredith passed that test God later entrusted him with leadership of the Living Church of God.

Where is the sense of proportion? What is more important, the work that LCG is doing overall, or a corrective letter Dr. Meredith sent to Bob Thiel?

Let's put it this way. Suppose a member of LCG was harshly corrected by his pastor or even Dr. Meredith himself and wrote to Bob Thiel in the past for advice. Who knows, maybe this has actually happened from time to time over the last several years. Would Dr. Thiel have advised, "well, if Dr. Meredith wrote a letter to you that was harsh in its tone, corrective or accusatory, contained errors, and would not talk about what you want to talk about, then that is proof LCG is not Philadelphia"? I doubt Bob Thiel would give that kind of advice. Yet when the letter is to him, it seems he can't take it.

I don't know what Dr. Meredith said in his letter, but I think Bob Thiel NEEDED to be corrected and corrected STRONGLY. I think he has been way out of line for some time in his teachings in his blog. LCG would have been justified in disfellowshipping Dr. Thiel, and perhaps that would have been the next step if Dr. Thiel had not quit. Or, it may be that Mr. Meredith in the letter actually did tell Bob Thiel he was disfellowshipped. That much is not yet clear to me.

Sometimes I receive email. I corresponded with a lady who agreed that there is a need to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning, but did not want to support Living Church of God, and one of her reasons, maybe a major reason, was the division that seemed to exist between Bob Thiel and the Living Church of God ministry and also something Bob Thiel taught that she thought was an error. So here was a situation where it seemed, as far as I could tell, that Bob Thiel was hurting LCG. This woman saw Bob Thiel as a "spokesman" or representative of LCG, and because some of the things Bob Thiel taught offended her, she would not support LCG. She also seemed to be offended by the fact that LCG did not deal with Bob Thiel and correct him.

But sometimes correction takes time. LCG's correction of Bob Thiel may have been slow, but they did finally correct him. God himself is waiting six thousand years to remove Satan. Mr. Armstrong sometimes was slow to correct a situation, but he did correct situations. God can test our patience and faith by letting a problem go on for a while before dealing with it.

This all may work out to the good for LCG in the long run. Many people thought of Bob Thiel as an unofficial spokesman for LCG and attributed his own problems as problems in LCG. Now that is over. No one should blame LCG for anything Bob Thiel writes or teaches. He is on his own.

I am sure many in LCG have been reading Dr. Thiel's blog for news about the Churches of God, and probably his blog will continue to be a good source for news for those who read it, but I hope no one in LCG, or as few people as possible, divert any contributions from LCG to Bob Thiel's new group "Continuing Church of God" (CCOG). Yet, I suppose some will, simply because I think Dr. Thiel would not have made this move if he could not count on a few people he knows to support him. But I hope for the sake of God's work it is only a small number.

I continue to believe that Living Church of God, despite it not being perfect in doctrine and practices (and no Church of God is perfect), is the best of all the Church of God fellowships for any COG member to attend and support with tithes and offerings. I think they are doing a better job of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel and of feeding the flock than any other fellowship in existence today, as far as the larger and better known groups are concerned. And this is true even if less than 50% of their members and ministers are Philadelphian in character. In my opinion, neither is a majority of members in any of the other major groups Philadelphian.

And I think it is extremely unlikely that many true Philadelphians will be attracted or gathered to Bob Thiel's new group, nor do I think his group will show the fruits of Philadelphia overall.

If there is any chance that Bob Thiel may reconsider, repent of his actions, and come back to LCG and submit himself to the authority of Dr. Meredith in regards to official LCG teaching and not contradict LCG in his blog, I hope he will do so. He can be a valuable tool in God's hands for helping the work of God, within LCG, if he does so.

If he does not, and if he does not attract many members to his group, he may seek an alliance with some existing small COG group or leader and try to build from there. He has a relatively large Internet presence and can bring a lot of web traffic and attention to a small COG group if he forms such an alliance. I would be surprised if much good for God's work comes from that, however.

By the way, the timing of Bob Thiel's announcement of this must seem inconvenient to faithful LCG members attending the video group he supervised. Some may not want to attend with him now that they know he is not with LCG, but this gave them and LCG little time to organize an alternative for meeting on the Sabbath for services. Perhaps some did not know till they showed up at Dr. Thiel's video group and heard him criticizing Dr. Meredith. Perhaps it would have been better for Dr. Thiel to make his announcement just AFTER the Sabbath so everyone had a full week to make adjustments rather than just before the Sabbath.

Is Robert Thiel a prophet?

In the "News of Those Once Affiliated with the Global Church of God", Dr. Thiel lists a chronology of events leading up to his separation from Living Church of God. This chronology is given in the 12/28/12 p.m. entry.

Here is a link to that page:

In this chronology, Dr. Thiel describes a series of events (referring to himself in the third person) regarding his relationship with LCG and certain leaders over the last several years, and in this list of events he implies the possibility that he is a prophet. Here are some highlights from Dr. Thiel's chronology, summarized in my own words. According to this chronology, Dr. Meredith and other LCG leaders discussed with Bob Thiel the possibility that he is a prophet. Bob mentions that a number of predictions he makes in his book, 2012 and the Rise of the Secret Sect, have turned out accurate. He states that he had an apparently prophetic dream. Though he does not give the details of the dream, from the way he describes it, it seems as if it was some kind of dream like Joseph had or like Isaiah's vision indicating Isaiah would be sent by God. The time of the dream is given as around the summer or fall of 2009.

He also states that LCG minister Gaylyn Bonjour anointed him for a double portion of God's Spirit. According to Bob Thiel's description of the event, he went to Mr. Bonjour to be anointed for some "non-debilitating matters" (a minor physical illness or injury I would presume) and for the minister to pray that God give Dr. Thiel wisdom for meetings he was to have. Without Dr. Thiel expecting this, when Gaylyn Bonjour anointed him and prayed, he asked God to give Dr. Thiel a "double portion" of the Holy Spirit. The way this is described, I get the impression Mr. Bonjour did not plan this ahead of time. The date of this occurrence is given as December 15, 2011.

Dr. Thiel also seems to say that he predicted Mrs. Meredith's illness.

Now, I have no way of knowing if this chronology and account of events is accurate. But suppose it is. Does this constitute solid evidence that Robert Thiel is a true prophet of God?

In my opinion, it does not. At best, the evidence is very weak. At worst, it is no evidence at all.

Let's take these things one by one.

If Dr. Meredith and other leaders in LCG thought Dr. Thiel is a prophet and discussed this possibility with him, does that make him a prophet? No, it does not.

Does laying hands on a man and praying that a double portion of God's Spirit be given make the man a prophet? No, it does not, not necessarily anyway.

Let me ask a question here. If a minister lays hands on a man and prays that God give that man a double portion of the Holy Spirit, does that mean that God must immediately do so? If the man is anointed to be healed of a sickness or injury, does that mean that God must immediately heal the man? No, we know that does not always happen. Sometimes God heals, sometimes He does not heal immediately but heals later, and sometimes God withholds healing even to the time of the man's death. Some are never healed in this life. Likewise, just as anointing does not guarantee healing in this life, so asking for God to give a double portion of His Spirit does not guarantee that God will do so in this life. Sometimes we pray for something, and God's answer is, "no". But even if God gives more of His Holy Spirit, there is simply not enough Bible evidence to indicate that is equivalent to becoming a prophet. There is the occasion of Elisha asking for a double portion of the Holy Spirit, and Elisha was a prophet, but that is all. That is not strong enough evidence in my book.

Also, it seems unlikely that God would have Mr. Bonjour, a minister under Dr. Meredith's authority, ordain Dr. Thiel a prophet, without going through Dr. Meredith. If Dr. Meredith made the DECISION (not just conversation) that Dr. Thiel should be ordained a prophet, and then laid hands on him directly or instructed Mr. Bonjour to do so, that might help make Dr. Thiel's case. But that did not happen.

God's government is hierarchical. If God wanted this done, doesn't it seem logical that Christ would inspire or somehow lead Dr. Meredith, in consultation with other evangelists, to make that decision, then give Mr. Bonjour or whomever clear instructions regarding that? But that never happened.

What about the dream? Does that prove that Dr. Thiel is a prophet? No. It could be just a dream. People have dreams all the time. I have dreams almost every night. Most of them are crazy or silly, and most I only remember vaguely when I wake up. Sometimes people have dreams they remember vividly, but they are still just dreams.

What about Dr. Thiel's predictions in his book, 2012 and the Rise of the Secret Sect? If they have come true, is that evidence he is a prophet? This is problematic for me because I have no idea what those predictions are, since I refuse to read a book that quotes and describes prophecies from pagan and non-biblical sources, contrary to God's instructions in Leviticus 19:31 and Deuteronomy 18:14. But that itself may be evidence that Bob Thiel is NOT a true prophet of God, for why would a true prophet of God disobey God's instructions in Leviticus 19:31 and Deuteronomy 18:14 and not only disobey but lead others to disobey by promoting or spreading pagan garbage?

"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.' Therefore 'Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.' 'I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty' " (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

"Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons" (1 Corinthians 10:20-21).

"Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:31).

"For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you" (Deuteronomy 18:14).

I avoid movies and entertainment that deal with the occult. I won't watch the "Exorcist", or "End of Days" or any movie dealing with the occult, or witchcraft, or pagan teachings and prophecies. I have made mistakes in the past in this area, but I am trying to learn my lessons. I won't read Harry Potter books. Why would I read Bob Thiel's posts or books that quote from non-biblical prophecies? I do not want Satan's garbage coming into my mind. Garbage in, garbage out, and some kinds of garbage are more poisonous than others. I feel I would be risking my eternal life to read some of the things Bob Thiel publishes.

There is also the matter, which I have already talked about above, of Bob Thiel not fully obeying the principles taught in 1 Corinthians 1:10 and Hebrews 13:17 (obey those who rule over you). "And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints" (1 Corinthians 14:32-33).

Can a person receive a dream from a spirit source that is wrong, misleading, deceptive, and not from God, in effect, a lie from a demon or from Satan? Yes, it is possible. God allows that. "Then Micaiah said, 'Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. And the Lord said, "Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?" So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, "I will persuade him." The Lord said to him, "In what way?" So he said, "I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets." And the Lord said, "You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so." Therefore look! The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the Lord has declared disaster against you' " (1 Kings 22:19-23).

What if the prediction is true? Does that mean the person is a true prophet? Can Satan and his demons sometimes predict things accurately? "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'-which you have not known-'And let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).

While teaching Church of God members or the public, "Let us read some pagan religious prophecies to see the details of future events", may not be exactly equivalent to, "Let us go after other gods and serve them", I think it comes dangerously close.

In 1 Samuel chapter 28 is an account of King Saul of Israel calling upon a medium to "bring up" Samuel, who had died, to inquire of him. So the medium "brought up" Samuel, who told Saul, in effect, he would die tomorrow. Was this really Samuel? Of course not. Samuel was dead, asleep in the grave. So who was this who spoke? It must have been a demon impersonating Samuel. The demon correctly predicted that Saul would die. But mixed in with the correct prediction was error or potential error, the error of teaching that Samuel had an immortal soul that could speak from the grave, the error of saying that God was Saul's enemy, etc. So even if a man can make some correct predictions, that does not mean that man is a true prophet of God.

Look up in a concordance or online Bible or in Bible software the word "Balaam". He is called a prophet. He even prophesied correctly about Israel. But he was not approved by God. Peter called his spiritual condition "madness" (2 Peter 2:15-16).

What about the service and the good that Bob Thiel has done over the years for Living Church of God? Has he not supported LCG? Has he not helped bring members into LCG through his writings? Does that not mean he has God's approval for what he does?

It is not enough to serve God's work for a time, then quit. We must be faithful to the end. Mr. Garner Ted Armstrong worked for Mr. Herbert Armstrong for many years and helped to build the Worldwide Church of God. His was the voice on radio for the Church for many years. But that does not mean God approved all his actions later. The same could be said for many other ministers in Worldwide who served God's work for a time, but did not endure.

Look at Judas. He was one of the twelve. He, along with the others, cast out demons. He healed the sick. He preached the gospel. His preaching may have lead to the conversion of several members just like the preaching of the other apostles. But he did not endure to the end.

I do not say that God will never put Dr. Thiel into the office of prophet. That is God's call. But God has not shown the Church at this time that He has done so.

In fairness to Dr. Thiel, he has not specifically claimed to be a prophet, not yet. He has simply related a series of personal events that seem on the surface to suggest the possibility that he may be a prophet, now or in the future.

Before I would regard Dr. Thiel as God's prophet, I would have to see a track record of obedience to God's word in what he teaches people. I would have to see him pull his books out of publication and delete his past posts that deal with pagan prophecies. I would have to see him repent of creating division in God's Church by contradicting the ministry in Living Church of God while he was attending LCG, and I would have to see him delete or edit those posts that have contradicted the LCG ministry up till now. I would have to see some solid messages from God through him correctly predicting the future in a way that cannot be explained simply by shrewd or insightful guesswork or by coincidence. All of his teachings would have to be pretty consistent with the Bible, not perfect in every detail, but overall according to God's word.

These are the same characteristics I would have to see in any servant of God before I would consider that person a prophet.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Groundwork for the Great Tribulation Is Being Laid

Europe is moving year by year towards greater unity. Sometimes there are temporary setbacks and problems, but the overall direction of movement is towards unity, as it has been since the setting up of the Common Market after World War II.

There are two other trends, both involving the news and entertainment media, that are working to prepare the world stage for the tribulation.

Liberalism is weakening the United States. Much of this liberalism is encouraged by a biased news media and entertainment industry. Government spending is growing out of control and is sapping our economic strength. Immorality is encouraged by both media and government, and the family structure is weakening more and more. A time may come when we can no longer afford a strong military needed to protect ourselves.

At the same time, there is media bias in Europe. But the media bias in Europe is directed against the United States. The media in Europe is encouraging and teaching anti-Americanism that is helping to cause Europeans to despise the United States. This will make it easier, when the time comes, for the populations of Europe to accept Europe taking action against the United States.

Here is a link to a Youtube video, "Why Europe Hates America":

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Continuing Cost of UCG's Split and UCG's Choices

UCG's split has hurt the work of preaching the gospel to the world.

Bob Thiel (COGwriter) has reported on United Church of God finances. He quotes Robin Webber as saying that UCG's spending on media for preaching the gospel has been pruned. He also quotes Aaron Dean as saying that UCG's annual payroll was 8.1 million dollars before the split and 5.7 million last year, but UCG is serving virtually the same number of congregations.

Here is a link to that post:

How much of UCG's paid ministry went to COGWA when UCG split?

John Carmack in a post around that time reported an estimate of about 60%, maybe a little less, an estimate I agree with. Here is a link to his post:

So before the split, UCG's payroll (all employees I presume) was $8.1 million. About 60% of UCG's paid ministry left in the split, and the payroll after the split was 5.7 million. Presumably, more ministers were hired to replace some, but not all, of those who left.

Let's do some math.

They start with a payroll of 8.1 million. Most of that must be for the paid ministry. Let's assume 7.5 is for the paid ministry and $600,000 is for staff and ministers who do not supervise congregations but work at headquarters. I will look at another possible estimate later.

60% of the paid ministry leaves. Now the ministerial payroll is less than what it was before by 60%, or in other words, it is 40% of what it was before. 40% of 7.5 million is 3.0 million. Add the $600,000 in overhead and administrative payroll back and you have $3.6 million in payroll. Yet, payroll last year was $5.7 million. $2.1 million is a lot of new hires.

Now if you figure overhead and administration at headquarters at 1.1 million, that would still show $1.9 million in new payroll since the split.

What this tells me is that a large number of new ministers were hired full-time to replace the ministers that went to COGWA.

But it was not just ministers who left to go to COGWA but members too. The total workload of pastors was reduced because the members are fewer. Enough members went to COGWA to support the COGWA ministers.

The bottom line: Look at the total number of ministers and members of UCG and COGWA today. There are now more ministers total in proportion to members than before. You have about the same number of members in both groups combined as you had before the split. But you have many more paid ministers because of the new ministers UCG has hired. You have virtually all of the original paid ministers, those who stayed in UCG plus those who formed COGWA, in the two groups combined, PLUS many more ministers UCG has hired since the split.

So the total cost of the ministry in all UCG and COGWA has substantially increased and the number of members served by each minister has declined because of the split.

What this means is less money available for preaching the gospel to the world as a witness and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. UCG before the split was not doing a very powerful work of preaching to the public, and now it looks like they will do even less.

But why did the cost of a paid ministry have to increase?

UCG since the split had to make a choice. They did not have to replace the ministers who left with newly hired ministers. But they did.

Look at this at the congregational level.

If the paid local pastor stayed with UCG, chances are, most of the members stayed with that pastor. He would continue to serve the same members. No new pastor needed to be hired.

If the paid local pastor left to go with COGWA, probably the majority of the members of the congregation went with him. Not in every case, but typically. If that were not true, then COGWA would not have enough members and the tithes of those members to support their ministry, but they do. Enough members went to COGWA so that the COGWA could live from the tithes of those members.

If the ministry and most of the members of a congregation left UCG to go to COGWA, did UCG need to hire a new full-time pastor for those who remained in order to fulfill Christ's commission to feed the flock? No, they did not. They could have established video groups that would be served by local unpaid elders.

Now, if they did that, some of those members who stayed with UCG would have then gone to COGWA to be served by their old pastors. But what would be wrong with that? Would they not be fed spiritual food as they were fed before by the same pastor?

If these pastors who are now part of COGWA cared for their flocks when they were in UCG, could they not do the same as part of COGWA? So why be concerned if members in that area go to COGWA? So for example, if pastor "John Doe" served the "Spiders Breath, Montana" congregation of 130 members in UCG for 5 years, then the split occurred and he went with a new organization, COGWA, but stayed in Spiders Breath, and 90 of his members continued under his care but now in COGWA, and 40 members said, "no, we want to stay in UCG", does UCG HAVE to hire a full time pastor to replace John Doe to serve those 40 members? Why? UCG could set them up as a video group, and if they feel they need a full time pastor, they can go to COGWA and be served by the same pastor who served them before, John Doe. If they were content to be under the care of John Doe before the split, why not after the split?

Does UCG now claim that the ministers who went with COGWA have not done a good job of caring for the members they pastored? If so, where is the evidence? If not, they why be concerned if members of UCG follow their pastors into COGWA?

The real reason these new ministers were hired was not that the members in the local areas would not be properly taught without a full-time pastor, but they were hired to try to keep members from going to COGWA.

Hiring more full-time ministers is a choice UCG made to give priority, NOT to the feeding of the flock over preaching the gospel, but giving priority to HOLDING ON to the most members over preaching the gospel. UCG is taking money away from preaching the gospel and a warning to a public that desperately needs it just to keep some of its members from going across the street to a COGWA congregation, where in most cases they would be just as well served spiritually.

Does this make sense?

It depends on how you look at it.

From the perspective of this world's corporations which compete with each other, yes this makes sense. UCG and COGWA are competing organizations, and each will fight to keep the most members.

But from God's perspective, that the members and ministers both in UCG and COGWA are part of the body of Christ, this makes no sense. Christ's right hand should not compete with His left hand.

UCG seems to have made a choice to follow Satan's model of competition between organizations rather than go all out to preach a warning message to Israel and the world about the tribulation to come. That is not godly love.

And still, no plausible explanation from either side why the split occurred.

God says clearly in the book of Ezekiel that the blood the people is on our head if we don't warn them about the tribulation to come. Members of the Church of God, whatever organization they attend, should take this seriously and make sure they are supporting a group that is effectively giving a warning to the public if they do not want the blood of the people who die in the tribulation to be on their heads.

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


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let's Not Focus on Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong - Part 1

We should love and respect Mr. Armstrong and we should appreciate the good that God has done through him, and we can still learn from his writings and recorded sermons. But our primary focus should be on Jesus Christ and on God's word, the Bible, not on Mr. Armstrong.

It has been more than 26 years since the death of Mr. Armstrong. Probably most, not all, current members of the Church of God remember him, either because they were in the Church when he was alive or because they have listened to his sermons and read his books, articles, and letters even long after his death. I hope most members' memories are fond ones. We should certainly respect and appreciate him in a right balance.

But our primary faith must be in God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible. We should be focused on the work God wants us to be doing today, both the spiritual work of overcoming our sins and the work of preaching God's truth to the world. We should let God tell us, through His word, the Bible, what His will for us is. And we should ask for and rely on Him for help to understand the Bible through the power of His Holy Spirit in proportion to our commitment and effort to believe and obey Him. We should also acknowledge before Him that by our human power alone, without God's help, we cannot escape Satan's deceptions and correctly understand the Bible. Knowing this, we should give Him heartfelt thanks for the understanding of the Bible He has given us.

It is God's will to work out His purpose in this age of building the Church, preparing the bride, and preaching the gospel and a warning to the world through fallible human beings. Mr. Armstrong was a tool God used for that purpose, just as God uses every member of the Church to one degree or another.

There are two problems in the way some of us think about Mr. Armstrong and his role in the Church, and some members struggle with one or the other of these problems. They are opposite problems, two ditches to avoid on either side of the road, or if we are already in a ditch, to work our way out of and back on to the road.

One extreme tends to make an idol out of Mr. Armstrong and his writings. People in this ditch tend to treat Mystery of the Ages as infallible, free from error, almost on the same level as the Bible (or on a higher level in some cases, though they won't admit it even to themselves). They tend to justify and prove doctrine by Mr. Armstrong's writing rather than the Bible and are offended if you say or imply that Mr. Armstrong could be wrong about doctrine.

The other ditch is to become overly concerned about what is perceived as Mr. Armstrong's faults. Some people's faith is shaken to a degree because they hear or read that Mr. Armstrong had this problem or that problem.

Of course, there are many who openly criticize and show disrespect towards Mr. Armstrong, making accusations, which they cannot prove. I am not talking about those people, many of whom are probably not converted anyway. I am not talking about people who seem to show by their fruits that they are more inspired by Satan than the Holy Spirit.

"then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord. But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption" (2 Peter 2:9-12).

"Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!' But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves" (Jude 8-10). "These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage." (Jude 16).

I am not talking about the contemptuous and rebellious individuals Peter and Jude are talking about.

I am talking about sincere people, converted or called by God, who want to show respect, but are deeply troubled by accusations they have heard about Mr. Armstrong, to the point even that some of them may feel that their faith in God's truth is threatened.

We all need to realize that we need to put our faith in God and the Bible, not any man, not even Mr. Armstrong. We should follow Mr. Armstrong's admonition, which is based on scripture, when he said, "Don't believe me, believe God, believe your Bible." If we haven't proved the truth from the Bible, we need to do so. And if we haven't proven the inspiration of the Bible by fulfilled prophecy, we need to do that first.

Our faith must be in God and in God's word, the Bible. If it is, our faith will not be shaken by accusations we have heard about Mr. Armstrong's character, nor will it be shaken if we found he has made mistakes in his teachings.

We must also not make an idol out of Mr. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong made mistakes, and he has admitted he has made mistakes. Mystery of the Ages is not infallible. The Bible is. If we read in Mr. Armstrong's writings one thing, and we see something else in the Bible, then God is testing us to see who we trust more, God or man. We must believe God. We must believe the Bible more than Mr. Armstrong, even when that means acknowledging that Mr. Armstrong could be wrong in Mystery of the Ages or any of his other publications.

There is ample proof in the Bible that the servants of God can make mistakes.

To be continued...

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


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

European Union Gets Peace Prize

Robert Thiel in the COGwriter blog has reported that the European Union has received the Nobel Peace Prize for ending war in Europe.


This reminds me of the scripture in 1 Thessalonians 5:3: "For when they say, 'Peace and safety!' then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape."

Now, the context of this scripture is the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4, Isaiah 13:6-7), so the direct application of this is for the future. But there is a principle that sometimes when it seems there is peace, it is only a prelude to war.

The European Union was given a prize for peace because the efforts of the European nations, especially Germany and France, to end war between the nations of Europe by tying them together economically, has indeed seemed to end war between the European nations. The world no longer talks about the danger of war between Germany and France or between any major European powers (not counting Russia). There was only about 20 years between the two world wars, but since then more than sixty years have gone by without another major European or world war.

But what many people in the world do not realize is that the European Union has gone far beyond what is needed to maintain peace between European nations. It is trying hard to build a European empire. It is aggressively seeking to overthrow the sovereignty of its member states to achieve a Europe that is unified politically and militarily as one state.

And the purpose behind this effort is not peace but war. I do not say that most of the EU leaders themselves realize that purpose. It is invisible to them because this world is ruled by Satan (Luke 4:5-6), and Satan and his demons are invisible. Satan has something in mind for Europe and it will not be peace.

European nations have had a tendency in history to want to dominate other nations. But as the world is today and as it has been since the end of World War II, they cannot do that as individual nations anymore. The only way they can dominate events on this earth is to achieve unity, to combine their strength. Germany cannot dominate the world by itself. But if it can lead a European Union, the collective strength of the nations making up that union will be many times greater than the strength of Germany alone and will be on par, or greater, than the strength of the United States, or of Russia, or China.

The European Union does not have to overturn the sovereignty of its member nations to prevent another war between Germany and France. Peace in Europe was achieved a long time ago in the days of the "Common Market". What Europe is striving for now is power, the power that comes from complete unity, combining the individual states of Europe into one super-state. Once they have that power, what they do with that power will not be called "peace".