Thursday, February 27, 2014

What Is the Church of God's Greatest Sin?

What Is the Most Important Thing for the Church of God to Repent Of?

The next festival and holy day season in God's Church will be Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, in about six and a half weeks. That is a time when we focus on self-examination and repentance.

This is a time when the whole Church of God and most of its members should focus on our need for repentance and putting sin out of our lives. This is the time of the Laodicean era, a time when Laodiceanism and all that includes is the predominant characteristic of the Church of God as a whole (Revelation 3:14-22).

And God commands us to repent (Revelation 3:19). Even Philadelphians should seek a deeper repentance, for none of us are perfect yet.

Christ has harsh words for the Church of God in our time. "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked - " (Revelation 3:16-17).

Why is God's judgment against us so harsh? When God brings our ways upon us, when He judges us, what will be His biggest accusation against us? One of course is that we are lukewarm, not on fire for His way of life. But how is that lukewarmness manifest? Christ says we are wretched and blind and don't know it. What are we blind about? Why are we wretched? What are we lukewarm about?

Since Christ addresses this particular message to us, most of the Church of God today, more here than in the other messages, we should take these questions seriously.

What is our biggest sin? Is it laxness with the Sabbath? Is it watching too much TV? Is it abuse of alcohol? Is it neglect of prayer and Bible study and fasting?

Lukewarmness about God's way of life can certainly manifest itself in all those things.

But there is one major sin, and I emphasis that word "sin", because it is sin, that most of Church of God is guilty of, and I think that sin is greater than most other sins in the Church combined.

Sin is the transgression of the law. And the most important matter of the law is love. The two great commandments of the law are love towards God and love towards neighbor. "Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?' Jesus said to him, ' "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets' " (Matthew 22:35-40).

The greatest sin in the Church of God, and one of the most prevalent, is the one of the most obvious, blatant, and serious violations of the law of love towards God and man we could possibly commit. I do not exclude myself, for I have been guilty and need a greater repentance in this particular matter, for though I write about it for others, I myself need greater zeal and love towards God and love towards man.

It is a sin we are guilty of more than any other era of the Church of God, because it has a unique application to our time today.

In a few years, hundreds of millions of people will go through a horrible period of death and agony, and we are too complacent about it. We are too content about it. We figure, if we pray and study and fast and do a pretty good job of obeying the ten commandments, if we support our Church ministry and leadership and respect authority, we will be in a place of safety, so "we" will be ok. So, never mind the physical and mental anguish of the American and British people who will suffer - our own countrymen, our neighbors, literally.

And never mind if everyone isn't warned before it happens. We have the warning, we know the truth, and we can protect ourselves by obeying God.

Are we loving our neighbors outside the Church as much as we love ourselves when we think that way? Are we loving God with all our being? Or are we loving ourselves more than our neighbors, more than God?

In the model prayer which Christ gave to His disciples to teach them how to pray, the first thing Christ mentioned was should pray for is that God's name be hallowed (Luke 11:1-2). God's name represents His reputation. We are to zealously desire that God's reputation for righteousness and fairness be protected and magnified. That won't happen if the warning does not go out to all the tribes of Israel who will go through the tribulation before it occurs, for it will not protect God's reputation for fairness if we, His servants, do not get the warning out while there is time for the people to repent and escape.

If we let them go into punishment without being warned that what they are doing, keeping Sunday, keeping Christmas and Easter, following their mainstream church traditions, is wrong in God's sight, it will seem to them that God was unfair, for they do not know that these things are wrong. They think they are pleasing God in what they are doing. And when they find out they were sinning and are being punished, won't they think God was unfair not to send someone to warn them?

We are certainly not showing love for our neighbors to let them get into a situation in which their repentance and possibly the salvation of some of them is endangered because the lack of warning and God's seeming unfairness becomes a stumbling block for them. We are not showing them love when we let them succumb to their enemy's deceptions, Satan's deceptions, when Satan accuses God of being unfair. Satan is our enemy as well as theirs, and we should protect them as much as we can.

We are not showing love when we see our neighbor mowing his lawn, say "hi" to him, and know that he and his family will suffer and be killed in a few years, and we are ok with that and with the idea that he and others like him may never hear the truth till it is too late for him to repent and escape the punishment.

When we face God in judgment, we have no excuse for what we are doing. We know the tribulation is coming. We know most of Israel has not heard a warning. We know we have the technical means and the legal freedom to warn them. And we know we are not going all out. That makes us guilty collectively and individually.

Are we going all out? No, most of us are not. Maybe none of us are really going all out. We all need to do more. I need to do more - I am coming to realize that.

God has put us in an interesting situation at the end of this age. It is like a "perfect storm" for the Church. He has put us in a situation where we can understand the need, if we just open our eyes and look. But he has also put us in a situation where the only way we know of, the way that works right now, to get that warning message out is to use money to finance mass communication through the Internet, printing and publishing, radio and TV broadcasting, and public speaking campaigns and Bible lectures. So we can give the warning to the degree we sacrifice financially.

But we don't like to sacrifice financially. It hurts. It does not make us happy to give up some of the things we love. We like our junk food, our desserts, our expensive preprocessed packaged foods. We like restaurants. We like our big, new cars, our comfortable houses, our nice furniture, our electronic gadgets, our nice clothes. We like our vacations. We like going out. We like having nice clothes. We like our movies and our TV programs, on DVDs (rented or purchases), on the Internet, or in theaters.

Considering the things we spend money on that we do not have to spend money on, considering what that money could accomplish in giving the warning to the public, do you think we are going all out? WE ARE NOT!

How can we justify that?

Some try by saying, this is not the time to preach the gospel. But God's knows that is just an excuse. Some say Mr. Armstrong finished that work and we don't have to do it. That is nonsense.

Some of us pray for the gospel and the warning to go out, then we give in to temptation and sin, knowing that our sins may hinder our prayers for the gospel. I have been guilty of that.

The biggest sin of the whole Church of God is lack of zeal for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. It is really the most direct manifestation of self-centeredness and lack of love for others that there can be. It is blindness, and it is lukewarmness. And for that reason, if we do not repent, God will put us through the same tribulation we failed to warn the world about.

Our selfishness in this matter is wrong. We are hypocrites in our hearts. We claim to follow God's way of life, and sometimes we feel superior to others in the world, yet we may be more guilty of violating God's law of love than they are. No wonder Christ vomits us out of His mouth. No wonder He withholds spiritual healing. No wonder he does not give us a ministry that will work together to bring us together.

Satan's Number One Battleground

I think the issue of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel is Satan's number one battleground. He hates that message and wants by any means to prevent it from going out to the world.

The idea that we need to wait with preaching the gospel until the Church is spiritually healed and strengthened, is, in my opinion, one of Satan's most effective and powerful lies for waging war against God's Church. I am sure Satan loves that particular lie and promotes it in the Church of God at every opportunity. When I hear that lie being preached, I sense I am hearing the voice of God's enemy. I view ministers who strongly preach this kind of thinking as enemies of the gospel or tools in the hand of our number one enemy, Satan. Most of these ministers may not really be enemies. The enemy is the devil who deceives them into promoting his lies. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).

So the enemy is Satan, not ministers who themselves can be deceived. But to the extent they are mistakenly deceived into that wrong way of thinking, they becomes weapons in the hand of the real enemy, Satan. Jesus called Peter, "Satan", when He recognized Satan's wrong way of thinking in the words that came out of Peter's mouth. Peter himself was not the enemy. But at that moment he was a tool in Satan's hands for tempting Jesus into not going through with His sacrifice (Matthew 16:21-23).

The gospel issue may be Satan's number one battleground in the Church of God, more than compromise with the commandments, more than government and voting, more than anything. Satan is furious with the truth of the gospel and does NOT want the American and British people to hear a warning before the tribulation begins. He wants the tribulation to fall on Americans and Britons WITHOUT them hearing a warning message first, because he has prepared his accusations against God for them to hear, thoughts of resentment and unfairness he and his demons are ready to pump into their minds: "It's not your fault." "You never had a chance." "God never warned you." "God is to blame for your suffering." "If God gave you a warning, of course you would have listened and obeyed, but God never gave you a chance to obey."

Satan will use any means, any minister, any group he can deceive into thinking, "this is not the time to preach the gospel", and Satan will use those ministers and groups to try to persuade others in the Church. To the extent he succeeds, he has a double bonus, for not only does he make God look unfair and make the repentance of Israel in the tribulation more difficult, but he brings guilt upon the Church for not warning, so the blood of those people will be on our heads.

There is a war going on over the gospel issue. It is a war between Satan and God's people. And what is going on in COGFC is just one battle in that war, and the brethren in COGaic and recently coming out of COGaic are the battleground. It is a battle for hearts and minds and also tithe money. I think Satan wants to tempt, deceive, and influence any person he can, minister or member, to whatever degree he is able to do, to divert tithe money to ANY purpose - feeding the flock, healing the Church, helping the poor, sending money to hurricane victims - ANYTHING, except preaching the gospel and warning the people of the United States and British nations about the tribulation to come if our nations do not repent.

Not that feeding the flock and helping the poor are bad. They are good, in balance, and in fact they are necessary, but when they become everything, and nothing is left to warn our nations, then it becomes bad, and that is what Satan wants.

Reconciliation between brethren sounds good, and it is good, providing we are not reconciling to Satan in the process. If you think that is harsh, consider that Jesus called Peter "Satan" when Peter tried to persuade Jesus not to be a sacrifice. It was not that Peter was really Satan. But Jesus knew, Peter was a mouthpiece for Satan's way of thinking at that moment. It was a wrong idea, a wrong way of thinking, one of Satan's weapons of attack, that was in Peter's mind at that moment, and Satan was able to use Peter as a tool to tempt Christ to not go through with that sacrifice. In a figurative sense, at that moment, Peter was an enemy of Christ, like Satan himself.

The seriousness of the controversy over the gospel might be more clear to the brethren if the debate was about the Sabbath. That is why I use it as an illustration. If some ministers were saying, let's not keep the Sabbath until the Church is healed, let's meet on Sundays and count the Sabbath as a workday until the Church is healed - would brethren put up with them? Not for one second. Yet in all honesty, I would not be surprised if Satan would be more pleased with a group that collected the members' tithes and did not preach the gospel and the warning than he would be pleased if they all kept Sunday but preached the gospel and the warning.

This is a war, like it or not. It is a war between Satan and his demons on one side and the Church on the other, and the war is over the gospel issue - Satan blocking the gospel with every means at his disposal, and Christ leading some in the Church to zealously try to get the gospel and the warning message out while there is time.

What is at stake? For God, His reputation for fairness and love is at stake - his name, in other words. For the Church, the stake is blood guilt if we do not warn the people. For the United States and other nations who will go through the tribulation, the stake is their repentance during the tribulation - will it be easier to repent because they remember the warning, or will it be harder for them because they think God is unfair? What will be their attitude at the beginning of the millennium if Satan convinces them during the tribulation that God was unfair because He didn't give them a warning? And since the survivors will be the first generation of Israel in the millennium, and Israel is to be the model nation to set an example for the world to follow, maybe the whole success of the millennium is at stake.

Some members of the Church of God are "on fire" for the gospel. But with some, that fire is not hot enough because they permit others who do not share that burning desire to get the message out to hold them back. Some brethren want to preach the gospel, but others say, "Yes, we will do it together with you, if you will just wait so we can do it together," and the brethren say, "Ok, I guess I can wait." Yet there is no Bible justification for waiting. Those who see the need compromise with those who don't. Why? For the sake of a false unity? Or because the fire in their belly isn't hot enough yet? It isn't hot enough because they allow others to cool it, to hold them back.

Disunity in the Church of God Is Not Our Biggest Problem

There is a common feeling and thought among members everywhere in the Church of God that we should all strive for unity in the Church of God. Brethren experience the effects of disunity personally when families and friends are divided, when young singles see limited opportunities to find mates because we are all scattered in competing groups, and in other ways. They also feel frustrated and disgusted with the way some leaders of groups attack each other and fight among themselves, as well they should. And because of this, they tend to feel that the number one problem in the Church of God is disunity. "Why can't we all get along?" "Why can't these ministers get along?" "If only we could all be together, everything would be great." And how can anyone argue in favor of disunity? Does not the Bible teach that division is bad? And so, many brethren seem to think that disunity is our number one problem.

I don't share that view. I understand it, but I don't share it. I do agree that ministers and leaders should not be harshly attacking each other. But disunity is not our number one problem, and unity will not get God's work done or heal the Church.

It is natural for Church of God members to think of division and scattering in the Church of God as problem numero uno because it affects them personally. But who among us has tasted the tribulation? Have you ever eaten your own children? Do you know of any members of the Church of God who, because of unemployment and hunger, have eaten one of their children?

Yet, this kind of suffering is waiting to come to about 500 million of our neighbors in the world in less time than you or I have been alive. I estimate we have about 10-15 years left. How short a time that is to finish the job God has given us! Where were you and what were you doing that many years ago? The year 2000 doesn't seem that long past to me, and from now till the tribulation is not that long into the future. Those 500 million people, about ten thousand times more people than everyone in all the Churches of God put together, need a WARNING. But the disunity that exists in the Church of God seems more real to most members than the tribulation.

I don't think the number one problem in the Church is disunity. I think the number one problem in the Church of God is lack of love and lack of zeal to get the warning message out.

There were 32,000 men who wanted to join Gideon to fight against Israel's enemies, but God narrowed it down to 300, and He did a more powerful work with those 300 than the 32,000 could have done on their own (Judges 7:1-8). God separated the 300 from the rest of the 32,000.

GOD DOES NOT WANT UNITY in the Church of God right now. He wants separation. He is testing us and he wants us to choose loyalty to Him and loyalty to His work more than loyalty to friends, relatives, ministers, and organizations. He wants us to really love our neighbors as ourselves, and He wants to test our love for our neighbors by our willingness to sacrifice for them. Because, before the tribulation, there will be at least two Church of God groups. There may be hundreds, but no matter how much we "come together", there will be at least two, and these two can never come together: Laodicea and Philadelphia. They cannot come together because they have different destinies. And if they come together today, they must separate tomorrow.

I think lack of zeal for preaching the gospel and the warning, the sin of simply accepting the idea that millions of our countrymen will suffer and be slaughtered without first hearing a warning, is the number one sin the Church of God as a whole needs to repent of. Everything else is small in comparison. Maybe I am wrong, but that is how I see it. I have read dozens of books on the Holocaust, and the tribulation will be worse.

How will most Church members wake up to the need? Maybe if every member read about 40 books about the Holocaust, as I have done, look at the pictures of near human skeletons who came out of the Nazi concentration camps, and then every time they go out and see their neighbors - the waitress at the restaurant, the people they work with at the office, the cashier at the supermarket who rings up their groceries - picture those people as living skeletons a few years from now, then they will see the need. Where is our compassion? How can we be so cold?

But if we don't see the need now, we will understand when we go through the tribulation ourselves. Then we will understand.

What a high price we will pay for our blindness and lukewarmness now.

Here are some posts related to this one:

"What Good Does It Do to Preach the Gospel If We Do Not Live It?", dated February 22, 2014, link:

"Heart-to-heart to Mr. Brian Orchard and Ministers of COGFC", dated February 24, 2014, link:

"Philadelphia Must Come Out of Laodicea", dated February 25, 2014, link:

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




Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Philadelphia Must Come Out of Laodicea

I have prepared this post (except for the last paragraph and some minor editing) and was ready to publish when I became aware of a letter from Mr. Brian Orchard in the COGFC, "The Father's Call", website. This letter announced that Mr. Stephen Elliot and Mr. Bob Rodzaj are, along with Mr. Peter Nathan, going to Living Church of God (LCG). This letter further states that Mr. Brian Orchard, Mr. Steve Andrews, Mr. Cliff Veal, Mr. Marshall Stiver, and Mr. Bill Hutchison intend to stay with COGFC. Also, Mr. Ted Budge is going with UCG (United Church of God). Here is a link to the letter:

Here is the post I prepared previous to reading this letter:

Since the split up of Worldwide after the death of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and after the scattering the Church of God, there has been a longing among most brethren for unity.

Certainly the right kind of unity is something to be desired, prayed for, and worked for. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1). "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10). "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them" (Romans 16:17).

We should work for the unity among us that comes from unity with God. As each of us draws closer to God, we should draw closer to each other as well.

But we are human, we have human nature, and we have free moral agency. You can seek unity with God yourself, but you cannot make others in the Church seek unity with God. You can encourage them, but ultimately it is their choice, and division occurs and grows when some seek greater unity with God (by believing and obeying the Bible) while others do not. And when that happens, the divisions that occur are the responsibility and fault of those who choose not to believe and obey the Bible, not those who draw closer to God through faith and obedience.

In the COGaic split, which is still in motion (more will probably leave COGaic in the future than have already left that organization up till now), much has been made of the fact that the United States and Britain in prophecy doctrine has been minimized in COGaic and needs to be re-taught and re-emphasized. But there is another doctrine that was taught by Mr. Armstrong, and is taught by the Bible, but may have been neglected by COGaic, and this doctrine is very relevant to what is happening in Church of God, a Family Community (COGFC), a group that has recently come out of COGaic, led by Brian Orchard, Steve Andrews, and other leading ministers.

The doctrine I am talking about is the doctrine of the eras of the Church, as described in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, from the first era, Ephesus, to the last, Laodicea. According to this doctrine, the seven messages to the seven churches represent seven eras of the Church, which occur in the same sequence as the messages in Revelation. So the first era is Ephesus, then the second is Smyrna, the third Pergamos, then Thyatira, then Sardis, then Philadelphia, and lastly Laodicea. Each era represents a period of time in the history of the true Church of God in which the characteristics described in the letter for that era predominate.

I say that this doctrine may have been neglected in COGaic because I remember a video with Mr. Hulme in which he spoke of the seven churches of Revelation. In that video, he described the seven churches, but said nothing about eras of the Church. I suspect this has not been taught much in COGaic.

Yet it is critical for understanding what is happening in COGFC today. The upcoming March conference may be a step in the ongoing fulfillment of this doctrine.

I do not want to try to prove this doctrine at this time. I will just point out that the sequence of the messages in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are identical to the sequence of the cities mentioned on a mail route, according to articles I have seen. There would be no reason for the messages to be listed in that order if the only meaning for us today is that they represented seven characteristics that can be present in the Church at any time. Also, an examination of the history of the Church, especially in the last 100 years, seems to show a match between actual events in the Church and the sequence of messages in Revelation when they are understood as eras.

How does this relate to COGFC, right now?

Decisions are being made that will influence the brethren and ministers who choose to stay in COGFC for years to come, and a correct understanding of those decisions and their consequences may depend on the understanding of Church of God eras. Decisions will be made during and after the March conference, not just by ministers, but by the brethren.

Mr. Armstrong taught that Church of God Seventh Day was Sardis. The Church has taught that Radio Church of God / Worldwide Church of God under Mr. Armstrong's leadership, for most of that period of time, was Philadelphia. We now seem to be in the Laodicean era.

Two characteristics of Philadelphia that differentiate it from Laodicea is that Philadelphia is promised an open door for preaching the gospel and is promised protection from the tribulation (Revelation 3:7-10). Laodicea has neither of these promises.

During the Philadelphia era when Mr. Armstrong was alive, we had a door for preaching the gospel that was open wider than it is today.

Yet the work of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel was never finished. As much as Mr. Armstrong accomplished, or to put it more accurately, as much as Christ did through Mr. Armstrong, most people in the United States, Britain, and other nations of Israel never heard the warning about the tribulation to come. Moreover, many people are alive today who could never have heard the message from Mr. Armstrong because they were not born until after he had died. That becomes more true with every year that passes.

There is Bible evidence that part of the Church will be protected during the tribulation in a place of safety while another part is not (Revelation 12:6, 12:13-17, Matthew 24:15-22, Luke 21:20-21, 36, Isaiah 16:3-4, 33:16).

If this is the Laodicean era, then the Laodicean attitude and character must predominate during this time in the majority of the Church of God. But if the work of preaching the gospel and the warning is unfinished, and Philadelphia is promised an open door to do it, and if Philadelphia is further promised protection in a place of safety, there must be Philadelphians in the Church today or in the near future to finish the work of preaching the gospel to the world and then go to a place of safety. Yet, they will not be the majority of the Church of God as they may have been during the Philadelphia era.

Philadelphians are promised an open door to preaching the gospel, and I believe it is the Philadelphians who have the zeal to preach the gospel. That is how the door is open for them. Both Laodiceans and Philadelphians have the same physical opportunities to preach the gospel: time, money, freedom of speech and press, technology, communications and business infrastructure, etc. What makes the door open for Philadelphia but not Laodicea is that Philadelphia sees the need and has the zeal and the urgency to preach the gospel and the warning - Laodicea does not.

But as a practical matter, Philadelphia may be limited in what it can accomplish when it is in a larger, predominantly Laodicean organization.

You can have a Church of God fellowship with 1,000 members, 800 of whom are Laodicean and 200 of whom are Philadelphian, and God will open the door for that organization to preach the gospel to a degree for the sake of his promise to Philadelphians, but that door can never be open wide as long as the organization is mostly Laodicean. Only when an organization is predominantly Philadelphian will the door to preaching the gospel be fully opened so that the job can be finished.

Those who do not have their heart in preaching the gospel and the warning will always hold back and hinder those who do. They will drag their feet. They will make excuses. They will postpone. They will say, "now is not the time." They will say, "we don't have enough money". They will say, "the Church is not ready, we have to heal the Church first."

And when the majority in an organization is Laodicean, especially among the leadership, or when the leader himself is Laodicean, that organization will never do more than a small or perhaps token work of preaching the gospel, just enough to try to satisfy the Philadelphians among them, to raise their hopes, to keep them in the organization and to keep their tithes.

Philadelphians will never be able to finish God's work of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel until they come out of Laodicea, separate in other words.

At some point, there has to be a separation.

No matter what degree of reconciliation and coming together you will have in the whole Church of God, by the time the tribulation starts, we cannot all be together, because there must be at least two groups. Philadelphians may reconcile with Philadelphians and probably will. Laodiceans may reconcile with Laodiceans, and probably won't. But if Philadelphians reconcile with Laodiceans, they will have to separate again, and that is because they have different destinies. Laodiceans will not have an open door for preaching the gospel and they will not have protection from the tribulation, and Laodiceans are the majority and will remain so, because Laodicea is the last era of the Church. Philadelphians are the minority, and they are promised the open door and protection.

But for Philadelphia to have maximum effectiveness in preaching the gospel, for them to have a door that is wide open as it was for Mr. Armstrong, I think they must separate from Laodicea at some time before the tribulation begins. I think at some point God will gather Philadelphia and do a powerful work through them. And I think it is the Philadelphians that must take the initiative to separate from Laodiceans in many cases because Philadelphians are the minority.

When I read the message to Philadelphia, I get the impression that these are people who have to go out of organizations, perhaps many times, to be faithful to God. This can be a trial. But one of the rewards promised to Philadelphia, almost like a reassurance that they will no longer have to go out of organizations as they have done so many times before, is that they will not have to "go out" anymore. "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more" (Revelation 3:12). Christ does not make that promise to other eras or churches. It is as if Philadelphians have had to go through this particular trial of having to go out of organizations, to separate, in order to remain faithful to God. That is why Christ gives them a special assurance and encouragement - in the Kingdom of God, you will never have to go out as you have had to do in this life.

Moreover, God can do a more powerful work with Philadelphia alone than with Philadelphia as a minority mixed in with Laodiceans who are the majority. There is a mind-set in the Church of God that is against preaching the gospel. People in this mindset seem to want to use any excuse not to preach the gospel or to give it low priority. When they are in the same fellowship as those who want to preach the gospel, it seems they always hold them back.

In the matter of Gideon, there were 32,000 men who wanted to join with Gideon to fight Israel's enemies in the first major battle, but God separated out only 300 to do the job (Judges 7:2-8).

What does this have to do with COGFC?

There are conflicting pressures in COGFC. I do not think all these ministers, and members, have the same views about important issues.

Obviously, there are leading ministers, those among the nine leading ministers in the first conference, who have helped to set the direction of COGFC to postpone preaching the gospel indefinitely. Yet, at the same time, there may be ministers in COGFC, whether among the leading nine or not, who have zeal for preaching the gospel. And the membership itself may be divided, with some members "on fire" for the preaching of the gospel and others only leaving COGaic to stay with their pastors and their friends who have left COGaic.

I have said that those with zeal for the gospel will not be held back. If the leading ministers in COGFC sense the zeal of these members, they may agree to preach the gospel now, but only make a token, minimum effort to do it. In other words, they will do a very small work, maybe using 5% or 10% of the tithes to preach the gospel, but never going beyond that, never coming close to 35-50% like Dr. Meredith or Mr. Armstrong spent on the gospel. It would be Mr. David Hulme all over again, doing a very small work, perhaps just to satisfy the membership so they stay in COGFC, but never really being effective.

If that happens, I think it would be a mistake for those with zeal for the gospel to stay in such a group.

I said before, COGFC needs to start preaching the gospel, even if it is only on a small scale at first. But that is only the right course if it is something that starts small and then grows big. It can start small, but should not stay small. But I think there is enough evidence, in the track record of the controlling ministers in COGFC and in the messages that have been given in Bible studies and sermons, that these controlling ministers do not have sufficient zeal for the gospel to do a powerful work, and it is unlikely they will change. And I would not have confidence that if they started now on a small scale to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, that they will ever let that work grow to become a major, successful program for preaching the gospel. I do not have confidence that controlling ministers in COGFC will ever let that group do more than a token work of preaching the gospel, but not be really effective.

I said before, your fruits become known to God and to the brethren from day one. How you start is important. For two months, COGFC has preached and practiced a consistent message: we will not preach the gospel to the world for an indefinite period of time, and our reason is, we want to "heal" the Church first. That message is inconsistent with the Bible, and those with zeal for the gospel should see that, but the controlling ministers in COGFC have not seen it.

From my perspective, for COGFC to come out of the conference, whole, intact, and committed to starting to preach the gospel on a small scale would not necessarily be a good thing. With those included who have set the current direction so far, it is unlikely they will make more than a token effort, perhaps to please the brethren. It would start small, and remain small. Then what? Are COGFC brethren to then bear with the slow pace of the gospel in COGFC for 15 years as they did with Mr. Hulme for 15 years? I do not think we do not have another 15 years.

But if those who are on fire for the gospel separate and form a new group, or go with Living Church of God which is already preaching the gospel effectively, they will start to preach the gospel to glorify God's name and to show their love and compassion for the American, Canadian, and British peoples. And then, if they start their own group, they will start small, because all things must start small, but they will not remain small. The work of preaching the gospel may grow and grow as it never did with Mr. Hulme and as it never will with those COGFC leaders who made the decision in the beginning of the year to postpone preaching the gospel indefinitely. And if they go with LCG, they will be joining a work that is already preaching the gospel more effectively than any other major Church of God organization.

COGFC should not try to stay together, just for the sake of unity, if it is a false unity, a unity of name and bank account but not a unity of mind and heart. If the ministers and members differ about such important issues as the gospel and government, how long can a forced, artificial "unity" last? And as long as it does last, what can it accomplish?

What do these people have in common to hold them together, besides calling themselves members of the Church of God? What do they have in common that all the fellowships in the scattered Church of God do not have in common? Just one thing - they all just came out of COGaic.

What is that? It is nothing. They worked with David Hulme a long time. They have some shared experience and some shared trials, but their views can be as different as night and day. Two cannot walk together unless they are agreed (Amos 3:3), as Mr. Armstrong liked to point out, and if these men do not agree, why try to force a false unity that does not and will not ever really exist?

How long can a false "unity" in COGFC last? And as long as it does last, nothing good is accomplished.

The initiative to separate may have to come from those who are in favor of preaching the gospel, and some ordained minister may have to take the lead. Those against the gospel will not separate. They have been in control from the beginning, even with Mr. Nathan in the group, and how much stronger will be their control with him gone? They will not say, "we are leaving".

Here is the bottom line: In my opinion, those who are in favor of preaching the gospel in COGFC must SEPARATE from those who are against it, either to form a new group firmly committed to preaching the gospel NOW and with priority and power, or to join with and support Living Church of God in the work LCG is already doing. I do not think COGFC can be a very effective tool in Christ's hands for preaching the gospel as long as it is together as it is now.

If that separation occurs, then some good will come out of this COGaic split. Also, a new group firmly committed to right government and preaching the gospel powerfully can serve as a magnet to help others come out of COGaic. Or, if those in favor of the gospel leave COGFC to join LCG, they can help ministers and members in COGaic to consider that as an option more than they have before.

Right now, COGFC is probably not attracting anyone still in COGaic. And that is a shame because COGaic is only very weakly preaching the gospel to the world. But to help members still in COGaic come out of that system, you need a stronger magnet than COGFC has been so far. A new group with a definite leader, organized hierarchically as we had with Mr. Armstrong, and going all out to preach the gospel from day one, can certainly serve as a strong magnet to help members come out of COGaic. And to the extent ministers and members come out of COGFC to join and support Living Church of God, they can help LCG serve as a magnet for members still in COGaic.

Some members have "fire in their bellies" to preach the gospel. But as long as they give others permission to hold them back from action, that fire is not hot enough yet. Philadelphians will be more effective when they stop letting Laodiceans hold them back from doing what God commands.

God isn't going to warn the world through the majority of the Church that is Laodicea. He is going to warn the world through the efforts of a much smaller part of the Church that is Philadelphia.

The number one problem for the Church is not how to reconcile with each other. The number one problem in the Church is to preach the gospel and the warning to the world.

Eventually, those members and ministers who understand the importance of the gospel will have to separate from those who think that the most important issue for the Church is reconciliation and "healing".

One qualification. I am not hostile to the remaining COGFC ministers and brethren. They are part of God's Church and those ministers need to be respected by the membership. They may have good things to teach and offer their members - I am not belittling that. My main point is, those with zeal for the gospel and those without it are not a good mix. There needs to be a separation. Let the two groups part as friends, but let them part.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Heart-to-heart to Mr. Brian Orchard and Ministers of COGFC

I would like to write this for any COGFC leading ministers willing to read this, especially those who have been giving Bible studies and sermons and have helped to set the current direction of COGFC, such as Mr. Brian Orchard, Mr. Steve Andrews, and Mr. Bob Rodzaj.

I will keep this short, because I sense few will read it if I make it long.

You have used the phrase, "what God is doing", but you do not seem to recognize what God is doing in the minds of some of the brethren. Something different is happening in your minds, and you may assume that if the same thing that is happening in your minds is not happening in the minds of others, what is happening in the minds of others is not of God. But God is doing something with some of the brethren at the end of this age that is very important. He is stirring some up to white-hot zeal for finishing God's work of preaching the gospel to the world. That kind of zeal will be necessary considering the enormity of the job that must be done.

But you do not seem to think this is of God. You feel the need to explain to these brethren that they need to refocus on reconciliation and drawing closer to God. You may feel the need to explain why that reconciliation needs to happen before preaching the gospel rather than at the same time.

You talk about reconciliation and tearing down barriers, but you seem to be blind to the fact that you are actually creating barriers between yourselves and many of the brethren. You talk about reconciling to God, but in the minds of some you hurt your credibility because they see that you are not doing what God says.

How are you creating barriers?

You are forcing some members to choose between you and God. You are forcing them to choose to depart from COGFC ministers or disobey God's law and God's will. In other words, you are creating a conscience problem for them. And that is true, even if you are right about the need for Church healing before preaching the gospel. You are not right, in fact, because the scriptures do not support your position, and many brethren who understand the need to preach the gospel now, not later, know this.

Perhaps you cannot help being blind to the need to preach the gospel now. God evidently has not opened your mind to see that because He is not working with you the same way. But you should at least be able to perceive, if you have any empathy at all, that this is an absolute need for the brethren who feel this way. And while you preach reconciliation with God and with scattered sheep, you are alienating some of the sheep in your own fold.

There is a need for Churchwide repentance/healing/reconciliation. That is true. God may be working in your minds to see that need and to take responsibility for helping to fill that need. But that should be done at the same time as preaching the gospel to the world. And at the same time God may be working in your minds to see the need for Churchwide repentance and healing and reconciliation with God and with brethren, God is also working in the minds of many of the brethren, apparently not you, to see the need to preach the
gospel and warning to the world right now, not later, not after repentance. You feel that what you are doing is what "God is doing", but you do not have enough empathy with the brethren or spiritual discernment to see what God is also doing in them. So you hold them back. And what could be a good message of repentance becomes a false message of a false repentance that fails to recognize the need for the Church to repent of its failure to zealously preach the gospel to the world.

Brethren who see the need for preaching the gospel are boxed in. They agree with you that the Church needs to repent and seek out lost sheep, they want to support you and stay with you, but they cannot stay with you because you are forcing them to sin.

For those brethren, to fail to preach the gospel now is sin. To support a ministry that is postponing any action to preach the gospel, without themselves doing something on their own, would be, for them, sin. And you are forcing them to choose between sin or leaving you. That is not reconciliation.

Should we be careful not to create a conscience problem with others in the Church of God? Consider these scriptures:

"Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).

"But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).

"For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ" (1 Corinthians 8:10-12).

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!" (Matthew 18:6-7).

Did God force someone to violate his conscience, and sin? Consider this account:

" 'And your food which you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from time to time you shall eat it. You shall also drink water by measure, one-sixth of a hin; from time to time you shall drink. And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight.' Then the Lord said, 'So shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, where I will drive them.' So I said, 'Ah, Lord God! Indeed I have never defiled myself from my youth till now; I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has abominable flesh ever come into my mouth.' Then He said to me, 'See, I am giving you cow dung instead of human waste, and you shall prepare your bread over it' " (Ezekiel 4:10-15).

Ezekiel had a conscience problem with what God told him, so God gave him another way that did not offend Ezekiel's conscience. In this God sets the example for us.

You are also spiritually starving the membership, not feeding them, because part of our spiritual "food" is finishing God's work. "Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, "There are still four months and then comes the harvest"? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!' " (John 4:34-35). To the degree Christ is living in the brethren, those brethren will also feel that their spiritual food is to finish God's work of preaching the gospel, and you are not feeding them that food - you are not giving them the opportunity to do it.

When you tempt members to stay with you for the sake of their friends when they know they should go elsewhere to support the gospel, you may be leading them into sin, and if you do, you are sinning against Christ.

You cannot prove your current course of action by the scriptures or by any spiritual principle taught in Bible or by any valid logic:

1) The beam in the eye passage was never intended to be used to say that we should not preach the gospel until we improve our own spiritual condition, because if that were the case, Jesus would never have sent Judas out to preach the gospel. Neither would God have required Jonah to preach repentance to Nineveh, because Jonah had a bad attitude towards God and man, both before preaching to Nineveh and afterwards, but God used him anyway. It is God who does the correcting - we only have to deliver the message, like a mailman, that God has given us to deliver. We point people to the scriptures and the scriptures will teach and correct them. We also share the good news of God's plan and coming kingdom with them.

2) Setting a right example only reaches a few around us. It does not reach 500 million people - there are not enough of us for that.

3) There is no precedence in the New Testament after the Church started on Pentecost for postponing preaching the gospel until those who are to do it first draw closer to God.

4) God commands preaching the gospel, and you can only reconcile to God by doing what he says while you are seeking him.

5) There is absolutely no reason why preaching the gospel and seeking a deeper Churchwide repentance/healing/reconciliation cannot be done at the same time, in fact, they reinforce each other and can only be done effectively together.

Besides preaching repentance/healing/reconciliation, you have also spoken of the need for trust. But by saying one thing, but doing something else, you are destroying the trust that could exist between you and the brethren. By speaking of the importance of preaching the gospel, but not actually doing it, you cast doubt on your sincerity when you say it is important.

You are building a wall between yourselves and those who know that they MUST do something to preach the gospel, now, not later. God is working in them to know this, God is stirring them up to preach the gospel with urgency, but you are not giving them an opportunity to do what God is leading them to do while they are with you.

In this, you are building walls, not tearing them down. And those brethren who understand the need, whose minds God has stirred, will have to leave you. You are forcing them out more surely than David Hulme forced you out of COGaic.

That is sad, because you may really have something to offer for repentance, reconciliation, and drawing closer to God. But on the other hand, how real is your knowledge and commitment to reconciliation if you can't understand reconciliation with those who want to obey God in your own fellowship. So maybe the things you say about Churchwide repentance, healing, and reconciliation are really smoke and mirrors after all, because these are subjects you do not really understand and believe, and if you do not understand these subjects, how can you teach the brethren about them?

You have chosen to take a very different path than Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong took. He was human and could make mistakes, and if he has made mistakes in doctrine or practice, and we can see those mistakes in the Bible, we should correct them. But such correction should come from the Bible. In your case, you cannot prove he was wrong from the Bible, either in government or in preaching the gospel. He had the right structure of government and he placed the right emphasis on preaching the gospel, and all of us, you included, are able to know the true gospel because of his emphasis on preaching the gospel. But you have taken a different direction from him without proving to the brethren that he was wrong in either of those two things. And you have placed a veil over your decision making, so the brethren do not know how decisions are being made or who is making them.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

What Good Does It Do to Preach the Gospel If We Do Not Live It?

What good does it do for us to preach the gospel to the world if we are not living the gospel? What good is it to give a warning message if we are not heeding that message ourselves in our daily lives? What good does it do to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel and teach them God's way of life if we are not being a good example of living the way we preach?

That is the issue I will address, but the biblical answer may not be what you expect.

Consider this statement: "Without our obedience to the gospel, preaching it to others means nothing."

Is this a true statement or a false statement? Think about it before you answer. How you answer may speak volumes about your spiritual perspective.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Notice especially the last verse, "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing." I could paraphrase it in relation to preaching the gospel, like this: "And though I give all my goods to preach the gospel to the world, and though I sacrifice all that I have to deliver the Ezekiel warning to Israel, but have not love, it profits me nothing."

There is one word that needs to be emphasized in Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 13:3 and my paraphrase of that statement. Later in this post, I will emphasize it to make my point.

Look at something else Paul said: "Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice" (Philippians 1:15-18).

In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Paul said, if he served others, but did not have love, it profits him nothing. Yet here, Paul rejoiced that Christ was preached even by those who did it from a wrong motive. Apparently, in Philippians 1:15-18, Paul was not concerned that those who preached Christ from selfish ambition did not do it from a motive of love.

One more passage: "I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen" (Romans 9:1-6).

Did Paul really say, if he bestowed all his goods to feed the poor, but have not love, it would profit nothing? No he did not.

Now I will repeat 1 Corinthians 13:3, and this time I will add emphasis on the word I want to draw attention to. "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits ME nothing."

If Paul does good deeds towards others, but without love, perhaps being motivated by selfish ambition, does it profit nothing? It depends on your point of view, and actually, it depends on whether you have love for others. If Paul serves others from a bad motive and without love, it does not profit Paul. It does not profit the one doing the good deed. Nevertheless, it profits the one helped.

If Paul gives his goods to feed starving poor people, but his motive is selfish ambition because he does not have love, his good deed does not profit Paul, but it certainly profits the poor people he is helping.

So, if you have not love, but sacrifice to help others, perhaps motivated by selfish ambition or some other wrong motive, does it profit? It depends on your perspective. If your perspective is helping yourself only, then no, from that point of view, it does not profit, it does not do any good, because it does not profit YOU. But from the perspective of the people you are helping, yes, it profits, because it profits them.

A starving person may not know your motive for giving him food. You may be doing it out of love or some selfish motive. But the food helps him just the same. It helps you also to give the gift if your motive is love, but if it is vanity or selfish ambition, perhaps to make you feel good about yourself, then it does not help you. But it still helps the other person.

So if you say, "Well, if my motive is wrong, then it is useless to do good deeds for others", that right there shows a wrong perspective. That shows that you think it is useless to help others unless God rewards you for your good deed. You are thinking of the benefits for yourself, not the other person.

This is why Paul was glad when Christ was preached, even when Christ was preached by those who did it for selfish ambition, not love. Why? Because it profited those who did the preaching? No, without love, it profits them nothing. But because it profits those who hear the message, whether the person doing the preaching has love or not.

So the very answer to the question shows if the person answering has outgoing love for others, or not. If you are only thinking of yourself and the reward God will give you in this life or in the Kingdom, you will say, "No, if I preach the gospel, but do not have love, it does no good." What you really mean is, it does no good for you, and you would be right, you can expect no reward from God for doing the right thing but for a wrong motive, not in this life or in the Kingdom of God. But if you really do have outgoing love for others, then you would answer, "Yes, if I preach the gospel, but do not have love, it won't help me but it will still help the people who hear the gospel", and that kind of answer would show that you do, in fact, have love for others, because you are not evaluating the answer to the question on the basis of what profits you but on the basis of what profits others.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with a Church member in Worldwide during the time Mr. Tkach was making doctrinal changes. The Church member had been considering participating in a public service program to tutor people outside the Church in English, people for whom English is a second language, to help them in their reading or speaking skills at a local community college or someplace. I do not remember the details of the doctrinal issue that prompted the conversation, but it may have been something along the lines of us being saved whether we do good deeds or not. And his comment was something like: "Well, if we don't have to do good deeds to be saved, then it really doesn't matter if I serve in this program to help others improve their English skills - what good will it do?" And my thought was, "Well, it will do good for the people you tutor."

Paul was not just concerned about his own salvation and his reward in God's kingdom. He was concerned about others. He had real outgoing love, which is why he said in Romans 9:1-6 which I quoted that he could wish that he himself was accursed from Christ for the sake of his fellow Israelites - he was willing to give up his own reward or salvation for the sake of others. Of course, God does not require that, but this shows where Paul's heart was at.

Would you be willing to give up your salvation if it would help others to be saved?

At the beginning of this post, I made this statement and asked if this is true: "Without our obedience to the gospel, preaching it to others means nothing." I said that your answer will say something about your spiritual perspective. And now I say that it says something about your love for others vs. your love for yourself.

For if you answer, "Yes, that is a true statement. It does us no good to preach the gospel to others if we do not live it ourselves", then you are showing that your love is primarily for yourself. You are looking to the reward. You know you will not benefit from preaching the gospel if you are not living it, so from your perspective, "it means nothing."

But if you answer, "No, it is not a true statement, because preaching the gospel to others means a lot to the people who hear it, whether we live it or not - they will have same opportunity we had, to make their own choice, and if God is calling them, they can be saved, and if not, at least they will remember that they heard a warning, and that will help them later", then that shows that your love is outgoing towards others. You are not evaluating the statement in terms of your own reward, but how preaching the gospel affects other people.

You might say, "If we are not living the gospel, God will not bless us, open doors for us, and give us good success in preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning". Absolutely true, and that should certainly motivate us to live the gospel. We should be motivated to obey God more because we know that the more we obey Him and the more our ways please him, the more He will bless our efforts to preach the gospel and the more we can help others.

But we have to be preaching the gospel for God to bless our efforts. He can't bless our preaching of the gospel if we are not preaching the gospel.

And the idea that we cannot preach the gospel until we are perfect or until we draw closer to God is nonsense. God can bless us in proportion to our obedience. If we are obeying a little, God can bless us a little, but if we obeying a lot, God can bless us a lot. Paul never said, "Those people who are preaching Christ motivated by selfish ambition are doing no good at all." He said, " every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice." He REJOICED that those who were motivated by selfish ambition, not love, were preaching Christ. Why? For the sake of the ones who did the preaching? No, if they have not love, it profits them nothing. But for the sake of those who hear the gospel, Paul rejoiced, because it profits those who hear the message even when it does not profit those who preach the message.

Jesus sent Judas to preach the gospel (Matthew 10:1-8)!

Were the people who heard the gospel from Judas helped? Of course they were helped. What about the people Judas healed? What about the people Judas cast demons out of? Did they profit from the work Judas did? Of course they did. Was Judas right with God? Was he living the gospel? Absolutely not. Jesus said he would have been better off if he were never born (Matthew 26:23-25). But Jesus still used him. He sent him to preach the gospel and heal the sick. And those who heard the gospel from Judas and were healed by him were helped, whether Judas was living what he preached or not. And he was not living what he preached, for he was a thief and took money from the money box (John 12:4-6).

God sent Jonah to warn Nineveh. Look at Jonah's character. Was he living righteously at that time? He had such a bad attitude, not only did he run away from the job, he was angry even that Nineveh repented and God did not destroy the city. But God used him, and Nineveh benefited (Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-10, 4:1-4).

There have been people, evangelists, who have served God's work in modern times who had spiritual problems, even serious faults, yet people benefited from the work they did. I used to listen to Garner Ted Armstrong on the radio in the late 1960s or early 1970s, and I learned from him, and many were benefited by many ministers and evangelists who were with Mr. Armstrong, but they were not perfect, and some embraced the changes Mr. Tkach introduced. I have seen pastors I have learned from, who have helped to teach me God's way, leave the truth, and they may not have been converted.

If we, the Church of God, have serious spiritual problems, we can still benefit others by giving them the warning and the truth. All we are doing is sharing with them the knowledge others have shared with us. They can make their own choice to obey or not just as we must choose. And if we choose not to obey, we will lose out, but the people who hear us can still choose to obey.

And if we have spiritual problems, will this hurt our effectiveness in preaching the gospel? Yes, it will, because God will not bless us as much as He will when we repent and overcome. But we can still reach some people with the truth, and they can begin to benefit immediately. Then, as we grow spiritually and overcome our sins, God will increase the effectiveness of the work of preaching the gospel we are already doing. If God can use Judas, He can use us.

God even used Balaam to bless Israel (Numbers chapters 23 and 24). Yet Balaam was not a righteous man (2 Peter 2:15-16, Jude 11, Revelation 2:14).

Wanting God's blessing and help for preaching the gospel can be an excellent motive for us to repent and seek God, once we are preaching the gospel. We start preaching the gospel, we start running pay-per-click advertising, and we start to pray for the success of the ads as they are running. There will be an announcement, "We are running an advertising campaign for our article on the United States in prophecy this week, please pray for the success of these ads during the week." Then each night, the members will pray that God will bless the campaign. But as our consciences' convict us, we realize we need to do a better job of obeying God so God will answer our prayers. So we repent and seek God more fervently so he will hear our prayers for the advertising campaign, not for our own reward or salvation, but because we love our neighbors and want them to hear the warning message and the good news of God's coming kingdom.

And how should we preach the gospel? There are several ways, but one way to start, one door that is open right now, is to set up a website that teaches the gospel and the warning, then advertise it with Google pay-per-click ads. That door is always open for those willing to walk through it. It is not a door you have to knock on. It is wide open, you only have to walk through it.

So it is not a matter of trying to figure out how to preach the gospel, as if we do not know how to do it. It is not a matter of knocking on one door, and if it does not open, knocking on another, until we find one that is open. We already have one that is open - we don't have to knock.

And if we go through that door, we show God we are serious. Then He can open other doors for us: radio, print, TV, public meetings, etc. But it all starts with that first step, to walk through a door that is already open.

That door is so wide open, you don't even have to be a minister or a Church of God fellowship to go through it. Even a single lay member, with the ability to write an article and a bank debit card to buy the ads online, or a group of lay members working as a team, can go through that door, with or without a minister.

If lay members are able to do it, how much more can ministers do it?

But only if they are willing.

And those who hear our message, even when we go through that first door, will benefit from it.

We are judged by what we do, not just what we say we will do.

" 'But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, "Son, go, work today in my vineyard." He answered and said, "I will not," but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, "I go, sir," but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?' They said to Him, 'The first' " (Matthew 21:28-31).

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

There is a lesson in this. God will judge us by what we do, not by what we say we will do. Likewise, when we want to know what someone will do, don't just listen to what they say they will do, watch WHAT THEY ARE DOING.

For someone to say, "Preaching the gospel is very important to me, and I am going to do it, but I don't know when", that doesn't carry much credibility with me, no matter how sincere they seem, how smooth their words, how charismatic their sermons, or how good their excuses. But if someone says, "Look, I am preaching the gospel, I have a website, I ran ads, I am getting responses, and I am going to continue to preach the gospel," that has credibility with me. I know that preaching the gospel has some importance to the second person, but not necessarily the first.

Here are links to posts related to this post:

" 'Beam in the Eye', and Preaching the Gospel to the World", dated January 14, 2014, link:

"Decision Time for Ex-COGaic Ministers and Brethren - Where Will they Stand?", dated January 17, 2014, link:

"Will the Nine 'Mutually Submit' to Some among the Fifty?", dated January 22, 2014, link:

"Fasting to Know God's Will and Isaiah 58:6-8", dated February 6, 2014, link:

"Peter Nathan Is Going with Living Church of God", dated February 15, 2014, link:

"Update on Church of God, a Family Community (COGFC)", dated February 19, 2014, link:

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



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Update on Church of God, a Family Community (COGFC)

Upcoming March Conference

COGFC is planning another conference in early March, starting on March 2 with a one-day open house conference which members may attend. Details are in the Father's Call website, link:

Those who wish to attend should email Mr. Peter Nathan at

Peter Nathan's Question and Answer Session Last Sabbath

In my last post about COGFC, I reported that Mr. Nathan is planning to go with Living Church of God. He spoke about this in a question and answer session last Sabbath following Mr. Rodzaj's sermon. I expected this question and answer session to be posted as an mp3 audio file in the COGFC website, but I have not found it yet. I expected it to be published because other COGFC audio messages, such as sermons, Bible studies, a question and answer session on January 4, and an online deacon and elders meeting were published on the site. Recently, other recordings have been published very promptly, for example, last Friday's Bible study was published on Saturday, and Saturday's Sabbath sermon was published Sunday. But it has been several days, and Mr. Nathan's explanation as to why he is going with LCG has not been published. I no longer expect that it will be published.

Who controls the website? Who controls the audio recording? I do not know. Is it Mr. Steve Andrews because he controls the bank account? I do not know. If you want to know, you can email him - there is an "Ask a Minister" page for asking ministers questions on the COGFC website. Follow the "Contact" link, then "Ask a Minister". Of course, there is no list of ministers' email addresses. Presumably, all questions are filtered through Mr. Steve Andrews or whoever controls the website.

The webpage for asking questions is not very good. There are fields to be filled out, which are required, but no labels to state what the fields are for. I tried using it to send an email to COGFC some time ago, but I received no reply or acknowledgement.  Perhaps it is my browser.  I tried a different browser and I found labels inside of the boxes.

It would be nice if each of the nine ministers who attended the conference had an email address you could use to contact any one of them individually without being filtered through one person who manages the website. I would think there should be email addresses for contacting at least the leading ministers, such as Brian Orchard, Steve Andrews, etc.

From a worldly point of view, it should be no surprise that Mr. Nathan's explanations for going with LCG are not published by ministers who are currently controlling COGFC and the website. It should be no surprise if Mr. Rodzaj elected not to have the session recorded (he gave the sermon, so I assume this took place in his congregation and in meeting space Mr. Rodzaj controls). After all, in terms of the ways of this world, COGFC and LCG are competing organizations. Why should COGFC publish something favorable to its competitor?

But ministers in COGFC have been claiming to favor reconciliation. They have given the impression they are in favor of reconciliation with the whole Church of God. They have said they want to seek out the lost sheep that are scattered. Some might get the impression that, unlike Mr. Hulme, they view God's Church as bigger than themselves, bigger than the one organization (if you can call COGFC an "organization") they are part of. Of course, it would be hard for them to claim COGFC is the "only true Church of God" since it is so small and so recent.

If Mr. Andrews and Mr. Rodzaj are serious about reconciling with God and with the Church of God brethren regardless of what organization they attend, if they want to work towards unity in the Church of God, they should not be viewing LCG as a competing organization but rather as a part of the same body of Christ they are part of, serving the same Master. They should be willing to publish the recording of Mr. Nathan's answers as to why he thinks he should go with LCG at this time. They should not be afraid that some members might be persuaded by Mr. Nathan's statements to think that maybe LCG would be a good choice for them also. They should be glad to give the brethren every opportunity to get and study all the facts before making their long-term decisions.

Of course, if COGFC is really "just another split" because ministers cannot get along with other ministers, just another division in the body of Christ because ministers want to go their own way, then none of that will matter to them. If all the talk about reconciling with God and the brethren, building unity, serving the membership, is just that - talk and nothing more, talk to please the brethren and say what they think the brethren want to hear - they may not care about letting the brethren be able to review and study Mr. Nathan's teachings he gave in his question and answer session. Make no mistake about it - there is teaching in that session. It is as much a sermon about doctrine, about teaching, about God's way of life and truth as the sermon given by Mr. Bob Rodzaj shortly before.

Bob Rodzaj's Sermon

Mr. Rodzaj gave the sermon. It is available in the COGFC website. Here is a direct link to the page that lists it:

Look for the 2/15/2014 message by Bob Rodzaj entitled "The Way Forward". You can download it as an audio mp3 file. I also see a link for a transcript for that sermon.

I listened to that sermon, and I will summarize what I understand to be some of Mr. Rodzaj's main points, and then I will comment. You can get more detail by listening to the sermon itself, or by reading the transcript.

Here is my summary of some of his main points, some of it in my own words: We fasted to seek God's guidance in finding the right way forward. What God is doing is a straight line, but we often react negatively, in a seismic way, because we have difficulty understanding and accepting what God is doing when it differs from what we want or expect. We may be resisting what God is doing and making things more difficult because we do not see what God is doing. If we are divided we need to be drawn into a unity that God's Spirit produces when we yield to God's Spirit. We should not try to control or force the outcome or grab the steering wheel out of God's hands. We should not get in God's way or get ahead of God, but rather, we should get in step with what God is doing.

We should not try to do God's job for Him, but rather, participate in what God is doing, but not try to be the director. God did not put us in charge to decide what we should be doing. Sometimes we can't know what God is doing until we see it unfold. There are examples in the Bible of people being surprised by what God is doing, such as Ananias and Saul, Peter and Cornelius and the brethren who accused him for eating with gentiles, etc.

Our mission is to declare the message and prepare a people, but a question is, what is the best way to do that? This is Christ's Church and we have to let Christ lead us. We should let go of the steering wheel completely and ask God's help for us to align ourselves with what He is doing. Eventually, everything God does or allows will make sense.

That ends my summary. You can listen to the sermon itself and judge if I have summarized it accurately and fairly. I encourage you to do so, if you have not already heard the sermon.

I have comments about some points raised in this sermon.

It is evident that this sermon is intended to address some kind of problem in the Church, but these points are not clarified with concrete examples of what some in the Church are doing, so it may be hard to say exactly what problem this message is addressing. I get the impression that this is intended to address disagreements some members and ministers in COGFC may have about the direction COGFC controlling ministers are taking. In this context, "what God is doing" may refer to the decisions and direction of COGFC so far set by the leading ministers. "Resisting God", "getting in God's way", "trying to force the outcome", "grabbing the steering wheel", "getting ahead of God", etc. may be referring to brethren and ministers in COGFC who disagree with COGFC's current direction.

What might those disagreements be about? That is never stated clearly in this sermon.

I don't think it is about minor issues, such as what time services are held, whether there are snacks on the snack table, the quality of the video broadcasting, the name of the organization, the appearance and design of the website, or some small detail about prophecy.

There are only two major issues that COGFC leaders have decided, that I know of. They have decided to postpone the preaching of the gospel and Ezekiel warning and concentrate solely on healing the Church and achieving reconciliation with God and with each other in the Church, for an indefinite time. And they have decided to postpone decisions about a permanent structure of governance so they can break new ground and develop a new model of hierarchical government, presumably different from what existed with Mr. David Hulme or with Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. How long this will take is unknown.

So they rejected adopting the hierarchical structure and model practiced by Mr. Armstrong and they have rejected immediately preaching the gospel to the world.

Every other decision they made, the decision to set up a website, the decision to look at the possibility of a Feast site in Tucson, the decision to broadcast Sabbath services live, is small in comparison to these two big issues: the gospel and government.

I think it is reasonable to assume that the problem this sermon addresses is the problem of members and ministers disagreeing with the direction COGFC is taking with one or both of these major issues. I don't have any idea what else this could be about. And I sense enough of a desire on the part of the members to preach the gospel that I think, of these two issues, that is the big one that members disagree about.

How should the main points of the sermon relate to the issue of members desiring to see COGFC preach the gospel, but the controlling ministers postponing it? That is what I will comment on.

Behind all these points seems to be an assumption that what men decide in a conference they may call an "Acts 15" conference is guided by God and therefore represents "what God is doing". But I must ask a question. It may seem harsh, but I am not trying to be disrespectful towards the office of ordained minister. God's instructions that we are to show respect to the office of minister are clear. But I have to ask, how are members to know if their ministers are following Christ, or not? That is a fair question, isn't it? Because if members are not to ask themselves if their ministers are obeying Christ, if they are only to blindly follow where their ministers lead because the ministers are always right, then that raises the question of how ministers and leaders of many different Church of God fellowships are leading their members in very different directions and not even getting along with each other. How can they all be right when they do not all agree and can't even get along? And if members of other COG fellowships should ask themselves, "Are the ministers in the fellowship I attend really obeying Christ?", should not members of COGFC ask themselves the same question?

The Bible is clear that ministers can make mistakes, and we see evidence of that all over the place in the history of the Church of God since Mr. Armstrong died. What a minister or a group of ministers does is not always "what God is doing".

Will we someday see that everything God "allows" makes sense? Yes and no, depending on whether you are referring to God's decision to allow something or the decision of a man to do something wrong, which God allows. So for example, we know that Hitler murdered millions of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. Is that something God allowed that makes sense? Well, it makes sense for God to allow it, but it never made sense for Hitler to do it. God was right to allow it for good reasons, whatever those reasons are, but Hitler was never right to do it.

God may indeed allow ministers to make mistakes, even serious mistakes, even sins, and God is always right in His decisions to allow that, but the ministers are not right to make bad decisions. God sometimes allows men to do bad or foolish things, to test us and them, to teach us lessons, but it is never right for those men to do bad or foolish things.

God sets up circumstances to allow us to choose between right and wrong, and sometimes we choose right and sometimes we choose wrong. God is right to test us that way, but that does not mean He approves of our wrong choices. And we should not think that every bad or foolish thing men do is "what God is doing".

Has God put us in charge to decide what we should be doing? He has put each of us in charge of our lives to choose between right and wrong, and He has shown us right and wrong in the Bible. He commands us, in the Bible, to preach the gospel and the warning to the world. That is what is right. That is what God tells us, in the Bible, we should be doing. Then God creates the circumstances in our lives that requires us to choose. He gives us free moral agency. In that sense, he puts us in charge of the decisions we will make, to choose between right and wrong. But God does not let us choose what is right or wrong. He only lets us choose to do the right or to do the wrong. As far as what is right and wrong, God, not the ministry, makes that decision, and God makes His decision known to members and ministers alike through the Bible.

We DO have to decide what we will be doing. We have to decide if we will obey God or not. God has already decided what He has commanded us, and we only have to decide if we will obey Him or not. He has commanded us to preach the gospel.

As the Church of God, should we let go of the steering wheel completely? Is that what the ministers in the 3-day conference did? Did they let go of the steering wheel completely, or did they begin to steer COGFC in certain directions?

For a minister in COGFC who was a participant in the 3-day conference late December or early January to say that God has not put us in charge to decide what we should be doing seems a bit unusual to me, because those nine ministers certainly decided what they should be doing at this time. They decided they should be working towards reconciliation and healing, but not preaching the gospel. They decided not to immediately adopt hierarchical structure of government as taught by the Bible and Mr. Armstrong, but to break new ground to develop a new model and structure of governance.

To assume, without proof from the Bible, that what is happening in COGFC is God's doing and has God's approval is wrong. It is just as wrong to assume that the decisions being made in COGFC have God's approval as to assume that the decisions made in COGaic by Mr. David Hulme have God's approval or that the decisions made by any leader of any Church of God fellowship or organization have God's approval. The problem is, we should not assume these kinds of things. I don't say we should assume that these decisions are wrong either. But rather than assume one way or another we should use God's word, the Bible, to evaluate and judge which decisions are according to God's word and which decisions are not. We should prove things by the Bible.

Christ is the head of the Church, but He does not force obedience, even if the ministers gather in a conference they call an "Acts 15" conference. Each minister must choose whether he will follow where Christ leads, or not. How does he know where Christ leads? The same way the membership knows, by the Bible.

How can we know if ministers are following Christ? We must judge by fruits. A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit. But how do we evaluate the fruit? How can we tell what fruit is bad and what fruit is good? Two men might see the same fruit, and one says, "It is bad fruit," and the other says, "It is good fruit." Who is right? We must evaluate the fruit by the word of God, the Bible. The Bible will teach us to recognize bad fruit as bad and good fruit as good. That is the only way. But that requires diligent Bible study and putting Bible teaching above the teaching of the ministry. There is no shortcut to that.

Is the decision to postpone preaching the gospel and focus only on trying to heal the Church a good fruit or a bad fruit? You must study the Bible to know the answer.

And if you say, it takes time to see the results, take a close look at Church of the Great God. You will see the results, because many years ago they chose to focus primarily on healing the Church, not preaching the gospel to the world. They did not say they were against preaching the gospel. They just said that healing the Church must come first, and preaching the gospel to the world should wait until the Church is healed. Sound familiar?

I have shown in previous posts and in my book, Preaching the Gospel, that the Bible is abundantly clear that the Church is to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, and there is no valid reason, from the Bible or from logic, for postponing obedience to God's command in this matter in order to focus only on healing the Church.

Give me one scripture that shows, in the context of the entire Bible and all scriptures on the subject, that Jesus Christ authorizes His Church to choose to postpone obedience to God's command to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. I haven't found any such scripture and I don't think it exists. The "beam in the eye" passage is not such a scripture, as I have proved in previous posts. The idea that reconciling and strengthening the Church spiritually cannot be done at the same time as preaching the gospel is ludicrous, in fact, the opposite is true: you cannot reconcile and heal the Church and the brethren without at the same time obeying God's command to preach the gospel to the world. If you try to heal the Church only, without simultaneously preaching the gospel, thus focusing inwardly, you will not heal the Church, unless you are able to heal the Church on your own, with your own human power, but not God's help. If you think you can do that, you are wrong. But if you want God's help, you better do what God says: feed and flock AND preach the gospel to the world.

To heal and reconcile the Church requires God's help, His inspiration, and His miraculous intervention. Don't expect that kind of help if you are not obeying God. And if, as a Church, you are not preaching the gospel, then you are not obeying God, because God commands it.

One point in the sermon regards being drawn into the unity that God's Holy Spirit produces when we yield to God's Spirit. But unity should not be our primary goal. Christ said He did not come to bring peace, but a sword. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man’s enemies will be those of his own household' " (Matthew 10:34-36). Moreover, the parable of the tares strongly implies, and Church history seems to show, that not all those who attend with us in the Church, whether members or ministers, are truly converted, and not even those who are converted are equally submitted to God (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). Our goal should be obedience to God's will, and our guide to knowing God's will is the Bible. Unity will result among those who submit to God's will as defined by the Bible. But unity will not result between those who obey the Bible and those who do not, even if they sit next to each other in Sabbath services.

If person A and person B are divided, person A may be following God but person B is not following God. So in a sense, person B does need to yield more to God's Spirit. But not person A who is already yielding to God. It is not person A's fault he has no unity with person B, and for person A to try to "yield" to a spiritual or supernatural influence on his mind that draws him to agree with person B is a wrong choice. He should remain faithful to the Bible even while person B resists the Bible. And he is not going to change person B. Eventually, there will be a separation. And this can happen among "brethren" in the same congregation or Church of God fellowship. That is part of what Christ referred to when He said that a man's enemies will be those of his own household.

How do we yield to God, not get in God's way, not resist God, and not get ahead of God? You go by the Bible. You do what God tells you to do in the Bible. When God says, "Preach the gospel", or "warn Israel", you are not resisting God by doing what He commands, rather you resisting God if you are supporting and following those who lead you NOT to do what God commands. And as I pointed out before, you are never getting "ahead" of God by doing what He inspired the prophets and apostles to write in the Bible thousands of years ago. If you start preaching the gospel now, you are not ahead of God, God is ahead of you by more than 1,900 years! We can do no more than follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us.

Should we accept God's direction, in the Bible, even when it is different from what we want or think should be done? Yes. Should we accept the ministers' direction even when it is different from what God says in the Bible He wants? No.

God does not want us to blindly follow the ministry wherever the ministry leads. He wants us to study and know the Bible and obey the Bible first and the ministry second. We are to respect the ministry, because God in the Bible tells us to, but we are to believe and obey what God says in the Bible first.

Nor are we to be passive and just drift with the flow, never making waves. Christ never set an example of being passive, and neither did the prophets and apostles. Rather, we are to energetically and passionately do God's work, with zeal. We are to overcome obstacles (Genesis 32:24-30). We are to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). What we do, we are to do with all our might (Ecclesiastes 9:10, Judges 16:28-30). We are to resist what is wrong and strive for what is right. And we must let the Bible define what is wrong and what is right. If that kind of zeal and effort is what is referred to as "forcing the outcome", then we would be sinning if we did not "force the outcome". In the parable of the talents, the man who hid his talent in the sand didn't try to force any outcome, and he lost out (Matthew 25:14-30).

Did Mr. Armstrong ever try to "force an outcome"? Did he ever try to control events? He was not passive. He didn't just "go with the flow". He didn't wait for events to unfold, wait to see what others did, then assume that was what God was doing and just "go along". Rather, he looked to the Bible to know God's will, then he PUSHED to do it, he DROVE himself to accomplish what God commanded, even in the face of opposition, disagreement, persecution, and severe problems of every kind. If Mr. Armstrong thought, "I should not try to force any outcome", or "I should never try to control events", he would never have pushed to overcome and solve problems and we would not have the truth we have today. Ambassador College never would have started, or survived once it started, the Plain Truth would not have survived, the Church would never have grown to what it became when most of us were called. Of course, he could see God's hand opening some doors, closing others, and he always acknowledged that it was God working through him that accomplished the work, but Mr. Armstrong always looked to the Bible to know God's will, then pushed to accomplish it.

I am not advocating that members openly disrespect COGFC ministers, contradicting them or belittling them in conversation with others. But they certainly should think independently and if necessary talk to their ministers directly and in private. And I think they should ask tough questions when ministers open up meetings for questions.

COGFC ministers have never made a biblical case, to the brethren, for what they have decided, for what they have done. They have chosen to focus on Church healing at the expense of the gospel, but they either never got that focus from the Bible or they never showed the brethren where in the Bible they received that focus. If they are right, if God is guiding them and they are submitting to God, they need to make the case to the brethren, and they need to make it by the Bible. And when they make the case, they cannot, if they are honest, pick and choose the scriptures that support their position and ignore other scriptures that show the importance of preaching the gospel and the warning to the world. If they are not honest, and if they try to make their case by selecting only the scriptures on one side, the brethren will see through it, at least those who know and believe their Bibles.

COGFC ministers need to make their case by the Bible because the faith of the members must be in God and in God's word, not in the ministers. Brethren cannot support the decisions of COGFC ministers by putting their faith in God and the Bible if they are not given the reasons for those decisions from the Bible. COGFC ministers should prove their case by the Bible so members' faith will be in God, not man.

What went on behind closed doors at the three day conference at the beginning of the year? What reasons were given for postponing the gospel? What scriptures were studied? What voices were in favor of the gospel, what did those voices say, and why were they overruled? The brethren have not been told. But they see the results. They see that David Hulme is doing more to preach the gospel than any minister in COGFC. They see that Mr. Hulme practices hierarchical structure of government, the same structure that Mr. Armstrong practiced, the same structure that the Bible teaches, but the ministers in COGFC don't even know what kind of structure of government they want to have. After almost two months, they don't know. No one knows who is in charge. No one knows how decisions are made (except the nine ministers in that conference). You can't even email ministers individually from email addresses in their website with your questions or comments, you can only fill in a form on a webpage, which goes to somebody (who knows who) who can screen, edit, delete, or forward email, if that computer page even works correctly. And I suspect it doesn't, for I never received a reply to an email I tried to send through that form.

Some ministers might say, the members should not judge the ministers. But as I have pointed out, that is wrong. The members have an obligation to study and know where God wants them to attend and who God wants them to support. To do this, they have to evaluate the ministers, and the ministers should cooperate with that process by openly giving the members the information they need to make decisions, not hiding important facts from the members.

As I point out in my book, Preaching the Gospel, some things we should judge and some things we have no business judging. We must judge those matters required of us to make decisions God has given us the responsibility for making. One of the examples I use in my book is choosing a mate. Normally, we should not go around evaluating the spiritual conversion, or lack thereof, of brethren we come into contact with in our congregation. That is not our business. But if we are considering a person as a future wife or husband, we have to judge that person's conversion because God commands us to marry "in the Lord" and we can't obey that requirement without judging if someone is really converted.

Likewise, members have to judge ministers and fellowships because God commands us to attend services when possible and to tithe, but He doesn't tell us the name to write on the tithe check or where to attend. So we have to make those decisions, and that requires judging.

If you are a member of COGaic, or COGFC, or are simply scattered, God requires you to make choices and decisions about tithing, attendance, etc. What should you write on your tithe check? "Church of God, an International Community"? "Church of God, a Family Community"? "Living Church of God"? Do you send your check to David Hulme, Steven Andrews, Roderick Meredith, or someone else? You won't find those names in the Bible. God doesn't give you names like that, and the only Church name God gives you in the Bible is "Church of God" - you have to choose which one, and God holds you responsible for making the best choice you can according to your knowledge and ability. You can't do that without judging the performance and faithfulness of the ministry.

God commands that we love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40), that we warn those headed towards disaster (Proverbs 24:11), and that we preach the gospel to the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:18). This love for the people in this world requires that we exercise due diligence to support whoever is faithful to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, and if we members, not just ministers, do not take that responsibility seriously, the blood of the people will be on our heads.

So ministers should not feel it is wrong for us members to judge their performance and faithfulness to God's word. We have to judge them - that is part of our job as Christians during this time when the Church is scattered into many different fellowships. God holds us members responsible for judging with righteous judgment, according to the word of God, the Bible. Rather than feel that members are wrong to judge, ministers should cooperate with members by giving them as much information as possible about what they are doing and encouraging them to get the facts and look at more than one side before making a decision. Thus, COGFC leaders should encourage members to listen to Mr. Nathan's reasons in his question and answer session as to why he has decided to go with LCG. They should not hold back publishing the recording if they have it available.

Moreover, if the ministers take a course of action, they should give the members their reasons, from the Bible, so the members can evaluate those decisions based on the Bible. The members must put their faith in the Bible, not in the ministry. If the members support the decisions of the ministry, they must do it based on faith in God's word, not on faith in the ministry, but for the members to base their support on the Bible, they must be given the Bible reasons for the decisions. That never happened. So for COGFC members to support the decisions of the controlling COGFC ministers, decisions to postpone the gospel and reject the hierarchical structure of government that Mr. Armstrong taught and the Bible teaches, those members would have to put their faith in the ministry, because the Bible does not support those decisions.

Did the COGFC ministers ever prove to the members, from the Bible, that the hierarchical structure of government taught by Mr. Armstrong should be rejected? No, they did not.

Did the COGFC ministers ever prove to the members, from the Bible, that preaching the gospel to the world and warning Israel should be postponed until the Church is healed? No, they did not.

There is no precedence in the New Testament, once the Church started on the Day of Pentecost, for postponing preaching the gospel until the Church is spiritually healed.

The question comes up, what is the best way to fulfill our mission of declaring the message and preparing a people, as was stated in the sermon.

If you are not sure you know the best way to do the job God has given us, you ask God to help you decide wisely, then you make a decision and go forward. You do it the best way you know how at the present time. Then, as time goes on, as God gives you wisdom to know a better way, as you learn from your mistakes, as you learn by doing, you improve the way you are doing it. But you don't sit on your hands indefinitely because you aren't sure the best way. Doing nothing is the worst way to do something.

Imagine you have just learned about the seventh-day Sabbath. You say, "I do not know the best way to keep the Sabbath. Should I spend most of my time in Bible study? How much should I pray? Where should I go for services? Since I do not know the best way to keep God's commandment, I will not keep it at all until I figure it out. I will work on my job on Saturday, go grocery shopping, clean the garage, etc. until I figure out the best way to keep the Sabbath, whether it takes me three months, six months, or a year to figure it out." Does that make sense to you? And if it does not make sense, neither does it make sense to postpone God's command to preach the gospel until we figure out the best way to do it. You learn by doing, you learn by making mistakes and learning from mistakes. If you wait till you know the best way of preaching the gospel before you start, you will never start. You will never learn the best of doing something until you start doing it.

Yes, it is true that God sometimes works in ways that surprise us and are different from what we want. But it is a mistake to simply look at what the ministers are doing and assume that they are acting correctly and God approves of their decisions and therefore, it is God's doing, and then blindly support it. Instead, we are to put our faith and trust primarily in God's word, and when we see the ministers acting contrary to God's word in important matters, then we should respect the office, not harshly criticize the ministers with brethren while we are still in that organization, but quietly look for a fellowship with ministers who are more faithful, or find a way to obey God within the organization even if the ministers do not.

And by the way, I have listened to the messages of COGFC, nearly all of them, on their website, and I have not heard one word forbidding members, deacons, or elders in COGFC from starting up a website and preaching the gospel on their own. If Mr. Andrews or Mr. Rodzaj or any other minister has told the COGFC members, "Don't try to preach the gospel on your own by setting up a website and running pay-per-click ads for it," I have not heard it. So it would not be disobedience to the ministry for members to do so. Nor have I heard COGFC ministers say, "Make sure you send ALL your tithes and offerings to COGFC, while you are attending with us, don't send half your tithes and offerings to LCG or some other Church of God that preaches the gospel," so that would not be disobedience either. But if COGFC leaders say that, that would be the time for any member or minister who understands the importance of obeying God now, not postponing the preaching of the gospel, to leave COGFC and trust God to lead them to a better fellowship.

What Will Happen Now?

I sense a strong enough zeal on the part of some members and ministers in COGFC to obey God's commands to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, that I do not think the current situation will last much longer. Those members and ministers will not be held back.

They do not want the blood of the people to be on their heads. They want to please God by obeying Him. They want to follow God more than man. And many of them have genuine love and compassion for the people in our countries who will go through the tribulation. They want to warn them so they can repent before it is too late.

What are their options? COGFC will have another conference beginning in less than two weeks. During that conference, the controlling ministers in COGFC will either decide to begin immediately to preach the gospel, or they will not. What members and ministers will do will depend on that choice.

Suppose they decide to continue the course they have set, to continue postponing the preaching of the gospel to the world.

As I have said in previous posts, those members and ministers who want to preach the gospel have several options.

The simplest option is to leave COGFC and begin to attend and send tithes to whichever Church of God fellowship seems to be most faithfully preaching the gospel to the world and feeding the flock in a balanced way, according to the Bible. That might be Living Church of God. Mr. Nathan's choice may influence others to consider that option more than they have in the past.

There are other options. A group of members and elders within COGFC may simply use their own money and time to set up a website for preaching the gospel and warning our nations about the tribulation to come. They can do that while they remain in COGFC. They can advertise it with Google pay-per-click advertising. To my knowledge, COGFC ministers have not forbidden this. Maybe they will, though, or maybe they have already forbidden it. How they could justify telling members they can't do that I do not know and won't try to guess.

The days when you need a big organization to preach the gospel or a person like Mr. Armstrong with exceptional talent and speaking ability and business skills to do business with radio stations and the like, is over. This is a different time. For better or worse, the Internet makes it possible for individuals or small groups with limited business experience to preach the gospel and deliver a warning, and to do so as effectively and extensively as their budget allows.

Or, members can stay in COGFC and split their tithes, one-half tithe to COGFC for their work of feeding the flock and healing the Church and one-half tithe to a group that is preaching the gospel - again, this might be Living Church of God. If tithe money, but not members in attendance, go to LCG, LCG will not have increased expenses feeding the flock and will not have to hire ministers to take care of those members, so any increase in tithe income can go entirely into preaching the gospel.

Some members may go back to COGaic, based on the reasoning that Mr. Hulme preaching the gospel a little bit is better than COGFC preaching the gospel not at all.

Finally, if there is an ordained minister in COGFC who is willing to separate from COGFC controlling ministers and organize a new group that will preach the gospel and heal the Church both at the same time, that minister, with the support of a few other ministers, elders, deacons, and members, may form a new fellowship.

One way or another, those who have zeal for the gospel will go forward. They will not be stopped by those who say, "Now is not the time." They will put their trust in God, not the ministry of COGFC, and they will separate from them if necessary.

There is a lot here about trust. COGFC leaders want members to trust them that they are following God, but they cannot show the scriptures to back up their decisions. Members who trust God will put the Bible first and will see in the Bible that preaching the gospel is a command from God that should not be postponed.

COGFC controlling ministers seem to want members to trust that what they are doing is what God is doing. But then, why did they not trust that what Mr. Hulme was doing is what God is doing? If they say, Mr. Hulme's behavior was not consistent with the Bible, do not COGFC members have the same right to say, what COGFC controlling ministers are doing is not consistent with the Bible? Do COGFC controlling ministers have much credibility if they say, do what we say, not what we have recently done? Have they not set the example of leaving a fellowship to obey the Bible that their own members may follow in leaving them to obey the Bible? Did not COGFC ministers "control and force an outcome" when they left COGaic? Maybe they were forced out, but before they were forced out, didn't they confront Mr. Hulme with their disagreements, and in that sense were they not forcing an issue or trying to control an outcome? Were they not trying to persuade Mr. Hulme to change his decisions?

Isn't it inconsistent for COGFC ministers to teach members to assume that decisions made by them is "what God is doing" when they did not make that assumption about David Hulme? Because everything COGFC leaders might say about not "forcing the outcome" and the need to align with what God is doing within the organization can be equally said about their relationship with Mr. Hulme and COGaic.

To put it bluntly, should COGFC members trust Mr. Steven Andrews, Mr. Bob Rodzaj, and other COGFC leaders more than those leaders trusted Mr. David Hulme? And if those leaders lost trust in Mr. Hulme and left him because they observed unbiblical decisions in Mr. Hulme, should not COGFC members lose trust in and leave COGFC leaders when they see those leaders making unbiblical decisions to postpone preaching the gospel to the world contrary to God's commands?

Now, what if COGFC decides to start preaching the gospel?

Then the question becomes, will they do it effectively, with zeal, or only do a token amount to satisfy the brethren? If all the leading COGFC ministers get behind an all-out effort to really preach the gospel effectively, giving it equal priority to feeding the flock and healing the Church, their budget will show it. And they should be transparent in how they are handling the finances as far as how much income they are receiving, how much is going for feeding the flock (minister salaries, expenses, hall rentals, the Church website for members, etc.), and how much is going for preaching the gospel (website expenses for a site that is for the public, advertising expenses, booklets and magazines mailed out to the public, radio, etc.). If that is the case, if their finances show they are spending 35%, 40%, 45%, or more on preaching the gospel, then there is a chance COGFC will hold together. But if they are only spending 10%, that is better than nothing, but may simply be a token response to satisfy the brethren, and it will not be very effective.

Can God open a way to preach the gospel with power without spending money? Of course. But has He done that yet? No. And until He does, the Church has to make do with the methods it presently has, and that means spending money. So use those methods for reaching a mass audience that we already have available and require spending money: Internet, advertising, radio, television, and/or print publishing. Then, if God opens a new door for preaching the gospel without spending money, we can go through that door. But that hasn't happened yet. The door for preaching the gospel using financial resources is open right now - to those who are willing to go through it. It requires sacrifice, but what else is new?

The door to preaching the gospel is actually only open for those who want to go through it. It is physically open to everyone in the sense that the same physical opportunities exist for all COG fellowships: Internet, print publishing, radio, TV, public meetings, freedom to publish with minimum government interference, financial prosperity to pay for it, etc. But whether it is spiritually open depends on the state of mind of the ministers and brethren. Some see the need and some do not. For those who see no urgency in preaching the gospel and the warning, they do not have the open door. Why? What makes the door open for some, such as Dr. Meredith and Mr. Armstrong, but not for others such as perhaps Mr. Andrews and Mr. Rodzaj? God opens the door by opening our minds to see the need. If some ministers and members cannot see the need, the door is closed for them because they will not go through it. For those who see the need, the door is open for them because they are willing to go through it.

Try talking to a typical non-COG member, perhaps a Catholic or Protestant, about what the Bible teaches about Christmas and Easter. Will he understand what you are saying? No. Why? He is blinded. God has not opened his mind to understand. It is crystal clear in the Bible, but he can't see what you see.

Now, if you see the urgency for preaching the gospel and a warning, try showing this, from the Bible, to a Church of God member who is NOT in favor of preaching the gospel at this time. Will he see it? Often, he can't see it, even though it is crystal clear in the Bible. God has not opened his mind to see that point. Why? God, for His own reasons, has not given him the open door for preaching the gospel, so God has not opened his mind to see the need for preaching the gospel. In this case, an open mind that sees the need to go through the door equals the open door for that person. Open mind = open door.

How else, in this day of equal access to technology and money, can God open the door for some but not for others? He opens the door by opening the mind to see the need to go through the door.

Yet, just as people of the world have a part in their decision to reject what the Bible says about Christmas and Easter, and some are called and have the opportunity to understand if they are willing, yet may reject that opportunity, likewise, members of the Church of God may have the opportunity to accept what God says in the Bible about preaching the gospel, even if they have not understood it before.

God can see if a Church of God member has zeal for God and love for people, and some of that love and zeal may be expressed by his desire to preach the gospel, and if a person has has that love and zeal, God can open his mind to what the Bible says about the gospel to encourage him and stir up his desire to preach the gospel till he is willing to do whatever it takes to go through the door. That is one way God opens the door. And if a member does not have that love and zeal, he will not see the urgency about the gospel until he repents. But he may repent, and putting him in a situation that forces him to make choices about the gospel can be a step in his repentance.

Part of God's purpose in the COGaic split may be to test and separate ministers and members, to test them and separate them according to his will. Why separate? Some will go to a place of safety and some will not. Some will have an open door for preaching the gospel and some will not. Those who do not have an open door for preaching the gospel and those who will not go to a place of safety are still part of God's Church and are still loved by God. But they need different leaders and a different ministry than those who will finish preaching the gospel and go to a place of safety. Thus separation may be needed.

Part of that separation has occurred when ministers and members came out of COGaic. But some has yet to occur within COGFC itself. Why? Everyone who left COGaic did not leave for the same reason. Some ministers may have left because they saw the need for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, a need that Mr. Hulme was not effectively taking care of. That is certainly not the only reason. Some ministers may have left for other reasons plus preaching the gospel and some may have left for other reasons only, not caring about the preaching of the gospel. Some no doubt were forced out by circumstances.

I said before, it is unlikely that all nine ministers in the first conference have been on the same page. Now, of the leading three, one has declared his intention to go with another group. I think he is making the right decision. Perhaps the others do not have the same opportunity, but some probably would not go with LCG even if they had the opportunity. Some would probably not like LCG's hierarchical government and emphasis on preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.

At this point, if the COGFC controlling ministers do not have their heart in preaching the gospel, I think it is better if they keep going as they are rather than make a small token effort to preach the gospel just to satisfy the brethren and collect their tithes. At least, if they do nothing to preach the gospel, they are clearly showing where they stand. If they make a token effort to please man, they may deceive their own members for years, making them think they are doing, or about to do, an important work, but never really doing much effectively. Does that sound familiar to brethren and former brethren in COGaic? It should.

I spoke about the reasons why ministers left COGaic. What about members?

Some members may have had personal difficulties with Mr. Hulme, but most were not in contact with him as much as the ministers were. I think the majority of members who left COGaic for COGFC did so for two reasons: some have a zeal for preaching the gospel to the world and some simply want to stay with their pastors who have left COGaic. Some may be motivated by both reasons.

But God needs to test and separate, test and separate, and He does it based on where we are at spiritually, what character we have developed, what lessons we have learned, and what lessons we still need to learn. He is testing and separating both ministers and members. Mr. Nathan leaving COGFC to go with LCG is one example. God presents ministers and brethren with choices. The choices of where to go, where to attend, who to support, are both the test and the separation.

Now, the ministers in COGFC hold an office, all of them, that of ordained minister of Jesus Christ, and that office needs to be respected. I do not mean to imply otherwise. And ministers who are not in favor of preaching the gospel to the world or of hierarchical government may be the best ministers right now for brethren who feel the same way.

There are brethren in the whole, scattered Church of God who do not have zeal for preaching the gospel or top-down government, and those brethren need to be pastored by someone. Ministers who also do not have zeal for the gospel and top-down government can still teach many subjects effectively. They can teach other basic doctrines.

But they are not good teachers for brethren who have zeal for the gospel and for top-down government.

Christ promises an open door to Philadelphian Christians in Revelation 3:7-8. I won't rehearse the evidence here, but there is Bible evidence that this open door refers to preaching the gospel to the world. He also promises protection during the tribulation (Revelation 3:10). I think one of the ways Christ opens the door is by inspiring zeal to go through that door. It is not just money or opportunity, for that is basically the same for all fellowships. Philadelphian Christians have an understanding of the need for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning. That is not the only thing that is required, but I think it is one requirement. But Philadelphians cannot preach the gospel to the world when they are led by Laodicean ministers.

For 15 years many members in COGaic have waited and yearned patiently for Mr. David Hulme to do a powerful work of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. That never happened. Now, many have left COGaic hoping that COGFC will do better.

But every indication since COGFC formed is that they will NOT do better in that department. There has not been the slightest movement to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world.

But this can work for good. It may work for good that the leading ministers in COGFC, or those who are really in control, whoever they are, are not preaching the gospel to the world and have no stomach for it. Why is that a good thing?

I said before, God is testing and separating. He is going to separate those who have zeal for the gospel from those who don't, because those who have zeal cannot do a powerful work with those who don't. And I said that the majority of members in COGFC probably left COGaic for one of two primary reasons: they have zeal to preach the gospel or they want to stay with their local pastor who has left. And for some, it can be both reasons in combination.

But God wants to know and separate members, and ministers, according to their understanding of what is important and their zeal for the things of God.

So God will separate those who left COGaic primarily to stay with the minister they know and like from those who left COGaic because of their zeal for the gospel.

And what better way for God to do this than to have the COGFC controlling leaders postpone indefinitely any work to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.

That will force COGFC members and elders to choose, stay with the minister they feel comfortable with, or do something different to preach the gospel.

Mr. Peter Nathan has made his choice. He is going to support and strengthen a group that is preaching the gospel.

Those in COGFC who have zeal to preach the gospel may have to make a similar choice.

And for those members who choose to stay with the existing leaders of COGFC, those who have controlling power to say "no" to the gospel, and send their full tithe to them, those leaders and ministers may still do a good job of teaching them other things, such as the ten commandments, human relations, etc., and those members need to respect their ministers and learn what they give from the Bible to teach them. But they cannot expect an open door to preaching the gospel or protection during the tribulation.

Those members and ministers in COGFC who have zeal for the gospel will soon realize, if they do not already realize, that those few who control COGFC do not really have their hearts in the gospel, and that is not likely to change.