Sunday, December 25, 2016

Is Christmas Difficult?

How difficult is it for you to abstain from observing Christmas? Do you feel strong pressure, pressure that you find difficult to resist, to compromise with God's law by participating in Christmas celebrations at this time of the year?

For some in the Church of God, the answer might be yes, there is strong pressure, and abstaining from all Christmas participation is difficult. This can be true for new members and prospective members who are just coming out of a Christmas tradition. They may feel pressure from family members and friends, even coworkers at work, to participate in the keeping of Christmas in some way.

But probably for the majority of people in the Church of God, it is not that difficult. For those who have given up Christmas many years ago, Christmas is no longer a tradition. They are accustomed to the new traditions of the Church of God: Passover, unleavened bread, the holy days, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Their friends and relatives outside the Church already know they do not keep Christmas. And for many who have grown up in the Church, Christmas was never a part of their traditions.

Yet, for many people in the world, giving up Christmas can be very difficult. And those are the people we preach a message to when we preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world.

By teaching them the way of God on television, in print, in public Bible lectures, and on the Internet, we are teaching them to give up Christmas and the wrong traditions and ways of this world and to keep God's commandments and learn to live by every word of God, the Bible.

We must not forget the difficulties they face coming out of this world. We should remember them in our prayers, those being called by God to come out of this world.

With Christmas, if they have grown up in a religious family, their family members may feel offended when they are told by someone being called by God through the work of the Church that they will no longer exchange presents or sit down at a Christmas dinner with their family. There are all kinds of pressures and enticements such family members can use to try to persuade prospective members and new members to compromise.

And that is just Christmas. There are other things like Easter, Halloween, New Years, and birthdays. There are clean and unclean meats. There is just the general behavior of a Christian or one in the process of repenting and becoming ready for baptism vs. the behavior patterns of the world. Friends and relatives will think it strange that a new person coming into the truth no longer is willing to participate with them in their Christmas parties and other practices of the world. They will think it strange when a person repenting of such things says that Christmas is pagan and is an abomination to God.

"For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you" (1 Peter 4:3-4).

All these things can exert pressure and be a temptation for someone coming out of the world in response to our message on TV, in print, and on the Internet.

Just because it is easy for some of us to avoid Christmas because we have been in the Church of God for a long time does not mean it is easy for those coming into the truth for the first time.

But when we preach the gospel to the world, we are asking them to face these difficulties and overcome them.

We are asking them to face a trial and do something difficult that we are not required to do right now.

How should we respond to this?

First, we should remember to pray for those responding to our message, that God will strengthen and help them to come out of the ways of this world.

Second, we should remember their trial when we face difficulties in overcoming and doing God's work.

Though Christmas may not be hard for us, other things can be hard for us. It can be hard for us to continue to grow and to overcome bad habits. It can sometimes be hard for us to forgive, with all our heart, a brother or sister who has offended us (Matthew 18:34-35). It can be hard to make the sacrifices in money, time, and sometimes friendships to support the preaching of the gospel to the world. It can be hard to draw closer to God with prayer, Bible study, meditation, and fasting, and to spend more time seeking God than we spend with entertainment and recreation such as movies, TV, and games.

But we have to do these things. We have to do what is hard. And when we are faced with things that are difficult, it might be helpful to call to mind the difficulties of those who are being called into the truth because of our message. As they must overcome difficulties and do what is hard, so we must do the same. Each of us has his or her own difficulties and trials to face.

"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).

There may be a connection between our willingness to face and overcome difficulties in obeying God and our ability to preach the gospel to the world.

When we preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning, we are asking the general public to do what is hard for them. But God requires us to do what is hard for us. We have to be willing to face our trials and temptations with the same courage and zeal to obey God as we are asking the public to do to face their trials and temptations in coming out of the ways of this world, such as Christmas. If we ask them to do what is hard, we must also do what is hard.

We must not be like the Pharisees, who placed heavy burdens on others they were not willing to carry themselves.

"For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers" (Matthew 23:4).

If we preach the gospel to others, if we support such preaching with our tithes, offerings, prayers, and service, then for our efforts to be effective, we need God's blessing. We need God to bless and prosper the gospel message we support in order for it to be effective.

But God may require that we courageously face our difficult trials and temptations and overcome them, or at least make a strong effort and make progress in overcoming them, before He blesses our efforts to preach to others in the world that they should face and overcome hard trials, temptations, and pressures to come out of the world and into the truth. And Christmas can be one of those trials for a new person who hears our message.

Let's be sure we face our trials and overcome our temptations with the same courage and zeal we expect of those in the world we preach our message to. That way, we are practicing what we preach. That way, when God sees our effort, he can bless the preaching of the gospel as never before.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Habit of Thanksgiving

Once a year, the people of the United States observe Thanksgiving day. The purpose of this day is to give thanks to God for the blessings He has given us. Some people in the United States observe this day sincerely, giving thanks to God, and some only celebrate it as a secular holiday, eating and drinking but giving little or no thanks to God. Even atheists will sometimes sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner with their families.

In the Church of God, we may observe Thanksgiving day, and if we do, we should make the actual giving of thanks to God an important part of the day.

But to have a close relationship with God, we should build the habit of continuously giving thanks to God all through the year and all through each day.

In other words, as we go through each day, we should give thanks to God in short, silent prayers, as we walk, as we drive, and wherever we are, for the small blessings that come to us in the day.

If we can do this and make it a habit, it will help us to have a right attitude towards God, and that will help us in our relationship with God.

The epistles of Paul show that he regularly gave thanks for many things, and he instructed the brethren to make the giving of thanks a part of their lives.

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).

"And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:18-21).

"But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks" (Ephesians 5:3-4).

"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

At this particular time, I think it would be very appropriate to give thanks to God for the open door and freedom the Church of God has to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world. We do not know how long that door will remain open, but we should appreciate it and go through it with all our might while we can. There are forces in this country, political forces no doubt led by evil forces in the spirit world, that would like to implement policies that would have the effect of shutting down the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning. Those forces have suffered a setback, and I am grateful for that.

Jesus said, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4).

Let us follow His example and admonition and work while we have the opportunity, and let us give thanks for that opportunity.

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

"Thanksgiving", dated November 25, 2011, link:

"The Greatest Gift", dated November 21, 2012, link:

"Give God Thanks", dated November 27, 2013, link:

"Should We Attend Thanksgiving Dinner with our Unconverted Families?", dated November 11, 2014, link:

"Giving Praise and Thanks to God", dated November 25, 2015, link:

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election of Donald Trump

As I write this, it appears that Donald Trump has won the election for president of the United States. Republicans will have majority control of the House of Representatives and will probably also control the Senate. I think this will be the first time in a long time that Republicans will control the presidency and both houses of Congress.

The current president and the liberal Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, have been in favor of and have been pushing a liberal agenda for years, an agenda that includes diminishing of freedoms of religion, speech, and the press. They are in favor of allowing women to have abortions and they have been pushing to force acceptance of homosexuality. They have been putting judges into the courts who care little or nothing for the Constitution but who advance the liberal agenda regardless of the will of the people or the limits the Constitution places on their authority.

These things can have the effect of making the preaching of the gospel more difficult. Some liberals no doubt would like to criminalize the Bible, and that could be the direction some liberals would take this country if they had the power.

This liberal agenda has been advancing in this country.

But with the election of Donald Trump and the Republicans, that agenda is slowed down.

One effect of this election is to give the Church of God more time with open doors for preaching the gospel than it might otherwise have.

We should be grateful to God for open doors, and we should go through the open doors we have with all the zeal and power we can muster, while there is still time, to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.

For a time is coming when those doors may be closed.

Both candidates have been unpopular even with many in their own parties, Trump because of his provocative statements and Clinton because of charges of corruption. Both have had the potential to be very unpopular in office.

Donald Trump will be the next president, and though his statements have received a lot of publicity, he is really an unknown in many ways. Yet, he has the potential to be unpopular in the next four years.

If he is unpopular, he may provoke a reaction against himself in congressional elections in two years that will give Democrats control of the Congress, and a reaction in four years that will bring a liberal Democrat into the White House. That seems to be a trend in politics.

So the nation may see a pause in the advance of liberalism in this country, but that advance may be resumed with even greater speed and momentum starting in four years with the 2020 election. After that, things can get very bad in this country very fast.

Donald Trump may surprise a lot of people and be a wise, effective, and even popular president. But if he is not, if he becomes highly unpopular as a president, he may only last one term. And the liberal Democrats can come back in 2020 with a vengeance and advance their liberal agenda where they left off. If that happens, if Christ allows it, some doors for preaching the gospel on TV and the Internet may start to close.

There is another factor to consider.

The conditions for several types of crises have been built up. The economy is precarious because of massive government debt. Terrorists may commit more terrorist acts when Obama is out of office, or even now since the election is over and they do not have to fear that their terrorist acts will bring into office those who will fight strongly against them. The liberal Democrats have weakened the country in many ways over the last eight years, but the results of what they have done may come to fruition while Donald Trump is president, and the news media and Democrats will be quick to blame Donald Trump and the Republicans.

The liberals have set the stage for a collapse, but that collapse may come on Trump's watch, and he may get much of the blame.

The point of all this is that the Church of God needs to go all out with a sense of urgency to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning during the next four years, especially on TV and the Internet, because those doors may start to close if Democrats come back into power.

God has given us more time. We have a window of opportunity. That window may be as short as four years for certain doors. We need to go through them while we can.

Another effect of the election of Donald Trump can be in the area of foreign policy. Trump is unpopular in Europe, and his election can help move events in the direction indicated by Bible prophecy. This can result in Europe becoming more independent of the United States, more united, and militarily more strong.

So the election of Donald Trump may help to bring about the fulfillment of Bible prophecy by helping to bring about the rise in power of a united Europe at the same time that it helps keep the door open for preaching the gospel and a warning message about what that rising Europe will do to us if we do not repent of our sins.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Last Great Day Glorifies God's Name and Reputation

Immediately after the seven day Feast of Tabernacles is the Last Great Day, the final festival and holy day of God. It pictures the final stage in God's plan for the salvation of mankind.

The Last Great Day pictures the general resurrection of mankind, an event after the millennium when the vast majority of the billions of people who lived and died before the second coming of Jesus Christ are raised from the dead back to physical life.

This festival is both a continuation of the Feast of Tabernacles and a separate festival. It immediately follows the seven day Feast of Tabernacles, and it is called the "eighth day" of the Feast (Leviticus 23:36, 39). It is also called the "last day" and the "great day" of the Feast (John 7:37). We in the Church of God, following the example of Mr. Armstrong, call it the "Last Great Day".

And it is indeed a great day in what it represents.

We in the Church of God, because we observe the annual holy days and festivals of God as well as the weekly Sabbath, understand God's plan for the salvation of mankind.

Satan rules this world through deception (Luke 4:5-7, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Revelation 12:9). He deceived Eve, and through Eve he tempted Adam into sin, and he has been leading mankind in his evil way of sin ever since.

God is more powerful than Satan, and Satan can only do what God allows (Job 1:6-19, 2:1-8). Nevertheless, God has allowed Satan to rule and influence this world for nearly six thousand years for a special purpose.

Mr. Armstrong understood that God is teaching mankind a lesson written in human history that Satan's way of life only brings suffering, heartache, violence, destruction, and death. But after six thousand years of Satan's rule, he will be banished, removed from his throne, and Christ and the saints will rule the earth God's way for a thousand years. Mankind will be able to contrast the happiness of the millennium with six thousand years of Satan's rule and see that God's way is best.

Mankind in the millennium will be able to know the truth of God. They will hear the true gospel. Their minds will be opened, and they will be able to hear, understand, believe, repent, be converted, and be saved.

But what about the billions of human beings who have lived and died during the six thousand years of Satan's deception without ever having the chance for salvation? Many have not heard any gospel, and almost none have heard the true gospel, and many of those who heard were never able to understand and believe the gospel because Satan has deceived them and God has not specially called and drawn them to Christ.

The vast majority of mankind has not been able to hear the true gospel, understand it, believe it, repent, and be converted and saved. God is only calling a few to salvation in this age. Only those the Father draws to Christ can come to Him. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44).

Without that special calling and drawing by God, no one in this age can be converted. It is impossible for the majority to be converted in this age.

So what happens to them?

Most of this world's traditional, mainstream Protestant churches have taught that the majority are lost forever. They understand, correctly, that salvation is only through Jesus Christ. But then they conclude, since the majority of the world's population throughout history has not accepted Christ, even nominally, that they are lost forever.

Yet, this is an insult to God. It slanders God by painting Him as weak or uncaring.

But the truth, as represented by the Last Great Day, honors, magnifies, and glorifies God's name and reputation for righteousness. The truth shows God's greatness, wisdom, power, and love. For God has a plan to save all of mankind, except those who knowingly reject God. God will give everyone a chance for salvation.

Yet, traditional, mainstream churches and their members do not understand this because they do not keep the Last Great Day and all of God's holy days and festivals.

The 37th chapter of Ezekiel shows how God will save the billions who have died without a chance for salvation up to their death.

"Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it," says the Lord.' " (Ezekiel 37:12-14). See also verses 1 to 11 to get the full context and to see that God is talking about resurrection to physical life, life that requires the breath of air, not immortal spirit life.

This passage speaks about Israel, as an example, but the same event will occur for all mankind, as indicated in Revelation and other places (Revelation 20:11-15, Matthew 12:41-42).

All who have lived and died without a chance for salvation will be raised back to physical life in a general resurrection of the dead, the great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-12).

They will come alive again into an environment free of Satan's influence, and they will be offered their first real chance for salvation.

They will all hear the true gospel at that time. Jesus Christ and the saints will be ruling the earth. They will learn of the whole history of the seven thousand years - the six thousand years of Satan's rule, which they lived in, and the one thousand year rule of Jesus Christ and the saints. Moreover, they will be resurrected into that happy environment of Christ's rule, and they will be able to contrast the happiness they can come to know then with the state of this world today which they lived in. They will be able to see and experience that God's way is best.

They will be able to understand, believe, repent, obey, receive God's Holy Spirit and be converted, and be saved. They will be able to live forever in God's kingdom. And that will be a much happier result than the traditional view of this world's churches that they will suffer forever in hellfire because of circumstances of birth over which they had no control.

Here is a link to more information about the Last Great Day. This link is to last year's post in this blog about the Last Great Day, and you can follow the links at the end of that post to more posts on this subject and to a section in my book, Preaching the Gospel, about the Last Great Day and what it represents.

"The Last Great Day, and How Righteousness Will Fill the Earth", dated October 4, 2015, link:

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Feast of Tabernacles and Teachers in the Millennium

Shortly, we will be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles, a seven-day festival that pictures the coming Kingdom of God ruling the earth during the 1,000 year period known as the millennium. The Feast is also intended to picture, not just the happiness that will exist on the earth for the millennium, but also the joy and happiness we will enjoy for eternity in the Kingdom of God.

So that the Feast can picture the joy we will have in the Kingdom of God and the joy the human race will enjoy in the millennium, God instructs us to save a tenth (second tithe) of our income for a year to spend at the Feast of Tabernacles on the food and things we enjoy. It is a time of spiritual renewal, because we will be listening to sermons every day and we can get away from our daily routine. But it is also a time of celebration and rejoicing.

This festival is commanded by God for Israel and for the Church of God. The basic instructions are in Leviticus 23:33-44. The booths or tabernacles God commanded Israel to make out of leafy trees and branches were temporary dwellings. They were intended to remind Israel of their journey in the wilderness after leaving Egypt (verses 42-43). The journey out of Egypt for Israel can represent our time in this temporary physical life, and the promised land that Israel was to enter can represent for us the Kingdom of God, our promised reward.

For temporary dwellings, we use hotels and motels to stay at a Feast location, and this reminds us that our journey in this physical life is temporary, but we look to an eternal reward in the Kingdom of God.

Each of the annual feasts and holy days of God teaches a spiritual lesson about the plan of God to those who believe and obey God by observing these days as God commanded.

Many people who have come into the Church of God from other religions or no religion have been amazed when they hear God's plan, as illustrated by the holy days, explained to them, perhaps at the Feast itself. Some have said that they were "blown away" when they first heard God's plan because it was so logical and clear and made so much sense, and they never heard that before from other churches.

Passover is an annual feast of God that teaches us about the sacrifice of Christ to pay the penalty of our sins so we can be forgiven.

The Days of Unleavened Bread teach us about our responsibility to strive to put sin out of our lives and the righteousness of Jesus Christ into our lives.

Pentecost teaches us about the gift of God's Holy Spirit to help us understand spiritual knowledge and to help us overcome our sins. It also teaches us about the founding of the Church of God and the responsibility of the Church of God to preach the gospel to the world (Acts 2:1-47).

The Day of Trumpets teaches us about the second coming of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the saints, and the setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth.

The Day of Atonement reminds us of the sacrifice of Christ so we can be reconciled with God, but it also teaches us about the putting away of Satan after Christ returns.

The Feast of Tabernacles teaches us about the happiness and joy that will exist on the earth for one thousand years under the rule of Jesus Christ and the happiness in the Kingdom of God for eternity.

The Last Great Day, which immediately follows the Feast of Tabernacles, also called the "eighth day" of the Feast, is a separate festival that teaches us about the general resurrection of the billions who lived and died without an opportunity to hear the true gospel and be saved. This general resurrection is called the "white throne judgment", and will be a time when everyone who has lived and died without a chance for salvation will have their first real opportunity to hear the true gospel, believe God, repent, and be saved.

In these holy days and festivals of God is the instruction about God's plan for the salvation of the whole human race, everyone except those who knowingly reject God's salvation.

The world of traditional churches does not understand this plan, and they will not understand this plan as long as they do not keep God's holy days. Some members of these churches think they can understand the meaning of the holy days by studying the holy days in the Bible, but without keeping them. But they do not understand that to understand God's truth we need God's help, and God helps those who are willing to believe and obey Him.

Thus, the holy days are a test to see who will believe God and obey Him and who will not. This is especially true for those who have not grown up in the Church of God and who come from other churches or no religion at all, for they must sacrifice to begin to observe these days.

We know about these days and about the plan of God because Mr. Armstrong believed God. He saw in the Bible that these days are commanded, He believed God and began to observe these days, and when God saw Mr. Armstrong's faith and obedience He helped Mr. Armstrong to understand the meaning of these days, what they represent, and the whole plan of God. Mr. Armstrong then taught this to the Church and on radio, and he said to his radio listeners, "Don't believe me, believe your Bible, believe God", and he taught his listeners and readers how to prove these truths in the Bible for themselves. Thousands who heard him did believe their Bibles, and the Church of God grew.

So it is through faith and obedience that we today understand the plan of God and are able to enjoy the Feast of Tabernacles.

During the Feast of Tabernacles, members of the Church of God will hear sermons that teach from the Bible what the millennium and the Kingdom of God will be like and how the millennium will be different from today's evil world.

One of the differences is that, during the millennium, the resurrected saints, made full Sons of God, will be teaching the world God's law and way of life. Today, ministers in the Church of God teach members the law of God and God's way of life.

But there are two differences. Today, God's true ministers teach only a tiny fraction of the human race, those few who are called into the Church of God. In the millennium, the whole world will be taught, and salvation will be open to all.

But also, today, God's true ministers are fallible human beings. They make mistakes. Not everything they teach is totally free from error. So those members who are wise will prove every important doctrine from the Bible, and when a minister teaches something they have not heard before, if it is important, those members will check up in the Bible so they can prove it for themselves. Their faith is in God, not the ministry. This is not a criticism of the ministry, for we are all human, and we should all be learning from our mistakes. The Bible shows that even faithful servants of God are not perfect.

But in the Kingdom of God, those resurrected in the first resurrection will no longer be subject to the pulls and limitations of the flesh. We will be full children of God, made immortal, glorified like Christ, full members of God's family. And we will have the personal presence of Jesus Christ, and He will directly supervise our teaching and judging of the people.

So our teaching will be right. Not mostly right, not almost right but with a few errors, but totally right. We will no longer know in part, but we will know the truth of God fully.

"For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known" (1 Corinthians 13:9-12).

There is a lesson, I think, in the example of Old Testament Israel in the wilderness. They were instructed that when they entered the promised land, they would look to God's government for direction.

In the wilderness, in instructing the people in how to live after they entered the promised land, God said, "You shall not at all do as we are doing here today - every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes - for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you. But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord" (Deuteronomy 12:8-11).

These instructions are particular to keeping the Feast and all the holy days and feast days and to the sacrificial system. But there is a general application. Notice that God says that in the wilderness every man was doing what is right in his own eyes because they had not yet come to the rest and inheritance God was about to give them, but that once they enter that land they would look more to the place where God placed His name.

In this particular passage, it does not seem that God is strongly rebuking them for doing what is right in their eyes there in the wilderness, for this whole passage is not in the context of a rebuke or punishment for one of Israel's many acts of rebellion or unfaithfulness they committed from the time they left Egypt. Rather, it seems to be a simple acknowledgement that they are taking liberties, in a sense, to use their own judgment in a way they should not do when in the promised land. There should be greater control from headquarters in the promised land than existed in the wilderness.

Does this fit with the state of the Church of God today?

We are living in a time that is symbolized by the time Israel journeyed in the wilderness. For us, the promised land we hope to enter is the Kingdom of God.

And in this time, there is a tendency for us to do what is right in our own eyes. Some of that is bad, and we should not do it. We should always be striving to believe and obey God, to do what God says to do in the Bible, to believe what God says is right in His eyes, not to do what seems right in our own eyes. Yet, we are human, and as sincerely as we try to obey God, we make mistakes. And being human with human nature, we still sin. And so, though we try not to do what is right in our own eyes, we still sometimes do.

We have to make judgments. And sometimes we make mistakes. We need to learn from our mistakes and let God correct us from the Bible, but we still make mistakes. That is true for the whole Church of God in any era, but it is especially true during this Laodicean era when the Church of God is scattered.

Just to attend services and pay our tithes, we have to choose among many fellowships and Church of God organizations. Where do we attend? Where do we send our tithes and offerings? There are no names and addresses of today's Church of God organizations in the Bible. We have to make certain judgments based on the teaching of the Bible. And though we strive to make right judgments, we are human and can make mistakes. And we need to be corrected by the Bible and let God correct our errors, and sometimes that means leaving one organization to attend another. Sometimes, a member has to admit to himself, I made a mistake.

And even when we are attending the right fellowship, the fellowship God wants us to attend based on His teachings in the Bible, can anyone say, "Our ministers never make mistakes"? Do we not check important teachings in the Bible? Did not even Mr. Armstrong make mistakes?

We in the Church of God live in an environment, no matter where we attend, where we may know that the fellowship we attend is mostly teaching the truth, but we also know that the ministry can and does make mistakes from time to time, and we have to be alert and on our toes so to speak, and not let any man deceive us.

So in that sense, just like the Israelites in the wilderness, we do what is right in our own eyes, to a degree.

But not so in the Kingdom of God.

Christ will supervise us directly, in person. We will be Spirit-born immortal sons of God. We can follow Christ totally, without reservation or concern that Christ may be making a mistake. We won't have to check in the Bible to see if Christ is telling the truth. And if we have questions about what Christ means when He speaks to us, if we need more details to be clarified, we can always ask Him. He will be there for us, fully present in person, and we can ask Him questions directly and get immediate answers.

Moreover, the people and the nations can follow our teachings fully during the millennium. The Church of God will not be divided as it is now.

Each man will not be doing what is right in his own eyes, but every man can obey the teachings of Christ and the saints with full confidence that those teachings are totally true.

That is one of the many blessings that will exist in the Kingdom of God and the millennium.

In chapter two of my book (see link in the right side panel of this blog) I have information about the meaning of all the holy days and feasts of God.

Here is a link to a post in this blog with more information about the Feast of Tabernacles:

"The Feast of Tabernacles, the Last Great Day, and the Kingdom of God", dated September 25, 2015, link:

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Day of Atonement - Why Fasting Helps Us Draw Closer to God

The Day of Atonement is one of God's annual holy days that God commands His people to keep. We observe this day as a day of rest, assembly, and fasting. We fast on this day, refraining from all food and drink from sunset to sunset.

Like all of God's holy days and feast days, Atonement teaches us lessons about God's plan for the salvation of the human race. Most of us are familiar with the account of the two goats in Leviticus 16:5-26.

Atonement teaches us how our guilt for sin is removed and how we are reconciled with God.

The goat that is slain and sacrificed represents Jesus Christ. He pays the penalty for our sins in our place so we can be forgiven and not have to die for our sins. He takes on Himself our share of the guilt for our sins.

The live goat that is released in the wilderness represents Satan. The share of guilt for our sins that belongs to him for tempting and deceiving mankind is placed on him and he bears his own guilt and his punishment for his share in our sins. Releasing the goat in the wilderness represents a great event that occurs after Christ's return - the binding and putting away of Satan so he can deceive the nations no more for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3).

We in the Church of God understand the meaning of the holy days because we obey God by observing them. Because we believe and obey God, He opens our understanding. But the world is blinded because they do not believe and obey. Thus, some in the world think that both goats represent Christ.

We fast on this day to draw closer to God.

There is a connection between fasting and overcoming Satan and drawing closer to God to receive God's help. Before Jesus faced His trial of being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He fasted for forty days (Matthew 4:1-4). On another occasion, when His disciples were unable to cast out a demon, Jesus said that this kind of demon is not cast out except by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:14-21). Besides showing that fasting is important for overcoming Satan, this shows a connection between fasting and prayer. To draw close to God, we need to pray during the time we are fasting.

By fasting and praying on the Day of Atonement, we draw closer to God. This fits with the purpose of the day, which is to represent our reconciliation with God.

The Day of Atonement is useful because we are commanded to fast on this day, and since we do fast, we are reminded once a year that we are capable of fasting. We can also be reminded of how fasting can help us draw close to God when done properly, with prayer and in a right attitude and spirit. And with these things in mind, we can voluntarily choose to fast from time to time during the year to draw close to God.

Fasting humbles us. It is a kind of voluntary trial. We suffer physically when we fast, and we are reminded of our limitations and our need for God. This is the exact opposite of Satan's attitude of vanity, pride, and conceit.

"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11). See also Luke 18:9-14.

Speaking of Satan, the Bible say, "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit" (Isaiah 14:12-15).

Again, speaking of Satan, the Bible says, "Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord God: "You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you. You defiled your sanctuaries By the multitude of your iniquities, By the iniquity of your trading; Therefore I brought fire from your midst; It devoured you, And I turned you to ashes upon the earth In the sight of all who saw you. All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have become a horror, And shall be no more forever" ' " (Ezekiel 28:12-19).

Noticed, Satan's heart was lifted up and he corrupted his wisdom for the sake of his splendor. In other words, his wisdom and his mind became twisted and perverted because he chose the way of pride and vanity, to exalt himself and lift up his heart. If God warned him of the consequences of vanity, and I am sure God did warn him before he sinned because the Bible is clear that it is God's way to warn, Satan probably did not believe God's warning and wanted to try the way of vanity and pride himself to see the result. It may have started out as an experiment on Lucifer's part, wanting to see what pride and vanity felt like, perhaps hoping, contrary to God's teachings, that he would be happier that way.

Whatever the reasons, Lucifer chose pride and vanity, and when he did that his mind became corrupted. Now he can never straighten out his own mind. How can he? He has become evil to the core, a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies (John 8:44). In order to straighten out his own mind, he would have to think clearly to see that he is wrong, but he cannot do that. He has made his choice long ago, and that choice set the course of his destiny. That is the sad result of sin. He has no one to blame but himself.

Likewise, pride and vanity can twist our thinking. But God knows that Satan is partially responsible for our sinful nature, and God has provided the atoning sacrifice of Christ so that we can be saved. We can be spiritually healed of our prideful, sinful nature, provided we are willing to choose God's way of belief in God's word, trust in God, obedience towards God, and humility - the same humility Jesus Christ exemplified. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:5-8).

What a contrast between Satan, who said, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God", and Christ, who came in the form of man and humbled himself and obeyed God to the point of death. In these two examples are illustrated the two ways of life Herbert W. Armstrong talked about.

By believing God's instructions to keep the holy days, by trusting God's word the Bible, by obeying God by fasting on Atonement, we are showing God that we are choosing the way of humility, trust, and obedience, the way that Jesus Christ followed, rather than Satan's way of disbelief towards God, distrust, pride, vanity, and disobedience.

And as we live our lives in that choice, as we believe and obey God, God forgives our sins through the power of Christ's sacrifice and heals our character through power of the Holy Spirit.

Our job is to live lives of overcoming, striving to believe, trust, and obey God in everything, and enduring unto the end. Then God will do His part to save us completely and bring us into His Kingdom to live with the Father and with Christ in happiness forever.

Here is a link to posts in this blog related to this subject:

"Atonement and the World", dated September 22, 2015, link:

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Marriage Supper Location - How Often Has Christ Come to the Earth?

Some time ago, Living Church of God taught that when Christ returns He will gather the saints and we take a trip and have the marriage supper in heaven with the Father, then we will come back to rule the earth. Those are my words, LCG might phrase it differently, but the idea is the same. The marriage supper will take place in heaven.

I have not researched this doctrine in detail, nor do I plan to because I consider it a minor doctrine (it doesn't affect how we live today, and when Christ returns we will follow Him wherever He goes). I heard an LCG minister, Mr. Ames I think, give a sermon on the subject, and I tend to agree with LCG's position, based on the Bible evidence given in the sermon, though I have not studied it enough to prove it.

Some people I think are upset over this doctrine. Some might be concerned because it is a change from what the Church taught in the days of Mr. Armstrong. But Mr. Armstrong himself changed his own doctrines and taught us by example to be willing to be corrected by the Bible and to learn new knowledge. Mr. Armstrong was never infallible, and he admitted he made mistakes. One of the last mistakes he made before he died was to teach the Church that we should follow the next pastor general (Mr. Tkach) if we want to be in the Kingdom of God. He never corrected that mistake before he died, and it was obviously a mistake because Mr. Tkach reversed all or almost all of Mr. Armstrong's important teachings which Mr. Armstrong got from the Bible.

Some may be concerned about scriptures that refer to Christ's first coming and second coming, such as this: "so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation" (Hebrews 9:28). They feel that that word, "second", means that there are only two times that Christ ever comes to the earth.

I have not looked up all the places in the Bible where it talks about Christ coming the "first" time, the "second" time, etc. I know of this one verse because it was recently pointed out to me. There may be many such verses - I don't know. But you have to look at the context and compare with other events in the Bible to understand how those words "first" and "second" are being used and what they mean in the context they are used.

I will tell you what I think they mean, and then I will explain why I think this based on other events in the Bible, events most of us are familiar with.

Christ's first and second coming refer to major changes of abode, not short-term visits. Before Christ's first coming, His regular abode was in heaven with God the Father. Then He came to earth as a man, the man Jesus, and lived on the earth as a human being for about 33 years. During that time, His abode was the earth - He lived on the earth. He ascended into heaven in the sight of the disciples as recorded in Acts 1:9. He now lives in heaven - that is His regular abode. When He comes again at the end of this age, at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, in what is called His "second coming", He is coming to once again live on the earth as His regular abode.

But that does not mean that He never makes short-term trips to carry out a purpose.

I will illustrate with an example.

Mr. Gerald Weston lives in the Charlotte, NC area. He is stationed and works at Living Church of God headquarters. That is his regular abode. A few months ago, he was stationed someplace else, the U.K. I believe, and before that it was Canada.

But does that mean he must stay in Charlotte 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year? No. When he was stationed and living in Canada, he made trips, sometimes to Charlotte. Likewise when he was stationed in other places. Any week he might be found visiting a local congregation someplace in the United States or the world. Just because he is headquartered someplace does not mean he does not travel to other places to carry out his duties.

This is what I think the Bible means when it refers to Christ's "first" coming and "second" coming. It is referring to long-term changes in where He is stationed, but He can still take additional short term trips to other places for special purposes.

I said I would state what I think and then where I see evidence of this in the Bible. So now let's review some events in the Bible that demonstrate that His "first" and "second" coming do not refer to all the trips between heaven and earth that He makes.

How many times has Christ come to the earth?

Here are a few. There are probably many more.

He spoke with Adam, apparently face to face. He breathed into Adam's nostrils (Genesis 2:7). I believe the Church and Mr. Armstrong have taught that this was Christ and not the Father, and I won't take the time here to prove that. Adam heard the sound of Christ walking in the garden and heard His voice (Genesis 3:8-10). That seems to indicate Christ was on the earth in those moments. So He must have come from heaven to work personally with Adam and Eve.

Christ appeared to Abraham as Melchizedek (Mr. Armstrong and the Church have correctly taught for years that Melchizedek was Christ), and Christ brought out bread and wine, and Abraham paid a tithe to Christ (Genesis 14:20). How could Christ have done this without making a trip from heaven to earth?

Christ appeared to Abraham, ate the food Abraham served him, and had a personal conversation with him (Genesis chapter 18). He must have made a trip from heaven to the earth to do this.

Christ appeared to seventy elders in ancient Israel. They ate and drank and "saw the God of Israel" (Exodus 24:9-11).

Christ appeared to Joshua as commander of God's armies (Joshua 5:13-15). This could not have been an angel, for He allowed Joshua to worship Him. Christ must have made the trip from heaven to earth to appear to Joshua.

Christ was apparently, as one like the "Son of God", in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (Daniel 3:24-25).

These events all happened before the "first" coming of Jesus Christ as a human being born of Mary.

Is the Bible wrong, or are we wrong, to refer to Christ's birth as the human Jesus born of Mary as His first coming? No. Even though Christ made many trips back and forth between heaven and earth to work with mankind to work out the Father's purpose, His coming in human flesh was not a short-term trip but a major change in location from which He would do His work in the next 33 years. It is like an executive evangelist like Mr. Weston being transferred from Canada to the United Kingdom or from the United Kingdom to Charlotte.

Christ's regular abode was transferred from heaven to earth for about 33 years. It was in that sense of a major, long-term transfer of residency or location from where He will work that it is called His "first" coming.

But that is not all.

After He was resurrected, He made at least one trip to heaven and then back to earth, and maybe He made several. The Bible makes it clear He went to His Father in heaven after His resurrection, and then returned. After Mary Magdalene saw Christ, He said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God' " (John 20:17). That is the NKJV. The KJV version has, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father". Yet later, He appeared to His disciples and said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing" (John 20:27). Notice this was before His ascension into heaven in as recorded in Acts 1:9-11.

Then He ascended into heaven and His disciples saw Him ascend (Acts 1:9-11).

Then, was that it? Was that the last time Christ was on earth till the seventh trumpet?

No. He also apparently appeared to Paul in Arabia. I say apparently, because the Bible does not say this directly, but there is circumstantial evidence, enough to convince Mr. Armstrong, that Christ was with Paul in Arabia. "Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?" (1 Corinthians 9:1). Then, "But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ....But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus" (Galatians 1:11-17).

While these verses may not be absolute proof that Christ was personally with Paul on the earth, Mr. Armstrong was convinced, and he is the one that those who disagree on the marriage supper being in heaven like to refer to.

I believe I have heard the suggestion in the past, I even think while Mr. Armstrong was alive, by some in the Church that Christ will teach the Church personally in the place of safety for three-and-a-half years. I do not remember who said this or taught it, or if it was speculation or doctrine. But I mention it because the idea that Christ might come to the earth for a special purpose and job before His return to set up the Kingdom is not some strange idea to the Church.

Christ has made the trip between heaven and earth many times, and these are not all counted as His major first coming as a human born of Mary or His major second coming to rule the earth as King of Kings.

Now, if Christ can make the trip from heaven to earth, not part of His first or second coming, but for special purposes, and then to return to heaven, why can He not make a special trip, after His second coming, to heaven for the marriage supper and return?

In any case, when Christ returns, He will confirm where the marriage supper will be and will take us there. We won't miss the marriage supper because we have the wrong address. Christ has the right address, and He will take us there personally. Like a man who drives his car to take a woman on a date, He will do the driving. We can relax and enjoy the ride wherever He takes us.

What can cause us to miss the marriage supper is being so concerned over a minor issue, perhaps in a carnal desire to find fault with the ministry, that we neglect supporting those who are preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning effectively on TV, in print, on the Internet, and in public Bible lectures. Because, if we do not warn the world as effectively as we can, hopefully motivated by love for our neighbors, but perhaps motivated by fear of God (both are good motivations), then the blood of the people will be on our heads. God may count us as murderers, and THAT can cause us to miss the marriage supper.

Imagine two men. One knows where the marriage supper will be, but he fails to show mercy to his neighbors by supporting the gospel message, and he is locked out of the marriage supper for his lack of mercy. The second man does not know where the marriage supper will be - he thinks it is in one place but he is wrong, it is in the other place - but he shows mercy to his neighbors by supporting the gospel and the warning. Christ will take him to the marriage supper because he showed mercy.

It is mercy that counts. Honest mistakes in Bible knowledge can be corrected.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Day of Trumpets, and Understanding Our Trials

God has given His Church a gift of understanding of His plan for the salvation of mankind. It is an understanding that the traditional churches of this world and the majority of mankind do not have. He gave us that gift through the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong, and God was able to use Mr. Armstrong as a tool because Mr. Armstrong was willing to believe God's word, the Bible. Moreover, Mr. Armstrong taught that truth to the Church of God and those God called into the Church by saying, "Don't believe me, believe God, believe your Bible." Thus, the very means by which Mr. Armstrong learned the truth, by believing the Bible, became the very means those who listened to him could come to believe that what he said was the truth - they could prove for themselves in the Bible, following the example of Mr. Armstrong, believing God not man.

Yet, though that knowledge was a gift, it required a price to qualify for it. That price is obedience. The plan of God is illustrated by the holy days. Some in the world, in traditional churches, may think they can learn the lessons and meaning of the holy days by studying them but not keeping them. But that is not how God reveals knowledge. He gives understanding and wisdom to those who believe and obey Him (Psalm 111:10).

The first thing to learn about the holy days is that it is God's will that we keep them. Those who are willing and able to believe what God says are able to prove in the Bible that they should keep them. The next step is obedience. We must actually obey God by observing the holy days. Then we can study the meaning of the holy days and God can open our understanding because He sees we are obeying Him. But the world does not obey Him and cannot understand the meaning of the holy days no matter how much they study them in the Bible.

The Day of Trumpets represents many things. It represents the return of Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:29, 31, Revelation 11:15). It represents the resurrection of the saints at the second coming of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:50-57, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). It also represents the beginning, the duration, and the end of the Day of the Lord, including the seven last plagues (Revelation chapters 8 and 9, Revelation 11:15-19, 15:5-8, Revelation chapters 16, 18, and 19). It represents seven trumpets to sound during the Day of the Lord.

It represents the conclusion of 6,000 years of man ruling himself under Satan's influence and deception, and 6,000 years of the world as a whole being cut off from intimate contact with God and access to God's Holy Spirit. God has designed a 7,000 year plan for teaching mankind the lesson that Satan's way brings suffering and death, but God's way of life brings life and happiness.

This life during the age of man, or you could say the age of Satan, is a life full of trials and suffering. And the world does not know why it is suffering.

Years ago, a Church of God member was talking to me about a trial he was going through, and he said, "I don't understand what God is trying to teach me".

I think that is a common problem in the Church of God.

We all go through trials at one time or another. For some of us, the trials are severe and even frequent and can be long lasting.

We can be comforted by God's promise that our trials will work out for good in the end if we love God. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

God can put us through trials for any of several reasons.

It may be that God is correcting us for a fault.

"And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: 'My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.' If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:5-11).

All trials are not necessarily for the purpose of correcting us for a fault or sin, but some are, and it is good, when a trial comes, to examine ourselves to see if God may be correcting us for a problem.

But some trials are not necessarily correction, but simply a test of our faith. Will we still be faithful to God to trust and obey Him even when things are not going as we want or expect?

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Yet, it is easy to get discouraged when we are going through a trial for a long time and God does not remove the trial or answer our prayers about it. It can seem discouraging if we do not understand the reason for the trial or what God is trying to teach us.

Yet, it may not be necessary, for God's purpose, that we understand the reason for the trial at the time we are going through it. God can still use the trial to teach us things and develop character in us. God can give us the understanding of the reason for the trial at a later time. If we need to understand now, God can give us the understanding now. But if we do not need to understand right now, God may delay giving us the understanding. He can give us the understanding later.

So if you are going through a trial, don't be discouraged if you don't understand it right now. By all means, seek understanding through prayer, Bible study, and fasting if necessary. But if God does not reveal the reason right away, don't be discouraged. God will reveal the reason when you need to know it.

There is an example in the Bible of a man who did not understand his trial while he was going through it. But God worked it for good in the end. In fact, for God's purpose, it was better that God did not reveal the purpose of the trial when the trial was going on.

The example is Job.

You know the story.

Job was righteous before God, and God blessed him (Job 1:1-3). Satan told God that Job only lived righteously for selfish reasons, to be blessed, and challenged God to take away Job's blessings. God allowed Satan to take away Job's wealth, children, and physical health (Job 1:6-22, 2:1-13).

Job suffered severely even to the point of wishing he had never been born (Job 3:1-26). God was testing Job's faith in God's righteousness, and at the same time teaching him a lesson. God was also making a point to Satan and probably teaching a lesson to God's angels and to all the human race through the book of Job that Job would write. Yet, through most of Job's suffering, he did not understand the reason. It was only at the end that Job gained understanding, and though the book does not record God telling Job about His conversation with Satan, He must have told Job for Job to write it in his book. And it suited God's purpose not to reveal the purpose of the trial to Job in the beginning, for it was Job's very lack of understanding that allowed this to be a test of Job's faith. God wants us to have faith to trust Him even when we do not understand our trials.

Abraham was tested when God told him to sacrifice Isaac, and God did not tell Abraham the reason. It may have been only after the test was over that Abraham understood (Genesis 22:1-19).

Even Jesus Christ, when He was suffering and about to die, cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46).

But perhaps the example of suffering trials but not knowing the reason that is on the most massive scale is the suffering of this world for 6,000 years, which suffering is about to reach a climax at the end of this age. That climax of suffering and the end of this age can be illustrated by the events represented by the Day of Trumpets.

The very purpose of the 6,000 years of suffering under Satan's influence is to teach mankind the lesson that Satan's way of life brings suffering. Yet mankind is not learning that lesson yet. They will understand it later, but right now they are merely living the lesson and writing the lesson in human history, yet without understanding and learning it, yet.

But they will understand it later.

This whole world is suffering a trial it does not understand. Yet, the fact that it does not understand it at the present time in no way lessens the value of the experience, for they will understand the lesson later.

Likewise, we may suffer trials to test us and teach us lessons, trials we do not understand even if we seek to understand them, but that is no reason for discouragement, for God is able to teach us things through experience even before we understand what He is teaching us, and later we will understand more.

Yet, perhaps there is a way to understand our trials sooner and better, and in understanding our trials they become easier to bear. God pays us for what we do in this life - we reap what we sow. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7).

If we show kindness to others to help them understand their trial, God may more quickly help us to understand our trials, for it may be easier to endure a trial we understand than one we do not understand.

Israel and the world are about to go through severe trials in the great tribulation and the Day of the Lord. We can help them understand their trials during the great tribulation by giving them a warning message now. Then, when they go through the tribulation, they will remember our message, and that will help them understand the purpose of their suffering, and that in turn will make it easier for them to bear their trials and easier for them to repent.

It is a way we can obey God's command to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Here is a link to other posts and information about the Day of Trumpets:

"What the Day of Trumpets Represents", dated September 13, 2015, link:

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Gospel and How to Preach It

In my last post I received a comment asking for an explanation of how the gospel can be preached. I decided, instead of answering the comment with a comment, I would make the answer into a post.

The Gospel in its broadest sense includes all the truth of the Bible. The gospel centers on the kingdom of God, and that includes everything about that kingdom: the coming return of Jesus Christ to establish the kingdom of God on earth, salvation through Jesus Christ which enables us to enter that kingdom, all the laws that will be kept in that kingdom (basically the whole instruction in the Bible about God's law and way of life), all the prophecies about the kingdom, all the history of what God has done to prepare for that kingdom, and everything about the King of that kingdom, Jesus Christ. It also includes the warnings about the great tribulation and the day of the Lord, which is part of the preparation for that kingdom. That is why I say, the whole Bible.

But some parts of the gospel need to be emphasized to prepare the world and our Israelite nations for what is shortly to come. So the Ezekiel warning is important, to let people know that there is a punishment coming upon our nations for our sins if they don't repent. They need to know why the punishment is coming, what their sins are, and how they need to repent. So we need to teach the main elements of the law of God so they know how to repent. This is important so that when the tribulation comes, the people will remember that God was fair to warn them but they ignored the warning. This will make it easier for them to accept responsibility for their actions, instead of blaming God and saying, "No one warned me, so it's not my fault".

It is also important that we emphasize the good news that Christ is coming to save the world and end the suffering and establish the kingdom of God over the earth, which will bring peace and happiness to mankind. This is important so that the people have hope during the tribulation, that their suffering will not be forever but that they will be rescued.

The truths that Jesus Christ paid for our sins so we can be forgiven are important, but do not need to be emphasized because most people already know about this. We can teach that to establish common ground, if that helps our message. But we need to place great emphasis on the parts of the gospel people do not know about.

I think the best ways to preach the gospel, including the Ezekiel warning, is a combination of old and new. We should keep the old "tried and true" methods of radio or TV broadcasting, magazine and booklet publishing, public lectures, and the Internet. The Internet is somewhat new, but broadcasting, publishing, and public meetings are as old as the beginning of the Radio Church of God around the beginning of 1934. God used Mr. Armstrong to build this church through radio, TV, magazines, booklets, and public meetings, and those methods still work very well.

But also we should be looking for new methods. TV only reaches a limited number of people, those who are willing to watch religious programs, maybe less than half the country. And it is TV that seems to drive the magazine subscriptions list, which drives the public meetings.

The Internet has potential here, especially if we harness the manpower of the membership. There is a potential to reach even a non-religious audience, if we handle it right. There may be other new ways that will work. This is an opportunity for creativity, imagination, and resourcefulness, not just for new opportunities to use the Internet, but even new ways to preach the gospel period, whether they use the Internet or not. Resourcefulness is one of the seven laws of success Mr. Armstrong talked about in his booklet.

All this takes money. Even new methods will need money. Using the volunteer labor of Church members is fine and can help make Internet work more effective, but the labor without the money won't get the job done. I am of the opinion that any fellowship worth its salt will be spending 35-45% or more of its income on preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public.

And members should be sacrificing zealously to support the preaching of the gospel, including contributing to a fellowship that is spending money effectively in preaching the gospel when that is possible.

I think that is the way God wants it. He wants the preaching of the gospel to be money-driven at this time, to a degree, because it tests the love of the brethren for their neighbors by their willingness to sacrifice financially. It also tests the faithfulness of the ministry by their willingness to sacrifice some of their salaries, or potential salaries, by devoting close to half of their tithe income to preaching the gospel, leaving less for their salaries.

We should set a right example, of course, and that is part of being a Christian. But we should do this at the same time as we are preaching the gospel to the world by every practical means possible, including the methods I have mentioned, because preaching the gospel is part of setting a good example.

We should preach the gospel at the same time as we strive to obey God in all other ways also. And part of our motive for overcoming our sins and obeying God's law should be to empower the gospel. The more we obey God, the more He can help us and answer our prayers, and the more God helps us and answers our prayers for the success of our efforts to preach the gospel, the more we will be successful in preaching the gospel and the more people we will reach. God can help us in many ways - by motivating co-workers and donors to contribute money, by opening doors, by inspiring those who write the articles and messages to write effectively and persuasively, by putting it into the hearts of people to respond, etc. We need His help, and the more we believe, trust, fear, and obey Him, the more He can help us.

So part of our motivation for obeying God should be our love for our neighbors. We should love our neighbors and want to get the gospel message to them, so we should want to obey God so He helps us with the gospel.

Helping others was one of Christ's motives for obeying the Father, or for "sanctifying" Himself in other words. In praying to the Father, Jesus said, "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth" (John 17:19). Jesus said for "their" sakes (for the sake of His disciples) He sanctified Himself.

But there is no Bible justification for postponing our efforts to preach the gospel because we are not yet close enough to God or because we have sins we yet need to overcome. We must do both at the same time. One helps the other. To do one without the other is like trying to walk on one leg (without crutches). It doesn't work very well. We need both legs to walk effectively, and to run. Likewise, we need to preach the gospel and draw closer to God together, both at the same time, or we will not do either very effectively.

There are several ways a small group or scattered members of the Church can support the preaching of the gospel with their tithes and offerings. One of the simplest ways is to contribute their tithes and offerings to a group that has an established program for preaching the gospel. I think Living Church of God is doing the best job in that department. If one can attend a Living Church of God congregation, that is the best way. A scattered member who must stay home can also send his tithes and offerings to such a group for the support of the gospel. For members who attend small groups or fellowships that do not preach the gospel, they can contribute a part of their tithes and offerings, perhaps 30-50%, to a group such as Living Church of God, and send the rest to the fellowship they attend.

If a small group wants to preach the gospel directly, if it does not have the resources (financial and organizational) to do a TV program and publish a magazine, the simplest way is to set up a website for the public. The ministers, or qualified members, should write articles for the public on the important parts of the gospel I mentioned in the beginning of this post - the law of God, the sins of the nations, the coming punishments of the great tribulation and the day of the Lord, their need to repent, and the good news that Jesus Christ will return to save mankind and bring peace and happiness to the earth.

Those articles can then be published on the website. There should be an email address in the website people can use to respond, to ask questions, and to ask to be able to attend services.

To bring people to the websites is where money comes in. You have to advertise. There is no other effective way, right now, that I know of. And this is how God tests our hearts - with our wallets. Other things can supplement the advertising - members talking about the site on the Internet, for example - but those things are not enough by themselves.

The simplest way to advertise is with pay-per-click ads. Google can help you get started with their pay-per-click system, which they call "Adwords". It is fairly easy. You set up an account with Google Adwords. You write small ads. You schedule the ads to run based on certain key words or phrases, such as "prophecy" or "Bible prophecy" or "end times". You can schedule your ads to run only certain times of the day or week, and you can schedule them to run only in a certain area - so if your group only meets in Boston, and you want prospective members to be in that area so you can pastor them, just set up your advertising to only run in the Boston area. The ads then point to the articles in your website. When you set up the Adwords account, you give Google the number of a debit or credit card. Google deducts the cost of the advertising from your card. You can set limits on how much you can spend, for example, $500 (check with Google on how this works exactly - it might go a little over).

The way it works is this. When someone searches on a keyword you specify, such as "prophecy", your ad may appear in the search listing. Your ad might say, "New article on the United States in prophecy explains what is just ahead". If the person clicks on that ad, they are transferred to your article in your website, and you pay a fee for the click, maybe 50 cents, maybe 70 cents - it varies.

Like anything, you learn with experience.

So you need someone to write articles. You need someone to edit articles. You need someone to set up the website and the articles in the website and some money for this (websites are not expensive - you can have a site for maybe two or three hundred dollars a year, but it varies by hosting service). Then you need someone to write the ads and operate the Google Adwords site to run the ads, and you need money to finance the ads.

This isn't too difficult if you are willing to pay the price.

Or, much simpler I think, is to contribute to a group like Living Church of God that already has the expertise and the programs in place.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Technique for Deception

How can a pastor deceive his congregation on some major point or principle?

Only God can read minds and fully know a pastor's motives. The pastor may be intentionally trying to deceive his congregation, or the pastor may be sincere and himself a victim of Satan's deceptions. The pastor may actually believe a change in doctrine is needed and may be trying to persuade his congregation as well as he can, thinking he is only persuading them to believe the truth. Nevertheless, he can deceive them if he himself is deceived. On the other hand, the pastor may be deliberately lying, and members need to be on guard against deception in any case.

Here is a technique. I am not advocating this technique, but we should be aware of this technique so we do not become a victim of it if someone tries to use it against us. I have observed this technique being used.

Not everything a liar says is a lie. In fact, the most effective liars tell the truth most of the time. That is how they build credibility. They will tell you the truth about 99 things, to make you trust them, then slip in the one lie that they wanted to tell you all the time. Their lie has a better chance of being believed if it is surrounded by 99 truths.

Then, oftentimes the lie can be taught in a hidden way by ignoring the truth on that point, denying it by implication but not by directly contradicting it. By omitting the teaching of a doctrine in a context in which it is expected, you diminish it in the minds of the listeners.

If you fail to teach a doctrine of the Church of God, any doctrine, eventually it will diminish and perhaps disappear. If there is no regular reinforcement, it will not be permanent.

Over time, you can destroy a doctrine by silence.

Finally, all this can be aided by teaching a culture of change, teaching members to question the past, to kind of wipe the slate clean and start fresh. This can be disguised with a cloak of humility, emphasizing the limitations of our human thinking in the past, our collective mistakes and shortcomings, our need for repentance and change, the need for God to teach us His truth, and our need to be open to what God has to teach us.

Some of the things I say may sound familiar to those who were in Worldwide Church of God after the death of Mr. Armstrong.

I will use an example. Suppose a speaker wants to reverse the doctrine of believing the Bible. Instead of believing the Bible, he wants his congregation to believe Church of God traditions plus whatever the minister tells them. He does not want his members to be checking up on things in the Bible to see if they are really true.

Now, that would be a major change in the Church of God. Our beliefs and our culture are based on believing what the Bible says. That is a way of thinking passed on to us from Mr. Armstrong.

So to teach Church of God members that the Bible is not important would be a major doctrinal shift.

Here is how members could be deceived about this, not all members, but weak ones.

One, make people question everything or a lot of what they have thought or now think. In other words, empty their minds to a degree so they are like a clean slate you can write on. Some COG people will tend to accept that in their desire to be humble if it is done carefully and in the right terms. Emphasize our human limitations, our past mistakes, and our need for God to guide us. Talk about our mistakes in the past in language that calls everything into question. You can emphasize our scattered condition, for example, and state that this shows there is something wrong in our current and past approach - we need to let God show us something new and different - language like that.

Carefully avoid talking about past Church of God successes, particularly Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's success in preaching the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to millions and in building the Philadelphia era of God's Church. Do not talk about his right practices and approach that led to that success and made him a useful tool in Christ's hand - his willingness to prove all things in the Bible, his zeal for preaching the gospel to the world, and his approach to government in the Church of God. Find a way to paint Mr. Armstrong's accomplishments (actually what God accomplished through him) in a negative light.

By doing this, you can build a frame of mind in your listeners that is willing to cast aside right principles they have learned in the past. That will make the next steps easier.

Next, fill the void you have created in the minds of your listeners by teaching from the Bible very selectively and de-emphasizing the principle of believing the Bible. It may seem contradictory to teach from the Bible and yet de-emphasize the importance of the Bible, but it can be done. You can quote the Bible to emphasize believing God's Holy Spirit in your minds, believing the ministry, believing the oral traditions of the Church. What you don't want to do is a lot of Bible reading - most of what you say will be your own words, but you can selectively back it up with quotes from the Bible, especially if you then twist those quotes out of context.

But when you quote the Bible, what you don't want to do is quote those parts of the Bible that emphasize the Bible. Don't quote the Bible saying that scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). Don't quote the Bible saying that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is useful for doctrine, correction, and instruction in righteous so we can be complete (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Don't quote anything that says that the word of God is sure and true or sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Don't quote God saying, to this man will I look, to him who trembles at My word (Isaiah 66:2). Don't quote Jesus Christ saying that we are to live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4).

Above all, do not quote passages about the members of the Church actually looking to the Bible to find answers. So, do not quote anything that says we should prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21) or follow the positive example of those who searched the scriptures daily to find out if the things Paul taught were true (Acts 17:11-12).

Or, if you do very occasionally quote one of these things, use a tone of voice that is very casual and designed to impart the meaning, "yeah, yeah, we have heard this before, let me read past this quickly", not at all giving it the importance it deserves.

But do teach a lot of the things you are not trying to change, and do use a lot of Church of God terminology that will establish credibility. Sound as much like a minister in the Church of God as you can, speaking to the congregation in language and terms they are familiar with. This establishes credibility. Talk about our human nature, our need for repentance, our need to bear good fruit. Talk about God's greatness and our need for Him.

This will help the members to think you are spiritual and are really trying to help them get closer to God.

Finally, reverse their belief you are trying to change by omitting it. So with the example of trying to change their beliefs about the Bible, just keep omitting saying anything about the need to really believe and obey the Bible. You can tell the members to spend time in "Bible study" - that is expected - but don't talk about really regarding the Bible as final authority for all questions about doctrine and Christian living. Talk about the Holy Spirit, talk about the ministry, talk about letting God guide you (without saying how), talk about drawing closer to God in prayer and fasting. Talk about letting God work with you. Talk about God's law. Say, "God's law is truth" (rather than, "God's word" is truth). But carefully avoid saying, look to the Bible for answers to tough questions, believe what the Bible says, obey what God in the Bible says. Carefully avoid telling the members to let the Bible interpret the Bible, to let clear scriptures interpret difficult ones, and to get all the scriptures about a particular subject to know the truth of that subject.

In other words, don't teach the principles of Bible study to your members. You can mention "Bible study", even pretend to encourage it from time to time, but avoid affirming the authority of the Bible in a practical way.

Why will this work? Over time, if you neglect something, you will weaken it.

If a pastor teaches the context of letting God build his character and way of thinking in us so that we have the mind of God, but omits the importance of letting God's very word, the Bible, be the final authority in all questions of practice and doctrine, he will be teaching by implication that we need to be guided some other way than by the Bible itself.

And he can do this all without leaving himself vulnerable to accusations that he is teaching against the Bible.

You don't have to tell people not to believe the Bible. Just leaving out the principle that we are to believe the Bible will have the same effect when you do this in the context of knowing what is true.

In other words, if you teach how to know what is true, but leave out saying that we know what is true by believing the Bible, by implication you are teaching members to know what is true SOME OTHER WAY, NOT BY THE BIBLE.

These things can be taught by repetition to change members from believing the Bible to the opposite - believing what the minister is teaching them when he slips in some doctrine that is contrary to the Bible, such as not preaching the gospel, into his messages.

A pastor can then eliminate anything he doesn't like in the Bible by neglecting it and over-emphasizing other things.

For example, he can neglect the Bible's teaching that we should preach the gospel and the warning message, and then over-emphasize setting an example as a way of "preaching the gospel" and calling that "doing God's work".

And if weak members have allowed themselves, over a period of months or years, to be brainwashed into thinking they do not have to prove these things in the Bible, they may swallow that.

But the strong members, those who have been reading, believing, obeying, and proving things in the Bible for years, will likely not swallow that.

And God may allow this as a test to separate those who are faithful to Him from those who are not.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Evaluating Our Example

Some have said that the way we preach the gospel to the world is by our example. I have pointed out in other posts that our example is not by itself sufficient to preach the true gospel and deliver the Ezekiel warning about the tribulation to come to 500 million people who need it.

But there is something else about our example and our preaching of the gospel by our example that needs to be emphasized.

How do we know what kind of example we should set? How can we evaluate our example? How do we know when we are setting a good example?

Are you setting a good example? If you say, yes, how do you know? How do you know that the example you set is a good one?

You cannot go by the traditions of this world. Yet, we must have a standard by which to measure our example, to know if it is good or bad, to know what kind of example we should strive to set.

That standard is the standard of God's word, the Bible. We must let God through His word teach us how to set a right example. We must let the Bible show us what a right example looks like.

In other words, we must let God tell us what our example should be, and God talks to us through His word, the Bible.

The word of God will help us see ourselves as we really are and will help us to see how we need to change in order to set a right example.

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Without the Bible as a standard to use to measure and evaluate our example, we can easily fool ourselves (or be fooled by others) into striving for a wrong example, not even knowing that the example we are striving to set is wrong.

This is most common with members of the churches of this world, who think they are setting a good example for their children by keeping Christmas and Easter, for example. But mistaking a bad example for a good one can happen also in the Church of God.

Some ministers in the Church of God teach their members that they should primarily, or only, preach the gospel to the world by their good example, not by supporting a work designed to bring the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to millions of people who need it. But there is a built-in fallacy in this, one that can be discerned if one uses the Bible to evaluate his example but can be missed if one only uses his human reasoning or the reasoning of his pastor to evaluate his example.

The problem with preaching the gospel by example only is that you can't do it. It is impossible by definition. If you are not supporting a work of trying to reach millions with the gospel and the warning, you are NOT setting a good example.

A right example for a Christian to set, by biblical standards, must include preaching the gospel and the warning to the greatest number of people possible, and in our time that means Internet, radio, TV, magazines, booklets, and/or public lectures. That is the means and methods available to us today.

Why is that a necessary part of setting a good example?

It is an essential part of loving our neighbors as ourselves, which is one of the two great commandments. It is a part of loving God with all our being, because it is an essential part of doing what God says (Matthew 22:35-40). It is a part of showing mercy, which is one of the three weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). Delivering God's warning to our nations is also part of obedience to the sixth of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:13), for God makes it clear in Ezekiel 3:17-21 and Ezekiel 33:1-9 that if we fail to deliver God's warning message to our nations, their blood will be on our heads and we will be counted as murderers in God's sight.

Now, if we are not loving our neighbors as ourselves, are not practicing mercy, and are counted by God as murderers, are we setting a good example for our children, for other members of the Church of God, and for everyone who knows us?

How ironic. A man who believes in only preaching the gospel by example will try to set a good example, but will fail because he doesn't know what that example will look like. He doesn't know because he doesn't let the Bible define that example, but rather lets his human reasoning or the human reasoning of his pastor define that example.

In order to set a good example, he needs to support the direct preaching of the gospel and the warning message to the public by all means possible. If he fails to obey God in this, he cannot honestly claim to be loving God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself. But he won't do this until, in his mind, he sets a good example. Yet he can't really set a good example apart from preaching the gospel.

So he won't preach the gospel until he sets a good example, but he can't set a good example until he starts preaching the gospel. He will get nowhere. He neither preaches the gospel nor sets a good example.

I suppose some member hooked by this deception will only wake up in the great tribulation when he is suffering along with others in the world who go through the tribulation. And when they find out that this member knew what was coming but did nothing to warn the nation, those people will say, "Why didn't you try to warn us?" He will answer, "I wanted to set a good example, first". They will say, "What good example? You knew the truth and kept silent? What kind of example is that?".

Those supporting fellowships that do not preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning of the tribulation to come can never set a right example, as defined by the Bible, as long as they support that position, as long as they fail to warn the nation.

If you are a member of such a fellowship, sending all your tithes to that fellowship, consider that the blood of the people is hanging over your head.

If you won't support the gospel and the warning through mass media, try this. Go to your neighbors individually. Talk to all your co-workers in the office or factory, on the job, maybe during a break or lunch period, and explain that God will punish them and the whole nation if they do not repent and start keeping the Sabbath and holy days and obey what God says in the Bible. Talk to all your relatives who are not in the Church. Go from house to house on your block, ring the doorbells, and tell your neighbors that there is a punishment coming if they do not repent. Then do it for every house in a two mile radius. Do this for about 2 hours a day, every day.

Does that sound like fun?

This probably would not be the best way to preach the gospel, and I am not recommending it for those who support the preaching of the gospel with their tithes and offerings. But do you think those same neighbors will notice your wonderful example, and ask, "Can you tell me about prophecy and the Bible? I have seen your outstanding example, and I am sure you know about God and the Bible, so teach me."

That is not going to happen, except rarely, and you know it.

Let's use a concrete example. Pick two neighbors. Stand outside the front door to your house or apartment. You have a neighbor to your right and to your left, two of your closest neighbors. How will your warn them about the coming tribulation and their need to repent to escape the suffering?

Do you think you can do it by your example? How?

Imagine you are setting a perfect example. What will you do? How will those two neighbors notice? And how will that example translate into warning them? Be realistic. Chances are, they might notice you are a nice person. You are not noisy, you don't borrow things and not return them, you don't take their parking spaces, etc. Maybe you are hospitable and invite them to dinner (then they do the same for you, so they are even). But you know as well as I do they are unlikely to ask you about your religion and beliefs except maybe in a casual way. How will you get to the point of telling them that if they do not repent they will probably go through the great tribulation and suffer and die in it?

You know as well as I do, it probably will not get to that point.

Yet, by supporting a fellowship that is preaching the gospel and the warning on TV and in print, you can get that very message to dozens and perhaps hundreds of people every year with your own tithes and offerings. Add everyone in the Church doing this, and it can be hundreds of thousands of people reached with the message each year. And those who do not have money or income to tithe on can support such a fellowship with their attendance and their prayers.

You won't escape blood guilt for not getting the warning message out by just being a "nice guy" to the people around you.

Setting a good example is a fine concept, and we should set a good example, but we have no way of knowing what that good example looks like except by the Bible. And the Bible shows that a right example must include direct preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public by the most effective means possible, that is, mass media. If you have the opportunity to support the gospel and the warning but are not doing it, you are not setting a good example because you are not loving your neighbors as yourself and because God will count you as a murderer.

Am I being too vague here? Am I too subtle? Am I sugar-coating this?

Here are links to posts in this blog related to this subject:

"What Is the Church of God's Greatest Sin?", dated February 27, 2014, link:

"What Is Wrong with Preaching the Gospel Only by Example?", dated May 3, 2015, link:

"Will God Use Those Who Do Not Reflect His Mind to Preach the Gospel and the Ezekiel Warning to the World?", dated August 5, 2016, link:

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