Saturday, May 28, 2016

Church of God Youths Ask, How Do I Know If I Am Called?

In about two weeks the Church of God will be observing Pentecost. Like all of God's annual holy days and festivals, Pentecost is rich in meaning.

One of the things Pentecost reminds us of is that the Church of God is the firstfruits of God's spiritual harvest. Only the few are called to salvation in this age. The vast majority of mankind will not be called to salvation until the millennium or the white throne judgment. This is a truth we have in the Church that most traditional, mainstream churches of this world do not have.

To be converted, we need God's calling. He has to intervene in our lives to help us understand the truth, to open our minds, and to grant us repentance (2 Timothy 2:25).

Being aware of the teaching of the Church on this subject, some prospective members may ask, "How do I know if I am being called?"

This question probably is more common with young people growing up in the Church than with outsiders who come into contact with the Church through the television program or magazine or Internet. Most outsiders who learn the truth seem to understand that they are being called or they would not be able to understand and believe the truth. I remember when I first came into contact with the Church that this question, "Am I being called?", never came into my mind. Rather, when I understood the Bible and yet had conversations with family members and others who could not understand the Bible, the doctrine of only the few being called helped me to understand why others could not accept the truth.

This doctrine helps us understand that the world as a whole is deceived and cannot understand, believe, and obey the true gospel.

But young people growing up in the Church of God may sometimes struggle with this question. I think many of them perceive that they may have familiarity with the truth, even believe it, because they grew up in it, and they question if this automatically means they are being called. This question may arise also because human nature may want an excuse to disobey God's commandments, maybe an excuse to marry outside the Church of God, and someone might think, "If I am not being called, I don't have to obey now. I can do what I want, then in the white throne judgment I can repent and be saved".

The doctrine that most in this age are not called, but only the few who are the Church are called, is based on a number of scriptures, and if you search the Bible with a concordance or a Bible software program for the words "call" and "calling", you will find many of them.

I have listed many of these scriptures at the end of this post for those who want to do further research.

But the main scripture that I think is the heart and core of this doctrine does not use the word, "call". It uses the word, "draw".

"Jesus therefore answered and said to them, 'Do not murmur among yourselves. 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 6:43-44).

We know that salvation can only be through Jesus Christ. Yet, no one can come to Christ unless God the Father specifically draws that person to Christ.

Here are a couple of other important passages about being called.

"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:38-39).

"For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called" (1 Corinthians 1:26). Those last words "are called" are in the italics in the New King James Version, so they are not in the original - they are understood and added by the translators to make the passage more clear. Nevertheless, it seems appropriate because the word "calling" at the beginning is in the original.

The Bible teaches that in this age most people are not being given their chance for salvation. God is allowing the vast majority of mankind to be deceived by Satan for 6,000 years. After that, Satan will be put away and Christ and the saints will rule the earth for one thousand years. During that time, no one will be deceived by Satan and everyone alive at that time will be called. Then comes the white throne judgment during which all who have every lived and died without being called will be resurrected and will have their chance to understand the gospel, believe, repent, and be saved.

These things are proved by many scriptures which I will not take the time to quote in this post, and God's whole plan for the salvation of mankind is illustrated by the weekly Sabbath and the annual holy days and festivals.

So everyone will have a chance to be saved. Everyone will be called at one time or another. The vast majority of mankind are not called in this age but will be called later. But a small minority, represented as firstfruits by Pentecost, are called in this age.

If you are looking for scriptures that will help you determine if you are being called or not, you won't find much directly related to "calling". You can find evidence that the world as a whole is deceived, so if you understand the truth, that is a good indication you are being called.

But the intent and thrust of scriptures that talk about our calling is not for the purpose of someone trying to figure out if they are being called.

In fact, if you want an excuse to disobey God, you won't find it in the Bible. God never gives a scripture that even hints that you are off the hook, even though you know the truth, because you are not being called.

Scriptures about our calling and God's plan of salvation help us to understand why we "get it" but the world does not. They help us understand why our friends and relatives in the world cannot understand and believe and obey the plain scriptures in the Bible even when we explain it to them. They also help us understand God's truth that God is merciful and fair and He will give everyone a chance for salvation. And they help us understand our need to deeply appreciate our calling and not treat it lightly. They help us to understand that if we reject our calling, we've "had it" as they say.

But not once do I find any passage in the Bible that says, here's how to know if you are called, and if you are not called, you don't have to obey God.

In fact, the Bible has a very clear emphasis from beginning to end to all who read it: Believe and obey God!

So if you want something to "get you off the hook", you won't find it in the Bible. That is not why God teaches us about our calling.

Yet, there is an answer to the question.

How can you know if you are called?

The clearest verse on the subject of calling is the one I quoted in the beginning: "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).

This is important because it clearly states the IMPOSSIBILITY of anyone not drawn by God, "called" as many other scriptures word it, to really come to Christ to be saved.

Yet, in this verse is the key to knowing if you are called by God. Even so, it won't get you off the hook.

Suppose I show you a large box in my basement, maybe about two feet long and a foot wide. It might be a wooden box. You don't know what is in it. It is sealed.

"Can you lift that box?", I ask.

"What's in it?", you reply.

"I'll tell you later. But first, tell me, can you lift it?"

"I don't know, without knowing what's in it. It might contain tissue paper or lead bricks for all I know."

Then I say, "Find out if you can lift it."

So you try to lift it. And you lift it. Now you know you can lift it.

Are you called? The question can be rephrased, "Can you come to Christ?", because that is how it is worded in John 6:44. Can you come to Christ? Can you come to Christ with all that is included, which is faith, repentance, baptism, conversion, obedience, overcoming, enduring to the end, and anything else the Bible teaches?

Can you do it?

There is only one way to find out. Do it.

If you are able to do it, God has called you.

But if you think you are not able to do it?

Be careful here. You are not your own judge. If you give a half-hearted effort, and then say, "I can't do it - it's too hard", does that mean you are not called? Not necessarily. For it is God who judges you and not you yourself. He knows if He has called you. He knows if you could have done it had you tried harder. He knows if you are really rejecting His calling and trying to justify yourself by telling yourself, "It's too hard, I can't do it so I am not called. I will live as I please and repent in the white throne judgment".

In that case, the way you will find out that God really called you may be that you will wake up in the lake of fire and not the white throne judgment. Then you will know.

It isn't just those who are converted and then fall away that will be in the lake of fire. Anyone who has been called but rejected the call will die the second death also, from which there will never be a resurrection.

If a person really cannot come to Christ, God knows He didn't call him, and God will be merciful and give him one chance in the white throne judgment. But that is God's decision, not yours or mine.

God did not give the Church of God the "calling" doctrine in the Bible so some can have an excuse to disobey and not respond to the truth they are given.

We are responsible for what we know. "And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:47-48). The many stripes and few stripes represent varying degrees of punishment. For those who reject God's calling in this age and do not repent before this life ends, those "many stripes" may represent the lake of fire, the ultimate punishment.

Asking the question, "Am I called?", or "How do I know if I am being called?", is perfectly natural and normal, especially for a young person growing up in the Church of God. But biblically, they are the wrong questions, or at least not the best questions. Better to ask, "What does God want me to do?", and "How do I know God's will?", and "How can I better obey God?", and "What does God command me in His word, the Bible?". Another good question can be, "Am I ready for baptism?", and this is a question that a minister can help you answer.

Don't worry about being called. Prove God exists. If you need help, talk with your parents or someone who has proved it or a minister. Get as much help as you need. Prove the Bible is inspired by God and is God speaking. Again, get wise help if you need it. Then commit yourself to believe and do all that God says and read the Bible to live by every word of God. And when you want to be baptized, counsel with a minister. If you are not ready, he can advise you what you should do. But before and after baptism, strive every day to obey God the best you can in every thought, word, and deed.

Then you will not have to find out the hard way that you were called but you rejected the call and kidded yourself by making the excuse, "It's too hard, I can't do it, so I must not be called".

God's message in the Bible is not, "Obey Me if you are called". God's message from beginning to end is, "Obey Me and you will live and be blessed, but if you disobey Me you will be cursed and will die".

Solomon sums it up. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Make up your mind now that you will do the best you can to prove God's existence and that the Bible is God speaking, then commit yourself to obey Him completely, and spend the rest of your life living up to that commitment. That is the best course of action you can take. If you do that, you will see the happiest outcome in the long run.

Here are some scriptures that use the word "call" or "calling" if you want to do further research:

Acts 2:38-39
Romans 8:28-30
Romans 9:23-24
Romans 11:29
1 Corinthians 1:9
1 Corinthians 1:24-26
1 Corinthians 7:17-24
Galatians 1:6
Galatians 5:8
Ephesians 1:17-18
Ephesians 4:1-4
Colossians 3:15
1 Thessalonians 2:12
1 Thessalonians 4:7
1 Thessalonians 5:24
2 Thessalonians 1:11
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
1 Timothy 6:12
2 Timothy 1:8-9
Hebrews 3:1
Hebrews 9:15
1 Peter 1:15
1 Peter 2:9
1 Peter 2:21
1 Peter 3:8-9
1 Peter 5:10
2 Peter 1:2-3
2 Peter 1:10-11
Jude 1-2
Revelation 17:14
Revelation 19:9

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sign of a Prophet

If there is a prophet in the Church of God, either now or in the future, how will we know, and what sign or signs should we look for?

One of course is that the prophet will teach according to God's will and God's word.

"If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'—which you have not known—'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him" (Deuteronomy 13:1-4).

In principle, this means that a true prophet of God will teach people to keep all of God's commandments, including His commandments to avoid the occult and pagan prophecies.

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

"And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people" (Leviticus 20:6).

"When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you" (Deuteronomy 18:9-14).

"Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1).

But that is not all. There is another sign of a true prophet, a sign so obvious it is amazing that someone in the Church of God today can overlook it.

Here it is. Are you ready for it?


I see no examples in the Bible of prophets without prophecy. A man who claims to be a prophet yet offers no actual prophecies seems to be lacking in Bible knowledge and spiritual perspective, and maybe common sense too. He claims a title, but offers nothing for it. It would be like a man who calls himself a "pastor" but has never pastored anyone. Or a man who calls himself a bricklayer but has never touched a brick. Or a "taxicab driver" who has never driven a taxi. Or an airplane pilot who has never piloted a plane.

It is claiming the title and the prestige of the title but without any accomplishment to justify the title. It seems like wanting the respect and honor that comes with the title but without doing anything for it.

Even if a teacher in the Church of God is faithful to always teach God's word accurately from the Bible, that does not make him a prophet. There can be many such teachers in the Church of God from the time of Herbert W. Armstrong till now, but they were not prophets, nor did they claim the title.

God Himself in the Bible teaches that one of the ways to know that someone is a prophet is that the prophecies he gives come true.

"And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?' - when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him" (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).

The two main signs of prophet are overall faithfulness in teaching, and it bears repeating that a man who leads his listeners or readers to look to pagan prophecies contrary to the word of God is not teaching God's way of life faithfully, and giving prophetic predictions that actually come to pass in a way that proves that the prophecy is from God.

A man who has given no prophecies has no right to call himself a prophet. Likewise, a man who gives prophecies that fail has no right to call himself a prophet. And a man who leads his readers and listeners to pay attention to pagan prophecies to learn details of future events from demons, details that God has not given us, has no right to call himself a true prophet of God. On the contrary, such a man is fooling with dynamite by consulting demons and is in very much danger of being deceived by Satan and his demons and thus potentially deceiving anyone who looks to that man as a prophet.

What about ordination or anointing with oil to be a prophet? Is that how God shows us who His prophets are?

No, that is not the pattern of the Bible. Men are generally not made prophets by ordination by men or by anointing by men. God deals with a man directly to make him a prophet.

And even if a man was anointed to be a prophet, that itself would not make him one. He would only become a prophet when God begins to reveal prophetic messages to him. And there would be no doubt or ambiguity about the message, whether it was an opinion or a human dream for example. It would be clear, powerful, and directly from God, and it would be provable by fulfillment when the prophecy comes to pass.

God made David king. Did David become king when God had Samuel anoint him in the presence of his brothers? No, he did not become king at that time.

"And Samuel said to Jesse, 'Are all the young men here?' Then he said, 'There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.' And Samuel said to Jesse, 'Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.' So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, 'Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!' Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah" (1 Samuel 16:11-13).

Did that make David king? Absolutely not! David was NOT king from that point on. You can read the rest of the account up to the time David actually became king. Saul was still king, not David. It was after David killed Goliath, then served as an officer in Saul's army long enough to establish a reputation, then after David fled from Saul and became a leader of a small band for a while. Then, it was after that that Saul was killed in battle, and then David became king, not at the time he was anointed (2 Samuel 2:1-7).

God made David king through circumstances. God gave him the kingdom after God removed Saul. And one of the reasons God removed Saul was that Saul tried to learn the future through occult means that God had forbidden. "So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance" (1 Chronicles 10:13).

As we get closer to the end of the age, there is likely to be a great increase in deception and in those claiming to be prophets, whether within the Church of God or outside of it. We need to be spiritually alert to escape deception. We need to live by every word of God, including those parts that deal with knowing true versus false prophets.

Here is a link to another post related to this subject:

" 'Double Portion of Your Spirit' ", dated December 28, 2014, link:

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Consciousness, and the Destruction of a Word

Many years ago, when I proved that God exists, I relied on two main pieces of evidence. I did not consider the vast species of life as evidence of God's existence, for at that time I did not fully understand that evolution is false. But I saw design in the universe. I had done enough reading in science to know that design choices were made in the creation of the universe. There are physical laws that govern the universe, and those laws determine the appearance and behavior of the physical universe.

The universe and its laws have particular characteristics. Space exists in three dimensions, not two or four dimensions, even though mathematically and logically it would make equal sense for space to exist in any number of dimensions. Light has a certain speed. Atoms are made up of protons, electrons, and in most cases, neutrons. Each particle has certain characteristics. The electron has a negative charge and is very light, the protons and neutrons are heavy, and the proton has a positive charge while the neutron, as its name indicates, is neutral. Protons and neutrons also respond to the strong force, which keeps them tightly bound in the center of the atom.

There are four known forces that control these particles and matter in general, and each force has particular characteristics. The strong force is the strongest, but it has a very short range. The electromagnetic force is long range and includes positive and negative charges, with like charges repelling each other and unlike charges attracting each other. Gravity is long range and causes all matter to attract all other matter, and there is no charge involved in gravity, but it is the weakest of the forces.

All this indicates DESIGN CHOICES. There must, therefore, be a Designer, God, who made the choices regarding the number of dimensions of space, the number and characteristics of particles, the speed of light, and the number and characteristics of fundamental forces.

This was proof number one for me. For even if evolution were true (and I did not know the answer to that at the time), the universe itself could not have evolved. Darwin's mechanism of random genetic changes and natural selection in the reproduction of plants and animals could not apply to the universe because the universe does not reproduce.

Proof number two for me was human consciousness.

Science can study the brain and think of it as a kind of chemical and biological computer that automatically processes information and sends signals to control the body. But that does not explain the consciousness of my mind. I am not a machine.

I know I have a physical body and a physical brain. I know that the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology govern the operation of my physical body. But my human consciousness is my subjective sense of existence, my actual experience, that seems to live inside my brain. I am not talking about an immortal soul, for the Bible shows that the soul is mortal and can die.

It might be possible to make a machine that can respond like a human. Science fiction is full of stories of robots and androids. And even in today's actual world, scientists and engineers work on robots, some that may look and sound remarkably like a human being. There are efforts to develop computer software and hardware that will have artificial intelligence and can solve problems as humans can. These efforts are far from making a believable copy of man. Yet, if scientists and engineers had enough time, who knows how far they could go in making a machine that might look, sound, and behave so like a human that you might not tell the difference right away.

Children have dolls that mimic a child's cry. Of course, this is done with a speaker and computer chips and circuitry that produce the sound of crying like a human baby.

Now, suppose someone made such a machine, a machine made of metal, plastic, electronic parts, computer chips, and computer software that looked and sounded just like a human being. And suppose that it had artificial intelligence as good or nearly as good as human intelligence. It would still only be a mechanism. It might be programmed to scream if you stabbed it with a knife. But that scream would only be the sound produced by the vibration of a cone in a computer speaker, and that vibration would be caused by a pattern of electric current going through the speaker. That electrical signal would be produced by a computer running a series of instructions (computer software) that says, in effect, when stabbed with a knife make a sound like human screaming. There would have to be some kind of sensors in the artificial plastic "skin" of such a machine to send a signal to the computer when the robot is stabbed.

Would anyone in their right mind say it would be cruelty to a machine to do such a thing? Would anyone say it was unethical and immoral because this machine was suffering?

Of course not!

When a child's doll makes crying noises, is there a real consciousness in that doll that is suffering? Obviously, no.

It would make as much sense to say that a rock suffers when you break it with a hammer. Then you can outlaw breaking rocks as immoral and unethical because you are causing suffering.

And yet, if I am in pain, I am suffering. There is a real me that feels it. I have consciousness. I am not just a chemical mechanism.

And science cannot explain that.

I saw a Twilight Zone episode when I was a kid that for me illustrated this. When I watch a TV story or movie, it is natural for me to tend to identify with the main character, to mentally imagine that I am that person going through his experiences. I think this episode was called, "In His Image", or something like that.

The main character takes his girl friend to the town he grew up in to meet some people and see the places he was familiar with, but had not seen for a while. But when he gets there, everything is different, not just from the passage of time. In that town, things were never the way he remembered them.

Later he finds out why. He is injured, and under the skin of his arm are wires and mechanical parts. He is a robot, a machine. His memory of that town is artificial, false, and that is why everything was different. But before that point, he didn't know he was a machine.

But at that point in the story, my ability to identify with the character was limited. Why? I could never imagine that happening to me. I know I am not a machine.

Likewise, I know that my conscious mind is more than can be explained by the laws of physics and chemistry that operate in the cells of my brain.

Scientists cannot explain consciousness. And it was for me one of the proofs of God's existence. I knew that only a Creator God could have created consciousness in my mind and the minds of all people.

So creation is the proof of God, both the design and the creation of the universe and the creation of the human mind with consciousness. And that is how I proved that God exists. I was about 20 years old at the time.

Creation is the evidence of God's existence and power, so that atheists are without excuse.

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

"Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

"For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:20-32).

"The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God' " (Psalm 14:1).

God says that whoever says there is no God is a fool. In modern language, we would say, "Atheists are idiots!" And in a sense, they are.

We should not be proud of ourselves for knowing about God. Satan is the deceiver of this world. The world is blinded by a supernatural force stronger than any man. "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9). "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

We should be humble and realize that without God's calling, we too would be deceived. With my reading of science, I too might have been an atheist if God had not called me and opened my mind to the truth.

Atheists will have their opportunity to learn the truth in God's time. We, by God's grace, have our opportunity now. But we are not better than they, except for God's calling and grace.

But we need to be aware of their error so as not to fall into it and so we can teach and warn our children.

The mainstream scientific community takes an atheistic approach to scientific teaching and research. That does not mean every scientist is an atheist. Many scientists know that there is a God. But they must keep their knowledge of God out of their work if they want to keep their jobs, most of them.

Atheists have been very militant about their beliefs and have been becoming more militant as time goes on. They want to stamp out religion. Militarism and hostility towards religion exist in the secular scientific community. They have made atheism the dominant culture in the scientific community and its teachings. They deny God's existence and ridicule religion. Evolutionism, the theory of evolution that says that all species came through random forces, is the main weapon in their arsenal. 

The real reason atheists do not believe in God is that they do not want to believe in God. They do not want to submit to God's authority, but they also do not want to live their lives in fear of punishment from a God who has the authority to tell them how to live. So they convince themselves and try to convince others that there is no God. Then they can feel free to do what they want, whatever that is.

Most non-scientists are not well enough read on science to see the design of the universe. They see the galaxies and stars, but scientists have various explanations for how they came to be.

But every person understands consciousness. Everyone knows the difference between being awake and being asleep.

So how do atheistic scientists explain consciousness?

They don't. They avoid it.

But it is the way they avoid it that is interesting.

They try to destroy the meaning of the word.

How can they do that?

Many of them try to do that by using the word in a different way, over and over. They use it to refer to other things, thus over time diluting and changing its meaning.

Word meaning is based on common usage. Those who write definitions of words in dictionaries study how a word is used in conversation and in writing, and then write definitions to record the meaning people give to a word in the way they use it. And that is how we learn the meanings of words anyway. We pick up on how they are used by others, and we understand those words in the same way we hear them used.

And if someone coins a new word, if people pick up on how it is used and it becomes common, it becomes a new word in the vocabulary of our language.

That is how new words come into existence.

If people take an existing word and use it a different way, if others begin to use it in that new way and it becomes common, that becomes a new meaning of the word.

And that is how a word can change in meaning.

For example, the word "gay" used to mean "happy". Now it means "homosexual". Why? Because that is how many people have used the word over time. They have changed the meaning of the word by the way they used it.

Books have been written on how the dominant liberal media uses terminology to influence thought.

Scientists and science writers in popular science magazines use the word consciousness in a way that tends to change its meaning. Often I have found a science magazine with an article about "consciousness" headlined on the cover. But when I read the article, I find that what the writer labels "consciousness" is nothing more than intelligence, or attention, or something they call "self-awareness". Scientists do scans of the brain and certain areas light up when a person focuses on a certain thing, and the writer might refer to that as consciousness.

Take that term, "self-awareness". You might think the science writer is talking about consciousness, but he isn't. He is talking about an individual, even an animal, having some kind of knowledge of his own existence, or something like that. Scientists might study how a chimp reacts to his image in a mirror, and when the chimp realizes that it is him, the writer might call that "self-awareness". Then that writer or other writers blur the distinction between that kind of self-awareness and consciousness by trying to make them equivalent terms.

So scientists and science writers find ways of talking about consciousness as if it is something that can be studied, something they are learning about, but they blur the meaning of the term, and in effect, many of them seem to be seeking to destroy the original meaning of the word over time. Because, in fact, they are clueless about it. Evolution is no help to them here, and many of them must know it. This is particularly true because consciousness, apart from intelligence and various desires and instincts, has no survival value, so even if there is a way that the physical mechanism of a brain can produce consciousness solely by natural law, there would be no reason for it to evolve.

They are trying to reduce the meaning of the word "consciousness" to a form of brain science, and by so doing, keep people's minds off the truth that there must be a God who created our conscious minds.

God exists and we can prove it. We can prove it to ourselves and we can prove it to anyone whose mind is open to acknowledging God's existence. We can also prove that the Bible is inspired by God and is God speaking.

Evolution, the idea that human beings and all other species of life came into existence through natural forces only, is false, and we can prove it.

We must not mentally succumb to the propaganda and pressure of the dominant liberal media and atheistic, secular science and doubt God's existence and the truth of the Bible.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

God Did Not Call Us to Be Passive in Our Obedience

We are called to obedience towards God. This requires us not only to avoid sinful actions, but to be active in doing what God tells us to do.

We are to love God with all our being. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:36).

And if our love for God is real, it will express itself in obedient action. We love God by keeping His commandments, by doing what He says. This is emphasized throughout the Bible.

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3). "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10). "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21).

God speaks to us directly through the Bible. He also gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32), and that Holy Spirit helps us understand God's word (John 14:26, 1 Corinthians 2:10-16).

When we see in the Bible that God tells us to do something, we should not have a passive attitude and response to it. We may have to do research to make sure we understand the scripture, putting scriptures together to let the Bible interpret the Bible as Mr. Armstrong did, but once the answer is clear, we should go into action. We should obey God quickly, with zeal, with energy, and with force. We should move, in other words.

Mr. Armstrong pointed out that when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, he didn't argue or hesitate, but got up early in the morning to immediately do what God said. "Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, 'Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' Then He said, 'Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.' So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him" (Genesis 22:1-3).

Remember, we are to love God with all our strength. That means we are to put everything we've got into doing what He says.

There is no room for a passive, bland, sleepy attitude towards obedience. Our obedience should be quick, zealous, active, and energetic. Thus have been the servants of God in history. We should put power and force into doing what God says in the Bible.

For an example of how God respects this kind of zeal, read the account of Jehu in 2 Kings chapters 9 and 10. God appointed him to be king over Israel and gave him a mission. Jehu carried out that mission with abundant zeal, quickness, imagination, and energy.

What is interesting is that Jehu was not a righteous king. Yet, God gave him credit for carrying out the mission He gave him and promised him a blessing for it. "Thus Jehu destroyed Baal from Israel. However Jehu did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin, that is, from the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan. And the Lord said to Jehu, 'Because you have done well in doing what is right in My sight, and have done to the house of Ahab all that was in My heart, your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.' But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin" (2 Kings 10:28-31).

Sometimes we are taught to wait quietly for God to work things out in our lives. That is true, but there must be a balance. We should not take matters into our own hands to work out a problem by disobeying God, by breaking His law. But we should also not sit back and wait for God to do something without actively doing what He tells us to do.

Sometimes a Church of God pastor may emphasize letting God work things out. And if that is emphasized too much and in an unbalanced way, that teaching can breed an atmosphere or attitude of passivity, of a reluctance to take action, to passively wait for God to do something when He clearly shows us that it is time for us to do something.

A minister may even want to teach this in an effort to keep members in the congregation. When it comes to the subject of leaving a Church of God fellowship that is not obeying God's word on some point or another to go to a fellowship that is more fully obeying God, the minister may indeed not want members to take action, the action of leaving and going somewhere else. That is natural. And it does not necessarily mean that the pastor has bad motives of wanting to hold on to the tithe income of the members. It may be that he thinks he has their interest at heart in wanting them to stay because he thinks he can serve them better than ministers in other groups, even though he is leading them into disobedience on some point of God's law. How he can think this may be hard to imagine, but some ministers may be mixed up. Only God can judge the heart.

But if the pastor is primarily interested in holding on to his membership, he may preach a message of passivity - don't rock the boat, don't act, don't leave, stay put and wait for God to work things out, if you act in a self-reliant way, you are full of pride, etc. He may equate staying with his fellowship with trusting God. He may do this even while God's word teaches that the members need to get out of that fellowship, and fast.

But members need to avoid this error even if their pastor falls into it.

This error, of being passive regarding action God tells us to take in His word, particularly in regard to making decisions about which fellowship to attend and support, is similar to the error of saying, "God put me here so I should stay here", which I have written about before.

The Bible is full of examples of the servants of God taking strong action to obey Him. David fought Goliath. Jesus cast the money changers out of the temple because zeal for God's house had eaten Him up (John 2:14-17).

Even in recent Church of God history, we can see that powerful leaders and zealous members have taken strong action to obey God. They didn't always quietly wait for God to work things out while they sat on their hands.

Mr. Armstrong was famous for taking strong action when he knew it was God's will. From what I have heard, when there was a rebellion brewing in the 1970s, when he found out about it, he immediately fired everybody. Then he got on the phone, got the facts, and began hiring back those whom he learned were loyal. That nipped the rebellion in the bud.

The work that he did really started in late 1933 and early 1934 when Mr. Armstrong, showing courage and boldness, separated himself from employment with Church of God Seventh Day and started a radio and magazine work, depending only on God for income. And God blessed his zeal and energy with success. Mr. Armstrong was a strong leader and a man of action. He was right to take action and not be passive.

He left Church of God Seventh Day fellowship when it became clear that he would have to leave them to do God's work of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. He didn't totally break off all fellowship with them at once, but over time that was the result. He was right to leave that fellowship to preach the gospel more effectively.

I myself have had to leave the Catholic Church in order to come into the Worldwide Church of God. Later, after the apostasy, I left Worldwide to go to another fellowship that still taught the truth. I was right to leave the Catholic Church, and I was right to later leave Worldwide when it left the fundamental doctrines of the Bible.

About two and a half years ago, a number of ministers and brethren left Church of God, an International Community (COGaic) and their leader David Hulme. One of the reasons was that many of them saw that Mr. Hulme was not powerfully preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public, and they saw that God commanded that the message be preached. They wanted to obey God and preach the gospel, and they were right to leave COGaic for that purpose, and since then some of them have found their way to a group that does preach the gospel, and I think more will do so in the future.

God does not want us to passively sit by and remain in a fellowship that disobeys Him on one or more major points, whether that be preaching the gospel, loving our neighbors, or any other point of doctrine. The pastor of such a group may label leaving him as being "self-willed", "rebellious", being "independent", "relying on the self", or "being full of pride", but these can be mislabels. The truth is, taking quick and decisive action to leave a fellowship that is openly violating one of the two great commandments of God's law may be exactly what God requires of us.

Ezekiel was given a commission to warn Israel. For him to fail to give the warning when it was in his power to do so would have made him a murderer in God's sight (Ezekiel 3:17-21, 33:1-9). He could not afford to be passive and neither can we.

Nor can we afford to wait a long time to decide. The door is open for preaching the gospel for at least one fellowship and probably for any fellowship that has the zeal to make the sacrifices and go through an open door. But enemies of God are gaining power in this country and the world, and it may not be a long time until the doors of radio, television, printing press, Internet, and public Bible lectures are closed through government or legal action by those who label our message "hate speech". Each one of us has a limited time to show God that we will go all out to back the message of the gospel. Each one of us has a limited time to show God that we will really love our neighbors as ourselves in action and deed, not just in word and thought.

None of us knows the time of his death.

In the parable of the good Samaritan, it was the Samaritan who showed love towards his neighbor by taking action. He was not passive. He saw the need and he acted (Luke 10:25-37).

Is decision making, even to leave a fellowship that is not obeying God, some kind of wrong "private interpretation" that is prohibited by 2 Peter 1:20-21. Let's look at this passage.

Here is the passage in the New King James translation: "knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21). The King James version also uses the term "private interpretation".

But this is not an accurate rending. Normally I do not use the NIV (New International Version), but in this case they give a better sense of verse 20: "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation of things". In other words, this is not talking about the reading of scripture, but the writing of it. It is not saying that we are doing wrong when we try to understand scripture apart from what our minister is telling us. If that were the case, none of us could have left a Catholic or Protestant church or proved in the Bible that those churches are in error. Mr. Armstrong certainly never submitted to any minister's interpretation of the Bible. He taught that we should let the Bible interpret the Bible.

What this is saying is that the prophets who wrote the prophecies in the Bible did not write from their own personal understanding of events, but they were inspired by God to write what they wrote.

There are other translations besides the NIV that support this view.

How do I know this is correct? Just look at verse 21 which I already quoted in the New King James version: "for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit". Peter is contrasting the two possible sources of prophecy in verses 20 and 21. In verse 20 he is saying what is NOT the source of prophecy: a prophet's private and personal understanding and interpretation of events. In verse 21 he says what IS the source of prophecy: the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in what the prophet wrote.

Yet some ministers may use this verse to imply that it is wrong for a member to read the Bible, believe what He sees in His own Bible even when it is contrary to what his pastor is telling him, and then take action to do what God says, even if it requires leaving one fellowship to go to another.

I certainly do not advocate leaving a fellowship over a minor issue or point of doctrine. In many cases, if a member thinks that the Bible is more strict than the fellowship he attends on some point, he can just obey what he thinks God is telling him in the Bible on that point quietly and without causing division. If he thinks that the Bible teaches that we should not eat mushrooms, he can simply not eat mushrooms - he doesn't have to leave a fellowship or create division by spreading his idea among the brethren.

But preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to our neighbors through mass communication is not a minor issue. In our time and circumstances it is virtually the essence of the second great commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is a matter of life and death for thousands and probably millions of people, and our own eternal life can be at stake too, because if we don't preach the truth and the warning to our neighbors who desperately need it, we can be murderers in the sight of God, according to Ezekiel chapters 3 and 33. That is not a small thing.

If you are listening to your pastor explain why the gospel doesn't need to be preached through mass communication, and suddenly the room begins to fill with smoke because a fire has broken out in the building and is quickly raging out of control, how long will you wait to get yourself and your children out of the building to save your life and theirs? A week? A month? How about two years? Would you not move quickly with a sense of urgency to get yourselves out of the building within minutes, as fast as possible? You would move quickly to save your physical life, but you do not move quickly to save your eternal life.

We need to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel with a sense of urgency, a sense that our lives and the lives of others are at stake as much as if the building were on fire.

If your minister doesn't seem to understand that, don't judge his motives and character. Let God do that. He may not be intentionally doing wrong - he may be mixed up. God knows his heart, and God can deal with him and straighten him out over time, if he is willing. But at the point you understand these things, you need to act and act fast. Because if you understand this, but your minister and the people around you do not, you are more responsible, because God holds each of us responsible for what we know and understand. When the understanding of your responsibility comes to you, that is your chance to obey, and you better take it while your mind is clear.

"And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:47-48).

We are each tested at different times and different ways, and our test comes when God opens our minds to understand His will. If we fail to act, if we are passive, perhaps influenced by the passivity of those around us (who may not yet understand their obligation and God's will), we may not get a second chance to obey later.

And when we are in trials and suffering, do we not want God to act quickly and strongly to rescue us? If you are in pain or disabled or in a severe trial, do you want God to think it over for a few months before He helps you? Or do you want quick and strong help?

When I am in a trial, when I am sick or in pain or suffering, I cry out to God and I want Him to help me as soon as possible. But likewise, I had better obey Him as soon as possible. It works both ways.

God has allowed the scattering of the Church of God into multiple fellowships for a purpose. He could have prevented it, but He did not. One of those purposes is to test us. He forces us to make choices, and even if we do nothing but remain in a bad fellowship, that is a choice.

And in the matter of testing us, I think there is no bigger issue in the Church of God, no more important issue, than the issue of the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to a world that desperately needs it. For if we have the opportunity to support that message, even by leaving one fellowship to support another, but we do not act on that opportunity, we make ourselves hypocrites if we claim we are loving our neighbors as ourselves. We may also be making ourselves murderers because God says the blood of the people will be on our heads if we do not warn.

And if God has given us time to act to share the knowledge He has given us, but we hold it for ourselves without sharing it as others have shared it so we could have it, God would be just, after time has gone by, to take that knowledge from us. We can lose our salvation by neglect as surely as we can lose it by a sudden, deliberate choice to turn away from God. For some, it may be too late already.

The stakes could not be higher.