Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What I Am Thankful For

This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a day for giving thanks to God for the blessings He gives us. Not everyone in the United States celebrates Thanksgiving, and some who do celebrate it observe it in a wrong way, not giving thanks to God but just using the day as a day to enjoy the pleasures of this life: food, family, friends, and football.

But some in the United States observe Thanksgiving in a right attitude, giving thanks to God.

Probably most Church of God members in the United States observe Thanksgiving Day. It is optional for us, not commanded by God.

On this day I try to spend extra time in giving God thanks.

Here are some of the things I am thankful to God for.

I am thankful to God for His goodness. Mr. Armstrong talked about this. He said he was grateful that the greatest power in the universe, God, was a power for good, not evil. God is perfect in wisdom, power, righteousness, and love. All other benefits come from that. I am grateful for God's perfect, holy, righteous character.

I thank God for His creation, all of it: the angels, the physical universe with all the galaxies, stars, planets, and wonderful laws of nature, and of course, mankind. God's creative works are perfect.

I thank God for his plan to reproduce Himself in mankind. God offers us the wonderful gift of the opportunity to become members of His family forever, sharing rulership of this universe with Christ, and enjoying the happiness of eternal life in power and glory with God forever.

I give God thanks for Jesus Christ, for His sacrifice, suffering, and death to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind so we can be forgiven and saved, and for His saving work as savior, high priest, intercessor, advocate, teacher, head of the Church, and soon coming King over the earth. I thank God for the perfect example of Jesus Christ to teach us lessons of how we should love one another.

I thank God that He has provided a way, in the white throne judgment, for every human who has ever lived to have an opportunity to hear and understand the true gospel and be saved. No one will be left out of God's kingdom due to circumstances of birth in time and place. No one will be left out because Satan deceived them and they had no opportunity to understand and believe the truth. This shows God's love, justice, and mercy, and it is a great gift.

I am thankful to God that He has included in His plan for the salvation of mankind that there be a first fruits, a select group of called Christians in this age to be with Christ in the first resurrection, to rule the earth with Christ and help bring the rest of mankind to salvation.

I thank God for His word, the Bible, which instructs us in so many things. God's word is perfect. It is written by men, but inspired by God to be God's direct communication with every Christian. God's word cannot be broken and cannot fail. In the Bible, God gives us many promises. He gives us answers to the important questions of life. He guides us in detail to know His mind and how we should live. He teaches us the right way of life, the way that produces happiness in the long term. He shows us how to identify and embrace true doctrine and how to identify and reject false doctrine, even in detail. The Bible teaches us the true gospel from beginning to end.

I am thankful to God for the Church of God, that we may have fellowship with like-minded Christians, that we may be encouraged and instructed. I am thankful for God's ministry to instruct us and help us understand the Bible and for all their service and work.

I am thankful to God for the gift of His Holy Spirit to the Church to help us understand His word, the Bible, to help us understand spiritual knowledge, and to help us overcome and make progress in living God's way of life in spite of our evil, carnal nature.

I am grateful for the work God has done through Herbert W. Armstrong to build the Church of God in our time, to preach the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to millions, and to restore many lost truths and doctrines through the Bible, including the plan of God as illustrated by the weekly Sabbath and the annual holy days and festivals of God.

These are general things I thank God for.

But I also thank God for His many blessings for me personally.

I thank God for calling me personally to be part of the Church and the first fruits, opening my mind to understand His truth and the Bible. All of us in the Church have been given the precious gift of the truth in this age, perhaps each of us being only one out of about 100,000 people on the earth to know the truth at this time. That is an awesome gift and calling.

I thank God for allowing me to support His work at this time with my tithes and offerings, my prayers, and my service.

I am thankful to God for His patience and mercy towards me, to forgive my sins and keep working with me to develop His righteous character in me, to correct me and teach me lessons in spite of my faults and weaknesses and my carnal human nature.

I thank God for the health I still have. Although I have health problems common to old age, I can still see, hear, think, and move around, and I can still use my hands for work.

I thank God for a roof over my head and food to eat.

I am thankful to God for the family members I have, though they are not in the Church: sisters, nephews, and nieces.

Then there are many detailed, personal blessings I enjoy that I give God thanks for, too numerous and detailed to list here.

Some of us set goals to put in a certain amount of time in prayer. One way to fill that time is by giving God thanks for his many blessings and to praise God for His goodness and works.

The Psalms are full of praise and thanks to God, and if anyone in the Church feels it is hard for them to think of things to pray about, I suggest mixing prayer with the reading of the Psalms. Rid a bit in the book of Psalms, then pray a bit, then read a bit more, then pray a bit more.

Thanksgiving Day can be a blessing in our relationship with God, if we use it properly. We should give God thanks every day, but on this day, for those who observe Thanksgiving, we can make an extra effort to give God thanks for His many blessings.

Here are links to other Thanksgiving Day messages from past years in this blog:

"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:

"The Habit of Thanksgiving", dated November 22, 2016, link:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 14 - What Philadelphia Is to Hold Fast To

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if we think they conflict with the Bible.

In chapter 8, the COGIW article again compares the office of John the Baptist to the office of apostle because Christ said that John was "more than a prophet" (Matthew 11:7-10), and the only office greater than prophet is apostle (1 Corinthians 12:27-28). But being an apostle is not the only way a prophet can be "more than a prophet". John was more than a prophet because he had a special role to play.

Jesus Christ did not say that John was more than a prophet because he was an apostle, and Christ never calls John the Baptist an apostle. John was more than a prophet because he is the prophesied messenger to come to prepare the way for the Lord. In other words, he is more than an ordinary prophet because he had a specially important role.

As far as comparing John to Mr. Armstrong, the similarities are not exact. John was specifically called a prophet, and Mr. Armstrong specifically said that he was not a prophet. John the Baptist received direct revelation from God, not through the writings of other men, but direct by divine revelation (John 1:29-34). This never happened to Mr. Armstrong. He only received revelation through the pages of the Bible, through the writings of other men as they were inspired by God, the same way we can prove the truth from our own Bibles.

So there is no scriptural proof that John the Baptist was accounted as an apostle or equal to an apostle by God, and there is no proof that whoever comes after John as the Elijah to come will be like John in every respect.

Later in chapter eight, the COGIW article says that that which Philadelphia is to hold fast to (Revelation 3:11) must have come from the individual who was to restore all things (Mr. Armstrong).

That can be true provided we know what Philadelphia is to hold fast to. It is not a list of restored doctrines, A-Z. During much of the Philadelphia era of the Church, all those doctrines had not yet been restored, so how could the church at that time "hold fast" to what was a work in progress? In fact, the attitude of holding fast, that is, "no changes", when applied to a list of doctrines, can actually prevent new doctrines from being restored.

Nor is that which we are to hold fast to a loyalty to and following of Mr. Armstrong personally as the source of truth, because Mr. Armstrong said, don't believe me, believe your Bible. Mr. Armstrong did not set himself up as a source of truth but pointed people to the Bible as the source of truth.

So what are Philadelphians to hold fast to? Is it something that we received from God through Mr. Armstrong? Yes.

What we are to hold fast to is the understanding that we must put the Bible first as a source of truth and doctrine, not Church authority, not Mr. Armstrong, not any man, but the Bible - God speaking. That is the tradition we received from Mr. Armstrong and the source of all other restored doctrines.

What we are to hold fast to is simply what Mr. Armstrong said from the beginning. "Don't believe me, believe your Bible." That statement sums it up. It outweighs everything else.

In other words, part of what we are to hold fast to is NOT believing Mr. Armstrong.

If the COGIW article says, don't believe your Bible, believe Mr. Armstrong, believe Mystery of the Ages - that itself is an abandonment of the most important thing we are to hold fast to.

Another thing we received from Mr. Armstrong that we are to hold fast to is zeal for preaching the gospel to the world. Those who make no effort, or minimal effort, to preach to the general public the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning about the tribulation to come have not held fast to the zeal that was a tradition of the Church of God while Mr. Armstrong was alive.

Those two things must go together. You can't have one without the other. Why?

If you really get your teachings from the Bible, you will have zeal for the gospel, because the Bible very clearly teaches that the Church of God is to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning message.

And if you have zeal for the gospel, the only way you can convincingly preach the true gospel is to say to the public, as Mr. Armstrong did, don't believe us, believe God, believe your Bible.

What if you don't say that to the public? What if you say, "Believe us, because we have the truth. Believe us, because we are the servants of God. Believe Mr. Armstrong, because he was a true servant of God and the end-time Elijah"?

The public will say, "Why should we believe you? We have our own leaders, our own servants of God, our own traditions."

We can't even prove we are the servants of God or that Mr. Armstrong was a servant of God without using the Bible. In the minds of the public, only the Bible can have the authority to overturn what they have learned from their own ministers. We have to tell them to believe the Bible more than any man, church, or tradition, or our message will have no credibility.

But if we say, "Don't believe us, don't believe any man, believe God, believe what you see in your own Bible", then we better practice what we preach or we are hypocrites.

If we say that to the public, we have to practice what we preach, and we are not doing that if we believe Mr. Armstrong more than the Bible.

And if we say to our own members, believe Mr. Armstrong's teachings and do not make any changes or corrections, even from the Bible, then we are elevating Mr. Armstrong's teachings and authority above that of God Himself and His word, the Bible.

That makes us hypocrites, because we say one thing but practice something else. We have a double standard, one for ourselves and one for outsiders. But that is not God's way.

"One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you" (Exodus 12:49).

"You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 24:22).

"One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you" (Numbers 15:16).

"You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

Speaking of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus said, "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). He also called them, "hypocrites" (Matthew 23:13-33). Seven times Christ called them hypocrites, and he also called them serpents and brood of vipers, and asked how they can escape the condemnation of hell.

We must not be like them, setting a double standard, an easy standard for ourselves (just believe your human leaders), and a hard standard for outsiders (Believe the Bible and reject the teachings of your leaders that do not agree. Give up your church, your friends, and even your family if necessary).

To follow the Bible, we have to preach the gospel to the world. To preach the gospel to the world effectively, we have to ask people to believe the Bible more than any man or tradition. But to say that without becoming hypocrites we have to practice the same thing and say the same thing to our members - believe the Bible first, more than Mr. Armstrong, more than our doctrinal traditions, more than any man, and more than the Church itself.

Mr. Armstrong said that to the public over the radio, and Mr. Armstrong practiced what he preached, believing the Bible over Church of God Seventh Day doctrines and traditions. Many of those who heard Mr. Armstrong and did what he said, proving everything in the Bible and believing what they saw in the Bible more than their traditions, became members of the Church of God, and the Church saw outstanding growth during that time in radio stations, in magazine circulation, in income, and in membership.

God blessed the Church with growth and effectiveness in preaching the gospel because He saw that many in the Church practiced the way of life that the Church was teaching the world - the way of believing the Bible more than man, any man, and more than the church, any church.

In other words, the Church of God was practicing what it preached. That is a recipe for success in preaching the gospel to the world.

That is what Philadelphia is to hold fast to!

If we believe Mr. Armstrong more than the Bible, that belief in Mr. Armstrong's teachings disqualifies us from preaching the true gospel to the world effectively. Mr. Armstrong said to his radio audience, don't believe me, believe your Bible. We must do the same.

God will surely test us on this, just as he tested Mr. Armstrong.

But if we pass the tests God gives us and choose to believe the Bible more than Mr. Armstrong's teachings, to believe and trust God rather than man, and are willing to make corrections and additions to Mr. Armstrong's doctrines as God, through the Bible, directs us, then God can bless our efforts to preach the gospel to the world as He blessed Mr. Armstrong's efforts, and the work will grow as it did before.

And the work has to grow, for there are hundreds of millions of people who need a warning about the tribulation to come and who need the encouragement of the true gospel to prepare them for the trials they will face ahead.