Monday, December 17, 2018

Does God Punish Even After He Forgives?

Suppose we sin. God punishes us. We repent and ask God's forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ who suffered and died to pay the penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven. We learn our lesson, turn from our sin, and stop sinning. And God forgives us.

But the trial God put us through, the punishment for the sin that God used to wake us up and bring us to repentance, continues.

Is God still punishing us for a sin He has forgiven? Is that possible?

When we understand that the purpose of the punishment is to enforce a lesson we will remember, for our good, the answer is, yes. God may continue to punish us for a sin He has already forgiven.


A prime purpose of a trial or punishment for a sin we have not repented of may be to bring us to repentance - to wake us up and help us realize our need to repent and stop sinning, or if it is a one-time sin to help us realize our need to make amends and be determined not to repeat the sin. Once we have repented and turned from our sin, that purpose has been achieved.

But there can be a secondary purpose for a trial or punishment even after repentance, and that is to reinforce a lesson and continue to remind us that there are unpleasant consequences of sin.

There is an example in the Bible of a man who was punished by God for a sin even after he repented and God forgave him.

King David sinned in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. He committed adultery with Uriah's wife, Bathsheba. She became pregnant, and to cover up his sin, David murdered Uriah (2 Samuel 11:1-27).

God used Nathan the prophet to confront David and make him realize what he had done (2 Samuel 12:1-12). David repented, and God forgave him. "So David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.' And Nathan said to David, 'The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die' " (2 Samuel 12:13).

But God had declared punishments that would come upon David because of his sin. " 'Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' Thus says the Lord: 'Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun' .... because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die" (2 Samuel 12:10-14).

Did those punishments come upon David even after God forgave him? Yes. The child died (2 Samuel 12:15-23). Absalom, David's son, killed another of David's sons, Amnon, for raping Absalom's sister (2 Samuel 13:1-29). This was the beginning of the fulfillment of Nathan's prophecy that the sword would not depart from David's house. Then Absalom himself rebelled against David and was killed by Joab and his men (2 Samuel 15:1-37, 2 Samuel 18:9-15), fulfilling what God said, that He would raise up adversity against David from his own house. David's friend and counselor, Ahithophel, joined Absalom in the rebellion, and later committed suicide (2 Samuel 15:31-34, 2 Samuel 16:20-23, 2 Samuel 17:23, Psalm 55:12-15).

Even after God told David through Nathan that he was forgiven, He said the child born to Bathsheba would die, which it did.

This happened, and it was an occasion of suffering for David (2 Samuel 12:15-23).

What was happening here? If God forgave David as indicated in 2 Samuel 12:13, why did God punish David after forgiving him?

God forgave David spiritually. He was not cut off from a relationship with God. God did not take His Holy Spirit from David (Psalm 51:1-19). The death penalty - eternal death in the lake of fire - was not hanging over David's head. David would not lose his salvation because of this sin. In that sense, he was forgiven.

But God wanted to reinforce a lesson. David had some suffering to go through to thoroughly learn the evil consequences of his sin. This suffering, this punishment, was for training and educational purposes, for David's good. There may also have been some justice involved. Uriah, if he were alive, would perhaps have wanted vengeance. Uriah had no opportunity for that, nor had he the right to take personal vengeance for himself even if he remained alive and had opportunity. That is not because vengeance is wrong in itself, but because it belongs only to God. "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19).

And in this case, God may have extracted vengeance on Uriah's behalf upon David in David's physical lifetime.

Whatever the reasons, God punished David after forgiving him.

This is something to remember. If God brings a trial upon us because of our sin, a punishment for sin - maybe a health problem or other ongoing trial - and we repent and turn from our sin, if the trial continues, that does not mean God has not forgiven us or is unjust. God may simply want to reinforce a lesson for a while.

This physical life is a test, but also a training program. We are being taught and trained. Trials and punishment are part of that training. As much as we may hate trials, they are part of the program. We have to trust God that He knows what He is doing and has our best interest in mind.

We must not give in to discouragement in these cases.

"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).

How to submit humbly and with a right attitude to the punishments and trials God gives us is an important lesson we must learn if we are to grow spiritually and overcome our sins.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Give Thanks for the Blessings of Others

We are taught in many places in the Bible to give thanks to God for His many blessings.

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever" (Psalm 106:1).

"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" (Ephesians 5:18-20).

"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).

"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men" (1 Timothy 2:1).

Giving thanks to God should be a way of life for us in the Church of God.

But when we give thanks, do we thank God for our own personal blessings only? Or do we also thank God for the blessings others enjoy?

We are one body in Christ. Even though we are scattered geographically and organizationally, we are still one body because we have one Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God. That is what makes us one body.

When we pray for our own needs, we should also pray for the needs of the whole body and all its members.

Likewise, when we give thanks to God, we should thank Him for the blessings He has given to others in the Church.

"And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually" (1 Corinthians 12:26-27).

Perhaps you have a happy marriage in the Church. You should give God thanks for that marriage. But suppose you do not have a happy marriage. You can still give thanks, not for your own marriage, but for the happy marriages so many members in the Church are blessed with. You can, and should, thank God for those marriages and for the happiness they give to other members. Likewise, if you do not have a good job, you can thank God for the jobs He has provided to other members in the Church.

Some of us may feel lonely and frustrated with our problems. Maybe we are unemployed, without family, without friends, and in poor health. Some may feel they do not have much to be thankful for.

But if we know the truth of God and are trying to live by it, there is hope for us of eternal life. We can give thanks for that hope and for God's promises. We can give thanks even in the midst of trials. Even when God punishes us for our sins, we can give thanks to God that He cares about us enough to work with us to help us turn from our sins and become overcomers.

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent" (Revelation 3:19).

"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).

Not all suffering is punishment. Some is for the purpose of testing our faith and love towards God.

But it is clear that the Christian life is not all physical blessings.

Remember the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus was not blessed in this life. But he made it into the kingdom of God. "But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores....But Abraham said [to the rich man], 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented' " (Luke 16:20-25).

"Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4).

We are not all blessed in this physical life. But whether or not we are physically blessed, we should rejoice and give thanks for those in the Church who are blessed because we are members of the same body and we should love each other as we love ourselves.

When we give thanks, let us remember to thank God not only for our own personal blessings but for the blessings He has given others.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

United States Mid-term Election Results 2018

Last Tuesday there were elections in the United States for state and local offices and for the United States Senate and House of Representatives.

Prior to the election, the Republicans held a majority in both houses of Congress (Senate and House of Representatives).

In the election, the Republicans held control of the senate but lost control of the house. The Democrats will have a majority in the House of Representatives when the newly elected representatives take office in January.

What does this mean?

The house can launch investigations of Donald Trump, and they can make his next two years more difficult. They can, if they wish, start impeachment proceedings. The actual trial of an impeachment would take place in the senate, however, and it is unlikely a Republican senate would vote to convict Mr. Trump. Thus, the Democrats will not be able to remove Mr. Trump from office.

Reaching agreement between the house and senate on budget and other bills will be more difficult and contentious.

Row vs. Wade may be challenged sometime in 2019-2020, but if it is it will be challenged by state law, not federal law. Any of a number of Republican-led states can pass laws against abortion hoping that the new conservative Supreme Court will overturn Roe vs. Wade. It is possible that may happen.

If it does, it will not stop abortion. A woman who wants to have an abortion can go to a state that allows it. It might stop some abortions in some states, but most abortions will continue.

The Democratic house will not pass a bill against abortion, so there will be no challenge to Roe vs. Wade on the federal level in 2019-2020.

If the Democrats in the house try to pass a bill guaranteeing women the right to have an abortion, it would not pass in the Republican senate, and even if it did President Trump would veto it. So the Congress split between two parties will not make major changes to abortion law. The challenge to Roe vs. Wade will only come from the states.


The new Congress does not take office till January. Till then, the Republicans still control both houses and we have a republican president and a Supreme Court with a conservative majority. It is possible, if there is the political or moral will to do it, for Republicans and conservative Supreme Court justices to stop abortions nationwide for the next couple of years.

The Republican controlled Congress can pass a law right now, and the president can sign it, that would outlaw abortions. Then it would be up to the conservatives on the Supreme Court to decide whether to uphold the law and overturn Roe vs. Wade, thus ending legal abortions, or to keep Roe vs. Wade and rule the new law unconstitutional, thus allowing abortions to continue. The new Democratic House of Representatives coming into office in 2019 will not be able to reverse what the 2018 Congress has passed because the Republican senate will not approve a reversal of the bill.

The Republicans have had plenty of time over the past many months to prepare such a bill and make plans for its passage.

But I have not heard or read of any such planned effort to pass such a bill while the current congress is still in office.

Personally, I do not think most conservative Republicans are in any real hurry to stop abortions. The will to hurry such a bill through Congress is not there. Conservative Republicans want the anti-abortion vote. They want to appear righteous. But they are lukewarm about follow-through.

That may be because of the effect of abortions on demographics.

A disproportionate number of abortions are performed upon black unborn babies. Blacks make up about 12% of the United States population, or maybe a little more. But I have read figures that the percentage of abortions in the black community is much higher - something like 40-50% of all abortions are among blacks.

What this means is that, if abortions were stopped, the black population would increase far faster than the white population and far faster than their present rate of increase.

I haven't seen statistical studies, but it would be interesting to see a study that would estimate the black population that would exist today if the abortions since Roe vs. Wade were not performed. I would imagine that it would be far greater than now, maybe up to 20-25% of the population. This would in turn give the black community, most of which is liberal Democrat in political leanings, more political power in this country.

I think that is what some conservative Republicans are afraid of. I think that is why some of them may be hypocrites - pretending for the sake of getting Catholic and conservative Christian votes that they are against abortion and want to save unborn lives, but in reality wanting abortions to continue.

That is just my opinion.

But the fact remains that Republicans in Congress and conservatives on the Supreme Court have the power to outlaw abortions in the next few weeks while the current Congress is still in office. It is their choice. If they do not do it, they have chosen to allow abortions to continue for at least the next two years, whatever their reasons.

Let's assume they will do nothing in the current year. Then, what will happen?

Abortion may be a big issue in the next presidential election two years from now in 2020. If during the next two years one or more states challenge Roe vs. Wade and if a conservative Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade, then the congress and president elected in 2020 will have the power to go either way. A liberal Democrat congress and president can pass a federal law overturning state laws against abortion and guaranteeing women the power to have abortions in all states. It would have the same effect as Roe vs. Wade, but it would be from the elected Congress and president, not the Supreme Court.

Or, if a conservative Republican congress and president are elected in 2020, they can pass a law outlawing abortions in all states, and most abortions can be stopped.

This puts the responsibility for abortion directly upon the voting public in a way that hasn't happened before.

God holds us as a nation responsible for abortions. It is one of the sins of the nation that we will be punished for in the great tribulation.

"Also on your skirts is found
The blood of the lives of the poor innocents.
I have not found it by secret search,
But plainly on all these things" (Jeremiah 2:34).

Yet, the general voting population can say, "It is not our fault. The Supreme Court gives women the right to have abortions, and our votes don't count. We have never been able to stop abortions."

But if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade in response to challenges from state law in the next two years, the nation will not have that excuse. They don't have that excuse anyway, but some may think they do. That will change.

Abortion may be the biggest issue in the 2020 elections. Voters will directly choose candidates pledged to support or stop abortion.

And under those circumstances, if the nation deliberately chooses to let abortions continue, people will understand if God holds the people responsible and begins to punish the nation as never before.

The Church of God may not be the only ones giving a warning of God's punishments to come. The 2020 election may be when political issues and religious issues begin to merge. Interest in prophecy may also increase.

Watch for the slim chance that Congress may pass a law against abortion in 2018. If that does not happen, and I think it won't, then watch in the next two years for some states to pass laws against abortion, challenging Roe vs. Wade, and look to see if the conservative justices on the Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade. If Roe vs. Wade is overturned, this will dump the whole issue in the hands of the voters. Then watch which way they decide in the 2020 election.

If they decide in favor of abortion, watch for prophetic events to get hot.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

"Double Portion of Your Spirit" Does NOT = Prophet

2 Kings 2:9-15 tells of the time when the prophet Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. At the same time, his office and responsibilities were transferred to Elisha who was to be prophet in his place (1 Kings 19:15-16).

Elisha asked Elijah for a "double portion of your spirit" (2 Kings 2:9). What did that refer to? Did it mean becoming a prophet? Was a prophetic office indicated by the term "double portion"?

No. That is impossible.

The Bible does not specify exactly what was meant by that term and everything it indicated. Perhaps it referred to the power to work signs and miracles. But it did not indicate the office of prophet.

How can we know this?

Elijah knew what it meant, and he was not sure God would grant Elisha's request. "So he said, 'You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so' " (2 Kings 2:10). This actually shows that it could not have been the office of prophet. Why?

Elijah already knew that Elisha was to be prophet in Elijah's place. God had told him.

Turn back to 1 Kings 19:15-16: "Then the Lord said to him: 'Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place' ".

Since God already told Elijah that Elisha was to be prophet in his place, how could Elijah not know it and say, "if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so"? (2 Kings 2:10), if the double portion referred to being a prophet?

I bring this up because some think that if a minister anoints someone and asks God to give that person a double portion of God's Spirit, that is the same thing as ordaining that person as a prophet. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In previous posts I have made the point that making the request for a double portion does not mean God grants the request. Even Elijah did not know if God would give Elisha what he asked. Even today, when a member is anointed for healing, which is promised, God does not always heal even in this lifetime, and a double portion of God's Spirit is not even promised.

But now I am showing that the "double portion" does not even refer to being a prophet.

It can't. Elijah knew Elisha would be prophet from what God had told him in 1 Kings 19:16. He would not have answered Elisha as he did if "double portion" meant the office of prophet. The matter of Elisha being a prophet was not a question at this point. It was already settled. Not so the "double portion". That was something else. Elijah did not know if God would grant that request.

So the "double portion" Elisha requested and the office of prophet were two different things.

How do we know if a man in the Church of God is a prophet? Only God can make someone a prophet. But how do we know if He has done so?

God gives criteria.

One is, he must be faithful, overall, to God's way of life. He must be faithful to strive to believe and live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4). That does not mean he is perfect. But overall, he must be faithful to teach the truth. In particular, he must not try to turn the people to false gods. "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'—which you have not known—'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).

This includes not pointing the people to demon-inspired messages about the future. "For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you" (Deuteronomy 18:14).

A man who quotes and publishes and spreads pagan and demon-inspired prophecies about the future, trying to learn and teach from demons details of the future that God does not choose to reveal, disqualifies himself from being a true prophet.

But also, a true prophet of God is given prophecy by God. God gives prophecy - sure prophetic messages by direct revelation from God - to His true prophets. And a sign of a prophet is accurate predictions in those messages of future events. When a prediction in a prophetic message comes true in a way that is unlikely by chance, that is a sign that the man is a true prophet.

"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).

I find no example in the Bible of a prophet without prophecy. Any man who claims to be a prophet but who has never received a direct prophetic message from God is practicing wishful thinking.

Those are two qualifications for being a prophet - not turning the people to false gods, false doctrines, or messages from demons, and actually receiving prophetic messages from God - messages about the future that can be verified when the future event comes to pass.

Both are needed.

What if someone who claims to be a prophet of God makes a prediction that comes to pass, but also turns people to demon-inspired pagan prophecies? Is that person a true prophet?


God may allow a false teacher to make a true prediction as a way of testing His people to know if they will believe His word, the Bible, or not. See Deuteronomy 13:1-3 which I quoted above.

So even if a man can make true predictions about the future, if he points people to pagan and demon-inspired messages, he cannot be a true prophet of God.

How much less a man who claims to be a prophet, points people to pagan prophecies, and cannot even make his own prophetic predictions.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Why Division Concerning Calendar and Holy Days?

Someone emailed me with a question: Why do Christians differ in calculation of appointed times, and how can we know?

I thought my answer to this would make a good post, so here it is.

God gives directions for the appointed times of His Sabbaths and feast days in the Bible, and it is from the Bible that we can know the dates.

The weekly Sabbath day, the seventh day from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, is easy for anyone who believes the Bible to understand. The weekly cycle has been kept by the Jews, wherever they are in the world, for centuries since the time of Moses until now. There is no serious disagreement about when the seventh day is, although most traditional churches prefer to observe Sunday.

God uses the seventh-day Sabbath day to test those who want to live by every word of God, as Jesus said (Matthew 4:4). You don't need a church organization to know when the seventh day is.

But the annual holy days are more complicated. God gives instructions in the Bible that tell us when these days occur, but you have to put scriptural passages together from different places in the Bible to understand them properly. And sometimes, a judgment is required to make a decision God has given leaders in the Church the authority to make.

Part of the problem is that the annual days - Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day - all depend, directly or indirectly, on a calendar.

But God does not give an exact calendar in the Bible.

Most, not all, disagreements among those calling themselves "Church of God" about when these days occur involve disagreements about what calendar to follow.

But God gave authority for deciding these issues to the leaders He has appointed. God's leaders do not have the authority to contradict or disobey the Bible. But they have the authority to make judgment calls to decide details that are not spelled out in the Bible.

In the Old Testament, God gave this authority for Israel to the Levitical priesthood. "If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the Lord chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you. Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously" (Deuteronomy 17:8-13).

In the New Testament, for the Church of God, God gave this authority to the apostles and the ministry in the Church. "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19).

This is good, because it is a way God can test our willingness to submit to the leadership of those He has placed in authority over us. "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17). "Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct" (Hebrews 13:7).

This authority that God gives to the leaders He appoints is for the purpose of maintaining unity and enabling the Church to work together as a team. It is necessary that we learn this lesson because unified teamwork is the pattern of how we will function in the millennium and for eternity in the Kingdom of God.

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:11-16).

So, difficult questions about the exact timing of the calendar and annual holy days and festivals are decided by the leadership and ministry in the Church of God.

So, as God tests each Christian with the weekly Sabbath day to know if that person will obey God directly when God's word, the Bible, is simple and easy to understand, so God can use the calendar and annual holy days and feast days to test each person to know if they will submit to the judgment of the Church of God leadership and ministry as He instructs in matters that may not be simple and clear from the Bible and easy to understand.

Now for some history of this issue in the Church of God in modern times.

When Herbert W. Armstrong was first converted, he had to be willing to obey God by keeping the seventh day Sabbath. It was a hard test for him, but he finally obeyed God. He also learned at that time from the Bible that Christians are also to keep the annual holy days and feasts of God.

He began to fellowship with the Church of God Seventh Day. They knew about and kept the seventh day Sabbath. But they did not observe the annual holy days and festivals. So Mr. Armstrong and his family had to observe the annual days alone.

In the matter of the calendar, Mr. Armstrong recognized that God committed the "oracles of God" (which would include the calendar issues) to the Jews (Romans 3:1-2), and also, this was the calendar in effect when Jesus Christ, our perfect example, kept these days. So Mr. Armstrong made the judgment to follow the Hebrew calendar.

Mr. Armstrong eventually left most fellowship with the Church of God Seventh Day when he raised up the Radio Church of God, later renamed Worldwide Church of God. As this Church grew and the work of God expanded, and as God revealed to Mr. Armstrong more and more new doctrinal knowledge from the Bible, Mr. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God recognized that God was using Mr. Armstrong as an apostle.

As I understand it, during all this time, Mr. Armstrong, as Pastor General of Worldwide, taught the Church to observe the Hebrew calendar. This was in line with the authority God gave to the apostles and the ministry to make binding decisions (Matthew 16:19).

That did not eliminate every controversy regarding the holy days and festivals, because a few issues remain even when we agree on a calendar. But at least the calendar was a base upon which most observance of annual days can be based from clear Bible instruction.

Can men, ministers, and even apostles make mistakes? Yes. For years, Mr. Armstrong thought Pentecost was on a Monday, and the Church thus observed it. But that was an error due to a misunderstanding of scripture. Later, Mr. Armstrong corrected his mistake and taught that Pentecost is on a Sunday, which is correct.

That raises a question. What should a Church member have done during the time when Mr. Armstrong was teaching a Monday Pentecost if that member could see in the Bible that this was a mistake and it should be Sunday? Should the member obey Mr. Armstrong and keep it on Monday or obey God and keep it on Sunday?

I believe the correct answer is, both. And I think some did exactly that. There is no reason for division here.

Such a member could obey God by quietly resting and reading the Bible on Pentecost Sunday to obey God, without making an issue of it with the Church or discussing it with other members, and also resting and attending Church services on Monday with the rest of the Church. That would be obeying God, obeying the ministry, and avoiding division.

After the death of Mr. Armstrong, his successor, Mr. Tkach, began changing doctrine and Worldwide split up into a number of fellowships, each with a different leader or form of governance. I think God allowed this because we, as a Church, had become Laodicean, lukewarm, and it served God's purpose to let the Church become scattered to test us and try us and teach us lessons.

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16).

This left members to turn to God, turn to the Bible, and really study the issue of where to attend and who to support. I think members with spiritual discernment understand the need to attend with and support an organization that is governed from the top down and is actively doing God's work of preaching the gospel to the world.

Even so, the vast majority of members and major fellowships continued in the traditions and judgments of Mr. Armstrong regarding the calendar and holy days. This includes Living Church of God, United Church of God, and most or all of the other large organizations that came out of Worldwide. Only some small groups reject Mr. Armstrong's judgment in these matters.

I have studied these issues myself to a certain degree, and as far as I can tell, Mr. Armstrong was completely correct in the calendar and holy days once he corrected his Pentecost error.

Why do some groups do things differently?

I cannot judge if their leaders are sincere. I cannot read minds. If a man is not sincere, he may make an issue of the calendar or holy days just to create a following. Or, if he is sincere but is not whole-heartedly following God and the Bible, God may have removed from that man the spiritual discernment to realize his error.

Of all the fellowships, I think Living Church of God is doing the best job of being faithful to God's instructions in the Bible including the annual holy days and festivals. They follow the same schedule Mr. Armstrong followed and taught, and I follow the same.

Why is there this division in the whole Church of God?

God allows it to test us, to force us to dig into the Bible, to be zealous, to search out where He is working, and to test our obedience both to His word, the Bible, and to His appointed ministry.

Friday, October 12, 2018

New Supreme Court Justice - What It Can Mean for the Church and God's Work

Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed as new justice of the Supreme Court. He is a conservative. For the first time in decades, conservatives are a majority on the Supreme Court, outnumbering liberals five to four.

Liberals in the United States have been advancing their liberal agenda and values for decades, with some success. That agenda has a number of characteristics. It is anti-God and anti-Christianity. It is pro-abortion. It is pro-homosexuality. And it is against freedom of speech and freedom of religion when such expression goes against liberal values.

All these things can affect the Church and the work of preaching the gospel.

Liberals would like to ban public messages that criticize homosexuality, and that can include the teaching of the Bible. They characterize Bible teaching as "hate speech" and try to build a culture and legal environment that will not tolerate God's teaching on the subject.

So far, the liberal effort has not advanced to the point where our ability to preach the gospel in the United States is seriously hindered. But that is the direction it has been heading.

But a conservative Supreme Court should help to slow down the liberal agenda that threatens the preaching of the gospel.

The liberals will not give up. But for the time being, they can no longer depend on the highest court to back them up.

This suggests that the Church will still have a number of years left to finish God's work of preaching the gospel and delivering the Ezekiel warning of the tribulation to come. The door is still open and is likely to remain open for a while.

But we do not have an unlimited number of years. New elections and new Supreme Court vacancies can change things again.

There is another possible effect of this new, conservative Supreme Court.

Will Roe vs. Wade be reversed?

It is possible.

And if that happens, the abortion battleground will move from the Supreme Court, over which voters have only indirect control, to the Congress and presidency, over which voters have more direct control through their votes.

In other words, the American people will become more directly responsible for the way the country goes on abortion.

Up till now, people can say, we don't want abortion but the Supreme Court forces the nation to allow it. Neither the Congress nor the states can outlaw abortion because the Supreme Court won't allow them.

But suppose that sometime in the next two years before the next presidential election Roe vs. Wade is overturned. Both Congress and the states would be able to stop abortions.


Congress would still be able to pass a law that gives women the same power to have abortions that Roe vs. Wade gave them, and federal law will override state law. Abortions would continue.

That is unlikely to happen while Donald Trump is president. He would veto any attempt by Congress to guarantee women the legal right to have abortions.

But 2020 is a presidential election year. If a liberal democrat wins the presidency and a liberal majority wins control of Congress, they could pass a federal law guaranteeing women the power to have abortions, and that law would override state laws. Abortions would continue just as they did with Roe vs. Wade.

On the other hand, a conservative president and Congress could pass a law prohibiting abortions in all states.

What this means is that abortion could be a HUGE issue in the 2020 presidential and congressional elections.

For the first time since Roe vs. Wade, the American voting public will have very direct control over the lives of millions of unborn children - control to determine whether they are murdered or not. They will elect a president and members of Congress who will stop abortions or allow them to continue.

God is teaching mankind lessons and He is preparing the great tribulation to punish the United States (and other countries) for their sins.

But for the people to understand this punishment and to learn their lessons, they need to know that they are responsible for their sins and the sins of the nation. This will be easier for them to understand if they elect a Congress and a president that allow abortions to continue.

So it may be that if the American people, at a time when abortion is a top campaign issue, choose through their elected officials to let abortions continue, that God's time will come to hold the nation directly responsible more than before. Dramatic punishments may soon begin after that, and the American people will begin to understand that these punishments are connected with their decision to allow abortions.

Watch for a possible reversal of Roe vs. Wade in the next couple of years. Then watch which way the nation chooses in the election of a president and members of Congress. This may give us a clue as to when God's punishments on the United States will increase.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Last Great Day - God's Fairness and Wisdom

The eighth day after the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles is the Last Great Day, a feast of God separate from, but connected with, the Feast of Tabernacles.

This day pictures the general resurrection of the dead, also known as the White Throne Judgment. It pictures a time, after the millennium, when the vast majority of mankind that had died are resurrected back to physical life. This is pictured by the valley of dry bones passage in Ezekiel 37:1-14.

This event is described in Revelation 20:11-15.

The billions who have lived and died since the time of Adam will be brought back to life. The billions who never had a chance to hear, understand, and believe the true gospel and repent and be converted, the billions that much of traditional religion has assumed are lost, will be given a chance for salvation. No one ever born will miss out on salvation because of circumstances of birth.

They will live in two worlds. They will have lived in this present evil world ruled by Satan - a world that practices Satan's way of life. And they will live in the general resurrection period (perhaps 100 years - see Isaiah 65:20) when Satan is put away and the whole earth is ruled by Christ and the saints in justice, peace, prosperity, and happiness. And they will be able to compare.

They will be able to compare their experiences with Satan's way and God's way, and they will be able to see, if they are willing, that God's way is better. And they can make their choice to accept the truth of God, to accept Christ and the gospel message, to repent, be baptized, and be converted, and be saved.

No doubt the majority will choose to be saved, but each person will have to choose.

But people will also have to choose to forgive. When the billions who have lived and died over centuries are brought back to life at one time, murderers and their victims will be alive together. Hitler will be alive with the millions of Jews who died in Nazi concentration camps as a result of his murderous policies. Hitler will have to repent if he wants to be saved, but if he does, his victims will have to forgive him if they want to be saved. That will not necessarily be easy.

But that is the choice people will have to make.

This is all part of God's great plan for the salvation of mankind.

This shows the wisdom, love, and power of God that He will use this plan to teach mankind a lesson that will enable the greatest number to be saved. It also shows God's fairness and justice that no one will miss out on an opportunity to be saved.

How great God is!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Millennium Prepares for the General Resurrection

The Feast of Tabernacles 2018 will soon start. This is a seven day festival to teach us and remind us of the coming one thousand year reign of Christ and the saints over the earth, a period pictured in many psalms and scriptures as a period of great joy, peace, justice, and happiness over all the earth.

"And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4-6).

"For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this"
(Isaiah 9:6-7).

"There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them
The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea"
(Isaiah 11:1-9).

"Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say,
'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.'
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore"
(Isaiah 2:2-4).

"And in this mountain
The Lord of hosts will make for all people
A feast of choice pieces,
A feast of wines on the lees,
Of fat things full of marrow,
Of well-refined wines on the lees.
And He will destroy on this mountain
The surface of the covering cast over all people,
And the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken"
(Isaiah 25:6-8).

"Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

"Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.
Sing to the Lord with the harp,
With the harp and the sound of a psalm,
With trumpets and the sound of a horn;
Shout joyfully before the Lord, the King.
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands;
Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
With righteousness He shall judge the world,
And the peoples with equity"
(Psalm 98:4-9).

People will be taught the give way of life. They will learn to live that way of life, as we do, both by instruction and by practice. They will learn the way of love by living that way - they will learn by doing.

One way they will learn is by working and sacrificing to prepare for the general resurrection - the white throne judgment period - as pictured by the Last Great Day. This will be a time when billions of people will be brought back to life and given an opportunity to learn and believe the true gospel, repent of their sins, be converted, and be saved.

But those people will need to be housed, clothed, and fed. They will need to be provided for, and a great project will be needed during the millennium to prepare for them. This is a way the people living in the millennium can practice the give way of life by contributing to the preparation for the billions in the general resurrection to be provided for.

In like manner, we in the Church of God also learn the give way of life by doing. We love our neighbors as ourselves by putting our love into action, and one way we do this is by supporting the preaching of the gospel and warning of the coming tribulation to the general public which needs this message to prepare them for what is to come.

Just as the people in the millennium will prepare for the general resurrection, so we in the Church need to be preaching a message that will prepare the world for the events soon to occur. This will help the world to realize that God was fair to tell them, through us, ahead of time what is about to happen, and that will help their repentance and make it easier for them to trust God. This will also help prepare them to have a humble, trusting, and teachable attitude at the beginning of the millennium, which is so vital for their conversion and the happiness of that time.

Those in the first generation of the millennium will have lived in two worlds - this present evil world and the happy world tomorrow under the reign of Christ. But those who are born in the millennium will not know this present evil world, except as they are taught.

I imagine that they will find it amazing how evil this present world is. It may even be that some will find it difficult to believe. They may need to exercise faith to know they are being told the truth.

Some may be spiritually lazy. But they will need to develop zeal and take the truth of God seriously. Not all will necessarily be converted and saved in the end, for at the end of the millennium Satan will be released and some will be deceived.

"Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them" (Revelation 20:7-9).

Likewise, we in the Church must not become spiritually lazy, but we must be zealous and on fire for God's truth, for God's law, and for God's work.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Putting Satan Out of Our Lives

Atonement represents and reminds us that Satan will be put away - put into a condition of restraint so that he cannot deceive the nations - after the return of Christ and at the beginning of the millennium.

But we in the Church have an opportunity - and a responsibility - to put Satan out of our lives right now, in a limited sense.

We cannot put Satan and his influence out of our lives completely, as he will be put away during the millennium. Satan still broadcasts his wrong thoughts and attitudes through the air (Ephesians 2:1-3). He still tempts us. He still rules this society and world and creates circumstances that make it difficult for Christians, both because of persecution and because of the temptations created in society.

But we can put some of Satan's influences out of our lives by limiting or eliminating our exposure to many of the elements of this world that Satan uses to influence people, primarily, the entertainment and recreation of this world: television, movies, Internet videos, games, etc.

This world's entertainment is corrupt and ungodly in many ways. Violence is a common theme. So is sex. The occult is often portrayed. God's name is commonly taken in vain as an expression of surprise or emotion. Music is corrupt.

It is hard to find good programs to watch.

We can diminish Satan's influence over our minds by avoiding wrong entertainment and recreation, which, sad to say, includes most entertainment this world offers.

In this way, we can, to a degree, put Satan and his influence out of our lives. We can also limit Satan's influence by choosing, when possible, the friends and people we spend time with, and by putting wrong, Satan-inspired thoughts out of our minds.

Atonement can remind us of this, just as the days of unleavened bread teach us to put sin out of our lives.

"If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell" (Matthew 5:29). This is figurative - we are not to mutilate our bodies. But this shows the seriousness with which we should limit what we watch.

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17).

The Feast of Tabernacles represents the millennium, one thousand years of happiness on the earth under the rule of Christ and the saints. The absence of Satan's influence will be one reason for that happiness which the Feast pictures. It is therefore especially important to be careful about the entertainment we enjoy during the Feast. This is an opportunity to get away from the ways of the world - let's make it as complete as possible by avoiding wrong entertainment during the Feast.

And all through the year, let's limit and carefully screen the entertainment that we expose ourselves to. That will make putting sin out of our lives easier.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dual Meaning of Atonement

The next annual holy day after Trumpets is Atonement.

Atonement is listed with the other holy days in Leviticus 23:1-44. "Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath" (Leviticus 23:27-32).

The Day of Atonement is a holy day, an annual sabbath, and the Church of God rests on that day, assembles for services, and fasts on that day (no food or water for 24 hours, from sunset to sunset).

It is interesting that there are eight commanded annual days of observance listed in Leviticus 23 where the Church is to hold services of some kind: Passover, the first day of unleavened bread, the last day of unleavened bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day. Yet there are seven feast days and seven holy days (a holy day is an annual sabbath, a day of commanded rest).

Passover is a feast day, but not a holy day. We can work on Passover day. Atonement is a holy day, but since we are to eat no food on Atonement, I don't think it is to be considered a feast day.

We know from the account of the two goats in Leviticus 16:7-31 and from Revelation 20:1-3 that one of the meanings of Atonement is the putting away of Satan after Christ returns. The goat that is killed represents Christ and the goat that is released in the wilderness represents Satan.

But Atonement has a dual meaning. It also, like Passover, represents the sacrifice of Christ for our sins and the forgiveness and reconciliation with God that that sacrifice makes possible.

It addresses the question, who is responsible for our sins, Satan or ourselves? Are we responsible for what Satan tempts and deceives us into doing?

The answer is, both. Satan has his share of responsibility, and he is banished as a punishment. But we also have a responsibility for yielding to Satan's temptations, and our penalty is death. But Christ paid the penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven.

The account of the two goats does not indicate that Christ pays the penalty for Satan's sin. Satan bears his own penalty.

After Christ returns, Satan will be put away in a condition of restraint and not allowed to deceive and tempt mankind anymore. For the first time in the history of mankind, the earth will be free from Satan's influence.

This is one reason why the millennium, represented by the Feast of Tabernacles, will be a time of peace and joy over all the earth.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Day of Trumpets Teaches Us Many Lessons

It's that time of year. The fall holy day season is upon us.

Unlike the traditional churches of this world, the Church of God observes the annual holy days and feasts that God has ordained in the Old Testament (Leviticus 23:1-44).

The first of the fall holy days is the Day of Trumpets. The command to observe this day is given in Leviticus 23:23-25: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, saying: "In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord" ' ".

Like all of the feasts and holy days of God, Trumpets has important meaning and helps us understand God's truth. This meaning and truth is lost on the traditional churches that do not keep these days as God has commanded, because God gives understanding to those who obey Him. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10).

Though the command to keep the day is in the Old Testament, the meaning is made clear in the New Testament.

We learn from Revelation that a series of Trumpet blasts occur at the beginning and during the one-year period known as the Day of the Lord, a time when God punishes the world for its sins (Revelation chapters 8 through 11).

We also learn from the epistles of Paul that the saints will be resurrected and Christ will return at the last trumpet blast.

"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed - in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).

Like the other feasts and holy days, Trumpets helps us learn and understand a number of doctrines. Trumpets teaches us about the return of Christ to set up His kingdom on the earth, which is an important part of the seven-thousand year plan of God. It, along with Pentecost, helps us understand about the Church being the first fruits, because it is the first fruits that are resurrected at the last trumpet blast. It also helps us understand that man does not have an immortal soul, for it shows that a resurrection from the dead is needed for this mortality to put on immortality - we do not have immortality yet (1 Corinthians 15:53). It helps us understand the Day of the Lord, which starts with the first trumpet blast.

And when we consider the holy days, their meaning, and the whole plan of God that is made clear, and add to that the history of the Church, we can be reminded that we need always to be willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible as God reveals it, for it was the lack of such willingness to learn new knowledge that prevented the Church of God Seventh Day from learning about the need to keep the annual holy days and from learning the knowledge of the plan of God they help to reveal.

None of us knows when the Day of Trumpets will be fulfilled, although it seems it must be near. But on an individual, personal basis, the Day of Trumpets may be fulfilled for any of us at any time. We never know the day of our death, but if we are faithful, the next second of our consciousness after we die will be the resurrection to immortality - entrance into the kingdom of God - that takes place in fulfillment of this day.

Many of the holy days and feast days are related. Trumpets is related to Pentecost, with Pentecost marking the beginning of the first fruits and Trumpets the end when we receive our reward. Pentecost marks a major beginning of the Church preaching the gospel to the world (Acts 2:1-41), and Trumpets is a major fulfillment of that message.

The resurrection of the first fruits, a major meaning of the Day of Trumpets, will mark the first time in the history of the universe when God's family expands from two (God the Father and the Word, Jesus Christ) to many. Christ will marry His bride, and this will be a great time of joy for God as well as for us.

Friday, August 31, 2018

In Defense of New Knowledge

Sometimes members of the Church of God who listen to the sermons of their pastors and teachers feel that they need to hear something new and interesting. They feel bored with sermons that only remind them of things they already know.

Is it wrong to want to hear something new? Does it indicate "itching ears"?

The "itching ears" metaphor appears in 2 Timothy 4:3-4: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables". In this context, it indicates ears that are itching to hear something false, something wrong, something that is heresy - not just something new. It is thus a derogatory metaphor, indicating a desire to hear something wrong, something that is not sound doctrine.

But that is not always the case with a desire to hear or learn something new.

There is another Bible passage that refers to the people's desire to hear something new. "For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing" (Acts 17:21).

Why do people want to hear new things?

Some might say, it is carnal human nature and it is wrong. But is it?

If you look at the surrounding context of the passage I just quoted, and the results, you will see that Paul made use of his audience's desire to hear something new to preach the truth of the gospel to them (Acts 17:22-33) - and it bore some good fruit. "However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them" (Acts 17:34).

People heard the gospel because they wanted to hear something new. And some of them believed the gospel because they were willing to learn something new.

Some readers may remember a book that was popular many years ago called, Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler. The main theme of the book is how the pace of change in society creates stress.

But in discussing change, the book points out that we all need a balance between things that are familiar and things that are new in order for us to be happy and function well and be in good mental health.

If we experience too much change too fast, our brains have difficultly processing all the new information and we become stressed, and that stress reduces our mental efficiency, can cause depression, and can even increase the risk of physical sickness.

On the other hand, if we do not have enough new things in our life, if everything is always the same, we can become bored, and the boredom itself can be stressful and harmful.

So we need a balance in our lives between things old and new, between familiar knowledge and experience and new knowledge and experience.

Christ said, "Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old" (Matthew 13:52).

God made the human mind to need that balance between old and new. God gave man a sense of curiosity and joy in learning new things. And the desire to learn new things is not wrong.

Also, as brought out in Future Shock, that balance between old and new, between the familiar and change, is not the same for everyone. As individuals, we vary in our need for and tolerance of change. Some people handle change better than others.

Individuals who like a lot of change are often seeking new experiences. They never vacation to the same place twice. They change jobs frequently, and sometimes even change careers. They change apartments or houses frequently, sometimes moving to different parts of the country.

Others who like more stability - more of the old and familiar - tend to live in the same place, keep the same job, and take the same vacations year after year.

Good speakers in the Church of God understand the principle of giving both old and new in their messages. The main point of their sermon or sermonette will be the old and familiar sound doctrine we need to be reminded of, yet they will also find ways to make it new and interesting. They may use scriptures and examples from the Bible that most of their listeners may not be familiar with to support the doctrine. They may give historical background not commonly known. They may illustrate the application of the doctrine with examples from their personal lives or the lives of others that are new to their listeners. But they find ways to make the reminder of old doctrine new and interesting in some way.

What does the history of the Church of God tell us about this? Does it teach the need for new knowledge, or does it teach the need to be reminded of the knowledge we already have?

The history of the Church of God teaches both.

The history of the Church certainly teaches that we have a need to be reminded of the truths we already know. We saw that lesson after Mr. Armstrong died. Many COG members quickly abandoned the sound doctrine they used to believe. They needed to be reminded of the sound doctrine they had and the proofs in the Bible of those doctrines. But they either didn't have that reminder in their instruction and their own studies, or they didn't believe the scriptures that proved those doctrines. They fell away from the truth.

This also occurred with many in the Church of God in the late first century and in the second century.

But the history of the Church also shows the need for new knowledge and the need for people - members of the Church and new prospective members coming into the Church - to receive and accept new knowledge and to grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).

Those being called by God have to respond to that call by being willing to learn the new and surprising things God has to teach them as they learn the truth for the first time.

The most obvious application is the growth of the first century Church of God as well as the Church in modern times. Everyone coming into the Church of God has to be willing to learn a lot of truth they didn't know before, a lot of new knowledge. Most of us have heard stories of old timers describe what it felt like to hear Mr. Armstrong expound on the meaning of the holy days and the plan of God at their first Feast of Tabernacles, and how they were astounded at the new truth they heard - it was a life-changing experience, one they never forgot.

Yet, for everyone who heard Mr. Armstrong, or the first century apostles, preach the gospel and believed it, though it was new to them, there were probably many who rejected the truth because it seemed new and strange to them - they wanted to just stick to the things they thought they knew. Because the truth was new to them, it seemed strange, and they rejected it. "I have written for him the great things of My law, But they were considered a strange thing" (Hosea 8:12).

But has this been a problem only for those outside the Church?

No, it can be a problem even inside the Church of God. That also is something the history of the Church teaches us.

Some of that history is recorded in Mr. Armstrong's autobiography.

Mr. Armstrong describes his experiences with the Church of God Seventh Day, with which he fellowshipped and worked. Mr. Armstrong was learning many new doctrines from the Bible, some of which the Church of God Seventh Day had (the Sabbath, tithing, clean and unclean meats), and some of which they did not have (the holy days, the identity of the lost ten tribes of Israel). Mr. Armstrong shared the new things he learned with the Church at that time, but they rejected them. They only wanted to keep the knowledge they already had, but not learn anything new.

It was not a reminder of old knowledge they needed but instruction in new knowledge. But they were not willing to learn.

Mr. Armstrong later identified them as the Sardis Church, a Church of God that had a name that they were alive, but were dead. "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, 'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead" ' " (Revelation 3:1).

The time had come for the gospel to be preached to the world, but God could not use the Church of God Seventh Day to do it. Why? Two reasons.

One, God wanted the new knowledge Mr. Armstrong was learning from the Bible to be included in that gospel message, and since the Church of God Seventh Day refused to learn it, they could not preach it.

Two, and more importantly I think, God was not willing to use someone to preach the gospel who did not practice what they preach.

When we go to the public and preach the truth to them, we are asking them to be willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible. But we must have the same attitude that we want them to have. If we ask others to learn something new, we have to continue to be willing to learn something new ourselves. If we close our minds to new knowledge, then preach to the public things that are new to them, asking them to be willing to learn new knowledge and not be prejudiced against it, we are hypocrites for asking people to do what we are not willing to do ourselves.

So God could not use Church of God Seventh Day. Instead, He used Herbert W. Armstrong, a man who loved the truth, all the truth, even truth that was new to him.

And Mr. Armstrong retained that love of new knowledge all his life.

Today, in the Church, if the ministry does learn something new from the Bible, they often tend to downplay the newness of it, as if they are ashamed to be teaching something new. They will sometimes call it a "clarification".

But Mr. Armstrong was not like that.

When he learned and taught something new, he loudly proclaimed it as new. He would say, here is new knowledge, brethren. He often spoke of Church of God Seventh Day and their rejection of new knowledge, and he taught that we must be different.

When we hear something new, the criteria of whether it is good or bad, true or false, is not whether it is new or old, but whether it is taught by God in His word, the Bible, or not.

That is the criteria the Bereans used when they heard something new. They didn't reject it because it was new. Rather, they searched the scriptures to find out if it was true. "Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men" (Acts 17:10-12).

In searching the scriptures, they were able to determine that the new things Paul and Silas taught were true, and they believed the gospel.

If we are not willing to learn new knowledge and be corrected by the Bible, as we teach the public to be willing to do, it is unlikely God will open the door to preaching the gospel very much for us. He is more likely to reject us as He rejected Church of God Seventh Day for the same reason and give the open door to someone else.

There is still a great work to be done before the end, and God will empower those who are willing to believe and be corrected by and be taught by the Bible to do that great work.

Let's not be prejudiced against things that are new just because they are new, but let's all let the Bible be our guide in determining what is true, whether old or new.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Jonah's Warning Message

There are many lessons from the book of Jonah. The book of Jonah is a prophecy about Christ and a sign of His Messiahship (Matthew 12:39-40, Luke 11:29-30). This is emphasized in a sermon given by Mr. Dexter Wakefield. Mr. Wakefield also pointed out something I had not noticed before. When Jonah fled from God the first time God told him to give a warning message to Nineveh, and the ship he was on was threatened with destruction, Jonah told the men to throw him overboard (Jonah 1:10-12). As Jonah being in the fish and in the sea three days and nights was prophecy about Christ being in the grave three days and nights, so it is also symbolic that, just as the death of Christ reconciles us to God, so the men on the ship were saved after they threw Jonah overboard - the sea became calm for them (Jonah 1:14-16).

Here is a link to Mr. Wakefield's sermon:

There are many lessons for us in the book of Jonah. Mr. Wakefield concentrated on the sign of Jonah being fulfilled in Christ and gave historical background to help explain why the Ninevites were so wicked and why they took God's warning from Jonah seriously.

I would like to cover an additional lesson from Jonah.

One lesson is the need for the Church of God to deliver God's warning message to the nations.

Today the Church of God is scattered into many fellowships. Some of these fellowships make little or no effort to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning of the punishment of the great tribulation to come upon the nations of Israel if they do not repent. They say that this is not the time because the Church needs to first concentrate on overcoming and drawing closer to God before we preach to the public.

They say that the Church of God has problems and we must get our act together. We must reconcile with the Father more than we have in the past before we preach to others. We need to be spiritually healed. They say, God will not bring members into the Church if we are not setting a good example for them. The Church is in such bad shape today that God will not call new members into the Church until we overcome our problems and draw closer to God and set a better example. Only then will God bless the preaching of the gospel to bring in new members.

Whether they mention the "beam in the eye" analogy that Christ gave or not, it is likely that many of them have it in mind when they teach that this is not the time for the Church to preach to the public. "And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye" (Matthew 7:3-5).

This point of view may seem to make sense until you look deeper. You have to look at all the scriptures on a subject and let the Bible interpret the Bible.

The fallacy in this way of thinking is the idea that we are doing the correcting when we deliver God's warning message to the people. If that were the case, then indeed the "beam in the eye" principle would apply. We would need to get the beam out of our own eye so we can see clearly to get the speck out of our brother's eye.

But that is not the case. We are not correcting the public. It is not our message. God is correcting the public, through us. It is God's message of correction. We are only the delivery man delivering the message from God.

And God is more than qualified to correct the world for its sins. God has no beam in His eye that He has to remove to see clearly how to correct the world.

And He commands us to deliver His message (Proverbs 24:11-12, Ezekiel 3:4, 17-21, Matthew 10:5-7, Matthew 28:19-20, Matthew 10:27).

Does God use those who have faults to deliver His corrective message? Yes. Jonah is proof of that.

If there was an example of an Old Testament prophet of God who needed to be spiritually healed, who had character and spiritual problems, who needed to seek a greater reconciliation with God, it was Jonah.

Jonah did not have a right attitude towards God. He disrespected God's authority. God gave him a job to do and he ran from it (Jonah 1:1-3). Later, after God punished him and brought him to repentance, he delivered the message he was told to deliver. But still, his attitude was not right. His preaching brought about a great repentance, and God spared Nineveh as a result, but Jonah was displeased by that (Jonah 3:4-10, 4:1-4). How far his mind was from God's mind! How unlike God was His thinking. He did not have love for his neighbors, the Ninevites. He was angry towards God because of God's mercy.

Later, because a plant died, Jonah was angry towards God, angry enough to die (Jonah 4:6-9).

Those are pretty serious spiritual problems. Jonah certainly had a beam in his eye that prevented him from seeing things clearly.

But God saw things clearly, and God saw that the Ninevites needed a warning message. And God commanded Jonah to preach God's message exactly as God framed the message. "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you" (Jonah 3:2). God knew what the Ninevites needed to hear even if Jonah did not.

And the message got results. Nineveh repented.

Jonah's spiritual problems and bad attitude did not prevent the message he delivered from God from getting good results. The people repented.

If God did not intend those who have serious spiritual problems to deliver His warning messages to those who need it, He would not have used Jonah to deliver a warning to Nineveh.

The fact that the Church has spiritual problems is NOT an excuse to disobey God's commands to preach the gospel to the world and a warning message to Israel.

In fact, refusing to obey God's command to warn the wicked is itself a spiritual problem that needs to be corrected.

Jonah's reluctance to deliver God's warning to Nineveh may be a prophecy of the Church of God's reluctance to deliver God's warning to the nations of Israel today.

There is one more example of one who was unrighteous that God used to preach the gospel. That example is Judas.

Judas was not clean in God's sight (John 13:10-11). He was a thief (John 12:4-6). He betrayed Christ and later committed suicide (Matthew 27:3-5). Christ said he would have been better off if he had never been born (Mark 14:18-21). You can't get much worse than that.

Yet, Christ used Judas as an apostle. He was called an apostle (Matthew 10:1-4). Judas, along with the other eleven apostles, preached the gospel, cast out demons, healed the sick, and baptized (Matthew 10:5-9, John 4:1-2). Some of the 120 who received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost may have been baptized by Judas. Judas was apparently just as effective as the other apostles in preaching the gospel and performing miracles, because they didn't know that he was the one to betray Christ. They had to ask Christ who the betrayer was (John 13:21-26). Judas seemed to be the same as all the apostles.

Now, how could Christ have used Judas, a man with a beam in his eye, to correct and teach the world? The answer is that the message Judas preached was not Judas's message - it was Christ's message, and Christ received it from the Father. Judas and the other apostles (and they had faults too, though not as serious as Judas's) only delivered God's message, not their own, just as Jonah was commanded to deliver God's message, not his own.

I don't disagree with those that say that the Church of God has problems. But we still need to deliver God's message to the public as He commands us. We won't draw closer to God, be reconciled with the Father, and be spiritually healed by running away from our responsibilities as Jonah tried to do.

Does that mean that our spiritual condition has no effect on the success of our efforts to preach the gospel and the warning message? No, I am not saying that. The more we obey God, the closer we are to God, the more God will bless us and bless our efforts to preach the gospel and the warning. Drawing closer to God, being reconciled with the Father, being spiritually healed, overcoming our sins - all of these things help us be successful in delivering God's message to the world.

It is the Philadelphians who are promised an open door, not Laodiceans.

But we have to do both at the same time. We have to obey God by delivering His message to the world even while we learn and develop the habit of obeying him in other ways. We cannot deliberately postpone or reject obedience to God's commands to warn the world and expect to be spiritually healed that way.

Those Church of God groups that want a closer relationship with God, but are not preaching the gospel, need to start preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world as best they can, even while they draw closer to God in other ways at the same time. And members who want to draw closer to God need to support a fellowship that is delivering God's message to the world, not just to the Church of God.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Review of Sermon by Mr. Wallace Smith

Recently Living Church of God (LCG) published a sermon by Mr. Wallace Smith entitled, "Engage the Power of God's Spirit", published 5/20/2018.

Here is a link to the page with that sermon:

I thought it was an excellent sermon, and I recommend it to anyone who wants the Holy Spirit to be more active in their minds and life.

In the sermon, Mr. Smith gives six ways to engage the power of God's Holy Spirit. His points are practical, straight-forward, and easy to understand.

In the beginning he talks about the desire of some to hear new knowledge, and he explains that there is a need to be reminded of what we know. He then reviews the meaning of the holy days.

I find his talking about the need for Church members to be reminded of what we know as a Church more than to be taught new knowledge, then his six points on how to engage the Holy Spirit, ironic, for me anyway, but I mean this in a complementary way.

I find it ironic because what he taught in his sermon was actually new knowledge, for me personally. Maybe for others it was not new, but for me it was new, and I have listened to sermons regularly in the Church of God for almost 40 years. And it was very good. Mr. Smith explained something I did not fully understand before.

I have had a pet peeve about some speakers in the Church of God over the years. Sometimes they would say that we need to "use the Holy Spirit", but they don't say what they mean or how to do it.

"Use" is an active verb. It means we take some sort of action. So how are we to "use" the Holy Spirit? I know what it means to use paper and pen to write something. I know what it means to use a computer keyboard, or to use a cell phone. So what does a speaker mean when he says, "use" the Holy Spirit? What am I supposed to do? Say some magic words? Put my mind in some kind of meditative state or trance? What? Speakers often don't say. It is as if they are aware of some special, mystical mental process that they think their listeners know about, and they are saying to do it, but not what it is or how. It is as if they have some secret knowledge I do not have. It irritates me when they speak that way.

But while Mr. Smith uses the word "engage" rather than "use", he does give practical points on how to make the Holy Spirit more active in our minds and how to have access to the power of God's Spirit.

I won't summarize his points here - I'll let you get those from the sermon if you want to listen to it. Click the link above.

But basically he explains that the Holy Spirit becomes active in our minds when we do certain things that the Holy Spirit will help us with. One example is Bible study. Then he gives six things to do, that, when we do them, the Holy Spirit automatically becomes more active in our minds to help us do them. Bible study is one example, but there are five other points he gives.

There was nothing new for me in the six points themselves, but I learned at a deeper level the truth that when we do these things, we are engaging or "using" the Holy Spirit, because God's Spirit automatically goes into action to help us when we do these things. This is how we can "use" the Holy Spirit.

This sermon was helpful to me and I recommend it to others.

Thank you, Mr. Smith.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Pentecost Lessons

This coming Sunday, May 20, is Pentecost, one of God's seven annual holy days and festivals. It is called "Pentecost" (meaning, count fifty) in the New Testament (Acts 2:1) and "the Feast of Weeks" in the Old Testament (Exodus 34:22).

For ancient Israel, it represented the early spring harvest. For the New Testament Church of God it represents the coming of the Holy Spirit and the start of the New Testament Church (Acts 2:1-4).

The Church is a kind of first fruits, not the first of the first fruits, which is Christ, but the first of the harvest of souls among men. This is a small harvest because only a few are called in this church age, in contrast to the many who will be called during the millennium and the white throne judgment.

This is the tie-in between the Old Testament meaning of the day and the New Testament meaning. This day represents an early spring harvest in the Old Testament and the start of the Church of God in the New Testament. And the Church is an early harvest of souls.

The tie-in between Old Testament meaning or explanation and New Testament meaning exists for all the holy days and festivals, but it is more obvious for Pentecost than for some of the other festivals. Even some in traditional churches can see some of the meaning of "first fruits", as applied to the Church, in Pentecost.

Pentecost represents the Church of God. It represents the gift of God's Holy Spirit. It represents the Church as first fruits, a comparatively small early harvest of those God calls. It represents the truth that God is not calling everyone, or even very many, in this age of man.

But Pentecost also represents several important principles and lessons for the Church.

One is the need for preaching the gospel to the world.

That is the first thing Peter and the apostles did on Pentecost after receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:14-42).

Pentecost is the anniversary of the founding of the New Testament Church. And it is also the anniversary of the preaching of the gospel by the Church. The Church, in the person of Peter, began preaching the gospel the same day the Church received the Holy Spirit. It is evident that the Holy Spirit led Peter and the Church to preach the gospel.

Another lesson is the lesson of government.

A significant lesson of Pentecost is that there is a first fruits, an early small harvest, before the main harvest. And this means hierarchy.

God did not design His kingdom to be flat in authority, with every person reporting directly to Christ and no one having greater authority than anyone else.

He could have. God could have planned for everyone in His kingdom to report personally and directly to Christ and to no one else. There would be no requirement for a first resurrection or for anyone to be called in this age. Christ and the angels could rule the millennium, and all who would eventually be saved could come up in one resurrection.

But God did not plan His kingdom that way. He built hierarchical government into His kingdom. There is a first fruits, and they will be in the first resurrection and will have authority over the human race in the millennium.

There will be organization, with some saints having authority over other saints.

David will be king over Israel (Jeremiah 30:9). The apostles will be over the twelve tribes (Matthew 19:28). This means David will have authority over Peter, John, James, and the rest of the twelve apostles in ruling Israel.

And that means, to learn the lessons we need to learn in this life to prepare us for that kingdom, we need to learn to submit to the authority of those God has placed in offices of authority in the Church. It also means that those holding those offices must learn how to rule with justice, compassion, wisdom, and love. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13).

"And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues" (1 Corinthians 12:28).

Another lesson is the importance of believing the Bible.

This may not at first seem evident as a lesson of Pentecost.

Peter based his message to the crowds on Pentecost on three things. One was Old Testament scriptures and the things people knew from the scriptures (Acts 2:16-21, 25-28, 34-35). He referred to scripture to make his points. Another was the miracle of tongues, which the crowd had witnessed (Acts 2:4-16). This miracle was a sign from God that backed up the words of Peter and the apostles. A third thing was the eye-witness testimony of Peter and the apostles regarding Jesus Christ - His teachings, His miracles, His murder, and His resurrection (Acts 2:32).

Today, we do not have the eye-witness testimony of living human beings to the events of the Bible, and we do not have apostles or prophets who work public miracles. But we do have the miracle of the Bible.

The Bible is a miracle.

Anyone with an open mind can prove the inspiration of the Bible by its internal consistency and by fulfilled prophecy. We can prove that the Bible is God's word - God speaking.

The principle here is that God backs up His message by miracles. In the days of Peter and the original apostles, speaking in tongues and healings were the miracles to back the message (Acts 3:1-26). Today, it is the Bible itself, which was not complete and widespread in the days of Peter.

God is fair. He requires that we believe what He says, but He does not require that we blindly believe that a message is from Him without proof. He gave the proof in Peter's day by miracles of tongues and healings. He gives us the proof today by the Bible.

And just as Peter used Old Testament scriptures and knowledge and miracles to prove his message, so the Church today must prove its points by the Bible when preaching the gospel. We must give the proof that our message is from God. We can't expect or require that the public take our word for it - "Believe us because we are the true servants of God - the true Church - and this is where God is working". Rather, we must say, as Mr. Armstrong said, "Don't believe me, believe your Bible - believe God".

But herein lies a problem for many COGs that try to preach the gospel. They say this to the world. They say the right thing to the public. But they don't say the same thing to their members. They practice a double standard. They want their members to believe their interpretation of the scriptures rather than what the members can see and prove for themselves from the Bible. In this manner they direct the faith of the members, in matters of doctrine, towards the Church and the ministry rather than towards God and the Bible. They compete with God for the faith of the members.

It is this inconsistency that can cut us off from God's blessing for preaching the gospel.

A test for any Church of God administration is this. Do they teach their members to believe the Bible first, but not to talk about their disagreements with other members?

Just about every COG leader and minister knows that you cannot allow members to promote their pet theories contrary to the doctrines of the Church because that would cause division. So how is that prevented or minimized?

There are two ways. One is to teach the members that they are to believe the doctrines of the ministry, even if they do not see it themselves in the Bible. Many COGs take this approach.

And if that approach is followed, it certainly helps to build organizational unity and loyalty, but it does not build faith in God, and it does not help to preach the gospel.

The other approach is to direct the faith of the members toward God and His word, the Bible, in all matters of doctrine. Members are to believe what they see in their own Bibles. But if they disagree with the Church in some matter, they should not discuss it with others, except with the ministry.

This approach does not cause division. It promotes peace and unity in the Church. It teaches respect and obedience towards the ministry. It creates consistency between what we tell the public and what we practice among ourselves, and that consistency will enable God to bless our efforts to preach the gospel to the world.

Pentecost is all about the Church of God. It includes lessons about how the Church should conduct itself, in practicing hierarchical government and respecting the ministry, in putting God and His word the Bible first in matters of doctrine and faith, and in preaching the gospel to the world.