To practice what we preach, so God gives us a wide open door to finish His work, we need to do what we ask others to do.
When we preach to the world, we say, don't believe us, don't believe any man or church or tradition - believe God - believe your Bible.
This is the message Mr. Armstrong preached, and God gave him a wide open door because Mr. Armstrong himself practiced that as a way of life. He always believed the Bible more than any church leader or tradition or man. This was his way of life even before he was an apostle - while a lay member among the Church of God Seventh Day. He always believed God - the Bible - more than the ministry and leadership of the Church of God Seventh Day. This is made clear in his autobiography.
This is exactly what he asked the public to do. Believe God more than your church, ministry, and the traditions you grew up with. And God blessed Mr. Armstrong because he did just what he asked others to do.
If we believe our ministry and leadership more than the Bible, we are practicing a double standard. God will not bless that.
And it does no good to say, we let the Church leadership and ministry interpret the Bible and tell us what it means. That is what the Catholics do, but we are to be different. We have to let the Bible interpret the Bible.
That means, when you read something in the Bible that contradicts, or seems to contradict what the leadership and ministry in the Church teaches, you must make the choice to believe God more than man.
Some make the point, there are times when we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). This is true, but godly obedience starts with faith in what God says, so we must also believe God rather than man.
When the ministry speaks, they back up their points with scripture. We believe the scriptures they quote, not the man himself. We must believe what we believe because we believe God, not because we believe our Church, our leadership, our ministry, or our traditions. And we must prove from the Bible the major things we believe.
As I have made the point many times before, this does not create division if it is handled right.
A member, or the Church leadership itself, may misunderstand a passage in the Bible. Thus, there can be disagreements. If the matter is important to a member, he may, if he chooses, discuss it privately and respectfully with the pastor or headquarters. In some groups, this may not be wise, and a member may be kicked out for asking questions. But you may be able to do this, depending on what group you are in and the temperment and character of your leadership and pastor.
But don't discuss it with the brethren. Don't try to promote your "pet theory" as they call it. Don't contradict the ministry and undermine their authority in the eyes of other members. Don't try to "correct" the Church of God in that way. Offer your correction to the ministry or leadership in private, if they will accept it.
If you create division by contradicting the ministry and promoting your ideas to the members, you can expect to get kicked out, and rightly so (Romans 16:17-18).
And be humble and willing to be corrected by the ministry. The ministry may show you, from the Bible, where you are wrong. Discussion may resolve the problem. But if it does not, believe God, believe the Bible, even if this means not believing all of the traditions and doctrines of the group you are in.
And the leadership and ministry should teach this. If they teach the members to believe them, the ministry, more than what the members see for themselves in the Bible, they are making idols of themselves, putting themselves in the place of God, which they have no right to do. And I think God is not likely to bless that group with a wide open door as long as the ministry teaches a double standard, telling the public to believe God more than man, but telling their members to believe them because Christ leads them (though they don't always follow Christ).
And what of new people coming into the Church? They are coming in because they are willing to do what the Church has told them, don't believe us, believe the Bible. Then, once they are attending our services, they hear a different message: believe us because Christ is the head of the Church and He guides us in doctrine. That is a double standard. Some of them are likely to walk right out again when they see and hear that our leadership does not practice with the membership what it preaches to the public.
This is why I object so strongly to using Christ as the head of the Church to argue for ministerial authority. It doesn't apply, unless you say the leadership and ministry are infallible and always follow where Christ leads. We all know that isn't true.
We need to always believe what we see in the Bible more than any Church, tradition, man, leadership, or ministry. And the human leader of any group needs to teach this to the membership if he wants a wide open door for preaching the gospel or if he wants to be Philadelphian.
I believe that no true Philadelphian will believe any man or tradition more than the Bible, nor will he let the leadership of his group interpret the Bible for him, nor will he assume that what the leadership teaches is true. He won't cause division, but will quietly believe God more than man. For a true Philadelphian, God will give an open door. But if he is in a group whose leadership is not Philadelphian, that door will only be open a little.
And, because God gives the open door to Philadelphians, God will not lead Philadelphians to leave a group that is preaching the gospel to go to a group that is not preaching the gospel or to go to a group that is not giving it priority. That would be the same as taking the open door from Philadelphians, and God will not do that till the work is done.
We have about 500 million people to warn while they have time to repent and escape before the great tribulation begins.
Friday, November 27, 2020
We Must Believe the Bible More than Our Church and Its Leadership and Ministry
To practice what we preach, so God gives us a wide open door to finish His work, we need to do what we ask others to do.
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
The Giving of Thanks and Praise to God
A basic principle of the Christian life and something we should spend time with is the giving of thanks and praise to God. The Bible is full of instruction in this regard.
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6).
"Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2).
"Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name" (Psalm 30:4).
"We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near" (Psalm 75:1).
"It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night" (Psalm 92:1-2).
"Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name" (Psalm 97:12).
"Praise the Lord! 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).
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).
"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).
"Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15).
"Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God" (Psalm 50:23).
"Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being" (Psalm 146:1-2).
"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
"Then a voice came from the throne, saying, 'Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!' " (Revelation 19:5).
There are many things we can give God thanks for.
Each of us knows his or her own trials and blessings, and we can thank God for our individual blessings. But we can also thank and praise God for His general attributes and blessings He gives to all of us.
We can praise God for His perfect knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and righteousness. We can acknowledge that His will is better, wiser and more righteous, than ours. We can praise Him for his perfect choices, decisions, and works.
We can thank God for His entire creation - the angels, the universe, and mankind. We can thank Him for His wonderful plan of salvation He offers to mankind, including the fact that all people, regardless of circumstances of birth, will have a chance for salvation, and including the awesome potential He offers us to become members of His divine family for eternity.
We can thank Him for Jesus Christ, and we can thank Jesus Christ for His sacrifice and saving work He does for us.
We can thank God for His word, the Bible.
All of us in the Church can thank God for our calling, as firstfruits, and for our minds being opened to understand His word, the Bible.
We can thank God for the Church of God and the ministry. We can thank God for His Holy Spirit and all its benefits.
Each of us can thank God for our individual blessings, and even in those things in which we are not blessed, we can thank God for those blessings He gives to others in the body of Christ, for we are all members of one body. "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Corinthians 12:26). So let us rejoice and give thanks even for the blessings other members of the Church of God enjoy even if some of us do not enjoy those blessings ourselves.
We can give thanks for the general blessings of life that most of humanity can enjoy: food, drink, family life, beauty in nature, etc. God has made and given all these things to make life enjoyable.
Let us all give praise and thanks to God on a regular basis.
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
We Must Strive Hard to Overcome Sin
Last post, I asked the question, is it important to God that we practice what we preach to the public?
It should be obvious to most of us who have read the Bible, but the answer is yes.
It is God's pattern to teach by example as well as instruction.
God teaches us to love. But He and Christ set the example when Christ paid the penalty for our sins with His suffering and death. Paul said, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). See also 1 Corinthians 4:16, Philippians 3:17, and 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9. He instructed Timothy to be an example (1 Timothy 4:12). Christ said to let our lights shine (Matthew 5:14-16).
Christ said that those who do not obey God will not be in the kingdom of God, though they may do wonderful works of healing, or casting out demons, or preaching to others. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matthew 7:21-23).
Notice also, "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).
Christ called the Pharisees hypocrites for laying burdens on others they were not willing to bear themselves. "Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers" (Matthew 23:1-4).
Does the Church of God have an open door for preaching the gospel? Some of the Church does, no doubt for the sake of any Philadelphians within it. But the door is not wide open. It is open a little, like a door ajar, and we can squeeze through the opening to do a small work. But it is not yet wide open for us to do the massive work of warning the nations that we have yet to do. The door is not wide open for us today as it was for Mr. Armstrong. We are not growing at 30% a year, and we are not reaching multiple millions with our literature.
I estimate that when you add up the adult populations of all the Israelite nations - the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, France, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, the state of Israel, and the Scandinavian countries, etc. - you come up with about 500 million people. To warn that many people before the great tribulation while there is time for them to repent and escape the punishment, we need a door that is WIDE open, not open just a little.
But no individual or group in the whole Church of God has a door open that wide for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.
I suggest that with too many of us, we are not practicing what we preach, so God is not blessing us with a wide open door.
While we need to continue to preach the gospel and the warning to the world, we need to also work on ourselves to make sure we practice everything we are asking the public to do in our message.
I am going to suggest three areas where some of us fall short, both in the membership and the ministry. Not all have these problems, but each of us should examine ourselves in these areas.
I will talk about one area in this post, and the other two areas in future posts.
Each of us needs to strive hard to overcome any personal sins we have. Any of us who struggles with sin needs to go all out to overcome and quit sinning. This is what we ask the public to do in our warning message.
To escape the great tribulation, the people in our nations need to repent and stop sinning, and they need to try hard to overcome sin. We must do the same.
And we must not make the excuse to ourselves that it is too hard.
We must strive to overcome sin and our sinful human nature no matter how hard it is. We must ask for and trust in God's help through His Holy Spirit at the same time as we go all out with our own efforts to resist temptation. It is not a matter of God's power or our power. We must use both. Samson relied on God's power to help him overthrow the Philistine temple, but he also pushed with all his might (Judges 16:28-30). It was God's power, probably more than 99%, plus Samson's power, probably less than 1%, that brought down the temple. Samson's power was small, but if he had not made the effort, with all the strength he had, probably God would not have helped him.
How hard must we struggle against sin?
How hard would it be for millions of people in the world that we warn to repent and stop sinning? Remember, most of them are not called.
How hard would it be for an uncalled person who hears our message to repent and escape the tribulation?
You might say, impossible. Without God's calling, they cannot repent.
But remember Nineveh in the book of Jonah.
The Ninevites were not called to conversion in this life. Yet, they repented and escaped the punishment. How can we explain that?
The only way I can understand it is that they did not have the depth of repentance required for conversion, which requires God's calling, yet they were afraid of the punishment. Their repentance was not deep and long lasting. But they repented to some degree, and they changed their behavior at that time to escape the punishment.
And though their repentance was not deep enough for conversion, they heeded the message and repented to the degree they were able, and God honored their repentance by sparing them (Jonah 3:1-10).
The same thing could happen today.
Not with the majority, I am sure. The great tribulation will come upon our nations.
But not everyone will necessarily scorn our message. Some few may be afraid of the punishment and will try to repent and make changes in their lives. And God may honor that kind of repentance, though not deep enough for conversion because God has not called them, by at least sparing them from the worst of the tribulation. God can keep them alive and protect them from the worst of the suffering. They may suffer, but not as much as those who make no effort to heed the warning. They may be slaves, yet God may, in His mercy, let their captors show a little compassion.
God can make a difference between those who try to repent and make changes in their lives and those who laugh or rage against our warning message, even among those who are not called.
But how hard will it be for those people to repent and put their sins away without the help of God's Spirit even with them, much less in them?
It will be harder for them than for us.
Yet that is what we are asking them to do with our warning message.
So we must also do what is hard. We must overcome our sins no matter how great the difficulty and effort. We struggle against sin at the same time we support and deliver God's warning message to the nations.
When we do what we ask others to do, God can begin to give us a wide open door to finish the work as He gave a wide open door to Mr. Armstrong.
Friday, November 13, 2020
Is It Important for Philadelphians to Practice What They Preach?
Philadelphians are promised an open door (Revelation 3:7-8). The context and other scripture seem to indicate that this is an open door for preaching the gospel to the world. Church history, with Herbert W. Armstrong, also seems to confirm that the open door promised to Philadelphians refers to the gospel.
So Philadelphians are to preach the gospel.
But should Philadelphians practice what they preach? Is that important to God? To have that open door, to have it wide open, and to walk through that door, is it a requirement that the Church practice what it preaches to the public? Or will God give us a wide open door even if we preach one thing to the public but do something else ourselves? If we have a double standard, will God give us a wide open door to preach what we ourselves do not practice?
In this post, I am only asking the question. Let the reader think about it. Let each of us examine ourselves, as I examine myself, with this question in mind. Are we willing to do what we ask others to do when we preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public?
This question relating to self-examination perhaps belongs during the time of the days of unleavened bread. But I can't wait.
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
It Looks Like Joe Biden Will Become President
Election results as reported by most or all mainstream news media indicate Joe Biden has won the presidency (by a narrow margin). Although Donald Trump is challenging the reported results in the courts, it looks like he will lose the presidency to Joe Biden. But this is not guaranteed.
This was a close election. The Republicans actually made gains in the House of Representatives, though not enough to obtain a majority. There is a good chance that Republicans will hold a majority in the Senate. This is important because a Republican Senate can restrain attempts by the Democrats to pass radical-left legislation.
This affects the Church of God and the preaching of the gospel. If liberal Democrats had free reign, they could shut down parts of our warning message and try to restrict our freedom to live as Christians.
Conservatives have a 6-to-3 majority on the Supreme Court, and this, plus conservative control of the Senate, can help to restrain the liberal agenda, for a time.
But one effect of the close election and President Trump's challenges is to increase the division in this country. Justified or not, the credibility of Biden's victory has been permanently damaged. During the next four years, while the Democrats control the white house, millions of conservatives will believe that the election was a fraud, that Joe Biden did not really win, and that he should not be regarded as a legitimate holder of the presidency.
On the other hand, if Trump's challenges turn out to be successful and he retains the presidency, the other side will be equally, or more, skeptical.
Either way, the division in this country, which is already extreme, will increase. And a house divided cannot stand (Matthew 12:25, Luke 11:17).
God is allowing the United States to destroy itself from within. Satan is the prime mover in stirring up a spirit of contention and division, and God is allowing him to do it because of our sins.
Moreover, as divisions in the country become more extreme, Europeans will become more skeptical about the reliability of the United States as an ally and our ability to protect them from Russia and other potential enemies. This can motivate them to be more independent and to build an independent military.
One other thing. If it is God's will that conservatives have enough power to keep freedom of religion and speech alive for a number of years, it may be to the advantage of conservatives to have liberal Democrats in charge when long-building problems come to a head and bring various disasters to this country. If there is a severe economic crisis coming, it would be better for conservatives for it to happen on Joe Biden's watch than on Mr. Trump's watch. Republicans may make a rebound in the mid-term congressional elections in two years and the presidency in four years.
Also, Mr. Trump may be able to run for president again in four years, if he can navigate potential personal legal battles till then.
God often gives us the leaders we deserve, even the lowest or basest of men (Daniel 4:17), to test us and teach us lessons in the long run. This principle applies primarily to the world's leaders, but can sometimes apply in the Church of God.
The Church of God is still able to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to Israel and the world, and we should take advantage of this opportunity while it lasts to go all out to support God's message. The time may soon come when we will be restrained from doing so (Amos 8:11-12, John 9:4).
Let's get the warning out now while we can.