Sunday, April 3, 2022

Passover Self-Examination, CGA Preaching the Gospel, Fasting to Overcome Bad Habits, and the Ukraine

UPDATE:

See comment for added scripture.

 

Hi, it's me.

I'm not dead, yet.

It has been a long time since I posted to this blog, and I want to update on a few things.


PASSOVER SELF-EXAMINATION:

Before taking Passover, we should examine ourselves.  Self-examination is part of preparing ourselves to take Passover in a worthy manner.

"Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep" (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

One way we can examine ourselves is by comparing ourselves with the standards of the Bible.  "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Here are passages in the Bible I have found useful in examining myself.

The ten commandments are listed in 2 places, Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.

The sermon on the mount is in 2 places, Matthew chapters 5-7, and Luke chapter 6.

Christ's messages to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are also good to review.  Regardless of what era we are in, any individual can fall into any one, or more, of these seven categories - that is why Christ says let him who has an ear hear what the Spirit says to the churches - all of them.

Also, 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, is a good passage to review for self examination.


CHURCH OF GOD ASSEMBLY (CGA) STARTS TO PREACH THE GOSPEL AND THE EZEKIEL WARNING TO THE PUBLIC

Mr. Sheldon Monson, pastor of Church of God Assembly (CGA), announced at Sabbath services April 2 the start of a CGA effort to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public.  CGA will run radio ads on station WSM AM 650 Nashville.  The radio ads are one minute in length and are narrated and mostly written by Mr. Kevin Lee.  I believe the ads point to a new website CGA has set up for the public.  The website address is themillennium.org.  This website links to the CGA website which links to literature the reader can download from the HWA library.

This radio station is 50,000 watts and can reach 38 states at night.  It is a clear-channel radio station, one that Mr. Armstrong once used.  I think that clear-channel means that no other station uses the same frequency at the same time.  This means that it is easier to hear this station from far away, especially at night.

You can also check out the website WSMonline.com to try to listen to the radio station over the Internet.

CGA has signed a one-year contract with the station.  They plan to run ads 20 times a week for the next 4 weeks to start.

You can also download WSM Mobile App for you mobile device to listen to the station.

The ads and websites are set up for four booklets or topics so far, and the goal is to add two more each month, so in a year about 24 booklets will be set up to be advertised.

Mr. Monson and Mr. Fritts plan to record videos, about 20-30 minutes in length.  These will be posted on one of the websites and later may be made available as podcasts.

I am glad CGA is now starting to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public.  I hope and am praying that they will be successful.

In the past I have expressed concern that God will not give a wide-open door for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to CGA if CGA is not willing to follow the example of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong of learning new knowledge and correcting past mistakes and if CGA is not willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible and believe the Bible more than their own traditions just as they are asking members of the public to do.  I am still concerned about that.

But it may be, that for the sake of some members of CGA who are truly zealous for the gospel and are willing to learn new things from the Bible and believe the Bible more than COG traditions, that God will give CGA a door that is open, perhaps only a little, for preaching to the public.

Every little bit helps.

And if I am completely wrong, and God gives CGA a huge wide-open door, I will be glad for the sake of the gospel, whether I understand the reasons or not.  I will be glad to be wrong if it means the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning goes forward and prospers.

One thing I have appreciated about Living Church of God is that they publish public information from auditing by an accounting firm of their finances once a year.  From those statements, anyone can see how much LCG is spending on preaching to the public vs. feeding the flock.  This is useful for anyone whose heart is in the gospel and the work to evaluate LCG to see how well they are working to get a message out to the public, so individuals can decide whether or not to support LCG.

I realize that CGA is still getting organized, but I hope that at some time in the future CGA will in some way publish similar information, such as total income for a year, how much is spent on feeding the flock (total of minister salaries, hall rentals, travel expenses, etc.), how much overhead, and how much on the gospel (websites and hosting, radio ad expenses, etc.).


USING PRAYER AND FASTING AS A TOOL FOR OVERCOMING BAD HABITS

The Church of God has long advised the use of prayer and fasting for overcoming sin and drawing closer to God.  There is scriptural support for this.

There is no direct statement I have found in the Bible that says that you can overcome Satan with fasting.  But consider these passages.

"And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 'Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.' Then Jesus answered and said, 'O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.' And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, 'Why could we not cast it out?' So Jesus said to them, 'Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, "Move from here to there," and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting' " (Matthew 17:14).  See also Mark 9:17-29.

Also, Jesus, before being tempted by Satan fasted for forty days. After and while fasting, He overcame Satan and all Satan's temptations.  After that He began preaching the gospel.  See Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-15, and Luke 4:1-15.

This fits with the parable of the strong man.  "Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house" (Matthew 12:29).  See also Mark 3:27 and Luke 11:21-22.  Satan is ruler and deceiver of this world.  He is a strong man.  To plunder his house, that is, successfully preach the message of God's truth to Satan's world, we must first bind the strong man and then we can plunder his house.  In a figurative sense, this is what Christ did when He conquered Satan in the temptation in the wilderness.  He overcame Satan by resisting every temptation Satan threw at him.  Then Christ could plunder Satan's house by preaching the gospel.  But notice that fasting was one way Christ prepared Himself to conquer and overcome Satan.

Christ has fully overcome Satan.  But we also should follow the example of Christ in using fasting as a tool for overcoming Satan.

Finally, notice that on the Day of Atonement, when we fast, Satan is bound for a thousand years - see Leviticus 16:7-29, Leviticus 23:27, Numbers 29:7, Revelation 20:1-3.

The Bible therefore associates fasting and prayer with overcoming Satan.  We overcome Satan both to overcome our bad habits and to be successful in preaching God's truth to the world.

But some members may have had the experience of fasting to overcome a problem, yet find that fasting has not helped them.  Things not only do not improve, but may get worse.  They are tempted to conclude that fasting does not work.

But we are to walk by faith, not by sight.  "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).  

Where do you place your trust for the decisions you make and the things you do, in personal experience and observation or in faith, trust, and belief in God's word, the Bible?

We should believe God's word more than our experiences and observations.  

God sometimes tests us, and He may test our faith in His word by not giving us the help we want and expect right away.  But we are to continue to believe God.  God's word teaches that fasting is a way to overcome, and we should believe God's word, trusting Him that He is telling us the truth, and stick with it until we get the results.  If God is testing our faith, we need to make sure we pass the test.

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).  Fasting is a way of diligently seeking God.  He will reward us though He may test us for a while.


THE UKRAINE

I do not have a lot to say about the war between Russia and the Ukraine.  Some things are obvious to those in the Church of God who understand prophecy and the doctrines of the Church.  By invading the Ukraine, Russia is giving Germany and all western Europe a motivation to develop a strong military for their defense.

I do not know how the war will turn out.  Putin could be overthrown by others in Russia who see this as a mistake.  Putin may push ahead and force a victory by superior military force.  He may use poison gas or nuclear weapons.

Russia can be hurt by American-led economic sanctions, but by applying those sanctions the United States can hurt its own dollar.  You can use a weapon against an enemy, but in the process you wear out or use up or damage your weapon.  There is a price to pay.

Sanctions do not just hurt Russia.  They economically hurt countries that impose the sanctions.  Not every country is willing to pay that price, and those that do not will find ways other than the dollar to trade with Russia.  If you are a country not so committed to supporting the western powers against Russia, and there are many such countries, would you rather use dollars to pay a higher price for a commodity from another country or use some other medium of exchange to buy that commodity from Russia at a lower price, thus saving money and helping your own economy?  Some countries will use a different medium of exchange to trade with Russia, and the effect of this will be to weaken the dollar.

So the long-term effect of this war may be to motivate Europe to build a strong, united military and to contribute to the eventual downfall of the dollar.  And if the dollar fails, there will be great inflation in the United States, especially with anything traded internationally.


Everybody, have a great Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Don't forget to clean or throw out your toaster.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Passover Teaching - Spiritual and Physical Healing

We are coming close to Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, and preparations are beginning.  Members may begin to prepare by making plans and by examining themselves spiritually (1 Corinthians 11:27-32, 2 Corinthians 13:5).  Scheduled sermon and sermonette speakers and those who conduct Passover services are making plans on what to say in their messages.

We are taught that by Christ's stripes we are healed.  "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6).

The stripes refer to the beating Christ took before He was crucified.  He suffered so we can be healed.

In the old days of Worldwide Church of God while Mr. Armstrong was alive, the Church emphasized that Christ's suffering paid the penalty for our physical sins - our violations of the laws of health - so we can be physically healed.  This was emphasized so much that I do not remember ever hearing or reading of the spiritual application of that, that we are also healed spiritually.  I do not remember the words "heal" or "healing" ever being applied to our spiritual condition - our character - but only to physical diseases and disabilities.

There is nothing wrong with placing emphasis on certain things to drive home lessons.  Physical healing has not been a doctrine of many traditional churches we came out of, so it needed emphasized teaching.

But spiritual healing is important, and today it should not be neglected.  To be silent on this may be an affirmation that Christ's suffering did not include paying the spiritual price of our sins so our character can be healed.

I have posted about this before for those who want to look up past posts to research this.

Does the Bible ever use the concept of "healing" or "sickness" to refer to spiritual matters, or only to physical diseases?

"Jesus answered and said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" (Luke 5:31-32).  Here Christ directly compares physical sickness with the spiritual need for repentence.

In the Old Testament, God prophesied concerning Israel: "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from him" (Hosea 14:4).  Here, God applies the concept of healing to a spiritual matter - backsliding.  The same Hebrew word for "heal" is used here as is used in Isaiah 53:5 that says that by Christ's stripes we are healed.

So in the Bible, healing does not just refer to physical healing.  It refers to spiritual healing also.  In the Church of God, we may call that character building, but it refers to the process of turning from sin and becoming like God and putting on the righteousness of Christ by the power of God's Holy Spirit. It includes getting rid of bad habits and building good habits and learning to live by every word of God as a way of life.

So the passage in Isaiah that refers to being healed by the stripes Jesus Christ suffered includes both physical and spiritual healing.

Does the Church of God acknowledge this?  Or do we deny the role of Christ and His suffering in making possible our spiritual healing?

The Church and its speakers can teach about the healing taught in Isaiah several ways.  A speaker or writer can simply say that Christ's suffering enables our healing without mentioning spiritual or physical healing.  Or, a speaker or writer can refer to "physical healing" and not include spiritual healing.  Or, he can refer to both physical and spiritual healing.  I believe that last way is the best and most accurate way to teach the meaning of Isaiah 53:5.

Among the Churches of God, this seems to vary.  I know of one group that seems to deny the role of Christ's suffering in enabling our spiritual healing by saying that we are healed physically by His stripes, but saying nothing about being spiritually healed.  Another group simply says we are healed without specifying if we are healed physically or spiritually or both.  Yet another group does say we are healed spiritually and physically.  I have not checked all the groups.

If the Church denies the importance of Christ's suffering to pay the penalty of our sins so we can be spiritually healed, what does Christ think about that?  He endured the suffering so we can be healed both spiritually and physically.  He was motivated by love to do this for us.  If we knowingly deny his role in suffering so we can be spiritually healed, because of fear of men or because of unwillingness to believe what God says, what does Christ think about that?  If we do not acknowledge the importance of the suffering He endured in making possible our spiritual healing, are we not denying Christ and showing a lack of appreciation for what He has done for us?

Christ was willing to suffer so we can be spiritually healed.  Are we unwilling to acknowledge and appreciate that?

"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33).  This is a broad principle.  It can include many things.  There is more than one way to deny Christ.

The Church of God and each of us individually are being tested on many matters.  This might be one of them.

And how hard of a test is this, anyway?  How hard would it be for the Churches of God to simply acknowledge that Christ's stripes make possible both our spiritual and physical healing?  Is this a big deal?  We still keep the doctrine of physical healing.  Is it heresy to say we are also healed spiritually by the stripes of Christ just because Mr. Armstrong didn't include that in Mystery of the Ages?