Thursday, November 23, 2023

Give God Thanks for His Protection

Thursday this week is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a day dedicated to giving thanks to God for His blessings.

The tradition started in a right spirit of gratitude towards God, but as the nation falls away from respect towards God and the Bible (even though our people never really understood much of the Bible or obeyed it, they had a nominal respect), Thanksgiving has degenerated with many people into nothing more than an opportunity for time off from work, feasting, family get-togethers, and football.

God does not command observance of this day, so for members of the Church of God, it is optional.  But if we choose to observe it, we should keep it in a right spirit, not as many in the world keep it, but in a spirit of gratitude towards God.

But even though God does not command the observance of Thanksgiving Day, He does command the giving of thanks and praise to Him, and for some of us Thanksgiving Day is a good opportunity to focus on this.  But we should thank and praise God throughout the year.

We have much to be thankful for.

Many of us (not all) have family, friends, jobs, income, health, and Church of God fellowship, and those who have those blessings can thank God for them.  We in the United States can be thankful for the freedom, safety, and prosperity we enjoy.  Though those things are declining, the United States is still one of the richest, most powerful, and freest nations in the world.  We can be thankful for an open door for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, though that door is not open very wide right now.

We can give thanks for the truth God has revealed to us through the Bible, the Holy Spirit, Mr. Armstrong, and the Church.  We can thank God for calling us as part of the first fruits, which is a rare blessing among the people of the earth.  We can thank God for the awesome salvation He offers us, to become like Christ and enjoy eternal life with the Father and Christ in happiness, joy, and glory.  God is reproducing Himself in man, which is something to be exceedingly grateful for.

We can thank God for the Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Bible.

Above all, we should give God thanks for Jesus Christ and the love the Father shows to us in the Church and to all mankind in Christ.  And we can thank Christ for His sacrifice, the suffering He endured, and for all His saving work, past, present, and future.

We can give God thanks for his wisdom, power, righteousness, and fairness in providing for an opportunity for salvation to every human that has ever lived regardless of circumstances of time and place.

Some people in the Church seem burdened with trials, and it can be a temptation for some to not feel thankful for their present circumstances.  Others, in spite of severe trials and lack of physical blessings in this life, have the spiritual maturity to even give thanks for their trials, knowing that God uses trials to teach us, test us, and develop character in us for our own good.

There is one blessing that everyone who knows God's truth can give thanks for, and that is God's protection from Satan.

Satan is the enemy of God, God's truth, and the Church.  He wants to destroy us and wipe out any trace of God's truth on the earth.  But God does not allow that.

The first part of the book of Job shows Satan's power and God's power to restrain him.  Satan has tremendous power, but God's power is greater, and Satan can only do what God allows him to do.

If God did not restrain him, I have no doubt Satan would destroy every last one of us very quickly.  The fact that we exist is evidence of God's loving protection.

No matter what our trials in this life, we have that evidence of God's love, and we can give thanks for it.

For those of you who observe Thanksgiving Day, have an inspiring and spiritual Thanksgiving.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Mr. Armstrong Understood the Concept of Spiritual Healing

I have posted before about physical and spiritual healing.  I have shown that Christ suffered to pay the penalties of suffering that both our spiritual and physical sins have brought on us.  By His stripes we are healed - Isaiah 53:5 - but that healing includes our spiritual healing as well as our physical healing, and we should acknowledge and give thanks for both.

But there may be some in the Church of God today who do not want to acknowledge the principle of spiritual healing.  They only want to say that the healing Isaiah 53:5 refers to is only physical healing - the forgiveness of our breaking the laws of physical health - physical sins that bring on the penalties of physical sickness, disease, injury, and disability.

They cannot say, "physical and spiritual healing".  The words won't form in their mouths.  They cannot give God thanks for spiritual healing - the spiritual healing of our character that happens as the result of God's Holy Spirit giving us power, love, and a sound mind - in other words, a healthy, healed character.

So they either say "physical healing" with no reference to spiritual healing, or they avoid the controversy and duck the question, perhaps out of fear of some of the brethren, by just saying "healing" without reference to it being physical or spiritual, knowing most will understand it as physical.

Why be afraid of the reaction of some brethren on this issue?  They know it will offend some brethren, those who make an idol out of Mr. Armstrong, and are dead set against anything that goes beyond his major teachings in Mystery of the Ages and his other writings and his sermons.  The fact is, in all of Mr. Armstrong's docrtinal writings, so it would seem, he understood the concept of "healing", and that word, to refer only to physical healing, not spiritual healing.  I suppose they think that the idea that the word "healing" in the Bible can refer to spiritual healing is a Protestant concept.  So for a Church of God leader to say that Christ's broken body and the stripes He endured, symbolized by the broken unleavened bread we take at Passover, pays the penalty of suffering for both physical and spiritual sins and enables our physical and spiritual healing - both - would seem like heresy to some brethren, as if the leader is watering down the truth we learned from Mr. Armstrong - truth those brethren think we should hold fast to.

So to avoid offending those brethren and losing their support, their tithes, and their attendance, the leader will not say, "spiritual healing" - those words won't come out of his mouth.

Yet, Christ suffered to make our spiritual healing possible, and that spiritual healing begins or continues to take place with the receiving of God's Holy Spirit, represented by Pentecost.  We all desperately need God's Holy Spirit and the spiritual healing it provides, and we should give God thanks for it.  But many brethren probably do not because their leaders do not, perhaps out of fear of the rejection of HWA-idol worshipers, who make an idol out of Mr. Armstrong, Mystery of the Ages, and other major teachings of Mr. Armstrong - having faith in those teachings more than faith in God and His word, the Bible.  They think they are "holding fast", but they are not.  They are forsaking the Philadelphian example of Mr. Armstrong of being willing to learn new knowledge from God's word and believing the Bible more than man.

But I would like to remind those brethren of something they may have read in Mr. Armstrong's autobiography and never noticed or have forgotten.  

Mr. Armstrong was familiar with the concept of spiritual healing and the association of the word "healing" with the spiritual health of our character.  He may not have taught it in the context of Isaiah 53:5, but he knew the word "healing" can refer to our spiritual condition.

In the passage where Mr. Armstrong talks about his spiritual conversion, he says he was conquered by God.  He said that when he researched the Sabbath issue he was forced to admit his wife was right and he was wrong.  He said it was the bitterest pill he had to swallow but it was the only medicine that brought real healing.

He used that word "healing" in the context of his spiritual condition, not in reference to any physical disease he had.  Look up that passage in the autobiography and see for yourself.

Then look up the words "heal" and "healing" in the Bible, using a concordance or computer program or website that finds words in the Bible.  You will find one or more instances where healing is used in a spiritual context, including a passage where God says He will "heal" our "backsliding".  "Backsliding" is not a physical disease, it is a spiritual problem.  God says He will "heal" it.

The Bible also uses the term "cleansing" to refer to being spiritually changed to be like God.  Both "cleansing" and "healing" are used in this context, probably "cleansing" a bit more.

It is not unusual for God to use more than one symbol to represent the same thing.  For example, God's Holy Spirit can be represented by water, by oil, and perhaps by wind or air.

There may be distinctions between cleansing and healing in the spiritual context.  For example, Christ at His last Passover with His disciples said they were clean because of the word He taught them.  They had not yet received the Holy Spirit to dwell in them, so perhaps "cleansing" refers to repentance and faith, and "healing" is more in reference to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  I don't know.  I have not tried to research this in detail.  The reader may do so.

We should acknowledge that Christ paid a price in physical suffering so we can be healed spiritually as well as physically.  We should give God thanks for that.  We should appreciate it, especially this time of Pentecost when we think about the gift of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual healing it accomplishes in us.

We should be thankful for God's Holy Spirit, but we should be doubly thankful knowing that we can only receive it because Christ suffered for us.  He paid the price for our sins so we can be spiritually healed by the Holy Spirit.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Waiting!... for Pentecost

"And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father..." (Acts 1:4).

The Day of Pentecost teaches a number of lessons.  It represents the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).  It represents the start of the New Testament Church of God.  It teaches us the lesson of the first fruits, that the Church in this age is only the early, small spiritual harvest of members of the kingdom of God, in contrast to the great future harvest after Christ returns as represented by the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day.  It may represent the work of the Church of preaching gospel to the world, because it was on Pentecost that the Church of God began to preach the gospel with power and to rapidly increase in numbers (Acts 2:14-42).  

I think Pentecost also teaches us the lesson of waiting for God's blessing.  We are taught to count fifty days to Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-16).  

This number 50 reminds us of the Jubilee that came every 50 years in ancient Israel, a time when everyone could return to the land of their fathers and would once again own their own land, a great blessing (Leviticus 25:8-13).  

But the Israelites had to wait for it, and 50 years can be a long time.

Likewise, the disciples had to wait for the Day of Pentecost before receiving the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.

Think of it.  Christ promised the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18, 26).  Then He suffered and died to pay the penalties for our sins so we can be forgiven.  He was also resurrected and went to heaven, making it possible for Him to send the Holy Spirit.  The disciples had already repented.  Yet they had to wait.  They had to wait for the power and love and sound mind that are the fruits of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7).  They also had to wait to preach the gospel.

We also have to sometimes wait for God's promised blessings, yet God is faithful to fulfill His word.  We have to learn to wait and trust in God's faithfulness and promises.  

Pentecost can remind us of that lesson.

Trust in God and wait for Him.

"Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!" (Psalm 27:14).

Friday, March 17, 2023

Self-Examination for Passover

The Bible teaches, and the Church of God has long taught, that we should examine ourselves before Passover in order to take the 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. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

Also, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified" (2 Corinthians 13:5-6).  

To examine ourselves, we need to meditate (think about, reflect) on where we fall short of obedience to God and His way of life.  This helps us to see why Christ had to pay the penalty for our sins, and it helps us to see where we need to work to improve.  We need to measure ourselves by God's law and God's word.

A good way to examine ourselves is by God's word, 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" (Hebrews 4:12).

Here are some scriptural passages I use and may be useful to others as a starting point.  You can use these and add to them passages that help you in particular.


God is love (1 John 4:8).

Love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10).

Love chapter (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).


Love towards God (Deuteronomy 6:5, Deuteronomy 11:1, Matthew 22:36-38, Mark 12:29-30, Luke 10:25-28).

Love towards neighbor (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:16-19, Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28, Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8-13).

Parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).


Weighier matters of the law, justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23).


Exodus (Exodus 20:1-17).

Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 5:5-22).


Matthew (Matthew 5:1-48, 6:1-34, 7:1-29).

Luke (Luke 6:20-49, 11:1-13, 12:1-12, 22-53, 13:23-30).


Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7).
Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11).
Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17).
Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29).
Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6).
Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13).
Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22).


Ezekial warning (Ezekiel 3:17-21, 33:1-20).

Hold back those stumbling to the slaughter (Proverbs 24:11-12).


Here are a few more that help me.

Bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-6).

Whatever is good, think on that (Philippians 4:8).

Be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2).

Trust in God (Proverbs 3:5-6. Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Trust not in man (Psalm 146:3-4, Jeremiah 17:5-6).

Overcome Satan with prayer and fasting (Leviticus 23:27-32, Leviticus 16:20-26, 29-34, Revelation 20:1-3, Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13, Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:17-29).

Avoid violence in entertainment (Isaiah 33:14-16).

Humility (Luke 18:9-14, James 4:5-10).

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

When Is a Test More than a Test?

Any trial can be a test from God.  But sometimes a test is more than a test.  Sometimes it is also correction for a fault - a signal that we need to change something in our lives, in our thinking, in our behavior.  Sometimes God sends us a trial to get our attention and to let us know that something is wrong.  Sometimes God uses a trial to punish us for our good, to correct us, so we make needed changes in our lives - to turn us from a wrong path.

Any trial can be a test of faith.  Actually, blessings can be a test - will we still seek God or will we become spiritually lazy and complacent if He blesses us?

Some of us might want God to test us that way.  If I had a million dollars, would I still diligently seek God or would I rely on my wealth?  I might want God to test me that way, but so far he hasn't.

But a trial can be a test of faith only, or a test and a correction also.

And when a trial comes, or a series of trials, we should certainly examine ourselves to see if God may be correcting us for a fault.  We should not just assume we are OK spiritually and not in need of correction.

Consider how we want the public we preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to to react to our message and the tribulation itself.

Putting ourselves in the place of modern Israel can be a useful exercise, and I have explored this before in this blog, though in a different context to make a different point.

One leader of a group in a sermon has said that it is important that we practice what we preach.  He is absolutely right.

I have used this principle before to show that we must be willing to do what we ask the public to do in our message - to believe God, that is the Bible, more than any man, church, or tradition and to be willing to learn new knowledge, even knowledge that changes and corrects the teachings of our religious leaders, to believe the Bible.  We say to the public, don't believe us, don't believe any man, believe God, believe the Bible.  We must do the same.  We must believe the Bible more than Herbert W. Armstrong and be willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible that he did not have as well as correct his errors.  That is what he did and that is what he would do today if he were alive, and we should hold fast to that way of life that he taught us by his example.  I have also shown that any reluctance to do this because we believe that Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come to restore all things and that, since all things have been restored, nothing needs to be changed, is false and contrary to scripture.  I believe that the Bible teaches that the work of Elijah of restoring all things continues past Mr. Armstrong's death, and I have given the evidence from the Bible in past posts.

But in this matter of examining ourselves to see if a trial is a correction for our faults. the principle of considering how modern Israelites will react to our message and prophetic events also applies.

There are many religious Israelites, Catholic and Protestant for instance, who follow their false traditions and think they are OK with God.  They trust in their traditions they have learned since childhood.  They keep Christmas and Easter, Sunday, etc. but not the Sabbath and holy days.  They think they are right in what they are doing.

What happens when they hear our message?  The vast majority will reject our message as a false message.  They won't believe it.  They will believe their traditions and their church leaders more than the Bible (just as some Church of God members believe Mr. Armstrong's writings and the traditions we get from him more than the Bible).  We warn them that the great tribulation is coming as punishment for their wrong practices and thinking if they do not repent, but they do not believe our warning (most of them).

So the tribulation comes upon them.

But how do they react?  Instead of repenting in the tribulation, they think it is just a test.  "We need to have faith in our traditions of Sunday, Christmas, Easter, the trinity, the immortality of the soul, etc.  God is just testing our faith.  We need to continue to be righteous by keeping our traditions, in spite of our trials."

Then, in the millennium, those who receive no rain because they do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles will say, "God does not want us to go to Jerusalem to keep this feast.  He is just testing our faith by withholding the rain."

God chastens every son that He loves (Hebrews 12:5-11).  But how can He chasten us to teach us lessons if we keep saying, "I am not doing anything wrong - God is just testing my faith"?

If you study trials in the Bible, you will find some that are only a test and not a correction (Abraham told to sacrifice Isaac, Daniel and the den of lions, etc.) and some that are both a test and a correction (Job's suffering).  You will also find the principle of God punishing to turn us from sin expounded in various places.

When we go through a trial, we need to examine ourselves with an open mind to see if God may be correcting us for our faults, and if so, repent.  "He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1).

When God chastens us with trials, He wants us to repent and go a different way, not stubbornly say, "I am right, I am not sinning, God is just testing my faith".  God chastens us to wake us up and teach us lessons.  It is a dangerous thing to resist those lessons.  It is better to cry out to God and say, "God show me where I am wrong" and then examine ourselves with prayer, fasting, Bible study, and meditation to find our faults.

Isn't that what Mr. Armstrong did as related in his autobiography?  At one point, God was not answering his prayers, so he fasted and prayed till he found out what was wrong with him.  Here is one more lesson we can learn from Mr. Armstrong's example.  He didn't say, "This is just a test of my faith."  He knew it was correction from God for his fault.  

And if we are wise, we will consider the counsel of others.

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

Punishment from God should lead us to repentance.  If we just say, "I am not sinning, this is just a test of my faith" when God is trying to get our attention so we wake up and repent, then we are refusing to repent and we are resisting God.

And when we seek to find out our faults, if we are wise, we will consider the counsel of others.  Not all counsel is right, but we should at least think about it.  If we don't, then we are not wise.

We must practice what we preach.  We must do as we want the public to do and we must practice the message we preach if we want that message to bear fruit.  If we tell the people, don't believe me, don't believe your religious leaders, believe God, believe the Bible, then we must practice the same thing.  We must not make an idol out of Mr. Armstrong, making faith in him equal to faith in the Bible.  We must not have faith in Mystery of the Ages or any other writings of Mr. Armstrong.  Faith is a form of worship, and we should only have faith in God.

We must be willing to change Mr. Armstrong's teaching and correct his mistakes, and we must be willing to add new knowledge to what he gave us, based on God's word, the Bible.  We must hold fast to Mr. Armstrong's example in this.  If we don't, we have no right to expect success in preaching the gospel, and we have no right to expect good fruits from our efforts.  We fall into danger of becoming a self-centered social club more than a dynamic and fruitful Church of God.

And if God sends us trials, maybe He is correcting us for our hypocrisy.

One necessary note and reminder.  If a change in doctrine, either a correction to an existing doctrine that is wrong or an additional new doctrine that gives us new knowledge, truth from the Bible we did not have before, is necessary, things must be done lawfu1lly and in order.  God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).  If a member becomes aware of a need for a change, he can submit the change and the scriptural basis for it in confidence, privately, to the leadership.  The leadership can then evaluate the change, according to the Bible, not according to Mystery of the Ages or any other teaching of Mr. Armstrong, and then, perhaps with counsel, make the decision for the whole Church.  That way we preserve unity and all speak the same thing (1 Corinthians 1:10, Romans 16:17-18).  It is not the role of the lay members to create division and spread their ideas to the other members on their own.

It is the role of the leadership to base doctrine solidly on the Bible and on godly principles of sincerity and truth as Christ leads.

And if the leader refuses to do that, Christ may deal with him as He sees fit.