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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

God Is Love

To all my friends who have comforted me, and all those who have found any comfort here:

“The LORD bless you and keep you;
“The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
“The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

Next week is Christmas 2008. I have been out of Armstrongism for about 4 months. I suppose this is as good a time of year as any to do some introspection. I don't personally keep Christmas (but I no longer fear it). Perhaps it's the years of indoctrination speaking. Or maybe I *gulp* agree with Armstrong on the origins of the day and it really does bother me. If my conscience is bothered by something, then I shouldn't do it. I know that in the COG7, Christmas is frowned upon. I support them in every way. God bless them and prosper them. But I will have my own relationship with my Savior, thank you. (Nor have they ever tried to dictate to me. It's really not like Armstrongism there!)
Even so, when in Rome...

I was reading some of the other former Armstrong blogs and some of my older material. I came across some of the stuff my new friends wrote about me and this blog back when I first left my independent COG. They were overwhelmingly supportive. They didn't even know who I was. Nor did they care. They just wanted me to feel welcomed and supported. 
For all of those whom God loves in truth who are still in the COGs (desiring to find Christ but you don't know where or how), I know because I used to do this myself, you call only those  in the COGs "brethren". And why? Because they share a bond with you - though many of them wouldn't give you the time of day. When you leave, they will turn their backs on you too. I can tell you that I still love my old COG associates. I've learned a great deal since I left. One of the first things I learned was that my "brethren" aren't just in the COGs. 

(MARK. 9: 38-41) 38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward."

I wasn't exactly one of the former Armstrong bloggers, yet these people to whom I was a stranger gave me more than a cup of cold water. They refreshed my heart with their kindness and sympathy and support. They saw that I was trying, and that was good enough. Jesus is clear that He will repay them for their kindness, and that reward is sure. But take this lesson - Jesus was kind to those who weren't following Him; yet many in the COG's forbid even prayer for those who aren't in the COGs. 

I once got into a most literal debate about whether or not people in the COGs are to ask others to pray for those outside "the church". PRAY!! Not lift a finger, not donate, not even "be warmed and filled". Just ask God for help. There was a man who clearly took the stand that most definitely one must not ask another to pray for someone outside the COGs. 
He said, "Is it appropriate to broadcast special prayer requests to the entire church for any or all unconverted friends, acquaintances, neighbors, or relatives. I still say it is not." 
Well, that's a fine imitation of Christ, THE Council for the Defense, THE Savior of all mankind, THE One who died for even His enemies, THE One to whom they should be pointing people both by word and by deed. This man would apparently love his dog who can't even speak the name of Christ more than a stranger. Good thing this man said each are allowed to pray privately! Still, it was so disturbing that I haven't contributed to that group's conversation in any depth since. This is a "Christian" group, mind you. "Followers" of Christ. But, as we can see in Mark 9, Jesus was not against those that weren't in His group.

(I JOHN 4: 20) If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
(JAS. 4: 8-9)  8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

I think it odd that on one hand we have people who couldn't tell me from Adam yet they welcomed me in and were exceedingly kind to me. On the other hand, I have people who knew me from my youth who don't talk to me anymore; people who were as close as brothers who won't talk to me anymore; people who won't even so much as ask their fellows to pray for 'outsiders' - least of all those who have left to follow Christ. Yet one is generous and kind as Christ was, while the other calls themselves the sole chosen people of Christ while acting as if no one else has value. 

I have to say, if it's at all true that "by their fruits you shall know them" (MATT. 7: 16), I am not too keen on the fruits of the COGs. Search as I may, I could not find 'following the Old Covenant law' listed among the fruit of the Spirit (GAL. 5: 22-23). Paul tells us in I Corinthians 13 that if we have prophecy and understand all mysteries and possess all knowledge yet we do not have love then we have nothing. Jesus separates the sheep from the goats, not based on who followed Moses in the strictest fashion, but by who showed acts of love (MATT. 25: 31-46). While Jesus stood and watched the Pharisee, strict in keeping the law, praise himself in prayer to God for how he was God's chosen, Christ chose to praise the tax collector who saw himself for what he was and prayed to God for mercy (LUKE 18: 9-14). It says that out of the heart of a Christian there will flow rivers of living water, speaking of the Spirit (JOHN 7: 38-39). Where is even the glass of cool water from these who call themselves "God's elect"? In Matthew 21: 28-32, Jesus tells of a son who did not want to do his father's will but did it anyway, then another son who said he would do his father's will but never actually did. Jesus concludes "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you" (MATT 21: 31). 
Is this what you want? Is this the religion you would choose? To make your boast in the law while neglecting the weightier matters of the law, just as the Pharisee did (MATT. 23: 23)? Take great care in how you think of yourself in relation to God, calling yourself 'God's chosen'. Christ concluded, "for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (LUKE 18: 14)

(I JOHN 3: 18) My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
(I JOHN 4: 11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

And where would any person get the idea that Christ is "us vs. them", or loves only those who love Him? Did your "minister" misquote I John 2: 15 to you? I tell you the truth, he did so because he wanted to make an income of you! While Christ died to reconcile man to God and tear down the partitions that separate, they work to build up partitions again and cordon off those who will pay them tithes from those who will not. Why heed him, then? Why do you still entertain the idea that the COG is God's and all else is the unclean world? Did they not also read to you Matthew 5?
(MATT. 5: 43-47) 43 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?

And who did Jesus say were His brothers?
(MATT. 12: 46-50) 46 While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” 
48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” 

And what is the will of God? 
(I JOHN 3: 11) For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another
(I JOHN 4: 21) And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

Am I saying this to accuse you? No. Do you feel accused? I don't intend that. I hope that perhaps you feel pricked in the heart, but not accused. We know who the Accuser is - and who the just Judge is. But use your own judgment; look at the fruit and decide for yourself which did the will of God and which did not. Don't I say often that God loves you? And I believe that! He died for you! I say what I say here to make a contrast and to pray that you allow yourself to SEE the difference in the New and the Old Covenants. There is a great difference, and thank God there's a difference! Paul said the Old was the "ministry of death" (II COR. 3: 7) and the "ministry of condemnation", but the New is the "ministry of righteousness" (II COR. 3: 9). So I don't condemn you. Not in what I write nor in my heart. In fact, I deeply desire for you to be where I am and feel the joy that I feel. This entire blog is for you! To help you! There's a love and a joy waiting for you that I never felt while I was in the faith of Armstrong. I want you to have this. I want you to finally be confident that your salvation is definite and sure. I want to seee you follow Christ and not men. I want you to step into the New Covenant! To see you freed, that is my 'glad tidings of joy'. God bless you today and always.

Don't ever forget this:
(I JOHN 4: 16) God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

Mercy triumphs over judgment, and the greatest of things is love! 


Raccoon said...

Good thoughts.

It is no mystery as to why Jesus said the greatest command was to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." It's also no mistake that the second one is like it being "Love your neighbor as yourself." God being love, it would naturally follow that he would expect his followers to exude love first and foremost.

In a like manner you have 1 Corinthians 13 saying "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." What is the first thing listed when Paul discusses the fruit of the spirit? Love. Look around your Bible, love is shown and discussed everywhere, we should do likewise.

xHWA said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Raccoon!

I don't know how Armstrong got the old wool over the eyes, but if we can keep pointing such things out, perhaps we can get that wool right back off again.

Raccoon said...

One would think it should've been easy for Armstrong to make the connection here. As Jesus' statement directly after explaining the greatest commands was to say "All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments."

For being so entrenched in following the law but ignoring love, it would seem that the point of the law was missed by Armstrong entirely - which explains quite a lot actually.

xHWA said...

I can't help but recall why Loma Armstrong died. This was supposed to be the love of HWA's life. She died of a bowel obstruction. A simple, easy to fix bowel obstruction. Any trip to the doctor would have corrected it, and she would have lived. However, a visit to the doctor wasn't allowed.

Now, fast forward to when HWA had his own health issues in the 1970's. He took medicine, he went to the doctor, he moved to the desert (for one reason or the other) - he did all it took to find that relief. Apostle of God? Not so much.

Now, that is not love. But it's a good example of what to expect from the COG leadership. And that is what rolls downhill. No wonder the people in the seats, who are told to 'pay, pray, stay', don't understand love!

I recall being told, "'Love' means 'agape love', it's a selfless love, and it only comes from God. Only those with God's Spirit can show this kind of love." Funny, it doesn't feel very loving. Those people who are supposed to have a pipeline to God's love withhold it, display selfishness, and only give what they have to each other. Meanwhile, total strangers who are not in the COGs have shown me kindness, support, and friendship from the start - though they didn't know who I was.

Which of those would you say were following Christ?

xHWA said...

Very good point, Raccoon. I want to type that again with emphasis:


All of it!

It makes sense what Paul said. Because if you can't get love right, you get nothing that comes after it either.

Byker Bob said...

My tenure in WCG could only have been described as Orwellian. It's the only church I know of where God's love was expressed as law and punishment, rather than undeserved and unconditional mercy and forgiveness.

There's a psych term, very popular today: unconditional love. It's the kind of Godly love exemplified by the parable of the prodigal son.

WCG lifted "let the dead bury the dead" from proper context, and applied it as a blanket catch-all for all of our interpersonal relationships with those in "the world."

I was one of the people who rejoiced for you xHWA! But two years ago, I would not have been able to do this, because God was still using atheism/agnosticism in my life to bring me back to Him. Two years ago, I would have been happy that you left WCG, but dismayed that you had "fallen" for a slightly different variation of "superstition". Thank God that I now know better! Truly, God is love. Even now, I have a difficult time understanding the incredible changes He recently brought into my life. I firmly believe that these changes occurred precisely because someone, somewhere cared, and was praying their butt off for me. Yet, WCG would have forbidden such prayers! Unbelievable!


xHWA said...

Bob, I cannot express how much I appreciate your support. I mean that!
I am very glad that you are on this path. I support you in turn! That's what it's all about, friend. And that's the direction it should keep going. Perhaps we can help each other to understand this better if we work together?

Thanks for your continued friendship and support! And God bless!

Pamela Jaye said...

>It's the only church I know of where God's love was expressed as law

If you had parents who were being exposed to this (not by attending but just by reading) you might end up with something like this:

Child to mother: I love you.
Mother: If you love me, obey me.

Mr. Armstrong's influence reached even further than just those who attended.
My mother asked to attend in 68 or 69 and was told she could not unless she was first baptized. She found this "fishy" and therefore did not follow up, but did,I believe, keep reading the literature.
So, I got the exchange above (thanks so much Mum. Really, she was an above average mother otherwise) and... other stuff.

I was lucky in that I did not fear the sound of the Emergency Broadcast System Test (this is only a test) and it was still another decade before anyone told me about The Great Tribulation. Unfortunately, I did follow up - and by then the rules were less "fishy." I was there from 78 till There wasn't there anymore, and a few years past that.

I still cringe too (oops - maybe that was a different post - about Hislop. Only now I can't explain to others why I cringe. Cause maybe the whole mother and child thing isn't true... I sometimes give my coworkers "thanks for being a great coworker this year" gifts, I g out to look at decorated houses and trees, but you won't find them in my house.
And there's nowhere I feel comfortable attending. I'm still stuck between two worlds.
And I don't say "I love you" very often.