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I figure there may be someone who needs my help, and posting a comment may be easier than emailing me. I would prefer an email, but I am here to help those in need.

**Do you have history in the Worldwide Church of God? Are you still attending one of its offshoots? Do you see cracks in the doctrine and want more information, or do you not know why you're still there anymore? Is there a hole in your heart and just don't know why God isn't granting you the happiness you were promised would come through tithing and following a man? Do you find that no matter how hard you try you cannot live up to your own standards, and you feel like a failure? Do you find your pursuit of God to be based on fear?
Investigate with me the answers to these questions and more!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy Feast of Trumpets 2008

Will you be insisting on the word of God today? 

September 30, 2008 is the Feast of Trumpets, Rosh Hashanah. This is the first day of the seventh month. 
(LEV. 23: 23-25) 23 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “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. 25 You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.’”

Now, for those in the various COG's, I'm certain you will be hearing a lot about trumpets today. Most certainly you should be hearing about how trumpets were used by Moses and the Israelites. It is, after all, a memorial - a looking back - of trumpets. I know many of you will instead hear messages about the seven trumpet plagues; but you cannot have a memorial of the future. A memorial is a preservation of a memory; a commemoration. Have you ever asked why God would want the ancient Israelites to remember the seven very destructive trumpet plagues? "To warn mankind, of course," would be the standard response. How is this? 

Think about it. It isn't a looking forward. The ancient Israelites who have lived and died thousands of years before the second return of Christ were supposed to be wary of it? Are you certain? No, that can't be right.
Or perhaps it is supposed to be a warning to the end-time? People who do not regard the Feast of Trumpets or understand it are supposed to be warned by it.. how? Is it not part of your beliefs that God has to 'open the minds' of people to understand the holy days and the plan of God? Then how can people without their 'minds opened' possibly understand it? That can't be right either. 
Or perhaps you have heard that it is an annual reminder for you. You, who will be protected from the trumpet plagues. You, who follow the laws of God. You who are the hand-selected and chosen few. You who have your minds opened. You who have God's Spirit in you helping you. You who need no warning. Are you certain you need an annual reminder of the trumpet plagues? Is today the Day of Damocles? So, God holds the trumpet plagues over you once a year as an annual reminder that He will punish you if you mess up? How then does Jesus' sacrifice fit in? Does His sacrifice cover your mistakes or doesn't it? This certainly is the least right so far, by far!
Then what is it? Why this annual talk about the trumpet plagues? Is Revelation mentioned solely because it has the word "trumpet" in it?

If you say "It can be both", then please show me the chapter and verse where it says the Feast of Trumpets is anything other than a memorial of blowing of trumpets. Produce the verse that shows you should look forward to the end, then produce the logic to such a thing. I challenge you, as you should be challenging your ministry! Are you a Berean, or are you not? Have you just accepted something that is nowhere to be found in the word of God or have you PROVEN? You know Christ will return, and you believe trumpets will be part of that, but I don't ask you about that. I ask you to show me from the Bible where it says the Feast of Trumpets has anything to do with the return of Christ.
For almost thirty years I listened to sermons about the return of Christ on Trumpets. Are you aware that many splinter groups do not believe Christ will return on Trumpets? They believe the resurrection will be on Pentecost. Are you one of them? Then what does the Bible say to link the Feast of Trumpets with the final trumpet plagues? Already many people are realizing the vision Herbert Armstrong passed down was flawed.
Flawed?! How can an Apostle be wrong about something he specifically said would happen? (See my post on The Plain Error for more details on that subject.)

So then, what do we have? We have no Bible verses linking the Feast of Trumpets with the final trumpet plagues. Nothing links them, not one Biblical thing! What links them is the theory of a man who said the 7 holy days describe the plan of God... except that many people believe he got it wrong. I ask again - got it wrong? But.... if he got that wrong.... is there a slight possibility that he could be wrong about the link between the Feast of Trumpets and the final seven trumpet plagues of Revelation? Is there a slight chance? Answer that for yourself as soon as possible!

But certainly that's the only thing he is wrong about. It's neither here nor there. After all, you follow God, not a man.  Right? Ask yourself this "Will I be paying the Holy Day Offering today?"
If you are like most people in the COGs, today you will hear an offertory message read from Deuteronomy 16. 
(DEU. 16: 16) Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.

Have you ever read that verse? Of course you've seen it more times than you can count, but have you ever READ it? Please tell me, where is the word "seasons" in that verse? Does is not say "three times"? Does it not list specifically the three times in a year: "at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles"? Those are specifically named holy days, not the wispy idea of seasons. Does not the entire chapter of Deuteronomy 16 deal with those three specific Holy Days? And again you can read Exodus 34: 18-24 and see the same thing. Please point out to me, then, where you get the phrase "three holy day seasons". Or please tell me where the Bible lays out three holy day seasons; spring, summer, and fall. Or please tell me why Pentecost - the "summer" holy day - nigh always falls in spring? Where is the "summer holy day season" if there are no holy days in it? About that offering you will give, did you know those were supposed to be burnt offerings? Where did any man get the authority to change that to money? "We have to give something." Right? Why not give Bibles? Why not give trumpets? Who said 'money is to be given in place of burnt offerings' anywhere in the Bible? Does it not make it perfectly clear what happened to all sacrifices? Does it not make it perfectly clear that Jesus fulfilled them (HEB. 10: 12)? Why, then, do you bring them back? Is Jesus' sacrifice insufficient?? Does the Bible itself not tell you what sacrifice a New Testament Christian is required to give?
(ROM. 12: 1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
(EPH. 5: 2) And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
(HEB. 13: 15-16) 15 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. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 

To sum up what we have so far - the Feast of Trumpets is a memorial of blowing trumpets, not a looking forward, but you will most likely be looking forward today; the holy days help you understand the plan of God but Herbert Armstrong is believed to be wrong about the plan of God that he taught Trumpets is supposed to picture; you will give an offering of money though the Bible says it should be burnt; you will be read Deuteronomy 16: 16 on Trumpets though it specifically mentions by name the three holy days it refers to; you will be giving an offering though the Bible says Jesus fulfilled them.
Are you certain you follow God and not a man? Are you so certain that you would bet your life on it? Are you sure you are not betting your life on it right now? Shouldn't you be certain?

Does the Bible not specifically say those who add to or take away from God's word will be cursed (DEU. 4: 2; DEU. 12: 32; ECC. 3: 14; REV. 22: 18-19)?! Perhaps you SHOULD think about those trumpet plagues after all!
Go; challenge your minister with these things. See if that one can answer these questions for you. They are that important! Because if you don't get those things from the Bible - from God - then from whom do you get them? From men! And if from men, then how can one ever claim "I follow God, not men"? 

Friends and deeply loved by Christ, you owe it to yourself, to your family, and to Christ Jesus who died for you, to make certain that you know and follow those things that are in the word of God. I ask you once more, are you going to insist on the Bible truth today?

Monday, September 29, 2008

We Are Not Levites

This is part two of a thread about tithing (see part one - Abraham Tithed?).

All talk about tithing is conditional upon proving the ministry are modern Levites since the law of tithing clearly states tithes are for the Levites (NUM. 18: 21). And that is exactly the claim Herbert Armstrong made - that his ministry were the modern Levites. In one place, he would show the Levites gone, and in another he would equate the Levitical priesthood to his ministers. (Many people in the COGs think Jeremiah 33: 21 is evidence of this.) Either way, he would claim the tithe law was not gone. So far as I have seen, everyone who claims tithing is still in force today either directly or indirectly relates the ministry to the Levites. At the end of the day, everything the COGs teach about tithing comes down to one word: "transferred". Some say the right to collect tithes has been “transferred”. Is this so?

But let's start at the heart of the matter. At Jesus' death, the Old Covenant was - in its entirety and sum - nullified. In Paul's day it was "passing away", as it had been since the day Moses mediated it (II COR. 3: 7, 11, 13). There were two parties to the covenant: the Word of God (who became Jesus Christ), and physical Israel (whom are now commonly referred to as "the Jews"). As a clear matter of law, upon the death of one of the parties, any covenant is nullified. Physical Israel is a perpetually renewing entity, and it seems reasonable that it could only die if it were completely wiped out. We know this has not happened. God is an eternal spirit being, and could never die... except He be made man and subject Himself to the authority of death. Any Bible-believing Christian believes this certainly has happened. The Word "married" and then "divorced" Israel for her unfaithfulness (JER. 3: 8, 20; HOS. 2: 2). Upon His death, Israel was freed from the Old Covenant (I COR. 7: 39). So all vestiges of the marriage, and the Old Covenant with all of its precepts, are nullified at the death of one of the two parties, that being the Word of God.
Not only that, but since a great number of things instituted in the Old Covenant pictured Christ, when He fulfilled them they also became obsolete. Most certainly we can see examples of this. Take Passover for instance. Christ is our Passover Lamb (I COR. 5: 7). He did away with the need for animal sacrifice, He therefore needed to change Passover. The "Lord's Supper", as it is commonly called, does not picture the leaving of Egypt, but the life and death of Jesus the Christ (LUKE 22: 19-20). Gentiles were once commanded to be circumcised before they could take part in the Passover (EXO. 12: 48), but not so for the Lord's Supper (ROM. 2: 28-29; I COR. 7: 19; PHP. 3: 2-3). Along those very same lines, we will see that one of these things that are done away with is the Levitical Priesthood.

Without reinventing the wheel, we will agree that the first tithe was for the Levite. Now, if the tithe was for the Levite, then it is highly questionable that a tithe still exists today, seeing as how the Levitical priesthood was not only replaced, but completely done away with. There are NO Levites [ie. practicing; by title or office] in the New Testament Church! If they were to remain, then all of their responsibilities would remain. Every person who stands to profit from tithe law by claiming to be a modern Levite also utterly ignores all of the other regulations of the Levitical priesthood. It is dishonest to claim to be the modern Levitical priesthood in order to take advantage of tithe laws, and then turn right around and reason away absolutely every other rule and regulation regarding the Levites. If anyone claims to be a modern Levite, let him rid himself of any and all inheritance first, put on mitre and ephod, THEN go ask others to give up their tithes!

The challenge is to prove the ministry are modern Levites. This is done by misquoting Hebrews 7: 12 like so: “For the priesthood being [transferred] of necessity there is also a [transfer] of the law [of tithes only].” So far as I can find, this was done on behalf of Herbert Armstrong by Herman Hoeh. The words translated as “transfer” here are Metatithemi (Strong's 3346) and Metathesis (Strong's 3331). They mean to change, transfer, exchange, disestablish, or remove. It has been said “Since the word can mean 'transfer', it means the tithes are transferred to the ministry.” That is completely read into this sentence relying on human reasoning (motivated in my opinion by greed).

Let's look at the context. Mr. Herbert Armstrong would often employ the phrase “top not come down” when he wanted to explain the importance of Biblical context. We have a case of that here. 
I am going to go into Hebrews. I will preface all of my comments on Hebrews with this bit of info - many think Paul did not author Hebrews. We don't know that for a fact, but even I believe there is a weighty case to be made that it wasn't Paul. Lacking a better name, I will credit Paul none-the-less.

The context of Hebrews 7 (and many of the surrounding chapters) is Paul explaining to the Hebrews how much greater Jesus Christ is than their human priests. He reasons that all Hebrews tithed to the Levites, but since even Abraham, the father of the all Israel, tithed to Melchizedek, then Jesus is greater even than Abraham. Paul adds that since Levi tithed to Melchizedek through Abraham, even Levites must admit that Melchizedek is greater than themselves. Paul then follows up by showing the flaws of the Levitical system and why the priesthood was changed from Levi/Aaron to Christ/Melchizedek (and the laws by necessity with it), and exemplifies the perfection of Christ and why it was given to Him.
What the Levitical minister must do is ignore all this, declare the law and priesthood transferred to themselves (borderline blasphemy), back up several steps and declare only the tithe law was transferred, and finally read into this an argument about the validity of tithing that Paul simply is not in any way shape or form trying to make. No offense meant, but Herman Hoeh was in error.

Top not come down! 

Let's again let the Bible interpret itself. Is the word “transfer” or is it “changed”?

Paul goes to great lengths to prove that Jesus Christ is not a Levite. Four and a half chapters of Hebrews is devoted to this end (HEB. 5, 7, 8, 9, 10). Christ was of Judah by human birth: (HEB. 7: 13-14) “For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood”. And Christ is of Melchizedek by divine rite: (HEB. 7: 11) “What further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?”; (HEB. 8: 6) “He has obtained a more excellent ministry”. Christ offers no daily nor yearly sacrifice to atone for Himself: (HEB. 9: 26) “He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world”. Christ serves at the tabernacle in Heaven, not the alter in Jerusalem (HEB. 8: 2). Christ is an inheritor of all things (ROM. 8: 17; HEB. 1: 1-4), whereas the Levites were inheritors of nothing but the tithe (DEU. 14: 27; NUM. 18: 20-24). God divorced Israel (ISA. 50: 1) and the Old Covenant, the one in which the Levites were established, was nullified at Christ's death (HEB. 9: 16-17); Christ is now a minister of a “better covenant” (HEB. 7: 22).  And if Christ is not a Levite, neither are we who follow after Him. (HEB. 10: 9) “He takes away the first that He may establish the second.“ Doesn't this verse, Hebrews 10: 9 say it all? Christ took it away!! He did NOT transfer it! 

Let's look a little more and let the Bible interpret the Bible.
(HEB. 7: 18-19) 18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

It was annulled and replaced! So, the Bible says the former law of sacrifices and rituals was annulled, including tithing which was a heave offering, was not transferred in tact, but rather a better hope has been brought in. 

God wants nothing to do with burnt offering and sacrifice for sin, etc (PSA. 40: 6; HOS. 6: 6; MATT. 12: 7; HEB. 10: 5). Paul himself worked with his own hands to earn his own keep. This would have been scandalous for a Levite! This one act proves, in and of itself, proclaiming loudly that Paul was not a Levite. The Levites are gone. 
(HEB. 8: 13) “In that He says, 'A new covenant, ' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” 
And again, 
(MATT. 23: 38) “See! Your house is left to you desolate.” 
The entire system vanished in 70 AD. It was not transferred.

Here is a verse so profound, and yet so easily overlooked; this single verse explains without need for any clarification, why the Levites are gone: 
(HEB. 10: 18) “18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.” 
The Levites are simply no longer needed. We can go straight to Christ and God! Who do we believe? God, or those who want to put themselves between us and God to make a profit of us (II COR. 2: 17; JUD. 1: 11)?

Never forget these verses:
(JOHN 1: 11-13) “11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.”

Jesus came to His own, which is the Old Covenant church, the Jews and the Levites, and they did not receive Him. They outright rejected Him! He is the “stone that the builders rejected” due to disbelief (PSA. 118: 22; ACTS 4: 11; I PET. 2: 7). And for such, those "branches" are for the remainder of this age "broken off" of the tree (ROM 11: 17-24).

Yet, for money's sake, men attempt to perpetuate the old system - that system which failed, rejected Christ, and was torn down. Do we not understand that we ARE NOT children born of natural descent, like the Levites, but we are born of God. This is a NEW order entirely, a NEW Covenant (LUKE 22: 20; II COR. 3: 6-11; HEB. 8: 8; HEB. 9: 15; HEB. 12: 24).

God does not give us the authority to change His set worship practices. Even so, there are many people who defend Herbert Armstrong's changing of the law. Take to heart the lesson of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat (I KING 12: 25-33). Pay special attention to verse 31 “...and made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi.” Can it please God what was done? Setting up those who are not sons of Levi to be priests, nigh exactly as Jeroboam did?

The example of the Levites for the Church remains: that as they were set aside for the worship of God so we are set aside. As they refused to do their commission we must zealously perform ours. As they stole from God and the people, we must be generous and giving. The Aaronic Priesthood, the Levites, the sacrifices, and the offerings all pictured God's plan and His spiritual Church should learn these lessons. The sacrifices have been magnified and the old removed, and even the priesthood has been magnified and the old removed. It is established in Hebrews that the Levitical and Aaronic priests are gone, not transferred but replaced entirely by a Priest “after the order of Melchizedek” (PSA. 110: 4). (I don't even say to you “by a priesthood”, as in many, but “by a Priest” singular. The "priesthood" will not exist until the resurrection.) 

The first tithe suggests we keep the Levitical customs. If we keep one custom, accepting tithes, shouldn't we keep them all? Why do these modern Levites not keep the duties and responsibilities of the Levites? Have they not read?
(GAL 5: 3-4) 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised [or sets out to keep the Old Covenant in any way - including tithes] that he is a debtor to keep the whole law [including the WHOLE law for the Levites]. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Understand now that I am NOT saying we shouldn't give. But twisting the law to receive tithes is not a just stewardship of the Bible truth God left us.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Abraham Tithed?

This is the first post of a thread on tithing in the COGs.

Some people go to the first instance of a thing being mentioned in the Bible to establish the basis for that thing. A good practice. We first see the idea of giving a tenth when Abraham gave a tenth to Melchizedek.

(GEN. 14: 18-20) 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of all.

Abraham tithed. Paul even confirms it in Hebrews 7. This was 430 years before the Aaronic priesthood. Tithing, as it is reasoned, is now clearly established as a precedent under the current system as well. 
...Or is it?

When preparing a new convert for the idea of tithing, the COGs will go back to Abraham. HWA demanded quite a large percentage of his followers' income. A large demand calls for a weighty claim to back it up. What more weight could be added than the idea that something was done since Abraham's day - or since the very beginning? HWA's reasoning behind mentioning Abraham was to say that tithing was done before Sinai, therefore it preceded the Old Covenant, and cannot be replaced when the Old Covenant was magnified. This is the first part of a two-part logic. First, claim Abraham tithed, and bring that idea forward into the New Covenant. Second, like the first, claim that when Christ replaced the Levites, He gave the tithes to the ministry. In other words - legitimize a regular income, then legitimize claiming the income for yourself.

Here's what happened. Abraham was on his way home from saving Lot out of captivity when he met Melchizedek at the valley of Shaveh. The war spoils weren't even divided yet. Once they were to be divided, Abraham told Bera, the King of Sodom, that he promised God he would accept nothing – not even so much as a shoelace – of the spoils for himself.
I want you to notice a few things about that.

Take a closer look at what Abraham did. He did not "tithe" regularly, he gave a tenth one time. There is a difference. The difference is in the frequency. "Tithe", as a noun, means "tenth", or "ten percent". But it can also be a verb, "to tithe", meaning:
.to give or pay a tithe or tenth of (produce, money, etc.).
.to give or pay tithes on (crops, income, etc.).
.to exact a tithe from (a person, community, parish, etc.).
.to levy a tithe on (crops, income, etc.).
[Definitions courtesy of dictionary.com]
Abraham gave a tenth (noun) one time, HWA sees him giving tenths (verb) regularly.

Abraham gave his tenth to none other than Melchizedek himself. This was most like a free-will offering. The law being 430 years later, and the sacrifices being added even after that, there is no reason to believe Abraham kept a tithe as law. Tithes are not said to be free-will offerings, but heave offerings (NUM. 18: 24-28; DEU. 12: 6, 11, 17). Deuteronomy 12: 17 makes a clear distinction between free-will offerings and heave offerings, so they were certainly different.

Abraham was not tithing on his own increase, or his regular income. He was tithing on the spoils of war.

(HEB. 7: 4) Abraham... gave a tenth of the spoils

It can be argued further that Abraham did not give a tenth of all the spoils of war. This word “spoils” in HEB. 7: 4 is the Greek word Akrothinion (Strong's 205), which means “the chief spoils, or the best of the spoils”. It is only used here. This is somewhat similar to the "tithe of a tithe" the Levites gave to Aaron the priest rather than the “first tithe” as the COGs call them. The gist of the word Akrothinion indicates the firstfruits – an idea many should be familiar with.

Abraham tithed of the spoils before they were divided up, not just his own. He promised God before the war began that he wouldn't keep so much as a shoelace. In other words, he tithed on other people's goods. Are we to tithe other people's goods? Or are we to give away the other 90% of our income as well? To the King of Sodom none the less? No one suggests that!

But the deep question is: does this in any way prove we should tithe today? What other things did Abraham do? Let's ponder that.. it's quite telling!
Abraham circumcised his males. Even though, according to the Mayo Clinic, one of the word's foremost medical institutions, "circumcision may have many health benefits", it is clear that there is no command for Christians to physically circumcise. Rather, the circumcision is of the heart. Abraham also offered animal sacrifices (as did Noah, and Abel). Yet we clearly understand there is no need for animal sacrifices in the New Testament Church. Jesus was our sacrifice. Now, we are living sacrifices. Abraham had an extramarital sexual encounter. That can't be good. Yet clearly even looking at a person who is not one's spouse to lust after them in one's heart is sinful. 

If we say “Abraham did it so we should do it”, does it follow that if Abraham DIDN'T do it, we shouldn't do it? I would think so. Yet we worship Christ as our Savior and he did not. I'm not trying to nit-pick about the father of the faithful. But to say “Abraham did it, therefore it is certainly commanded for us” is gross oversimplification and simply not so.

Not being satisfied with Abraham, HWA then moved to use Jacob as an example as well.

(GEN. 28: 20-22) 20Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. 22And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You."

Jacob tithed. Or did he? Look closer at what is said here. In Genesis 28, Jacob is charged by his father Isaac to travel to a land called Padan-Aram, which is in modern day Syria, in order to take a wife from among his own cousins, the daughters of his uncle Laban. Jacob was on his way when he received a vision of the gate of heaven, and he spoke with God. God promised to bring Jacob home again, and to bless him with possession of his ancestral lands, and to make Jacob the progenitor of a great multitude. Jacob, grateful and in awe, promised to give a tenth of whatever he had to God upon his safe return as God promised. Jacob also made it conditional that God would have to bless him first. This was not a continual tenth, but a singular tenth of whatever he possessed at that time of his safe return - be it small or, as Jacob hoped, very great. So this was again not a true tithe as we understand tithing.

Friends and those deeply loved by Christ, when we listen to a person preaching, we should be like the Bereans and search the scriptures to find out if the message is true. I know how hard that can be! For thirty years I was a believer in Armstrongism. I was only recently set free from that unbearable yoke of bondage. It is hard when you only see one perspective. Sometimes coming to look at the problem from another angle is just not in a person's nature. Sometimes the pressures to conform are overwhelming. In that light, I give you this information freely in hopes that it will set you free as well.

*Part two of this thread is now available - We Are Not Levites

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rationalizing Armstrongism

Had a conversation last night with a good friend of mine in one of the COGs. He called to ask my opinion on the prophecies relating to the Feast of Trumpets since he was preparing for a sermonette. My short answer was, "You can say whatever you want. If it isn't what people already have convinced themselves of, whether it's true or not, they will not listen to you no matter what you say or do." He agreed.
We got into talking about other things. He said what most everyone has been saying to me lately: Herbert Armstrong is nothing to a person's salvation. I agree that he should be nothing to anyone's salvation! However, I disagree in the meaning of what my friend was really saying to me.

HWA is dead, but his ideas are very much alive. So long as his ideas are alive, he has meaning to someones faith. I cannot tell you how very many times I have been asked since learning the truth about HWA, "Do you believe the Spirit came through Herbert Armstrong?" The answer is an unequivocal "NO!" I absolutely do not believe that. Why would anyone ask that? The Spirit comes from God the Father through Jesus Christ directly to us. Is it because they believe the laying on of qualified hands is necessary to receive the Spirit? Partly. Cornelius, however, received the Spirit before Peter even baptized him (ACTS 10: 44-47), so that's not necessarily the case. The real question that was being asked is this: "Do you believe I, as a believer in Armstrong, have God's Spirit?"

Listen, I can no more tell you if you have God's Spirit than I can tell you that you will be burned up in Gehenna fire. I am simply not the Judge. I have no keys to lock you up or set you free. I would like to believe certain people in the COGs have God's Spirit working inside them. Yet I see an odd thing in most of them - rationalization of their beliefs. By that I mean, the people I have spoken with rationalize away all error and contradiction in what they believe.

Take for instance my friend's statement "Herbert Armstrong is nothing to a person's salvation." OK. On the surface it is something most people will agree upon. Now, take into account another statement by the same friend, "Herbert Armstrong changed the law out of necessity." What do those two statements have to do with each other? I'll try to explain. If HWA is nothing, if he is something we need to move past and let go of, then how on earth is he so important to what people believe that he can change the laws of God and they go along with it? If he is truly nothing to salvation and faith, then what he did to the immutable laws of God is also nothing - and MUST BE REJECTED! But those changes are not rejected; they are promoted. On whose authority are they changed? HWA's and HWA's alone. Is he then important to a person's faith? Without question!
Now let's take yet another statement from this same friend: "I have never placed Herbert Armstrong into such a high position in my faith. If I see something that is in error, then it has to be fixed." Great! Now, if only people would actually do that!! What can we find that is in error, then? I have several posts from which you may choose. I would specifically refer you to the Three Times In A Year parts 1 and 2. Other blogs have several; see my links for more info. But let's go with something simple for now - the Feast of Tabernacles. What does the law say about it?

(LEV. 23: 40, 42-43) "40 And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days." "42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."

It doesn't say "hotel", it says "booth". The participants are required to dwell in one (NEH. 8: 13-15). It even instructs you on how to manufacture said booth. During the Feast of Booths, no one makes a booth! Now, what do people actually do? They go to a hotel and call it a temporary dwelling. Why? Do you even know why? In the olden days, most people camped out at the Feast; packed their own meals, had services under a tent, and the whole 9 yards. When the ministers saw the higher-ups getting hotel rooms, they wanted that too. After a bit, the people who could afford it wanted hotel rooms, that made the upper echelons need fancier hotel rooms, and everyone else roughed it. Then, when everyone wanted hotel rooms, a reservation system started, and ministers were getting first pick to ensure they got theirs. Everyone else got a discount, and all were happy -- except perhaps God, whose laws were being ignored.
Do you know that never once in all of my keeping of the Feast of Tabernacles did I even so much as see a bough of a tree displayed even for show? Let alone to dwell in. Now, this dilemma isn't something people are unaware of. It is an error which people are unwilling to fix. This directly contradicts what my friend said when he told me what he believes is not dependant upon what Armstrong taught and if he finds a problem he needs to fix it. Upon whose authority was the law 'changed out of necessity'? Armstrong's. Are the beliefs in line with the law? No. So there's a problem; people are following Armstrong while claiming they are not and no one is keeping their word to fix it. This is what I mean by rationalization.

Another friend of mine, when confronted with the holes in his theology, told me "I keep the law as best as I can." No. He most certainly does not. He keeps the law as best as he CARES TO. There's a big difference. They are breaking the law and they know it and they do nothing about it.

(HEB. 10: 26-28) 26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

And, therefore, in stark disagreement with my old friends, I maintain that Herbert Armstrong is without a doubt (and so very unfortunately) key to a person's faith and salvation. Yet, somehow my friends continue to rationalize and disagree with me. Have I given my own logic? Have I not shown specifically where the Bible law is being ignored? Have I not shown that people will not fix that? Have I not shown that they do this upon HWA's authority alone? But if they will not see the error in the plain things to correct it, how on earth can they possibly see the general error in attempting to keep the Old Covenant and then move into the keeping of the New?

So my friend says, "I have never met Herbert Armstrong. When I came into the church, I was taught by a minister, not HWA." That's a fact. Now, of what value is that fact? Let me ask - from whom did said minister get his credentials to preach? The Worldwide Church of God. And who started and ran that church as its Apostle and undisputed leader on earth? Herbert Armstrong. So all roads lead back to Herbert Armstrong. So the representative of HWA was the literal person who did the teaching and baptising, but they only did that because of HWA. To put it into another light, one using that very same logic would say 'I get the Spirit from Jesus Christ, not God the Father; so who is God the Father to me?' Of course we know that's a ridiculous statement! The logic is totally rotten. So also is the rationalization that since HWA was not the direct teacher he is nothing to the teachings.

I attempted to move my example to another realm. I used Ron Weinland as an example. I asked him, "If HWA is nothing, then why don't I just go to Ron Weinland's church right now?" "Well," my friend replies, "we now know that Ron Weinland is false. So to go there would not be a good thing." Aha! Exactly what I knew he would say. "So," I replied, "how then can you justify staying in Armstrong's church when I can demonstrate to you that everything Weinland does was done by Armstrong as well?" He was not willing to accept the truth that Ron Weinland is a Xerox copy of Armstrong. So I showed him some examples.
Take the prophecies for instance. HWA proclaimed Jesus would return in 1936 (read the Plain Truth, June/July 1934, especially page 3). Did that happen? Look around you. Now, to top that off, HWA again said Jesus would return by 1975 (remember "1975 In Prophecy"? Of course you do! Download it here [right-click the link, choose "save as"]). So these two times HWA was wrong. Then there were the never ending streams of "In three to four years..." predictions which all fell flat. (Try this "5 to 10 years, on the authority of Christ" failure from the Plain Truth, February 1967, see p. 47 under heading "End Viet Nam War Now", 4th paragraph.) Now we have a bona fide false prophet on our hands, speaking "very soberly, ON AUTHORITY of the living CHRIST!" (sic).
How is that different than Weinland? It isn't! My friend could only say, "Armstrong never claimed to be a prophet." It doesn't matter as much what one claims; it's what one does that really counts. I can rob a liquor store and claim not to be a thief - does that make me not a thief? No! So claiming not to be a prophet is hot air while you simultaneously claim God has revealed truths of prophecy to you and you alone and you then proceed to predict all sorts and forms of things (which all utterly fail)!

But, is it true that there was no claim to being a prophet?

"Scripture is full of warnings about false ministers and false prophets. The world is filled with such men and organizations today. Out of this Babylon of confusion God must somewhere have His work TODAY. How do you recognize it? Here is the test Jeremiah was inspired to give: 'The prophet that prophesieth of peace, when the word of that prophet shall come to pass, THEN SHALL THE PROPHET BE KNOWN THAT THE LORD HATH TRULY SENT HIM' (Jer. 28: 9). That is how you can know who is preaching the truth today - when what he says comes to pass."
-Plain Truth Dec. 1956, p.3

"But who today understands what the prophets foretold? Why, only the ministers today whose word comes to pass! - those who are appointed and guided by God to preach the truth! Those whose utterances do not come to pass have not spoken the prophecies truly. We give you here the record of what we have been proclaiming for the past 2 years - a message which no other voices, to our knowledge, have been proclaiming.... But what we have been warning you about is happening! - precisely as we have stated.... This is how you can know that our work is not of men but of God!"
-Plain Truth Dec. 1956, p.3

"WHERE ARE God’s true prophets today! In this age of world chaos and sudden death, you had better rid your mind of preconceived ideas and prejudice and honestly seek to find out! Listen! This work has been warning America of definite and tremendous events to come for many years! ... They use the words “may," “could,” or “might.” They are afraid to be definite and specific! The truth of the matter is that they DARE NOT be specific about the future because they just DO NOT KNOW what the Bible says is going to happen! But on “The World Tomorrow” broadcast and in this magazine we have dared to unlock the Bible prophecies and apply them to specific nations and events that are NOW being affected. Do you grasp the SIGNIFICANCE of this?"
-Plain Truth Aug. 1957, p.3 (bold mine)

Somebody sure claimed to be a prophet! And they did it in HWA's magazine.

My friend agreed eventually that 99% of what Armstrong predicted indeed failed. He followed it up with, "But that is nothing to my faith." Sorry, friend, I completely disagree.

I asked, "Weinland's predictions failed this past summer. They will fail this winter too. Now, what if in 20 years he makes another massive prediction and that fails - what do you say about the people that stay in his church?" His response gave me the impression those people were crazy. "Now, what if Armstrong said Jesus would return in 1936, and that having failed he said Jesus would return by 1975, and not only that but he made countless other predictions that all failed, and people still stayed in that church?" This is the same question, only with HWA instead of Weinland. WE are the people who STAYED! WE are the people who are CRAZY!
Nope. Didn't register with my friend. He tried to rationalize that, too. He backtracked and tried to tell me, "Well, Paul thought Jesus would return in his lifetime. I can't fault Armstrong for being wrong." Then you cannot fault Weinland either!

I am not trying to condemn Armstrong. But oh yes you most certainly MUST make a distinction between Paul and Armstrong. Paul wrote things that we think might have meant he believed Jesus would return in his lifetime. He never once said, "Jesus will return by 36 AD!" In Revelation 22: 20 Jesus says, "Surely I am coming quickly." And we can debate what He meant by that. But He never said, "Surely I am coming in the next three to four years." HWA claimed God spoke through him, that he was an Apostle, that he was revealed things, that the scriptures were clear, that if people didn't heed they were going to die... THAT makes it different!

Here is the crux of the problem:
(DEU. 18: 22) 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.

Why is THIS problem not being fixed?? Why is this law NOT being followed? Especially when Paul says thus:
(GAL. 5: 3) And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.

And when James says thus:
(JAS. 2: 9-10) 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all

My answer - because the COGs keep the law as Armstrong taught rather than how it really is, and they keep it as best as they care to rather than as best as they can. Thus Armstrong is demonstrably and undeniably important to faith and salvation of those in his church.

I put it on the table. I told my friend that is the mentality of a CULT! And I will be no party to a cult. If I see that Armstrong is wrong, I actually move to fix it, which distances me from him and the others in the COGs. He told me it sounds like I am bitter against Armstrong, and that I had to put Armstrong behind me and move forward. No. I am not bitter. I am joyous and finally understand joy and peace. What I am is free from Armstrong. What I have done is put him behind me. Why I continually harp on the idea is only to show others that they have not put Armstrong behind them, as they claim to have done - as they very much need to do!

I told him at the start, "You can say whatever you want. If it isn't what people already have convinced themselves of, whether it's true or not, they will not listen to you no matter what you say or do." I was right; and I was talking to one of them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Matthew 15 & Mark 7

Oh so many times I devoured the standard teaching about Matthew 15 and Mark 7. So satisfied with the explanation was I that I failed to question, test, and PROVE what I had accepted. I would like to take the time now to ask those questions I never did before as I should have been doing.

(MARK 7: 2) Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled [Strong's 2839: common, that is, (literally) shared by all or several, or (ceremonially) profane: - common, defiled, unclean, unholy.], that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault.

Jesus and his Apostles ate without washing their hands. This wasn’t just to say “with dirt on their hands”; that wasn’t what offended the Pharisees. To the Pharisees, their hands were just as defiled as an idol or pork. There are scores of things that could render the hands unclean. For example, touching the canonical Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament – because mice were often seen scurrying across them due to the fact they were stored close to the free will offerings.


**Whatever was touched by something unclean, including the Torah, was also unclean. For those of you who think you keep the food laws by eating at restaurants but not ordering unclean foods, be aware that once unclean meat like bacon touches that grill, the whole grill becomes unclean. You can eat nothing cooked on it. IMHO, another example of cherry-picking.**

HWA tried his hardest to make this into an argument about dirt. It was never about dirt! The Pharisees didn’t ask about dirt, and Jesus didn’t respond about dirt. The Pharisees were commenting about ritually unclean hands; in the same fashion as pork was ritually unclean. The Pharisees were speaking of a ritual washing, not a “clean up before dinner” kind of washing. The hands weren’t to become clean with washing, but sanctified. One wasn’t supposed to even speak the name of God with unclean hands. Thus Jesus answered about the Talmud and what truly makes a person truly unclean. This is a discussion about what makes holy and what makes unholy.

Some believe that Jesus here made all foods clean.

(MARK 7: 14-23) NIV (..also look at this in the NKJV
14Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' [Strong's 2840: ceremonially or morally unclean, common, polluted] [this is the same word used in Acts 10: 15] by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean.['2840]" 17After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18"Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean[2840]? 19For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." 20He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. [2840] 21For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean."

The majority of Christians, and even some Bible translations, think this meant Jesus had decreed all meats clean. Technically this is untrue, since the cleansing could not occur until the New Covenant was ratified in His own blood. Jesus Christ is doing much more than stripping away layers of Talmud, however. He is laying down the groundwork for the magnification of the law to come later. He is bringing in the reality and removing the shadow.

(LUKE 11: 39) Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.

Here, HWA and hisministers would always interject, “But clean and unclean meats aren’t what the context of this discussion was about.” They continue, “Since the Jews added so much physical content to the law, through traditions of men without God’s consent, it ruined the spiritual intent of the law, and Jesus is merely teaching the spirit of the law here.” As a proof text, we are directed to Matthew 15.

(MATT. 15: 20) These are what make a man unclean[2840]; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him unclean. [2840]"

In response, it is important to understand that the context and question here is ‘what makes someone defiled?’ It most certainly does include food laws since at that time they most certainly could make someone defiled.

First, this is blatant and deliberate ignoring of what Christ is saying. Full well they reject the magnification of the law that they may keep the yoke of the Old Covenant! Yes, Jesus is discussing the overemphasis on the traditions contrary to the law. Washings, however, were not all contrary to the law; they were part of it (EXO. 40: 12, 30-31; also read LEV. 11-16 and see how many washings were commanded). Do we not understand that the Passover foot washing, as well as baptism, were cleansing rituals? We are clean (JOHN 13: 10)! Now nothing from the outside can defile us.

Yes, Jesus is directly addressing hand washing rituals. Yes He is directly addressing the Talmud. However, if the sub-context is the spirit of the law, as HWA freely admits, then this addresses so very much more than just physical hand washing. If Jesus was merely returning the law to its proper state by removing the Talmud, why didn’t He correct them from the washing laws in the Torah? They mention hand washings, He mentions adultery. He didn’t bring it back to its legal place; He brought it far above and beyond! It addresses taking our minds out of the shadowy, physical Old Covenant and placing it into the substantive, magnified and spiritual New Covenant.

Second, Jesus Christ says “nothing”, meaning nothing, which goes into the mouth can spiritually defile you. He doesn’t say “dirt that enters from the outside”. This was never about dirt! It was about ceremonial uncleanness! And so He says “whatever enters from the outside.” This may include dirt, but it does not by any means stop there. If He only meant dirt, why didn’t He say "dirt"? If this is about the digestive system purging impurities, then what about salmonella, ecoli, campylobacter, and other food-borne illnesses? Why pasteurize? Is Jesus mistaken? Jesus knew this isn’t about dirt or health! 
Why did He repeatedly say “nothing”? This is God in the flesh here; He said nothing that the Father didn’t give Him to say. If Jesus is only discussing the Talmud hand washings, He used a pretty large scatter gun by explaining exactly what does and does not defile a man. Jesus is laying the groundwork for the magnification of the law! Here Jesus lays out a list of things that can defile and things that cannot defile. Things that can defile you include things that come from inside you; spiritual things like “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies”. Things that cannot defile you include things that come from outside of you; physical things like what goes into your mouth, and unwashed hands. Ask yourself, ‘which of these categories does meat fall into?’ Obviously they come from outside of you. How, then, can we claim Jesus is only speaking of unwashed hands – a very specific thing – when He says clearly “nothing” – a very broad and general thing?

Third, this word “defile” as Jesus uses it is the exact same word God used in Acts 10 where God says: 
(ACTS 10: 15) “What God has cleansed you must not call common [2840]” 

Whereas the word “defile” as the Pharisees use it is the exact same word that Paul uses in Romans 14 where he says: 
(ROM. 14: 14) I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean [2839] of itself 

So we see in many other areas of the Bible, these words most certainly do deal with foods.

To address the certain reaction by some who will inevitably say “I can think of a lot of things that could go into a man that would defile him.” I would reply, then, previous to that point, lust and sin have already defiled such a person.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Welcome To Escaping Armstrongism

Welcome to Escaping Armstrongism. Welcome new visitors and old. Welcome to those of my former congregation that have been peeking in. Please feel free to read and discuss. I want to take a minute out to warmly welcome you and explain a few things.
I should introduce myself to you. For the past 30 years I have accepted the teachings of Herbert Armstrong. I gave up family, friends, careers, opportunities of all strains and strands, all to accept what I truly felt was a calling from God to be a "firstfruit". It meant that much to me. Herbert W. Armstrong was the Apostle, and Worldwide was hijacked. I served on projects at church as often as I was able. I was a regular speaker. I was a faithful teacher of the ways. I gave sermon and sermonette, weekly and Holy Day. I know the teachings and I know the verses and I can promise you that I understood them as opposed to having just gone along for the ride. I did the research and could expound upon prophecy and matters of spirit. I was one of the truly faithful.

A couple years ago I was studying into a "minister" I used to call my own, his name is Ronald Weinland. I was impressed by the inexhaustible amount of deception that seeped from him. Yet his followers never seemed to get enough. It reminded me of the Trumpet whose writers mention their Editor in Chief Gerald Flurry at some 20:1 ratio over Christ. Ron's shameful error was publicly displayed when he touted his own books and predicted April 17th, 2008 would mark the opening of the first seal of Revelation. Death and hell never came. "It was all spiritual," he cried, "destruction will surely come by Pentecost!" Again, nothing. "Wait until July!" Still nothing. Now we are to believe God was merely putting out misinformation. The date was actually December all along! Certainly Ron was certainly no false prophet.

"Ahh!" I said. Here is the typical false prophet. Make a loud noise and fill people's hearts with trembling and fear; snatch up their money as fast as you can... until the time runs out. Then simply change the goal post and repeat.

"What fools his followers must be!" I chuckled mockingly. But little did I know, the joke was on me. Ron said he was the successor to Herbert Armstrong, but Herbert Armstrong wasn't like that. He would never make false prophecies, or change the law, or move the goalpost.
One day it dawned on me - oh, yes he would... and yes, he has.

This will probably startle some; turning you away from this blog in disgust. I implore you to hear me out. If you agree with me, then agree with me. If you don't then don't. But please give a man a chance to state his case.

I was studying one Sabbath evening, when I pondered the New Covenant. All at once, I "got it". An incredible torrent of joy washed over me. Jesus Christ DID magnify ALL THINGS! Our flaw was that we had only recognized the magnification of a few things.

For years I had studied with friends about how Herbert Armstrong was mistaken about some prophetic interpretations concerning the nature of Babylon the Great and the second coming of Christ. Time after countless time I sat through sermons hearing how Herbert Armstrong was either wrong or his teachings insufficient (eg. Harold Smith's 'Spiritual Compass' 1 & 2; Fred Coulter's 'Why God Hates religion' 1-5; Al Buchanan's 'Opening the Door' 1 & 2 among many others). If he was so wrong all the time, then was it at all possible that he could be wrong on salvational matters too? Could this joy be the evidence that God was answering my continual prayers for truth?

I studied late into the night, trying to see if what I thought was real or some elaborate emotional deception. Was I falling away? Was this Satan? Other horrible things feel pretty good, so joy wasn't necessarily proof. What did the ministers I trusted have to say? By the time I went to bed, I had managed to quench that joy and go back into believing Armstrong. Whew! A close call!

No man can be touched by the hand of God and go unchanged. I remembered the joy. I didn't know why I had none otherwise. Why was everything so academic? Why was it, when someone gave a message about joy, my friends and I all spoke afterwards about our confusion. Joy was a foreign language to us and everyone we knew. Even those who spoke about it didn't seem to really believe it. I started a study to prove all things. If HWA was correct, the evidence would be nearly unshakable. The writings of Alexander Hyslop were already proven false, could the rest stand?

I prayed to God to open my eyes to the truth no matter how it hurt. I prayed for Christ to let Himself in the door, since I didn't know how. Then I studied simple things, and found many inconsistencies. No one would answer my questions, however. Ministers, elders, older gentlemen - all expressed dissatisfaction with certain points but would not accept the whole was flawed. Some people insisted Herbert Armstrong was absolutely right about all things; some left our congregation over such things. There were problems in paradise. That perfect facade of Worldwide was clearly decaying - and fast! But to what end?

Many people were studying church government. One very close friend of mine even made it his personal area of expertise. He had proven to me conclusively that Jesus Christ is the Head over ALL THINGS and no man can come between us and our Lord. Ministers are merely helpers in our faith, not lords and masters and tyrants as they were clearly so in Worldwide. If Herbert Armstrong was wrong in prophecy, government, and small items, what else?

Two laws were said to be carried forward into the New Covenant along with the 10 Commandments - tithes and meats laws. They were said to be carried forward because they are seen in the Bible prior to Sinai. Could they stand up? Was this true?

I turned to tithes. After months of deep study and the writing of a 27 page Word document, I had proven to some that tithes were utterly unscriptural for the New Covenant. CONTRARY to Christ! Tithes are for Levites, and Christ put them away. God now wants 100% of us, not 10%, or 20%, or 30% of our income. Abraham never tithed regularly. He gave a tenth of the BEST of war spoils one time only; the rest he gave to the King of Sodom. That's not tithing. Others could not answer my questions without withdrawing to "That's not how I learned it." The greatest of all non-answers. Retreat to the authority of Armstrong rather than the Bible - how unbecoming those who have PROVED! (They had not proved.) One man I immensely respect told me, "I was blessed during third-tithe years, so I know it's required." That doesn't put meat on the tables of the thousands upon thousands who were not so lucky! I personally know a man who lost not one but two houses to tithes and suffers financially to this day from it. How does my good friend explain that? Certainly not from the Bible!

Then came a study about meats. I was asked online once if I condemn people who do not keep the Sabbath. I had to think for a long time. My answer - I cannot condemn anyone for any reason. Only Jesus Christ is the Judge. I set out to study meats and make such an argument that the people of the COGs could not condemn people any longer for what they ate.

If the two laws (meats and tithes) were carried forward then we should see clean and unclean meats in Genesis. Again, no scriptural evidence! Not even the Jews, who have had the written and oral Torah for over 3,000 years believe Noah had a meats law. Suddenly here comes Herbert Armstrong and he's supposed to know more about the Torah than the Jews? He was wrong about prophecy, wrong about tithes, wrong about government, and wrong about a host of small issues - but I am supposed to take his word over God's own Jews, the "keepers of the oracles of God"? 50 pages of Word document later, meats laws fell, and no one could provide convincing evidence against my 2 main points:

1) God never says "clean" and "unclean" in relation to food in Genesis, but rather they were clean and unclean for sacrifice.

2) Noah is indeed given all animals to eat in the first verses of Genesis 9.

I was very distraught about what I had found. Only the 10 Commandments were left. Only those 10 derivatives of the 2 main branches of the 1 eternal principle of love remained. Herbert Armstrong was wrong on "salvational" issues.

And then... the unthinkable struck. The one area I had never studied and never proved was suddenly set before me: Herbert Armstrong himself. I was introduced (without looking for this) to the truth about what sort of man he is, how he had an unbroken chain of false prophecy stretching decades, how 1975 In Prophecy was not his first major prediction of the second coming, how he had personal indiscretions I shudder to think about and will not mention here, how he made hundreds of thousands of dollars each year while his faithful lost homes, how he never directly preached Christ on those expensive trips abroad, how by the standards of I Timothy 3: 2-7 HWA was disqualified as an elder on no less than 9 points, and so much more... the painful truths kept coming; wave after wave of hidden truths kept from his followers over the years by men more worried about their incomes than the truth.

Still, no one had anything to say about my questions. One person told me to forget about Herbert Armstrong, he was nothing to my faith anyhow. Oh, what a misguided soul who doesn't even understand his own church. Herbert Armstrong called himself the "Spiritual and temporal leader of God's Church on earth". Herbert Armstrong is everything to the church he founded and built up. I knew what brainwashing was. I had never noticed it before, but I was a living a lie.

I pondered if the things I felt before about the New Covenant could be true. I accepted that Armstrong was wrong, and that Jesus is the Chirst and He magnified it all. Then, much to my surprise... the joy came right back! Just as potent as before.

Everything "snapped" into place. I "got it". I felt that ball of joy building up in my stomach. I had to talk to someone, I had to share my joy. I spoke to my sister and she encouraged me. My wife and I talked it over and she said it was the first time she ever understood the New Covenant. She "got it" too. I started to read about what Christianity was like in the first century. It was all true! Herbert Armstrong had falsified information about the first century church. Justin Martyr wasn't just a philosopher; he countered Trypho the Jew using only the scriptures. Mathetes countered Armstrong's teachings exactingly. Only a tiny fraction of what was given to first century Gentile Christians matched what Armstrong taught.

I had a choice - bury my head in the sand like I did before, or go forward this time.
It was time to leave that Church.

After researching many churches and coming to see much more, we went to the COG7. After the first church service, the minister said, "Jesus Christ is the most amazing gift you could possibly receive. How could you keep such a gift to yourself? Share that gift with others. Share Christ!" Now that joy I had felt was so much more. I felt all of the emotions of freedom crashing like waves. I had to fight it back. Now there was truth, and joy, and freedom, and a closeness to Christ that I had never known was even possible. How could this have been there all along, yet I was too self-interested to see it? The flood of God's Spirit carried away all of that old Armstrongism and I stood there a new man because of it.

I had to start this blog to share this overwhelming flood of joy with you. I want to share the Christ I now know with you. This isn't paganism. This isn't "worldy". This isn't Satan's deception. I never knew there was a whole community of people who had gone before me into this joy, and we all say the same things! They have been supportive to me. They have accepted me without question or condition. And they have one mind with me that we should spread the love of Jesus Christ, Head over all things to those who love Him, to all of those people who want to find Him, but are trapped in fear by Herbert Armstrong.

I know your fear. I shared it once with you. Now my old friends talk about me and wonder "why?" and say things like 'I was never called'. BAH! What do they know about me? I didn't leave them. I call out to them! Brothers, we were all deceived! Read this blog and see for yourself! Read your Bibles without the veil of Armstrongism and see for yourself!

And that, dearly loved by Christ, is why this blog exists. Please stay and read and let's help each other walk freely and boldly into the New Covenant.

The Lord bless you and keep you! Make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you! The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace! (NUM. 6: 22-27)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Three Times in the Year - Part 2

In history, three times, not just one but three times each year, the Jews were to be at the one and only one place where God put His name. Hundreds of thousands of dispersed Jews from all around the Mediterranean arrived in Jerusalem each year to celebrate these three pilgrimage festivals, hence we see so many people gathered for Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2: 5-11.

What was that place? Where is the place where the Lord put His name? Was it Jerusalem? Close, but not exactly. 

It was the Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, which was at first carried in the tent of meeting and then located in the temple in Jerusalem. We know from I Kings chapters 5-8 that Solomon was allowed to build a temple in Jerusalem with a tabernacle within it. A wall of this temple was dug up recently at the Temple Mount. This temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. A new one was constructed between 535-516 BC, and renovated by Herod the Great in 20 BC.

But the veil separating us from the Holy of Holies was torn in two (MATT. 27: 51). Then in 70 AD the temple was destroyed altogether (MATT. 24: 1-2). This physical tabernacle - it was a symbol of something greater to come (JOHN 2: 13-21). Christ now serves at the tabernacle in Heaven, not the alter in Jerusalem (HEB. 8: 1-5).

Herbert Armstrong, in his desire to follow G. G. Rupert's teachings on the Holy Days, could not quite put back the temple nor ask everyone to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year. He read the verses that clearly state we must go to the place where God put His name, and didn't quite know how to do that. So he interpreted that as saying travel was required, and he taught we must seek out the place where God put His name. (Let alone how he found it too expensive to carefully follow the law and be at this place three times a year; so he changed the law to one time per year.) Let's ask - was travel required? If it was required, then where did the people who lived in Jerusalem travel to? They didn't travel; they stayed home (NEH. 8: 14-16). So travel is not required, nor is it the focus of what's being said. Travel for travel's sake isn't the point; being where the Lord places His name is. They traveled because they were separated.
 
We must ask ourselves, then, where does the Lord place His name now? In the Old Covenant, that place was the Tabernacle of the Temple. Now, in the New Covenant, that place is still the Temple. But where is the Temple? It is in the Spiritual Body of Christ – His Church.

(II COR. 6: 16) 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

This is EXACTLY according to prophecy!  In I Chronicles 17, God told David this would happen.

(I CHR. 17: 11-12) 11 And it shall be, when your days are fulfilled, when you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up your seed after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever.”  

This is a prophecy; the “seed” here, the one who will build the house, is Jesus Christ (GAL. 3: 16).

 (I TIM. 3: 15) the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

There has been no physical Temple for almost 2,000 years. This new place, this new tabernacle, that we carry with us wherever we go, the ONE place where God puts His name, is the one true SPIRITUAL Church! I say true spiritual Church because there is only one, and it is no corporate organization made by men for tax rebates. All who have God's Spirit - be they Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free, Catholic, Protestant, or COG - are part of this Church. God alone knows exactly who these are.

Though we labor with Him, it is the Lord who builds this house (PSA. 127: 1). Today, in the New Covenant, this place where God puts His name is not in some hotel somewhere, nor in some distant city or group of cities. It cannot be discerned by local attractions. We did not and do not search it out ourselves, as if it were some hidden place you had to find; no, we were called to it. Called by the Father God Almighty Himself and brought along by Jesus Christ (JOHN 6: 44-45).  
THEY are doing this – God the Father and Jesus Christ are doing this - not us! This is about God and the Son of His love, Jesus Christ, Head over all things to His Church – not about men, and man’s things, and man’s rules, and man’s thoughts, and man’s organizations and cliques and Feast sites and traditions. This is spirit and this is truth and this is power!

As Psalms and Proverbs say, ‘fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge’. Truly concentrate on Christ as the Head of all things to His Church. Put all physical mindedness aside and concentrate on this truth, that Christ is our Savior and High Priest and ALL authority is given to Him.

Once you have that firmly fixed in your mind, the traditions of men and fantasies of men and the power of men to lord over you will melt away in the freedom and simplicity in Christ Jesus. Just like Peter as he sat in prison, the shackles will simply fall away and the prison door will open. And He will put His Spirit all the more in you, that Spirit that He gave on Pentecost day (should you want it); then He and our Father will dwell in you and help you. And they most surely will bring you into their Kingdom.

Brothers and sisters, loved more than words can express by the true God, YOU ARE THAT TEMPLE of the Living God!  YOU ARE THAT HOUSE Christ has built!  YOU ARE THAT PLACE where God places His name!  You need go NOWHERE! You are no longer separated! That place has come to you! And not three times a year, but every second of every minute of every day throughout the year and into eternity! If that Spirit of love and joy and reconciliation is truly within you, open your heart to God and SEE! See how far greater the New Covenant is beyond the Old. See how the old law has been magnified to a degree I can scarcely articulate to you! Put away your apprehension and step boldly into the freedom of the New Covenant!

Three Times in the Year - Part 1

Herbert Armstrong taught the 7 Old Covenant Holy Days were commanded for us today, and necessary for salvation. He taught that we cannot understand God's plan without them. Did he get them right?

From the time the Israelites left Egypt there was one place where the Lord could be found; until the time when the veil of the Holy of Holies was torn in two there was only one place where the Lord could be worshiped. At first, there was the pillar of fire and the cloud, then Mt. Sinai, then the Ark of the Covenant, then the Tent of Meeting, then the Temple. Later, the temple was rebuilt by Zechariah, and a new one was built by Herod. God specifically chose one and only one place from all of Israel in order to emphasize the differences between His true worship and that false worship of the pagan nations (DEU. 12: 5).

This does not mean “seek a new place each fall”. It meant to seek one place, and that place was sought, and it was eventually found in Jerusalem, though previously it was in Shiloh. And the way it was found was most certainly not by looking for the best hotel rates and local attractions. This one place was chosen by God. The place indicated to David for Solomon to build God's temple was also the place Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac, thus it was predetermined by God to be the place of His temple.

All of the people if Israel had to be present at this one place.

(DEU. 12: 13-14) 13 Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; 14 but in the place which the LORD chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.

Here God makes it perfectly clear, there was to be ONE place in ONE of the tribes’ land. There was not a temple in each of the tribe's lands (even though there were meeting places and eventually Synagogues). There was but one temple and one place at which the Lord's presence could be said to remain.

This one place was the location where the Holy Days were kept. To this one place the Israelites traveled to rejoice before God. It was forbidden to do this anywhere else (DEU. 12: 17-18).

The festival tithe items were not to be used in just any place (DEU. 12: 26). But if those items could not be easily transported to this one worship place, they could be sold and the money taken to the one and only worship place. Those holy offerings belong to God and were to be burned up, eaten by the priests, or eaten by the person who offered. But the festival tithe could be eaten, or sold and exchanged for what can be eaten – this makes no difference to God. The important part is that those tithes and offerings made it to this one and only place where God put His name (DEU. 14: 22-25).

Now God begins to explain when these holy meeting days that require being at the place where God puts His name will occur. Unleavened Bread is mentioned first, and it was to be kept only in the one place. You may only see Passover mentioned. Many Jews call the entire period "Passover", whereas the xCOGs do not.

(DEU 16: 1-8) Unleavened Bread
1 “Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 Therefore you shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God, from the flock and the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses to put His name. 3 You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life. 4 And no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the meat which you sacrifice the first day at twilight remain overnight until morning.
5 “You may not sacrifice the Passover within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you; 6 but at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide, there you shall sacrifice the Passover at twilight, at the going down of the sun, at the time you came out of Egypt. 7 And you shall roast and eat it in the place which the LORD your God chooses, and in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents. 8 Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a sacred assembly to the LORD your God. You shall do no work on it.

Being at this one place was required for the Passover.  Next comes Pentecost.

(DEU. 16: 9-12) Pentecost
9 “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. 10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. 11 You shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. 12 And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.

Being at this one place was required for Pentecost.
Passover and Pentecost were kept in the exact same place as the Feast of Tabernacles. People were present at that one place for all three of these Holy Days, NOT JUST ONE!

(DEU 16: 13-15) Tabernacles
13 “You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. 14 And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates. 15 Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.

Verse 16 is a summary of verses 1-15. Again God emphasizes these three Holy Days. Again He emphasizes how being at this one destination was necessary.

(DEU. 16: 16) 16 Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles

At every one of the seven Holy Days, we were read to from this verse, Deuteronomy 16: 16.  We were told how we must never arrive at church services without money to give because God requires us all to make an offering at each of the seven holy days.  Did anyone ask why all of the burnt offerings were fulfilled, but these? And where in the law does a burnt offering become a money offering?
But that was seven times; not three. So we were told these were three holy day "seasons" spoken of here. Biblically, this simply is not so. This is odd to me, that a church which goes to such great lengths to teach Jesus was dead for 72 literal hours would not go to equal lengths to prove this is not speaking of "seasons" but three very literal Holy Days, mentioned by name in Deuteronomy 16. But that isn't the only place we can look.  Check Exodus 34 as well.

(EXO. 34: 18-24) 18 The Feast of Unleavened Bread you shall keep. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, in the appointed time of the month of Abib; for in the month of Abib you came out from Egypt. 19 All that open the womb are Mine, and every male firstborn among your livestock, whether ox or sheep. 20 But the firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb. And if you will not redeem him, then you shall break his neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem.  And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. 21 Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. 22 And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks [Pentecost], of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering [Tabernacles] at the year’s end. 23 Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the LORD God of Israel. 24 For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.

It is well known to the Jews that God meant three specific Holy Days required them being at the place where God put His name. But that doesn't bring in the 7 holy day offerings. By adding to God's very specific law, and taking away from it, Herbert Armstrong broke the very law he said is required for salvation.
(DEU. 12: 1) 1 “These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth.
(DEU. 12: 32) Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.

[to be continued]