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Why Political Speech Is Inappropriate from the Pulpit!

For years now, I have been criticizing the preaching of politics from the pulpit. Why? What's so wrong with talking about issues and can...

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Covid-19, God and Faith

In the midst of CGI's firestorm over Covid-19, some folks have suggested that the folks who have practiced masking and received one of the vaccinations have demonstrated that their faith in God is weak. They suggest that we should instead have relied on the immune system which God gave us and prayers for protection. This kind of self-righteous and simplistic thinking reminded me of the story about the man who drowned and went to heaven.

The man was treading water and growing weary of the effort, and a man in a boat came by and offered assistance. "No thanks," the man replied, "I'm waiting on the Lord to save me!" A few minutes later, another boat came by and one of the ladies who was rowing offered to toss the man a life preserver. "No thanks," he again replied, "I'm expecting God to save me just any minute now." As he began to slip below the surface of the water, a person in a canoe came by and tossed a rope in his direction. No longer able to speak, the man wearily pushed the rope away and slipped under the surface for good. When he awoke in God's presence, he was perplexed and more than a little miffed. "Why didn't you save me?" he demanded. "What are you talking about?" God replied, "I sent you two boats and a canoe!"

The fact is that, just as God designed our immune system, "He" also designed the human mind. In short, God gave some of us the mind power and creativity to develop public health measures, treatments and vaccines to assist that wonderful immune system of ours to fight off diseases. Unfortunately, as with EVERYTHING else which God has created, sometimes things don't work out according to plan (sometimes people are born with defective hearts or without arms and legs). It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes masks fail and folks have adverse reactions to vaccines. For better and for worse, humans are unique creatures and what works for most doesn't always work for everyone.

For those who are uncomfortable with modern technologies and health care, there are religious alternatives still available for them. There are groups like the Amish and the Mennonites for the former, and some churches still have faith healers and amulets available for the latter group. For the vast majority of Christians, however, our faith is not impeded or destroyed by the things which the marvelously designed human brain has produced to aid and assist us in our sojourn on this planet. The Moderna vaccine doesn't negate or remove "the substance of things hoped for," and a mask doesn't eliminate "the evidence of things not seen." 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Church of God International's Pandemic Civil War

Heretofore, the loudest voices in the Church of God International have minimized the pandemic, disputed the numbers and the science, hinted at hoaxes and conspiracy theories and ridiculed public health measures instituted by local, state and federal governments across the United States. In The International News (Summer 2020 edition), Mike James wrote an article entitled “No Need to Panic Over This Pandemic.” And, after going through the numbers from other historical plagues, he declared “this present virus is not as significant.” Another article by James in the same paper decried the fact that humans themselves are causing these pandemics and warned that bigger plagues are on the way.

In the next edition of their paper (Fall 2020), Pastor Bill Watson wrote: “thousands of convicted felons are being released from prison under the guise of ‘jeopardy to their health,’ due to the Chinese Communist Party’s virus (CCP virus). And California Governor Gavin Newsome has recently reversed his opening of the state and began to close down bars, gyms, restaurants, and churches across California again! All of this is an effort to continue keeping the state and, by extension, the nation, from restarting its economies.” And, in open defiance of the folks in Tyler, Mr. Watson hosted his own Feast of Tabernacles in Medina (mask wearing was optional).

In a May 2020 “Coronavirus Special Report,” Mr. Watson attributed the virus to a decision by the Obama Administration to give a grant to a virology lab in Wuhan China (the clear implication being that the virus originated in that lab). Indeed, a large part of Mr. Watson’s presentation was concerned with blaming the virus on China (what that contributed to our fight against the virus was never explained). As usual, Mr. Watson’s sources were the standard right wing outlets like Fox News and Breitbart. Like James, Watson went on to compare the current pandemic to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. He even questioned whether or not Covid-19 was responsible for all of the deaths attributed to it, and then said that the chances of dying from the virus were minimal and did not justify the measures taken to fight its spread. He went on to suggest that the impact of the virus was being exaggerated to hurt Donald Trump’s chances for reelection. In other remarks on the pandemic, Mr. Watson openly ridiculed mask wearing and fumed about how it was infringing upon his freedom.

Finally, however, someone in CGI had the intestinal fortitude to push back against Mr. Watson’s war on the science related to the pandemic. In a May 25, 2021 post entitled “Pandemic Lies,” Mr. Jeff Reed wrote: “In the past year, we have seen many new lies originate and spread regarding the coronavirus pandemic. In my life, I have never witnessed this amount of widespread deception spread so quickly. The pandemic was a unique situation in that none of us were prepared for it, and many became so easily deceived. The danger in believing these new lies is that they could lead to your immediate death or the death of someone close to you. For many thousands, they unfortunately have. Satan is a deceiver, and he loves death.”

Mr. Reed went on to cite the horrible statistics associated with the virus and pushed back on the narrative that those death tolls had been “overly inflated.” In fact, he went on to make a compelling case that the death toll from Covid-19 has actually been underreported. And, on a note of optimism about the future, Mr. Reed remarked: “As I write this, there is hope that things will soon return to normal. God allowed one of the most outstanding scientific achievements in modern history. Humanity developed several highly effective coronavirus vaccines in the last year using new technologies. Two prominent mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna distributed in the United States have proven safe after hundreds of millions of doses.”

Even so, there was immediate push back from the Bill Watson camp within the church. One commentator even pushed the now thoroughly discredited hydroxychloroquine as a potentially effective treatment for the virus. Indeed, my own nephew (who attends Bill’s congregation) suggested that the Pfizer vaccine had caused his father-in-law’s recent stroke! This, despite the fact that his father (my brother) and his fiancĂ©e (who also attend with Bill Watson’s congregation) are currently battling Covid-19! He went on to write: “Jeff, this article is only going to serve to divide the church even more. I received no edification from it but had what I know to my core attacked by it. I disagree with what you have said whole heartedly. Do you think Satan can’t influence information put on a government website? He can, he does, and he will. As your brother, I am offended completely by what you’ve said.”

Unfortunately, if past remarks and the present commentary on Mr. Reed’s post are any indication of what’s to come, my nephew is probably right about the division within the church. It appears that members of CGI currently have two options relative to the pandemic: Support Bill Watson’s narrative or keep your mouth shut! Hope springs eternal though, someone in Tyler did have the intestinal fortitude to post Mr. Reed’s remarks on their website!

For those who are interested in viewing Mr. Reed’s post in its entirety, you may do so here: Pandemic Lies

Saturday, May 22, 2021

The Transvaluation of American Values

The Atlantic has published an excellent piece by former Republican presidential speechwriter Peter Wehner titled "Trump Is Marching Down the Road to Political Violence." For those who are interested in reading the article in its entirety, you may do so by following this link: The Road to Political Violence. In the piece, Wehner warns the Republican Party about the dangers inherent in entertaining or accepting Trump's lies about the 2020 election and what happened at the U.S. Capitol in January. Wehner underscores the fact that swallowing the former president's lies will overturn many of our most cherished values as Americans (values that many of us would say have their foundation in Christianity).

He wrote: "The repetition of the lies not only causes tens of millions of Americans to embrace them; over time, it deforms their moral sensibility. It creates an inversion of ethics, what in philosophy is known as the “transvaluation of values,” in which lies become truth and unjust acts are seen as righteous. Believing the deceptions also becomes a form of virtue signaling, a validation of one’s loyalty to others in one’s political tribe. In this case, of course, what we’re dealing with is not just any lie; it’s a particularly destructive one, among the most dangerous a democracy can face. It erodes confidence in our elections, the rule of law, and our system of government."

Wehner continued: "The mindset that this gives rise to in MAGA world is something like this: We are victims of a monstrous injustice. Our revered leader, Donald Trump, was removed from office by illegitimate means. It was done by those who are determined to destroy us, and to destroy our country; they cheated their way to power. Nothing like this has ever happened before in American history, and we must employ every available weapon at our disposal to undo this historic abuse of power, this coordinated assault on our rights. If others won’t protect us, we will take matters into our own hands. We would prefer it not to be violent, but sometimes violence is a necessary recourse, and we are in uncharted territory. We will do what we must. After all, we are victims of 'THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY.' This is how the road to political violence is paved."

Yes, Wehner's assessment of the direction of the Republican Party (and America more generally) reminds me of something written long ago in Scripture. Isaiah once wrote:  "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" --Isaiah 5:20 I am also reminded of something that Jesus said to one of his disciples about violence. In the twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew, after one of his disciples had sliced off the ear of one of the high priest's servants, we read: "Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." --verse 52 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Angry God vs the Loving God

Down through the centuries, the Judeo-Christian God has been portrayed by some folks as wrathful, angry and vindictive and as compassionate, loving and merciful by others. This dichotomous portrayal of God has bewildered believers and stoked the skepticism of non-believers over much of the same period. In fact, these opposing viewpoints on the nature of God has prompted some folks to ask: Will the real God please stand up? Unfortunately, more often than not, these contradictory views of God have prompted many believers to attempt to reconcile these opposing views and embark on an apologetics tour. (see Christianity Today: Is God Angry or Loving?) Likewise, many non-believers look at the dichotomy as proof that the whole thing is just a bunch of nonsense that originated in the minds of a few deluded humans. Nevertheless, there are more than a few of us who have expressed our dissatisfaction with either of those approaches and have decided instead that God is one or the other.

For instance, it would be hard to argue against the profound impact that men like Calvin and Knox have had on the Protestant Christian conception of an angry and vindictive God. In America, the influence of folks like Jonathan Edwards (and his infamous Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God) has been widespread. There are more than a few Southern Baptists who have felt the flames of Hell licking at their feet after a Sunday morning sermon or during a revival. Indeed, even in groups which have traditionally been regarded as cultic, the emphasis on the "End Times," and the culmination of God's wrath has placed many folks squarely in the Angry God camp. For these folks, God is pissed, and "He's" taking names and getting ready to kick some ass! Oh sure, they say that all of this anger is really an expression of love; but, for many of us, it doesn't look like any definition of love that we're accustomed to - it just doesn't make sense.

We ask ourselves: If God really does have this plan to save humans from sin and death, then WHY is "He" so anxious to ZAP such a large portion of humanity? How does the salvation of a select few meet any legitimate notion of compassion, justice or love? And, even the folks who say that God will eventually call all humans to salvation (even the ones who have died), how can we justify multiple millions/billions of folks ending up in the Lake of Fire? In short, you (or God) can't have it both ways! Love is either patient and kind, or it isn't! Love is either accommodating, or it demands its own way! Love is either forgiving, or it's condemning. Love NEVER gives up, or it does! Love either endures through every circumstance, or it doesn't! (see I Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT) Paul was either lying, or he was telling the truth! I repeat, "You (or God) can't have it both ways!

The impetus to reconcile these two views of God arises from the need of some Christians to make the Judeo-Christian Scriptures inerrant. The dichotomy cannot exist. "Scripture NEVER contradicts itself!" they indignantly declare. These folks, however, have forgotten that Scripture itself teaches that our Bible was a joint venture - between God and HUMANS (and the human part of that equation is IMPERFECT and prone to make mistakes). In short, these conceptions of an Angry God arise from the perspective of humans who were/are subject to things like anger, vindictiveness and a spirit of murder and hate. In other words, they tend to remake God in their own image.

"But didn't the folks who portrayed God as loving do the same thing?" some will ask. That certainly appears to be a reasonable question based on what we've been saying! However, if we look at Scripture as a whole and look at all of the evidence, I think that we will see that only one of these alternatives is possible (and I'm talking now just to believers). If you believe that God created humans in the image of God and desires to reconcile them to itself, then logic demands that that desire must be accomplished. If you truly believe that God so loved the world that he sent his son to redeem us from sin and death, then logic demands that God's will in this matter will be accomplished! In short, the image of a God who is dangling humanity at the end of a thin thread over the fires of Hell does NOT comport with these concepts. An angry and spiteful God who is bent on punishing and/or destroying the objects of his supposed affections is simply NOT logically consistent with these plans!

The Fundamentalists will say that this is simply human reasoning. They love to quote: "There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 12:15) They sometimes forget, however, that Paul also wrote to the Romans: "Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." (Romans 12:2) Likewise, they forget about the eighth chapter of that same epistle (see Romans 8:1-30), and Paul's stirring conclusion about the certainty of God's plan: "What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (verses 32-39)

Frankly, I don't see how anyone could read those lines and be ready to join Jonathan Edwards' camp of Angry God believers! Yes, Scripture does portray two distinct perspectives on the Divine character - one angry and vindictive and the other compassionate and forgiving. Both cannot be right! And, while the atheist would be eager to judge both perspectives as human and fanciful, most of them have failed to account for the presence of good and evil in our world. For many of us, any explanation of the existence of these phenomena that relies exclusively on the mechanics of evolution is unsatisfactory and illogical. In fact, if our fate is controlled entirely by impersonal forces, then how is it that we can imagine something more? What is the likelihood that we would even find ourselves living on this blue/green/white orb circling an average star in one of several hundred billion galaxies in a universe that may be part of a multi-verse?

Having different perspectives is a phenomenon that is very familiar to humankind, and you are certainly entitled to see an angry or impersonal force at work around you. However, when I look into the night sky, I see a benevolent force at work - one that means to do us good. What about you? Which view of God do you subscribe too?  


Friday, May 14, 2021

The Significance of the Birthright in Scripture

The Church of God International is currently offering a segment entitled "What Is the Birthright Promise? (Part 2)" on its website that is consistent with Herbert Armstrong's understanding/teaching of Anglo-Israelism. But do they have the right understanding of the "Birthright Promise" and its implications for us today? Was Mr. Armstrong's teaching about that "Birthright Promise" correct?

In his The United States and Britain in Prophecy, Armstrong wrote that "there were two phases to the promises God made to Abraham-the one purely material and national; the other spiritual and individual. The spiritual promise of the Messiah, and of salvation through Him, is well known by the most superficial Bible students. They know that God gave the spiritual promise to Abraham of Christ to be born as Abraham's descendant-and that salvation comes to us through Christ....What is essential to the theme of this book is the fact that God also made another entirely different, most amazing national and material promise to Abraham which has been almost entirely overlooked." He continued by drawing his readers' attention to Genesis 12:1-3 and commenting on the passage: "Notice the twofold promise: 1) 'I will make of thee A GREAT NATION' - the national, material promise that his flesh-born children should become a great nation-a promise of RACE; 2) '. . . and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed' - the spiritual promise of GRACE. This same promise is repeated in Genesis 22:18: 'And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.' This particular 'one seed' refers to Christ, as plainly affirmed in Galatians 3:8, 16."

In similar fashion, CGI describes the above mentioned program in these terms: "Unquestionably, most traditional Christians recognize the promise of a Savior; and that Messiah would come from the loins of Abraham, specifically from his great-grandchild Judah (remember, Christ was Jewish). But unfortunately, many miss the part of that same promise, which pertains to becoming a great and wealthy nation with bounty overflowing its boundaries and ultimately controlling the gateways to the lands of their enemies."

Hence, we see that the separation of these promises made to Abraham into two component parts is foundational to the teachings of Armstrong and his spiritual descendants with regard to Anglo-Israelism. This point is underscored by them when the promises are repeated to both Abraham's heir Isaac and Isaac's heir Jacob (later Israel). Moreover, the dual nature of this promise is crucial to their interpretation of the events recorded in the the 48th and 49th chapters of the book of Genesis (where Israel adopts and blesses Joseph's sons, and the promise of the birthright is reckoned through them - and the promise of the scepter is reckoned through Judah).

Having established the parameters of what these Armstrongists teach about Anglo-Israelism relative to the Bible, it is essential that we take a closer look at what that book actually has to say about the "Birthright Promises." First, we should make a point that Mr. Armstrong himself liked to make about other topics - the phrase "Birthright Promise(s)" does NOT occur anywhere in the Bible! Nevertheless, the term "birthright" occurs throughout the King James Version of the Scriptures.

The Hebrew word translated into English as "birthright" is "bekowrah," and it literally refers to the firstborn, and/or his rights of inheritance under the principle of primogeniture. This point is critical to a proper understanding of the term, and what is being discussed in those passages where it is being used. In the way of background, we should note that it was the practice of the Hebrews (and many other paternalistic societies and cultures) to give the lion's share (majority) of the deceased father's estate to his eldest son. This meaning is made clear in the Biblical story about the rivalry between Esau and Jacob over Esau's "birthright" as the eldest son. Moreover, the principle is further underscored by the explanation we find in the book of I Chronicles about those events that transpired in the 48th and 49th chapters of Genesis. We read there: "The oldest son of Israel was Reuben. But since he dishonored his father by sleeping with one of his father’s concubines, his birthright was given to the sons of his brother Joseph. For this reason, Reuben is not listed in the genealogical records as the firstborn son. The descendants of Judah became the most powerful tribe and provided a ruler for the nation, but the birthright belonged to Joseph." (I Chronicles 5:1-2, NLT) In other words, contrary to the normal inheritance of their father's estate (according to the principle of primogeniture), the firstborn son in this instance was excluded in favor of one of his younger brothers (Joseph).

Remember, from the Armstrongist perspective, it is critical that a distinction be made in the promises made to Abraham, and this distinction is largely accomplished via the physical division of Israel's estate among his sons. Scripture, however, only makes this distinction in relation to the physical inheritance of Israel's estate - NO such distinction is made relative to the original promises (plural) made to Abraham, whom we are clearly told find their ultimate fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ! In other words, Jesus Christ ultimately inherits the promises of the scepter and the nation(s).

In his letter to the saints of Galatia, the Apostle Paul wrote: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." (Galatians 3:16) He went on to make clear that everyone who accepts Christ as their Savior is made the heirs of those promises with him. Paul wrote: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (verses 28-29)

Likewise, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, we read: "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he <Christ> took on him the seed of Abraham." (Hebrews 2:16) Moreover, after citing several outstanding examples of faith in action (including Abraham), the author of the epistle tells us "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." (Hebrews 11:13) And, after offering even more examples of faith, the author repeats that "these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." (verses 39-40) Indeed, none of these people or their descendants ever received all of what was promised to Abraham. The United States and Britain NEVER received all of the land that was promised to Abraham, but Jesus Christ will one day rule over all of it!

One day, Jesus Christ, as God's firstborn son will inherit everything and will make Abraham's descendants innumerable - like the sands on the seashore. One day, Christ will be ruler over the nation of Israel and a great company of nations besides them! Hence, whatever the physical birthright of Abraham's, Isaac's, Jacob's and Joseph's literal heirs, ALL of the promises made to Abraham will find their ultimate and final fulfillment in and through Jesus Christ!

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Kingdom of God

At the end of April, I posted a piece about Herbert Armstrong's interpretation of Christ's gospel. As can be seen from the many quotes lifted from various writings of his, a significant part of Mr. Armstrong's message was the premise that other churches were not teaching that message - that only he and his church were preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. As such, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what some of the other Christian churches are teaching on the subject.

Over a hundred years ago now, in an article on the "Kingdom of God," The Catholic Encyclopedia stated:

"In this expression the innermost teaching of the Old Testament is summed up, but it should be noted that the word kingdom means ruling as well; thus it signifies not so much the actual kingdom as the sway of the king -- cf. Dan., iv, 28-29. The Greek basileia of the New Testament also has these two meanings -- cf. Aristotle, "Pol.", II, xi, 10; II, xiv; IV, xiii, 10. We find the theocracy sketched in Exodus 19:6 ; in the establishment of the kingdom, 1 Samuel 8:7 : "They have not rejected thee, but me, that I should not reign over them." Still more clearly is it indicated in the promise of the theocratic kingdom, 2 Samuel 7:14-16 . It is God Who rules in the theocratic king and Who will avenge any neglect on his part. All through the Psalter this same thought is found; cf. Ps. x, 5; it is constantly insisted that God's throne is in heaven and that there is His kingdom; this may explain St. Matthew's preference for the expression "kingdom of heaven", as being more familiar to the Hebrews for whom he wrote. The Prophets dwell on the thought that God is the Supreme King and that by Him alone all kings rule; cf. Isaias, xxxvii, 16, 20. And when the temporal monarchy has failed, this same thought of God's ultimate rule over His people is brought into clearer relief till it culminates in the grand prophecy of Daniel 7:13 sq. , to which the thoughts of Christ's hearers must have turned when they heard Him speak of His kingdom...

In the New Testament the speedy advent of this kingdom is the one theme: "Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand", said the Baptist, and Christ's opening words to the people do but repeat that message. At every stage in His teaching the advent of this kingdom, its various aspects, its precise meaning, the way in which it is to be attained, form the staple of His discourses, so much so that His discourse is called "the gospel of the kingdom". And the various shades of meaning which the expression bears have to be studied. In the mouth of Christ the "kingdom" means not so much a goal to be attained or a place -- though those meanings are by no means excluded; cf. Matt., v, 3; xi, 2, etc. -- it is rather a tone of mind ( Luke 17:20-21 ), it stands for an influence which must permeate men's minds if they would be one with Him and attain to His ideals; cf. Luke, ix, 55. It is only by realizing these shades of meaning that we can do justice to the parables of the kingdom with their endless variety. At one time the "kingdom" means the sway of grace in men's hearts, e.g. in the parable of the seed growing secretly ( Mark 4:26 sq. ; cf. Matthew 21:43 ); and thus, too, it is opposed to and explained by the opposite kingdom of the devil ( Matthew 4:8 ; 12:25-26 ). At another time it is the goal at which we have to aim, e.g. Matt., iii, 3. Again it is a place where God is pictured as reigning ( Mark 14:25 ). In the second petition of the "Our Father" -- "Thy kingdom come" -- we are taught to pray as well for grace as for glory. As men grew to understand the Divinity of Christ they grew to see that the kingdom of God was also that of Christ -- it was here that the faith of the good thief excelled: "Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom." So, too, as men realized that this kingdom stood for a certain tone of mind, and saw that this peculiar spirit was enshrined in the Church, they began to speak of the Church as "the kingdom of God "; cf. Col., I, 13; I Thess., ii, 12; Apoc., I, 6, 9; v, 10, etc. The kingdom was regarded as Christ's and He presents it to the Father; cf. I Cor., xv, 23-28; II Tim., iv, 1. The kingdom of god means, then, the ruling of God in our hearts; it means those principles which separate us off from the kingdom of the world and the devil ; it means the benign sway of grace; it means the Church as that Divine institution whereby we may make sure of attaining the spirit of Christ and so win that ultimate kingdom of God Where He reigns without end in "the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God " ( Revelation 21:2 )."

see The Catholic Encyclopedia Online

In their Baptist Faith & Message, the Southern Baptist Convention stated:

"The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King. Particularly the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ. Christians ought to pray and to labor that the Kingdom may come and God’s will be done on earth. The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age."

From their Mission & Vision statement, we read:

"Being fully committed to the proposition that Jesus Christ is the only hope for the world, and believing Southern Baptists are yearning for spiritual renewal and Christ-centered living, and recognizing the challenge of Jesus to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we, the undersigned Southern Baptist denominational leaders, covenant with each other and every willing Southern Baptist, under God,

To make the kingdom of God the priority in our own personal lives.

To dedicate the energies and resources of the ministries we lead to seeking first the King and His kingdom.

To cooperate with each other and the family of Southern Baptists as we pursue kingdom principles and practices..."

see The Southern Baptist Convention on The Kingdom of God

From an article by the Jehovah's Witnesses entitled What Is the Kingdom of God?:

"God’s Kingdom is a real government established by Jehovah God. 'The kingdom of God' is also called 'the kingdom of heaven' in the Bible, since it rules from heaven. (Mark 1:14, 15; Matthew 4:17, King James Version) It shares many attributes of human governments, yet it is superior to them in every way.

Rulers. God has appointed Jesus Christ as King of the Kingdom and has given him more authority than any human ruler could ever have. (Matthew 28:18) Jesus uses this power only for good, since he has already proved to be a reliable and compassionate Leader. (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:40, 41; 6:31-34; Luke 7:11-17) Under God’s direction, Jesus has selected persons from all nations who will 'rule as kings over the earth' with him in heaven.—Revelation 5:9, 10.

Duration. Unlike human governments, which come and go, God’s Kingdom 'will never be brought to ruin.'—Daniel 2:44.

Subjects. Anyone who does what God requires can be a subject of God’s Kingdom, without regard for ancestry or birthplace.—Acts 10:34, 35.

Laws. The laws (or commandments) of God’s Kingdom do more than just prohibit wrong behavior. They raise the moral character of its subjects. For example, the Bible says: 'You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.' (Matthew 22:37-39) Love of God and neighbor moves subjects of the Kingdom to act in the best interests of others.

Education. While God’s Kingdom sets high standards for its subjects, it also teaches people how to meet those standards.—Isaiah 48:17, 18.

Mission. The Kingdom of God doesn’t enrich its rulers at the expense of its subjects. Instead, it will accomplish God’s will, including the promise that those who love him will live forever on a paradise earth.—Isaiah 35:1, 5, 6; Matthew 6:10; Revelation 21:1-4."

see Jehovah's Witnesses - JW.org

Thus, we can see that other Christians have NOT avoided the subject of the Kingdom of God. Interestingly, of the examples referenced in this post, the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses (which many Christians regard as a cult) appear to be the most consistent with Mr. Armstrong's teachings on the subject. Indeed, from the perspective of this observer, the Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist teachings appear to be the broadest and most comprehensive in their understanding of the subject. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

On Mother's Day

Folks who belong to the Judeo-Christian tradition are accustomed to viewing God as their father. There are many reasons for this: the paternalistic nature of ancient Israel and the fact that fathers have traditionally been viewed as the providers, protectors and disciplinarians of our families. Nevertheless, we sometimes forget that the first chapter of Genesis portrays both genders (male and female) of the human kind as reflecting the image of God (see Genesis 1:26-27). So, mothers were also created in the image of God?

Does that imagery fit? Does God also reflect the roles which we normally assign to mothers?

Let's take just a moment to contrast the familial roles which we normally assign to fathers (providers, protectors and disciplinarians) with those which we have traditionally assigned to mothers (nurturers, comforters and teachers). Many of us think of our mothers as the person who cares for and encourages the growth and development of her children. Likewise, we have traditionally associated our mothers with the person who wipes away the tears and comforts us when we are distressed, and the one who is most directly responsible for teaching or instructing us in the ways of life.

Once upon a time, after chronicling the rebelliousness of Jerusalem, it is interesting to note Christ's response in this connection. He is reported to have said: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me." (see Matthew 23:37) Jesus Christ as a mother hen protecting her chicks? In similar fashion, Scripture portrays the Holy Spirit as Comforter and God "himself" as the source of all comfort (see John 14-16 and II Corinthians 1:3). And, finally, we remember how the Apostle Paul commended Timothy's mother and grandmother for the roles which they had played in teaching him about God (see II Timothy 1:5).

In this regard, it is also interesting to note that Paul chose to portray the old and new covenants as MOTHERS in his epistle to the saints of Galatia (see Galatians 4:21-31). He said that Hagar represented the covenant given at Mount Sinai, and that her children were enslaved to the law. For Paul, this woman stood in stark contrast to the mother whom he chose to represent the New Covenant - the one who represented these Galatian Christians. He wrote: "But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother." (verse 26)

Hmmmmm, God as nurturer, comforter and teacher? Yeah, it appears to me that this imagery is just as valid and appropriate as that which portrays God as our Father!

So, on this day which we have designated to honor our mothers, let's remember all of the Godly roles which our mothers have played in our lives. Let's remember to say thank you for the love, care and concern which they have always lavished on us. Let's thank our mothers for their soothing and healing hands and words. And, let's all thank the God whose characteristics they most certainly reflect!