Featured Post

Death, Pestilence, and Destruction Around the World Today!

The title of this post could be the opening line of most newscasts and many sermons. Indeed, our obsession with gloom and doom is legendary ...

Sunday, February 27, 2022

A Prayer Request

The next time you go before Almighty God in prayer, please remember to ask for the healing of my youngest granddaughter, Millie Jane. She had Covid19 and has been experiencing a chronic fever and urinary tract infection for several weeks now (multiple doctor visits and antibiotics). Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter, and may God bless you for offering a petition for her healing.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Now, that's a sermon!

Not that my opinion matters a great deal in the grand scheme of things, but I do think that the message which CGI Pastor Murray Palmatier delivered today is exactly the kind of message which Almighty God expects his ministers to be delivering to his people during these troubled times in which we live. Pastor Palmatier gave a fine exposition of what is commonly referred to as "The Lord's Prayer," and he underscored the importance of "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In fact, the sermon was titled "Praying Through Troubled Times."

The pastor said: "In prayer, it becomes a point of focus – the Kingdom of God – that’s why he includes it here. This is where our vision should lie. This is especially important during times of trouble. Quite often, when we can’t see eye to eye, or we’re struggling with things, we need to ask ourselves: Are we both - if we’re in a bit of a disagreement over things - are we both being Kingdom focused?

If we’re focused on making this world better, that’s where conflict comes in. Because we all have a different idea as to what makes this world better. But if we’re focused on the Kingdom of God that’s where we <can> come to an agreement. This is where our vision should lie…that our focus is His Kingdom."

Amen! I couldn't have said it better myself. In our prayer life and in our messaging, the focus of every Christian must be God's Kingdom - not the depravity that's going on around us! Focusing on that stuff is a recipe for discord, strife and anger.


Friday, February 25, 2022

Is God responsible for what's happening in Ukraine?

While the world bears witness to Russia's barbaric invasion of peaceful Ukraine, some of us will inevitably ask: Where is God in the midst of this horror? Why has God permitted Vladimir Putin to visit this great evil upon the people of Ukraine? Where is God in the midst of their suffering and affliction?

For those of us who look to Scripture to help us find answers to these kinds of questions, here are a couple of passages for us to consider. First, the highly symbolic narrative surrounding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the book of Genesis immediately comes to mind. In this story about the beginnings of humankind, we are informed that God was present and accessible to our ancestors, and that he was ready and willing to provide them with everything that they would need to sustain themselves and to instruct them in the ways that would secure their lives and happiness. Moreover, we are informed there that God specifically warned our ancestors that they would die if they decided to ingest the fruit of the mysterious tree that had been chosen to represent knowledge of the difference between good and evil. Of course, most of us are very familiar with the story's outcome. Our ancestors rejected God's guidance and chose to decide for themselves and their future offspring to pursue and consume this fruit - the knowledge of good and evil - the ability to discern for themselves what was right and wrong.

Hence, from the perspective of Scripture, Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine is consistent with the choice our progenitors made so long ago. In other words, separate and apart from God, Putin decided that it was right for him to invade Ukraine and subjugate it to his will. Why would he make such a decision?

In the New Testament epistle attributed to James, we are given some significant insights into the answer to that question. Beginning in the third chapter of that book, we are informed that jealousy and selfishness are not encompassed within God's definition of wisdom (verse 15). Instead, we read: "For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness." (Verses 16-18) For James, God is clearly not the author of jealousy and selfish ambition.

Keeping in mind that chapter and verse designations were added many years after this epistle was originally written, we see that the thought continues into the next chapter - and we find there the answer to our question about why Putin would make such a terrible decision. Continuing, we read: "What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure." (James 4:1-3)

Like our ancient ancestors in the Garden of Eden, Vladimir Putin has chosen to decide for himself what is the proper course of action for himself and his nation. He has made a decision which he feels is in the best interest of himself and his nation, but he will be sadly disappointed in the end. His decision to take away Ukraine's freedom, independence and territory will not bring him the security and prosperity which he seeks. Unfortunately, this is a story that humanity has repeated over and over again during the course of its sojourn on this planet. However, according to the Bible, there is good news ahead for the people of Ukraine (and all of the rest of us): Humankind will one day learn the lesson that only God has the ability to discern what is the appropriate course of action for us - to designate what is good and what is bad!

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

God and Lust

Let’s face it, the subject of human sexuality makes most Christians very uncomfortable. Indeed, traditionally, the human body (and all of its functions related to sexual behavior) has been viewed by the Church as a sinful and/or shameful feature of our existence. As part of their article on the topic of LUST, The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “Lust is said to be a capital sin. The reason is obvious. The pleasure which this vice has as its object is at once so attractive and connatural to human nature as to whet keenly a man's desire, and so lead him into the commission of many other disorders in the pursuit of it.” Hence, it would be hard for anyone to argue that the stigma which Christianity has attached to human sexuality is one of the most cherished traditions of that religion.

However, for those who are seeking to live their lives within God’s will, the real question has to be: Is the traditional Christian perspective on human sexuality consistent with God’s perspective on it? In other words, is the traditional view consistent with what Scripture and nature reveals about God’s original design and intention? And, if we answer “NO” to those questions, shouldn’t we be required to provide some justification for such a major departure from such long-held beliefs?

In beginning to answer those questions, it is best to go back to the scriptural narrative about beginnings – the book of Genesis. In the first chapter of that book, we read about how God designed all of the lifeforms that he created to reproduce after their kind (verses 11-12, 20-22, 24-25). Moreover, after each creative act, we are informed that God observed that what he had fashioned was GOOD! Afterwards, the narrative turns to the creation of humankind. We read: “Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us’…So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God, he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it” (verses 26-28). And, when God had finished with everything, we read: “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (Verse 31)

Thus, we can see that these passages of Scripture clearly make God responsible for the physiology of all of the lifeforms that inhabit this planet (including humans) and instilled in them the ability to reproduce that life in the form of offspring. Moreover, after completing those tasks, everything is pronounced by God himself to be VERY GOOD! Hence, in the face of this compelling narrative, it is hard to see how anyone could reasonably attach shame to the form or natural functioning of the human body! Indeed, in the very next chapter of the book, we are informed that “the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.” (Verse 25) It should also be noted that this pronouncement is preceded by another narrative about how God created a female companion for the first man to be his helper - and to sexually couple with him (verses 18-24)! In other words, the context makes clear that reproduction wasn’t intended by God to be the only (or even primary) function of sexual relations in humans.

This benign view of the human body and its sexual functions are further reinforced by what science has discovered about them. For instance, in an article which was published by Psychology Today (“Hormones,” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/hormones) we learn that complex signaling molecules known as hormones “influence the health and functioning of the body and brain in a wide variety of ways; on a psychological level, they affect mood, how we behave, who we’re attracted to (or not), and more.” More specifically, as it relates to sexual function, the same article goes on to inform us that “hormones are critical for sexual function, libido, and reproduction.” In other words, our bodies are hardwired to function in a sexual way. It is an integral part of who we are – it is an important part of what it means to be human!

Even so, the traditional view is not dismissed so easily. Its proponents will immediately draw our attention to the commandment against adultery, and/or Christ’s statement (recorded in Matthew’s gospel account) about the sinfulness of lusting after a woman! Are they right? Do these other scriptures somehow undo or alter our understanding of the principles which we just established?

First, it is made very clear in Scripture that God expects faithfulness and devotion to be his model for ALL human relationships – especially those of a sexual nature. We read in the twentieth chapter of the book of Exodus: “You must not commit adultery.” (Verse 14) Moreover, this principle of sexual fidelity to another person is reinforced by that other passage that we just mentioned in connection with this subject.

However, with regard to that passage from the book of Matthew, I would say that few other passages of Scripture have been more twisted and abused than this one – or have been employed with a more deleterious impact on the human psyche! Indeed, this passage should be a case study in the importance/necessity of context in the interpretation of Scripture! We read there: “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28) “Well, there you have it!” “Sexual lust is just wrong!” Not so fast, bucko!

First, Christ’s remarks are clearly given within the context of marriage. In other words, once you have made that commitment to a person, you should not be lusting after another person! This interpretation is not only supported by the clear reference to the commandment – it is also supported by Christ’s following comments on the subject of divorce (see verses 31-32). Moreover, this passage screams for a closer look at the Greek word translated into English as “lust.”

Blue Letter Bible (https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1937/kjv/tr/0-1/) informs us that the original Greek word used in this passage was “epithyme┼Ź.” We also learn there that this word indicates an intense desire or longing for someone or something. Indeed, the word implies something bordering on obsession. In other words, the sense is that this is NOT indicative of a passing sexual attraction to someone. In fact, we are informed here that the word implies a violation of the commandment against covetousness (as in, “You must not covet your neighbor’s wife” – Exodus 20:17)! Hence, when we take a closer look, we can see that Christ’s remarks were never intended by him as a blanket condemnation of sexual desire. After all, that impulse was placed within us by God Almighty, and it is an integral part of what he declared to be very good!

To be sure, many Christians have some serious hang-ups about their bodies and their sexual functions, but it should be clear to everyone that the source of that shame and fear is NOT God! In fact, if we are truly interested in getting at the source of these neuroses, I would suggest looking in the direction of that old Serpent which was part of that Genesis narrative we looked at earlier! Yes, that’s right, I’m suggesting that Satan the Devil is responsible for these Puritanical attitudes which have crept into the Christian mind with regard to our bodies and the way they were designed by Almighty God to function!

Indeed, no other subject that I write about excites my critics more than this one. In fact, it inspires such paroxysms of self-righteous indignation that one would think that I had committed the ultimate act of blasphemy! For some folks, anything that smacks of a more “liberal” attitude towards human sexuality had to originate in a depraved/morally bankrupt mind!

We could also discuss the implications of a positive perception of our bodies and all things sexual for other aspects of this topic, but the traditionalists would start clenching their teeth and fists in rage. I could go on to discuss the fact that there is NO specific legal prohibition regarding premarital sex anywhere in the Bible, but I’m afraid it would bring on a stroke in some of my legalistic friends who insist on extrapolating and applying broad moral “principles” from obscure scriptural references. Likewise, we could discuss the fact that the Hebrew word translated into English as “fornication” is closely aligned to prostitution in the original tongue, or we could talk about the Greek word that receives the same designation actually referring to illicit sexual relations of any kind. In other words, in both instances, the English connotation of premarital sex is completely absent! And let’s not even get started on the subject of homosexuality or gender issues – lest we provoke the recitation of a whole host of “clobber” scriptures (their understanding being influenced by the same traditional notions about sex referenced at the beginning of this article)!

No, traditionalists are very comfortable with the shame and guilt which they have always associated with this topic. Never mind that these notions go against our very nature, and that their expectations in this regard are unrealistic/impossible in actual practice. As if we didn’t have enough struggles to deal with as part of this existence, we had to create another layer for ourselves! If it hadn’t been the source of so much pain and misery down through the ages, it would almost be funny.


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

CGI’s Double Standard

For those who may be unfamiliar with the history of my association with the Church of God International, a little background is in order. When I was disfellowshipped from the Worldwide Church of God in 1985 (for dating a woman outside of the church), I began attending a congregation of GGI in Huntsville, Alabama. In fact, the lady whom I had been dating started attending with me, and we were married by the CGI minister of that congregation in March of 1986. Later, that same year, when we moved to Ohio, we attended Pastor Bill Watson’s congregation in Bath, Ohio (now in Medina, Ohio).

During that entire period, we were very happy with the messaging of the church. For me, coming out of the oppressive atmosphere of the old Worldwide Church, CGI felt like a breath of fresh air and freedom. We were especially impressed with the depth of spiritual understanding and compassion inherent in the messaging of Ron Dart (I never was that enamored with GTA’s messaging – a little shallow and too much showboating for my taste). We were also satisfied with the messaging of Pastor Watson and were friendly with him and his wife. Indeed, by then, Watson and my father were already very good friends, and all of the conversations and messaging which I was a party to were centered on spiritual topics. In other words, I don’t recall any political preoccupation or messaging during this entire period.

We remained in Ohio a little over a year, and then returned to Alabama to live. When we moved back, we began attending with a local congregation of the Seventh Day Baptist Church and attended there for a number of years. There was no falling out with CGI or alienation from anyone in the church which provoked this change. We simply liked the people in that congregation, the feel of the presence of the Holy Spirit working among them, the simplicity of their doctrinal statement, and the convenience that its proximity to our home provided in attending there on a weekly basis. Over time, I was invited to speak to the congregation and was eventually given a license to preach by them. Some years later, when we moved to a different part of the state, we began attending with an independent congregation of the Church of God Seventh Day (I was also invited to speak to them on occasion).

About fourteen years ago now, we moved to Northwestern Arkansas and began attending a local congregation of CGI once again. We quickly developed a warm friendship and attachment to the members of the congregation, and it wasn’t long till I was once again invited to speak to that congregation (and another congregation about an hour away) on a fairly regular basis. During this period, I also began contributing articles to that organization’s quarterly church newspaper, The International News (once again, on a fairly regular basis). As I have stated on previous occasions, I NEVER delivered a sermon or offered an article to their newspaper that contradicted that organization’s statement of beliefs – NOT ONCE!

Needless to say, over the many years that had passed since leaving the Worldwide Church and attending with different groups, my own religious views had evolved in a number of areas, and I was no longer in harmony with all of the beliefs espoused by CGI (this was no secret within the ministry of that church). And, while I felt compelled to NOT share my views with their members from any of their platforms, I did not feel constrained from sharing my opinions and views on OTHER forums. This was especially true of any situation that might arise where I thought I could make a significant and positive contribution to the ongoing discussions about Herbert Armstrong’s teachings among the various descendants of the by then defunct Worldwide Church of God.

Just such an opportunity arose from some private correspondence I was then enjoying with the editor of The Journal: News of the Churches of God, Dixon Cartwright. Dixon encouraged me to write an article discussing my views of human sexuality – particularly as they related to the subject of the morality of homosexuality. Moreover, after writing the article, Dixon graciously offered to publish it in his newspaper. Not unexpectedly, this led to an animated discussion on that forum and a number of comments and follow-up articles.

I must say, however, that I was a little surprised by the intensity of the reaction within some CGI circles to the articles. While I certainly never expected that organization to embrace or endorse my views, I did not expect the blowback that I received from Pastor Bill Watson and his allies. Now, in the articles that Bill had been contributing to the church newspaper over the last several years, I had noticed a growing preoccupation with politics and the ongoing culture wars that were raging in the society around us. Nevertheless, I must say that I was a little shocked by the ferocity of his reaction to my articles. In short order, a number of articles and sermons were forthcoming from him that I felt were highly insensitive, judgmental, and dismissive towards homosexuals. Indeed, his attack was so high profile that it became apparent that I would never be asked to speak to CGI congregations or contribute to their newspaper again. As I had been on a hiatus from speaking at the time (due to health issues), and I had never had any burning desire to speak, that did not bother me as much as his attacks did. 

Moreover, although I initially continued to fellowship with the CGI congregation that I had now been attending with for several years, over time, I eventually felt compelled to begin challenging some of Bill’s extreme language and messaging (and my continued attendance with that congregation soon became too uncomfortable to sustain). To make a long story shorter, Bill’s political, headline/current events, and culture war messaging only intensified over the years that followed. In fact, when Donald Trump came on the scene, his transition to right-wing extremist and conspiracy theorist was complete. From that time forward, a significant part of his messaging has been devoted to attacking socialism, liberalism, Marxism, homosexual and transgender folks, abortion, globalism, and public health measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Indeed, his messaging relative to Covid-19 became so far out of the mainstream and offensive that CGI leadership finally moved to forbid him and his allies from using their platforms to espouse their views on the topic. Bill and his allies immediately screamed censorship and began a not-so-subtle campaign to remove the muzzle which they believed that CGI leadership had imposed on their messaging. In fact, since deleting three especially egregious messages on Covid public health measures (one by Bill and two by Adrian Davis of Canada), Bill and his allies have tried every trick in the book to get around leadership’s attempts to neutralize the church’s messaging on the subject. In fact, they have even resorted to carrying their messaging to other platforms to get around CGI’s restrictions!

From my perspective, however, the most troubling aspect of CGI’s reaction to the offensive messaging of Bill and his allies has been their timid tolerance of their defiance. The Church of God International has continued to post sermons by Bill and his minions whose references to public health measures are barely veiled, and which overtly challenge leadership’s right to silence them on this or any other topic they choose to discourse upon! In other words, they have allowed Bill and his allies to continue to espouse their Covid messaging and publicly challenge any attempt by the church’s leadership to rein them in!

Am I wrong to suggest that there appears to be a little bit of a double standard being employed here? A few years back, I went to a platform outside of that church to share some views that were not consistent with that organization’s views on human sexuality and was immediately silenced. Bill and company openly espouse their views on a host of secular issues ON CHURCH PLATFORMS, and publicly defy any attempt by leadership to silence them. Yeah, it sure looks like a double standard from where I’m sitting.

Admittedly, I had diverged from a long-held doctrinal position of the church relative to human sexuality, but haven’t Pastor Watson and Pastor Davis also diverged from the church’s messaging about salvation through Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom? Isn’t the nature of the church’s messaging directly related to their mission statement and core doctrines? After all, CGI’s mission statement includes this language: “Our mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world (Matthew 28:19).” And, from their Statement of Beliefs, doctrinal position number 35 opens with the following sentence: “The Church has a mandate to continue with the witness and message of Jesus Christ initiated through His life, teachings, and sacrifice for every person and all nations.” So, I ask again: Hasn’t the messaging of Bill and company constituted a serious departure from the church’s own mission statement and doctrinal positions? In fact, one could argue that the messaging of these individuals is a more fundamental and flagrant departure from the church’s teachings than a discussion about whether or not certain sexual behaviors should be regarded as sinful!

The leadership of the Church of God International has claimed that they are NOT beholden to Herbert Armstrong for their doctrinal positions and messaging. They have repeatedly stressed how that they are DIFFERENT from the old Worldwide Church of God. Which brings a few questions to mind: If they are truly different, why would they continue to permit Bill and company to follow in the tradition of the headline theology of the parent movement? Why would they allow Bill and company to engage in their highly speculative interpretations of how current events and political developments relate to Bible prophecy? Why would they continue to allow these folks to challenge public health policy as anti-democratic, fearful, and faithless?

What do you think? Aren’t Christian leaders supposed to be preaching a message centered on salvation through Jesus Christ? Shouldn’t the church leave arguments about Capitalism, Socialism, Marxism, Nationalism, Immigration, Globalism, and public health measures to the politicians? 


Monday, February 21, 2022

The Christian and Civil Disobedience

In the midst of the Covid pandemic, many governments have instituted public health measures which have prevented Christians from gathering in large crowds, and/or they have required them to wear masks and/or to be vaccinated against the virus. This has led some Christians to suggest that the saints should actively resist these government measures, and they have suggested a method for doing so which has been successfully employed by some Christians in the past - that is civil disobedience. They reason that "If a government mandates what God forbids, or forbids what God mandates, civil disobedience may be required." (See Understanding civil disobedience) In support of this principle, people will often reference the incident where the Jewish religious leaders commanded Peter and the other apostles not to preach in Christ's name, and they replied: "We must obey God rather than any human authority." (See Acts 5:27-29)

Now, while the principle of obeying God's law when there is a conflict with human law is well established in Scripture (think Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednago), I believe that those same Scriptures make very plain that this circumstance is extraordinary and narrowly defined. In all of the instances recorded in Scripture where one of God's saints is forced to disobey the civil authority, they have done so when confronted with a command by civil authorities that would clearly negate or contradict a direct commandment of God (e.g., being commanded to pray to or worship someone other than God or being forbidden to deliver a message which God has commanded them to preach). In general terms, the normal course of action for Christians prescribed by Scripture is to "give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar" (Luke 20:25) OR, as Paul framed it in his epistle to the saints of Rome, "Everyone must submit to governing authorities" (Romans 13:1).

Unfortunately, some Christians have interpreted this principle in such broad terms that they have used it to justify defiance and rebellion against civil authorities that was never anticipated by what is revealed in Scripture. I believe that some Christians have gone astray in this regard because of the false notions which they have developed about the "righteousness" of the democratic system of governance and a failure to distinguish between the practice of a "civil religion" and the Christian faith.

As for the "righteousness" of the democratic system of governance, we must all remind ourselves that it is still a humanly devised system in the end (subject to all of the flaws and inconsistencies which that association implies). In other words, whatever its supposed merits compared to other humanly devised systems of governance, a democracy is still NOT God's system - it is NOT to be confused with God's Kingdom!

As others have pointed out before me, while American democracy certainly incorporated some Christian principles into its formulation (e.g., the notion of God-given rights and a covenant between the people and those whom they choose to govern them), it is also clear that the American system was founded on humanistic principles. (See The Christian and Civil Disobedience) As is pointed out in the article just referenced, there are a number of principles laid out in America's Declaration of Independence which clearly contradict Biblical principles. We read there: "'Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' are not 'unalienable rights.' Man's right before God is to 'Fear God and keep his Commandments' whatever the cost to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. Governments are not instituted and brought down by men, but 'the powers that be are ordained of God.' They do not derive their just powers from the consent of the governed 'For there is no power but of God' (Rom. 13). Neither does man have the right when government becomes tyrannical to 'alter it or abolish it.' Rather 'let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.' When men established 'law' and government according as they felt they 'did what was right in their own eyes.'" Moreover, the United States has clearly NEVER lived up to its ideals regarding the equal treatment of its citizens (e.g., the displacement of Native Americans, the enslavement of African Americans, the denial of the franchise to blacks and women, and the discriminatory treatment of its LGBTQ citizens).

In addition to these obvious departures from scriptural principles, we must also confront the phenomenon of America's "civil religion" juxtaposed to our Christian faith. As the New World Encyclopedia pointed out in its article on Civil Religion, Rousseau originally "coined the term" to describe "the moral and spiritual foundation essential for any modern society." In other words, the state creates a kind of secular religion to ensure the allegiance and support of its citizens. The article goes on to cite a number of features of this kind of secular religion that will be immediately recognizable to most citizens of the United States (e.g., references to God and Scripture in political speech, veneration of political leaders, veneration of veterans of the nation's wars, founding and national myths, etc.). Continuing, the article also points out that this "civic religion" is often manifested in certain "ritual expressions of patriotism" (e.g., singing the national anthem, parades and fireworks on the Fourth of July, reciting the pledge of allegiance, inauguration ceremonies, state funerals, etc.).

Moreover, when we remind ourselves of the very human nature of American democracy, we are forced to once again confront the scriptural injunction for Christians to regard themselves as strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Hebrews 11:13) and NOT allow themselves to become entangled in civilian affairs (II Timothy 2:4). As has been stated in previous posts on this blog and elsewhere, Christians must NOT permit themselves to become partisans of the systems and battles of this age. Indeed, the entire thesis of the final book of the Christian Bible (Revelation) is that Christians NOT associate themselves with the "Beast" power - or what is also symbolically referred to as the Babylonian system.

In their insightful article on Religious Freedom and Civil Disobedience, the Canadian Centre for Christian Charities observed that Christians have approached the subject of civil disobedience from two very different perspectives. To make their point, they cite the examples of John Brown and William Wilberforce - both men professed Christians who were opposed to slavery. Nevertheless, as the article goes on to point out, their opposition to that institution manifested itself in profoundly different ways. The article notes: "On the one hand, Brown’s method was violent and led to a civil war that resulted in the loss of at least 640,000 lives. Brown’s campaign ended slavery in relatively short order. On the other hand, Wilberforce was not an advocate of violence, and it took much longer to obtain the desired result. Some might say Wilberforce’s method was violent in that the slave trade and the institution of slavery was itself violent to the 800,000 slaves in the British Empire. Yet, Wilberforce ended slavery 28 years before the US Emancipation Proclamation."

They go on to suggest that the public health measures related to the pandemic have forced some Christians to once again confront the issue of the appropriateness of engaging in acts of civil disobedience. The article then referenced the actions of a Lutheran pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer who decided to join a plot to assassinate Hitler and went on to ask Christians to consider whether or not his justifications for such a departure from normal Christian practice should be accepted as legitimate. In other words, do circumstances ever warrant more aggressive action by Christians? In my opinion, these are the very kinds of questions that any Christian who anticipates engaging in acts of civil disobedience should be asking themselves. It is, after all, a profound matter of personal conscience in the final analysis.

In reaching this decision, the CCCC made a number of suggestions to help individual Christians in this regard. They are: 1) "we must take stock of the context and determine what is the best way forward based on our identity as Christians," 2) "we can learn from the past to help us better face and address societal controversies," 3) "we need to recognize that our identity is in Christ first and foremost," and 4) "who we are defines what we do. Christians have an obligation to live as Christ lived. He is our example and our guide in confronting the struggles of how we ought to live. Jesus made it clear that his kingdom is not of this world but is a spiritual kingdom." If Christians seek to apply these principles to the question of civil disobedience, I think that most of us will not be too quick to take any actions that will interfere with our primary duty as citizens of God's Kingdom. What do you think?  

Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Moral Ramifications of Policy

In times past, this blog has presented a number of posts that underscore the fact that God and Jesus Christ intended for their people to be strangers/nomads/pilgrims on the earth. Christ repeatedly taught his disciples to look past this present age and encouraged them to strive to enter the Kingdom of God. Christ warned his followers not to antagonize or invite the scrutiny of this world's leaders. He also informed his disciples that they should NOT imitate human models of (and notions about) leadership. Likewise, Paul warned Christians to NOT become entangled in civilian affairs and repeated Christ's instructions that they conduct themselves in such a way as to NOT invite the attention and persecution of human governments. Hence, we see that the separateness and sanctification of God's people is a familiar theme in the Bible.   

Indeed, Scripture is full of stories and admonitions that underscore the dangers inherent in God's people getting too close to the human societies of this age. In the book of Genesis, we have the stories of the flood, the tower of Babel, the cities of the plain (Sodom and Gomorrah), and Egypt. The book of Exodus opens with God bringing his people out from under the oppressive hands of the Egyptians, and most of what follows concentrates on Israel's displacement/conquest of the many evil kingdoms which stood in the way of and/or then occupied the land which God had promised them. And, after the many dangers which they endured at the hands of the Canaanites and Philistines, we know that the Israelites demanded that Samuel appoint them a king. Moreover, any serious student of the Old Testament knows what evil flowed from their insistence that they be like all the other kingdoms of the earth! Likewise, we have the stories about what God's people suffered at the hands of the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians. We also know that much of the Apocryphal writings from the period between the close of the Old and the opening of the New Testaments deal with the evils God's people endured at the hands of the Greeks. Finally, the New Testament opens with Judea in the hands of a wicked client-king of the Roman Empire and ends with an Apocalypse that explicitly warns Christians against worshipping and serving human governments (referred to figuratively as a Beast and Babylon).

Nevertheless, in spite of these often-repeated narratives about the dangers of this world's societies to God's people, there are a number of Christian ministers who insist on their right/duty to involve themselves in this world's politics. In the face of so much evidence to the contrary, it is reasonable to wonder about how this could possibly be justified by these folks. Most of them justify their involvement in secular politics by pointing out that Christians have a responsibility to help their fellow man, and that most policy has obvious moral ramifications. Now, while there is no disputing the fact that Christ and his disciples are repeatedly portrayed in Scripture as healing, helping and caring for others, this is ALWAYS portrayed as something that is done independently of any government personnel or agency! Likewise, we should also note that the Christian's obligation to love his neighbor is ALWAYS portrayed as an individual responsibility, or something that is fulfilled collectively within the context of the CHURCH. But what about the moral ramifications of policy?

While it is obviously true that most government policies have moral ramifications, it is NOT always immediately clear what the consequences/ramifications of some policy will be. Indeed, it is the unforeseen consequences of the decisions which humans make that inspired passages like "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." It is also what inspired Christ to tell his followers NOT to judge each other. Scripture teaches us that only God is omniscient - having the ability to see all ends - to truly evaluate the potential consequences of some choice/decision. Moreover, it is absurd to suggest that there is a "Christian" position on just about any issue or policy that we could name.

Take for instance, the wide diversity of Christian opinion on the subject of abortion. Some of us believe that life begins at conception, and that therapeutic abortions are consequently a violation of the commandment against murder. Those of us who hold this view usually reference a number of scriptures in support of our view (e.g., Exodus 20:13, Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13-16, Isaiah 49:1 and Psalm 127:3). However, it would be very inaccurate to suggest that this view is universal within the Christian Church. In fact, there are large numbers of Christians who believe that human life begins when we draw our first breath - when we are born. Like those of us on the other side of the issue, they cite a number of scriptures in support of their view (e.g., Genesis 2:7, 7:22, Exodus 21:22, Numbers 5:12-22 and Ecclesiastes 7:1). As Christians, in addition to considering the implications of differing convictions, we must also note the role that individual conscience plays in all issues of morality. Likewise, as with all other issues of this kind, there are a number of other moral issues which can and do arise when some policy choice is made. I'm thinking now of things like rape, incest, the life and health of the mother relative to the pregnancy or its termination, and the future health and well-being of the child that is to be born. Like it or not, all of these issues impinge on the morality of the policy being contemplated or implemented.

Moreover, we have just explored some of the differing Christian perspectives on the morality of abortion - What about the moral ramifications of a hundred other policies? If some politician or party espouses your position on abortion, what about their policy positions relative to other issues. Politicians, parties and governments adopt all kinds of policy positions that have moral ramifications. There are policies dealing with workplace safety, the purity of food and drugs, environmental quality, highway safety, trade and business, immigration, war and peace, etc. The decision to spend money on tanks, bridges and water treatment facilities all have moral implications. Policies surrounding the availability of food and housing for the poor and disadvantaged among us have moral ramifications. What if the politician or party which supports your position on abortion is opposed to your policy prescriptions in some of these other areas? What if you have determined that some of their other policy positions would result in significant harm to others or the deaths of millions of people? Does your agreement with them on abortion policy override the moral ramifications of their other policies?

Unfortunately, when we become partisans in these policy debates, Christians are often forced to compromise some or all of the moral principles which should underpin everything they do. Christians often end up supporting leaders and parties whose values are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus Christ simply because they espouse some policy or policies that we view as being consistent with a "Christian" agenda or outlook. Moreover, when we become advocates of a particular policy, we are knowingly or unwittingly making ourselves a part of the system that is implementing it. We are, in effect, assuming personal ownership of the policy and sharing in the responsibility for that policy's outcomes/consequences. Hence, I think that we are being extremely naive or willfully ignorant when we suggest that we can engage in these kinds of discussions and activities and not become a part of the system which we have been called to someday replace! It is certainly appropriate for Christians to speak about the broad moral principles outlined in Scripture and even talk about how those principles might apply to our modern circumstances. However, when we get into the weeds of these problems created by human systems influenced/inspired by Satan, we are not only in danger of making ourselves a part of that system - we also risk making ourselves responsible for outcomes that we may not have intended.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Oh my God! He said "we" instead of "I"

According to USA TodayA priest incorrectly performed thousands of baptisms for decades – by changing one word. In the article by Marina Pitofsky, we learn that the Catholic Diocese of Pheonix, Arizona confirmed that one Father Arango "used the words 'we baptize you in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit,' instead of the correct phrase 'I baptize you in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit.'"

If (like me) you were thinking that that doesn't sound too bad, you would be wrong - according to the Diocese! Pitofsky noted that "The diocese explained that the single incorrect word matters for worshippers because 'it is not the community that baptizes a person and incorporates them into the Church of Christ; rather, it is Christ, and Christ alone, who presides at all sacraments.'" Hence, they concluded that all of the baptisms performed by this priest were invalid! Moreover, they believe that this calls into question all of the subsequent rituals (like confirmation, communion and marriages) which had been performed for those who had been improperly baptized!

Frankly, this article caught my attention because of some of the teachings surrounding baptism that were promulgated by the Armstrongists with whom I was formerly affiliated. For Herbert Armstrong and his followers, those Catholic "baptisms" were thrice damned! According to them, only adults should be eligible for baptism, they should be fully emersed in water, and one of their ministers should perform the ritual (since they didn't believe Catholics were real Christians anyway).

Moreover, Catholics and Armstrongists aren't the only "Christians" who are prickly and particular about how their baptisms are performed. Some folks dip, others dunk, and some groups sprinkle. Some folks baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, while others baptize in the name of Jesus Christ! Some folks lay hands on the newly baptized, while others simply pray over them.

What ALL of them seem to have forgotten is that baptism is a ritual of the Christian Church which symbolizes a spiritual reality. Baptism symbolically washes away our sins. It also pictures the burial of the old sinful person, and the resurrection of the new person which Christ's own life, death, burial and resurrection makes possible. Talk about straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel!

The reality becomes secondary to the mechanics - the physical practices of the ritual. After all, the first Gentile converts were given the Holy Spirit prior to being baptized (see Acts 10). Likewise, some believers at Ephesus hadn't even heard about Christ's baptism or the Holy Spirit until Paul taught them about those things (see Acts 19). What if circumstances precluded a person from being baptized? Does that mean that they are precluded from receiving the Holy Spirit and becoming part of the body of Christ?

I've heard the same kind of ignorant debates over the mechanics of the Eucharist. Does it have to be wine - or is grape juice OK? Does it have to be unleavened bread - or will the regular stuff do? Should it be practiced weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly? Do the elements actually turn into the body and blood of Christ - or do they remain wafers and juice/wine? Should it be referred to as the Eucharist, Lord's Supper, Passover, Holy Communion, or something else? Must the service be accompanied by a foot washing ceremony to be valid? Really? What about what the ritual actually portrays?

Unfortunately, a lot of Christians seem to be more interested in form than in meaning. I believe that anyone who professes to be a disciple of Jesus Christ should approach these issues with the same kind of dedication that Christ always exhibited towards the spiritual principles that motivated his every action. We need to ask ourselves some questions like: Does this or that really matter? Will this or that impede the person's salvation? Will this or that help the person's faith - or risk destroying it? Is God able to save a sincere person with limited understanding? Does this person really need to be rebaptized, reconfirmed, or remarried because the person performing the ritual (or the ritual itself) was somehow deficient? Sure, we all have our opinions about the proper way to do things, but just how much do our opinions really matter in the end?

Saturday, February 12, 2022

The Work and Message of the Christian Church

As longtime readers of this blog know, I have been challenging various ministries for their preoccupation with current political and cultural issues. It has been my contention that it is inappropriate to use our pulpits in this manner. Over the last few years, the blog Banned by HWA has also published a number of posts by me - dealing with the same issue within the Armstrong Church of God culture. In fact, they recently published a post entitled CGI Canada's Freedom Convoy. And, as I was reading over the comments there, it became clear to me that a number of the folks who had read the post had still missed my thesis about the inappropriateness of this kind of messaging. As a consequence, I summarized my thesis for them, and I decided to share it with my readers here:

Paul said that Christians should not get entangled in civilian affairs. We are to be "strangers and pilgrims" on the earth - nomads who are inexorably moving toward the Promised Land. We are supposed to be citizens of the Kingdom of God, NOT partisans of human parties, ideologies or systems! It is NOT our job to support and perpetuate the beast or the Babylonian system. We are supposed to be on the team that overcomes and supplants it! Those who try to ride the tiger usually end up in its stomach!

The commission which Christ gave to his disciples is very straightforward. He said: "go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you." (Matthew 28:19-20) NEWS FLASH: We are NOT Ezekiel, and the English-speaking peoples of the world are NOT Israel! Our work and message should be the one that Christ gave us - It is NOT our job to warn America away from its sins and save democracy and capitalism (whatever their merits compared to other systems of governance and economic activity, THEY ARE STILL HUMAN SYSTEMS)! 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Understanding the Meaning of God's Message

In previous posts, I have noted the similarities extant in the attitudes of Atheists and Fundamentalists regarding Scripture. Indeed, for both of these groups, Scripture is an either/or proposition. It's either true or false -there is no middle ground! Of course, the two groups come to opposite conclusions about Scripture, but they both accept the underlying premise that the presence of error would/does invalidate those writings. Likewise, both groups tend to view Scripture as a historical and scientific resource. Once again, one side embracing the information contained therein as the last word in science and history, and the other side rejecting it as superstitious nonsense. Finally, both of these groups have a tendency to be Scriptural Literalists - to believe that the text means exactly what it says it means.

Moreover, this literalism often manifests itself in statements like: "There is only one way to understand a text" or "A text can only mean what its author intended it to mean" or "Scripture interprets itself" or "This is a clear example of a failed prophecy." Obviously, these kinds of statements eliminate or significantly reduce the need for readers to interpret the text. From a practical standpoint, these kinds of statements present some obvious problems relative to the way that humans communicate with each other (especially in terms of a written text). In short, the receiver's interpretation of the sender's message is a given in all of our models of how communication is supposed to work. In other words, Fundamentalists and Atheists want to prescribe the way that Scripture is interpreted - to limit its meaning(s) to that which best suits their particular agenda. Never mind, that there are several instances within the writings of the Old and New Testaments where the human author or his initial audience did NOT comprehend the meaning that God intended for the message!

Nevertheless, before we explore some of those instances from Scripture, there is one further important observation to make about the limitations which Atheists and Fundamentalists place on the interpretation of Scripture. For both camps, the meaning intended by the actual author of the text is determinative (Fundamentalists would identify God as the author, and Atheists would say that the various humans who actually did the writing of the texts are the authors). For them, the reader plays little or no role in determining or deciphering the meaning of the text. However, most of us understand that there are a number of different schools of thought relative to interpretation.

In their article on "Art and Interpretation," the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy informs us that "Interpretation in art refers to the attribution of meaning to a work. A point on which people often disagree is whether the artist’s or author’s intention is relevant to the interpretation of the work. In the Anglo-American analytic philosophy of art, views about interpretation branch into two major camps: intentionalism and anti-intentionalism, with an initial focus on one art, namely literature." Oh, you mean that not everyone agrees that the author's intention is relevant to interpretation? According to the Encyclopedia, "The anti-intentionalist maintains that a work’s meaning is entirely determined by linguistic and literary conventions, thereby rejecting the relevance of the author’s intention. The underlying assumption of this position is that a work enjoys autonomy with respect to meaning and other aesthetically relevant properties. Extra-textual factors, such as the author’s intention, are neither necessary nor sufficient for meaning determination." 

Having explored the issue from a secular perspective, we turn to instances in scripture where the meaning of the original message was modified by subsequent events or explanations. For example, it is highly unlikely that the person who wrote Genesis 3:15 was thinking about Jesus Christ when he/she penned those words. Likewise, according to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus Christ made clear that the teaching on divorce which was attributed to Moses was inconsistent with God's view of the subject (Mark 10:2-12). The prophet Nathan once related a story to King David about a wealthy man who appropriated his poor neighbor's pet lamb for his own use to evoke remorse and repentance over the king's affair with Uriah's wife (II Samuel 12:1-13). God once gave the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar a dream which Daniel had to interpret for him (Daniel 2). Moreover, at the end of that same book we read that Daniel felt compelled to ask about the meaning of the message which had been committed to him (Daniel 12:8). How was his inquiry answered? "Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is kept secret and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials. But the wicked will continue in their wickedness, and none of them will understand. Only those who are wise will know what it means...As for you, go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days, you will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for you.” (Daniel 12:9-13) In other words, you don't need to know what the message you just wrote down means!

We read in the Gospel of Matthew: "His disciples came and asked him, 'Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?' He replied, 'You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables, for they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand." (13:10-13) Then, we read that he went on to tell them that this explained the meaning of something that Isaiah had written in the distant past! (Verses 14-15) Christ finished with this thought: "But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it." (Verses 16-17) So, here we have Christ explicitly saying that not everyone has or will understand his messages! Indeed, throughout all of the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) we see numerous instances where Old Testament prophecies are interpreted in the light of Christ's life, work and messaging.

In this regard, the second chapter of Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians is particularly illuminating. He wrote: "When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified...my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God...the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.' But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them, and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means." (Verses 1-14) Thus, from Paul's perspective, the meaning of the Christian message could only be comprehended and appreciated by those who had received God's Holy Spirit.

Moreover, Paul told the saints of Corinth that even Christians did NOT currently fully comprehend God's plans and messaging. He wrote: "Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely." (I Corinthians 13:9-12)

Hence, if we truly believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the value of Scripture, we must conclude that statements like: "There is only one way to understand a text" or "A text can only mean what its author intended it to mean" or "Scripture interprets itself" or "This is a clear example of a failed prophecy," must be regarded as inconsistent with the truth of the matter. In short, whether one believes that Scripture is an entirely human production or that God had some hand in the messages contained therein, the inescapable conclusion is that the full meaning of those texts can only be determined by the people who are reading them (and within the context of the circumstances in which they currently find themselves).

Friday, February 4, 2022

A Good Shepherd?

In the Gospel of John, Christ refers to himself as the "Good Shepherd" who gives his life for his sheep (John 10:11, 14-15). Moreover, when he made that reference, he knew that David had once declared that the Lord was his shepherd, and that Ezekiel had prophesied that the Lord would one day raise up a shepherd for his people. Indeed, the care and concern that a good shepherd exhibited for his flock was the exact model that Christ exemplified and held up as the standard for the people who would be leaders within his Church.

Likewise, in the first epistle attributed to Peter, we read: "And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor." --I Peter 5:1-4

Leaders in Christ's Church were also expected to be people who were filled with the Holy Spirit. What are the fruits or evidence of that Spirit? Paul wrote to the Christians of Galatia that the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). He also wrote to Timothy that a sound mind was a feature of having God's Spirit (II Timothy 1:7, and that leaders in God's Church must exercise self-control, be gentle, and NOT be quarrelsome (I Timothy 3:1-3). In his first letter to the saints at Corinth, Paul wrote that "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (I Corinthians 13:4-7)

In light of these Scriptures, I would like for my readers to evaluate a letter that was sent to me by a minister of the Church of God International. In the way of background, this letter was written in response to three of my most recent posts regarding that organization and the messaging of its ministers. What follows is the complete text of the email I received from Pastor Bill Watson of Ohio:

Lonnie,

I'm really sorry you have fallen prey to the Devil's work of "accusing

the brethren" because this is exactly what you're doing (Rev. 12:10).

Your dissonance is nauseous already and sadly, should be recognizable to

you. But, your blinded by your own "projections" that you continue to

"spin" to justify your meaningless accomplishments and to appease your

own insecurities--so sad! You're only embarrassing yourself by these

misappropriated ramblings and rants, for years now. It's unfortunate you

don't see yourself because what you're doing is such a waste of time ans

so self-destructive.

Frankly, with all the education you have, you'd think you would be more

productive in your life, but you continue to mindlessly, ridicule and

criticize a work of God. Let me suggest you go back to working at a fast

food restaurant and at least do something more worthwhile. Because you

obviously have too much time on your hands. Watching you waste your life

in this self-deprecating behavior is pathetic––you really are showing

serious signs of obsessive mental and emotional trauma. Perhaps, you

should get some therapy? It may be you're suffering from some PTS

syndrome and don't realize it. But, your "obsession" with dogging us

(CGI) and me in particular, choosing to "rag" on anything and everything

is really sick and unstable. Get some professional help Lonnie.

So, please stop sending me these accusation and false narratives––you're

just wasting your time because from here on out I won't be responding,

lest I stoop to your level. I'll follow my Lord's advice and not waste

my time (Matt. 7:6). And all the reason since an individual of your

mind-set is not ready to receive truth about yourself. You are very

confused Lonnie––such a wandering spirit (Jude :12-13).

I'll continue to pray you will see the accusers of the brethren (which

you are participating in) is from the devil and you need, for your own

sake and peace of mind, let it go––whatever "it " is that is triggering

you to act with such offensive hostility––you really are filled with a

lot of animosity. It "oozes" out in your writing, like pus from a

spiritually infected spirit. As a matter of fact, you are hurting your

health and this tension you carry, over the long run, can hurt you

physically.

Stop the "wandering" Lonnie and focus on something more positive and be

a force for God that you can be, "if" you will forgive and let your past

go!

I pray God will recover you from the hostility you harbor (2 Tim

2:24-26).


In Christ's Service,


...Bill

What do you think? Does that kind of language reflect the standards of the Good Shepherd for his ministry?

Please contrast the above email with my reaction to it:

I wanted all of you to see Bill's reaction to my articles before I offered any comments of my own. This was my dad's "best" friend? His response represents a classic Armstrongist reaction to any criticism of them or their teachings - completely reject that the criticism has ANY merit and attack the person who promulgated it as a tool of Satan (an "accuser of the brethren"). Notice also that he goes on to attack me personally and suggest that I am mentally unstable/unbalanced, and that I am wasting my precious time. Honestly, I must say that I found his response to be very amusing (I am well beyond being hurt by, or working up any anger over, this kind of stuff).

Obviously, I will NOT be personally responding to Bill's letter - it doesn't deserve one. I continue to hope that he will eventually connect the dots and realize that my posts would end immediately if he would simply stick to his commission as a minister of Jesus Christ and stop talking about his views regarding Covid-19 public health measures, the ongoing culture wars in the United States, and his conservative political views. I, of course, will continue to insist that the pulpit (or other church platforms) is/are not appropriate forums for the expression of such opinions. In the meantime, I will continue to take care of Darlene, our home together, my other writing projects, and our projects to enhance our enjoyment of our children and grandchildren (In other words, I have plenty of things to keep me happy and busy).


Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Paul's "final appeal" to the saints at Rome

A few of the questions on the minds of my critics: "Lonnie, why are you so intent on stirring up controversy and dissension within the Church of God International?" "Why must you persist in attacking certain ministers?" "Why have you persisted in alienating members of your own family?" "Why are you so relentless?"

The TRUTH is that I have no desire to be controversial or stir up dissension within my family, CGI, or any other church organization. The TRUTH is that I have challenged the MESSAGING of certain ministers because THEY insist on dispensing their political and cultural views from the pulpit - instead of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, as I have stated MANY times, I would gladly never write another word about headline theology or cultural and political topics if the folks that I have challenged would simply stop addressing them from the pulpit! In other words, the controversy and dissension would end immediately if these folks would simply stick to the commission which Christ gave to his ministry and Church! That being the case, who is stirring up controversy and dissension?

Near the end of his letter to the saints at Rome, Paul wrote: "And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words, they deceive innocent people." (Romans 16:17-18) Paul taught a message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Is that message too narrow and small for some folks? Is it too dull and boring? Why do some folks insist on preaching about things that lie well outside the purview of the gospel message and their area of expertise? Most of us have our opinions about current events, but what does any of that have to do with Christ crucified and the eternal spiritual principles which underscore that event?