Thursday, June 13, 2024

T Is For Yaweh, That's Good Enough For Me

(EZE. 9: 3-4) 3 Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; 4 and the Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.”

Have you ever noticed these verses? I know you've read them and had them read to you, but have you ever stopped to contemplate them? There is a very interesting idea in there.

For a little background, the time is the 590s BC. Some say it was 592, specifically. The northern kingdom of Israel were already taken into captivity by Assyria some 130 years prior. Replaced by other peoples (II Kings 17: 24). It is the period between the the second and the third waves of invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. The first came in 605 and the second in 597. Babylon had invaded the southern kingdom of Judah and carted away many people, set up a puppet government, and was treating it as a vassal state of the empire. Ezekiel was among those removed in the second wave. He is in Babylon. He was called by God to preach against Judah and warn them of more captivity, mainly due to their idolatry. Nebuchadnezzar would come again (in 588), this time to utterly destroy Jerusalem.

The cultural upheavals had their impact on all facets of Jewish life. Nothing remained as it had been. Everything was heavily influenced by foreign powers - even the Temple. Over a century of influence of foreign nations in the territory of Israel had born fruit. You can read in II Kings 17 how the foreign peoples Assyria carted into Israel brought their religions with them. That influence crept south and seeped into Judah. Read in Ezekiel 8 how even the Temple and the priesthood were given almost entirely over to idolatry. They had mixed worship of God with worship of foreign gods. Ezekiel 8 is a vision, and imagery was likely exaggerated to make a point, but the point is none the less completely valid. Idolatry pervaded into every facet of Judah - an idolatry even greater than that of northern Israel.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a standard Judahite. You've survived the first and second waves of captivity, you're still at home, and even though things could be much better, you've missed the worst of it. Despite all that has happened and is happening, you might even mistake this as a sign you are favored by God.
But are you?

Ezekiel was a priest. He knew the Temple. He knew what went on there. The visions might have shown him the depth of the problem was even worse than he realized, but he didn't need them to know what was going on. He didn't need a weatherman to tell him it was raining. Yet, he was carted away to Babylon. As were others, like Daniel. Good people whose lives were uprooted through no direct fault of their own. Is it true the good stayed and the wicked were deported?

This might even be another of those turnabouts and juxtapositions that God enjoys so much. The captive, thought to be taken because he displeased God, preached to the remnant, thought to remain because they pleased God.

When I look around the world today, I feel almost a personal connection to the conditions of that time. It must have been an incredibly confusing time. When even your priests are going astray, whom do you trust for the truth?

And here is where our verse comes in.

There were still people who looked around Jerusalem and didn't like what they saw. Men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done. Here, God marks them all, to identify and separate them. "Put a mark on the foreheads," it says. Their lives would yet be overturned, like dirt in a plowed field. There was a long siege coming but at least they wouldn't be allowed to be killed. They would be spared the worst of it.

What was that mark? The Hebrew word holds a clue.

Mark
Strong's 8420: tav/taw
From H8427; a mark; by implication a signature: - desire, mark.

It was a signature. It wasn't just a blotch, nor a splat. But a representation of a name. God wrote His name on those people's foreheads. This is precisely the same as in Revelation (see Revelation 14; 1). Entirely the same.

But Strong's 8420 isn't "signature", it's taw/tav. It is a signature, and comes from the word for signature, but it isn't written out name. It was a mark that stood in place of a name. The mark was a taw/tav. What is taw/tav, then? Why, taw is a Hebrew letter!

The signature wasn't a full name, it was just a single letter. A "put your mark on the line" sort of a signature, like the kind you might have expected in an old Western movie.

"Write your name on this line, pardner."
"Can't. Don't know how to read and write, or spell my name."
"Make your mark, then."

What does a taw look like? It looks like this:

ת

Is that the mark people received from God?
No.

There is a detail of timing we need to be mindful of. That letter you see is modern Hebrew. The Hebrew alphabet used today was not developed until centuries after the Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel is still in the midst of the Babylonian captivity. In Ezekiel's day, they still used the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. What does a taw look like in paleo-Hebrew?

The oldest extant example of Paleo-Hebrew writing we have is the Siloam Inscription. It details the construction of the Siloam Tunnel. It predates Ezekiel. The original is difficult to read, so I am providing you an example of a drawing.

Do you see that X almost in the dead center? I circled it in red and put a red arrow pointing to it. (Apologies if you have trouble seeing red.) That right there is a taw. X marks the spot!
(For some fun, there are three more in that screenshot. See if you can find them.)

I bet you thought this was going to be something cooler than an X shape. Maybe a spaceship shape, or a dinosaur, or a Fibonacci Sequence, or something truly interesting. No. Just an X.

But ... (there's always a but)
If you went back in time just a bit more, back to the earlier alphabet styles like what Moses might have used, then you will get a shape that looks precisely what we think of as a traditional cross shape.
Yes, THAT cross. The cross of Christ.

Whether an X or a T a + or a cross, the mark God puts on foreheads is cruciform, regardless. Anything with two intersecting lines is called "cruciform" because it resembles a crucifix. All these years we've been told by reliably inaccurate Church of God "historians" that anything cruciform was a symbol of Tammuz, and idolatrous. You know, the same Tammuz the women at the Temple were weeping for one chapter earlier, in Ezekiel 8: 14. Only, as usual, that is incorrect. Is God writing Tammuz on their foreheads? No! The Bible tells us God Himself uses the taw's + or X shape. If it's good enough for Yahweh, it's good enough for me!

Now, before some of you get too excited about this, the taw was not a representation specifically of God's name to the exclusion of all others. Anyone could sign with a taw. It was common. Common enough that no explanation was needed when God gave the command to mark people with a taw. It was assumed readers would just know what was going on. That said, God still did it and accepted it as His own mark.

If you're wondering how the taw went from a cruciform shape to the modern Hebrew shape that looks more like an n, the answer is there was another alphabet in between the Paleo-Hebrew and the Modern Hebrew. That alphabet is the Imperial Aramaic. When the Israelites returned from captivity, they replaced most Hebrew with Aramaic. In Aramaic, the tau has more of an n shape. Modern Hebrew is a modern block Aramaic.

Funny thing is, if you go back in time with the Aramaic script, the tau is also a cross. Yes, THAT cross. Same with the Greek. That's where we get our T from. All the alphabets in that area of the Mediterranean developed from related scripts. All of them will be similar in certain ways. This is one of those ways.

So, for all those people who look at those silly Catholics after Ash Wednesday mass and think, "Those pagan people go around with Tammuz on their forehead," you might want to forbear that statement until you have discovered what the taw is. You might find that the mark God puts on foreheads is identical, or at least in certain time periods quite similar indeed. Regardless, I hope He puts His taw on you, too.




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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )

Acts 17:11

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Friday, June 7, 2024

The Gospel and the Powers In Heavenly Places

(EPH. 3: 9-11) ... 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord...

Have you ever noticed these verses? I know you've read them and had them read to you, but have you ever stopped to contemplate them? There are some very deep, very strange ideas in there.

What do you see in that verse there? There are (at least) three very important points:
1) Something was hidden from the very beginning.
2) It is now being revealed by the church to the "principalities and powers in the heavenly places".
3) It has to do with what Jesus accomplished.

VERY deep stuff there.

How often have you heard messages about this? God has sent the church to deliver a message about what Jesus has done not necessarily to the world (only) but to some vague spiritual authorities. Not often, I'd wager.

What do you not see there?
The law.

You can imagine these verses to be speaking about a range of things, but among the least likely is the Old Covenant law.

Was the law hidden? No. The law was a lot of things but hidden is not one of them. So the thing hidden was not the law.
Was the law being revealed? No. It was never hidden, so it was not being revealed by the church. One thing Armstrongism has stressed over the years in order to maintain its own sense of election is that the law is only revealed to those who have the Holy Spirit in-dwelling. If the law is being revealed to those outside the church, that claim would have to be false.
Was the law what Jesus accomplished? Jesus did fulfill the law! Of these three points, the law only seems to fit here. That would be fine if this point stood alone, but it does not. Taken all together, the law only fits 1/3 of the equation. So, it is not a good fit after all.
Just look at the target audience - spiritual authorities. Are spirit beings going to be surprised by a weekly Sabbath? "Curses! Foiled again by doing nothing for one in seven days! Why didn't we see this coming? If only there had been like a Decalogue or something." No. The law is not a good fit.

If the law is the least likely, what is the most likely to fit all three?
The Gospel.

CHRISTIANITY 101

I need to briefly remind you of the Gospel.

If you are not from an Armstrongist background, you might be wondering why I am about to explain the Gospel. The answer is because what Mainstream Christianity understands the Gospel to be is not what Armstrongism understands the Gospel to be.

As a rapid summary, Armstrongism believes the Gospel to be about the coming Kingdom of God and how those who follow Herbert Armstrong's message of Old Covenant law-keeping will be promoted to rulers in the Millennial period. They teach the Gospel is not about Jesus Christ or His accomplishments or the salvation by faith. Now, many will say that's a grossly oversimplified summary. Granted. It is. But it is nonetheless accurate, and this post is not about what Armstrongism believes the Gospel to be. I am only mentioning this at all to show the contrast.

If one were to ask us at ABD how we would summarize the Gospel, we would say it is thus:

“Jesus was a literal man as well as literally God. The second person of the godhead became a man, lived to fulfill the law and the prophets, died as a propitiation for our sins, and was resurrected in fulfillment of scripture on the third day. This was planned before the foundation of the world. His death destroyed the Old Covenant and ratified the New Covenant. He now lives in Heaven as the executor of the promises of God towards us, the undeserving beneficiaries. Man was hopelessly condemned to death, and the Gentiles disinherited from any participation with God and given over to the rule of idolatrous gods. Israel was called as a means to bring the Messiah into the world. Jesus the Messiah paid the ransom in full to redeem mankind from death and idolatrous gods, to tear down all that separates Jew from Gentile, fulfill God's justice, to offer God's mercy and grace, and to finish the work of salvation. The Gentiles are at long last again invited to participate with God. By humble faith in Jesus Christ, a Christian receives absolute forgiveness of sin as well as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and with the Holy Spirit comes participation in the body of Christ, and with participation in Christ comes inheritance with Christ in such things as the promise God made to Abraham. The proof of the Spirit's involvement is fruitful Christian growth throughout our lifetime; we will never come near to perfection in this flesh. Therefore, salvation is absolutely guaranteed - for the faithful who remain in faith - by the life, death, and life of Jesus Christ our Savior, and nothing besides. It is by promise, not by law. This is God's good pleasure. Glory to God!”

Do you see how that fits better than law? That Gospel message was hidden but not impossible to find, it was revealed by Jesus, and it is an affront to the powers. And that's what Paul leads with in Ephesians 3.

We have a lot more detail on the Gospel at the very top of our FAQ page.

THE GREAT COMMISSION

I needed to briefly review the Gospel so I could review the Great Commission.

The Great Commission, which most people recognize, is:

(MAT. 28: 18-20) 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Armstrong taught "observe all things that I have commanded you" is a reference to the Old Covenant law. I disagree. But that's beside the point. I want to focus on something else. Once again, there is something hidden here. It is hidden in plain sight, and it goes hand-in-hand with Ephesians 3.

Note how it starts with a declaration of Jesus' authority. Why? Because, precisely as Paul says in Ephesians 3: 10, one of the purposes of all this is for the church to proclaim a message to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. It is not just God's wisdom, it's not just His accomplishments on the cross, it's not just the gift to mankind, but His intent and His authority to accomplish His intent.

To say this as plainly as I can --
God disinherited the Gentiles after Babylon, giving them over to idolatry and demons. Israel alone was kept by God as His people (DEU. 32: 9). With Jesus, the Gentiles are now reclaimed by God, taking them away from idolatry and demons. That message to be delivered is, to take a phrase from the television show The Apprentice, "You're fired!" The church by its very nature proclaims this message to those powers.

So, when I say the Gospel fits all three, I hope you can now see why I say that.

The commission Jesus gave to the Apostles was to get the ball rolling. The time of the powers is over. Go into the world and win people back to God away from the powers in heavenly places that oppress them. And the Apostles would call disciples to join themselves to the Body of Christ, and they would call others, and so on and so forth until this very day.

When Jesus was here, He took the Apostles to the temple of Pan at Caesarea Phillipi and that is where He purposefully initiated a conversation that led to Peter confessing He is the Son of God, and where He predicted His death and resurrection, and where He told them to follow Him (MAT. 16). This is yet another summary of the points Paul made.
This was all done for an important reason. He stood at a temple of the powers and proclaimed His identity, His authority, and His mission right in front of them. He declared war. The powers were about to be replaced and their people taken from them. And from this point on, His ministry was headed full-steam to the cross.

In the same way, Jews from areas controlled by these powers were preached to by Peter on that first Pentecost. In the same way, Paul was sent to areas controlled by these powers. These were all the same areas mentioned in Genesis 10, which we call "the table of nations."

Do you see how it all fits? All was for a reason. All had a purpose. All the biblical narrative flows. God is working in stages to restore Eden.

NOT THE LAW

The law, which was introduced to guard Israel during that period between Abraham and Jesus, was never intended to reclaim the Gentiles. The Old Covenant and its law specifically excludes the Gentiles. It cannot be the message spoken of here. It was only intended to guard Israel until their destiny could be realized (GAL. 3: 19). The law is not the message to the powers in heavenly places that their reign over the Gentiles has ended. The church being joined to Jesus in faith is.

God called Abraham shortly after the Babylon event. He called a Gentile first to be the father of Israel and later to be the father of all the faithful. Israel, as rebellious as it often was, is owed a debt of gratitude by all Gentiles for the purpose they ultimately fulfilled despite themselves - the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah had come and the usefulness of the Old Covenant was depleted. The New Covenant was instituted. (Read all of Galatians 3.) The breach at Babylon is healed, the Gentiles are no longer disinherited, and God is taking back what is rightfully His.

This was always the plan. It was a hidden plan.

(I COR. 2: 6-8) 6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

The law we knew. It excluded us and killed us. The Gospel, on the other hand, we did not know. It welcomes us and gives us life.

CONCLUSION

Did you know you are to give a message to powers in heavenly places? You do now!

This message is one the powers will not appreciate receiving - Jesus is Lord and He is taking back what is His.

This is a post about the Old Covenant law and the Gospel, and how the message of Christianity is not about Sabbath-days and meats. The Gospel really is about Jesus Christ after all, and our participation with Him in faith.

The base message of Armstrongism is primarily in two parts: the Old Covenant law, and the second coming of Christ. In this view, from the days of the Apostles until the second coming, the church is a tiny and insular group that practically hides form the world. Its main message is to sit around once a week avoiding pork and making sure "Church of God" is somewhere in your group's name. How is this of value given what we read in Ephesians 3?
It isn't. Only the Gospel explains what we read in Ephesians 3.

Once again, we find what Herbert Armstrong taught is off the mark.

Now, don't hate me for this, but I intentionally left this post a little vague. I am not going deep into explaining these things. I am not reviewing the details of how God's intent was hidden in plain sight from Abraham's day. I am not telling you who these powers are. I am not explaining why Jesus had all authority at his resurrection but to this very moment we still we see these powers are active in the world. I am not touching on the second coming and what ultimately is the end of these powers. I do this for a reason. I hope to whet your appetite to explore this line of thinking more deeply on your own.

This is a gigantic topic, dear reader. If you want to explore it you might want to be ready for a wild ride. Take my word for it!

God bless you and keep you.



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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )

Acts 17:11

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Friday, May 31, 2024

What To Expect When You're Escaping Armstrongism

Continuing on the theme of helping people to exit, I wanted to write a "what to expect" kind of post, built from my own lessons learned, for people who are exiting an Armstrongist Church of God splinter group.

Bear in mind, there are no one size fits all answers in this sort of topic. The variables are endless. If you think of something you would like to discuss, feel free to reach out. Leave a comment or send me an email.


It's Not Going To Be Simple

Let's rip this band aid off right now, shall we - it's not going to be simple. 

You might be at the start of your exit, flush with joy like a kid out of school and ready for the next adventure. That will level off. Or, maybe you leave somewhat unwillingly. Perhaps you know you need to go, but you don't really want to, and you are filled with uncertainty. I can relate. I didn't really want to leave, either. Or, perhaps you might need to leave in a hurry because you've been abused in some way. My deepest sympathies, and I hope you find support and peace.

It doesn't matter why you're leaving, you are in uncharted waters and the sea is choppy. You are about to learn some things about yourself you didn't even know.

In some ways, this is going to hurt. In many ways, this is going to be confusing. Don't be afraid! It's nothing you can't handle.

As I wrote in the past, you are at a crossroads and you have four options. You can turn around and go backwards into the familiar (I've seen people do that). You can let it beat you, and end up in a bad way. You can give up and be an atheist. That's an easy road, and there are lots of people ready to help you walk it. We don't call Armstrongism "the atheist-making machine" for nothing! Or, you can insist on Jesus Christ and go into grace.
Choose Jesus and go into grace!

You are about to go from one faith tradition into, hopefully, another faith tradition. Consider this a life altering event somewhat akin to divorce. The familiar becomes the strange and the strange familiar. This will be difficult in ways you didn't anticipate. It's difficult every time it happens for anyone. For example, going from Methodist to Catholic can be quite a culture shock. Harder yet is converting to a tradition such as Orthodoxy. I visited a Greek Orthodox church a few times and I was completely lost. Armstrongism is so different than the mainstream, it is almost guaranteed you're about to experience culture shock. What really hit me when I first went to a mainstream church was, I didn't know any of their songs.

You can expect such things as, but not limited to:

  • Change in schedule.
  • Completely different "feel" to church.
  • Different order to services.
  • Different songs.
  • Different imagery.
  • Different doctrines.
  • Different view of God.
  • Different view of grace.
  • Different holidays.
  • Different terms and phrases.
  • Different history.
  • Different expectations for lay people.
  • Different views on Old Covenant, end times, etc etc.
  • Curious questions from your new connections.
  • Possible lack of support from family.
  • Loss of prior church friends.
    And, ultimately...
  • Different you!

You have been in a church that has everything laid out and decided already. People gathered there and stayed there because they all agreed (mostly) on the system. You are about to go into a new church with a completely different system. There is no way for me to tell you everything. All I can say is, it will be different.

Most people lose church friends when they leave. The loss of former church friends will give you a painful sense of abandonment. That will pass as you make new connections. Maybe you will be blessed to keep some of your old connections. You might find some people in your COG genuinely cared about you. Who knows! But people do tend to drift away once that common interest is gone. Such is life!

Your prior experience will affect your comfort level with the changes you are about to go through. If you used to go to another church and now you're going back, good. You're past experience will be a benefit. However, if you have spent your entire life in Armstrongism, or most of your life, then your familiarity with other churches will be quite low, and past experience will be of little use. Do you have family already in another faith tradition who can support you? Reach out to them. Experience will be your teacher from here on.

Contact the new church. Really talk to them and let them know your concerns, and they will do their best to make the transition as easy as possible for you. When a person enters an Armstrongist church, they need to be vetted by the Minister. People don't just show up to a COG. They need permission. That isn't the way it works in the mainstream. Strangers just show up all the time. Healthy churches don't need to interview you. So, when I say reach out to them, I don't mean to ask permission to attend, but to give them a chance to help you.

The best advice I can give you here is to stay positive, and trust that you will acclimate in less time than you think. Is it easy for a baby to be born? No. But they do it all the time. And I'm glad they do. In a few months you'll feel like you've been there for years.

It's Not Satan

Armstrongism is often called "legalistic" not because of the belief on Old Covenant law so much, but because 1) it sees the rules as more important than the person, and 2) it teaches law-keeping merits us something with God.
If you have been in the system long enough and remember the good old days of the Worldwide Church of God prior to 1990, or if you are in one of the more rigid groups like the Philadelphia Church of God, then you can practically map out your experience according to Lifton's 8 criteria for thought control.

As the story goes, once you leave the safety of the church, Satan will steal the truth from you. Well, guess what... Hogwash!

You absolutely, positively are not here at this blog reading this post right now because Satan is stealing the truth from you. You are not finding out the church's view on prophecy and doctrine are questionable at best because Satan is stealing the truth from you. You are not noticing the church's material is factually inaccurate because Satan is stealing the truth from you. You are not running out the door of an abusive situation because Satan is stealing the truth from you. That entire line is manipulative and designed to prevent you from doing what you're doing right now - thinking. Especially thinking about not sending them any more of your money. And you absolutely, positively are not headed towards the second resurrection just because you have given yourself permission to ask hard questions and seek the truth. God's truth!

That's not to say there aren't bad churches out there. There are! They didn't write the book "Churches That Abuse" for nothing! Caveat emptur! But my point is, realizing you've been lied to and walking away from that to seek after God is not a Satanic lie. The lie is what they told you to keep you in the lie.

My advice for you is to surrender your faith to Jesus Christ, and think rationally. Remember why you're leaving.

Liturgy

In my bulleted list above, I said "Different terms and phrases". Here's one. Let's talk a second about Liturgy. The word liturgy refers to your church service. Any church service. There are basically two kinds: high and low.

In a high liturgy, church services are very structured and ornate and symbolic. You will find high liturgies in all the oldest churches. Catholics and all branches of Orthodoxy are high liturgy. The oldest Protestant traditions are, too. Lutherans and Anglicans/Episcopalians are, for example.

In a low liturgy, church services are not very structured or ornate or symbolic. You will find low liturgies in most Evangelical denominations. Even in Armstrongism, what you have been used to is a low liturgy.

Some places have both at different times. I know several Methodist and Lutheran churches that have a high liturgy option and a low liturgy option. Attend at the appropriate hour. More and more lately, churches have an extra-casual service later on Sundays. There's a Catholic church in my area where the last Mass on Sunday is hardly different than a casual Protestant worship service.

Both groups can get rather picky. The high liturgy people don't like anything being messed with. They argue with each other about minutiae. They argue with each other over where your hands should be during prayer. The low liturgy people don't have a lot of spirituality in their liturgy, so music tends to be their spirituality. They tend to have more music, they are more into it, and they don't like it messed with. They argue with each other over hymns vs inspirational songs.

You have been used to an intense Bible study at church. That isn't how most other places do it. Church is for worship. You go to Wednesday prayer group, or "small group", or a designated Bible study for the intense Bible study. If you have a more intellectual relationship with God (like I do) it can be tricky at first. Join a small group. If you find one you don't quite like, don't feel bad about changing to a different one.

Which liturgy do you prefer? Not sure? My advice is to try them both out. I think you'll fall in love with the high liturgy. It's beautiful and really treats God like a god! Or, maybe you will feel better in the familiarity of the low liturgy. It can be quite emotionally inspiring.

My advice is to remember you're free now. You can go where you want.

Trinity

Yes, it's the dreaded T word. You don't believe it, I'll wager. Most everyone else does. The mainstream view of God and their relationship with God is quite different from what the COGs teach. What are you going to do about that?

Bear in mind what you were told in Armstrongism about the Trinity is both incomplete and incorrect. They aren't going to teach you about a doctrine they reject. So, even if you think you've studied this, toss that all out the window and just accept that you're going to have to start over. In the meantime, you're Switzerland about it. Neutral.

Are you required to accept it? No. Not unless you're going to be Catholic or Orthodox. Actually, even then you aren't expected to accept things right away. You will be afforded time to learn as you are able.

My advice is take your time to handle the lower hanging fruit first. The nature of God is important, but huge! It can wait until later. Being free in this way is another thing you're going to have to get used to.

Oh! And don't get all clever and go in the direction of Modalism, please. It's a natural direction for you to want to go in. It's a dead end. Trust me on this one. Keep that in your pocket until you're ready.

Temptations

You're free now! Free to roam and move about the cabin. Praise the Lord!

You have been in a very structured and controlling environment. Don't try to make excuses that you were in a kinder, gentler COG. Even if you were (I was) you will eventually come to see it was more structured and controlling than you realized, and quite a bit more than most mainstream churches. (If it's as good as you think, why are you sneaking around here?) Accepting this now will make it easier.

Be aware of this! Any time a human being is given freedom after being in a structured and controlling environment, we are confronted with the temptation to turn liberty into vice. Take any teenager for example. Once they get old enough to have their freedom out on their own, masters of all they survey, that's when the troubles really start. The world is a very delectable oyster indeed.

Ever hear of how Amish teenagers do Rumspringa? That's you. Remember this - just because there is no a set of Old Covenant laws for you to struggle and fail to keep doesn't mean there are no standards for righteousness. You're "free in Christ" not "free in vice".

My advice is to ask yourself if what you're thinking about doing is something the Holy Spirit is leading you to do.

Try not to over do it, eh? *wink*

Authority Issues

Your COG leaders have let you down. This is going to affect the way you relate to authority. Either you are going to deeply distrust - and in some cases reject - any authority, or you are going to want to cling to what you perceive as a more worthy authority figure.

Reject. Cling. Either direction has its risks. 

If you reject all authority, you can become "unchurched" which means you are faithful but choose to be on your own. That isn't a position of strength with a lion roaming around seeking whom he may devour. If you search for a better authority to surrender all to, which will you choose? Choose wisely, or your next crisis might lead you to reject Jesus. You gave everything to them and they let you down. Why would God let you do that? Must mean there is no God. (Think I'm joking?? I've seen this happen. More than once.)
There are two ditches you can crash into. Try to stay on the road between the two.

Church authority is real, though. If you read the New Testament at all, you can see for yourself there are ordinations, and those ordained offices are tasked with maintaining orthodoxy and protecting the flock. If you're going to be alive, you are going to be in contact with form of authority. What will you do about that? 

My advice is to be patient and think rationally, not emotionally, about this. Take yourself out of your own equation. How would you give advice to someone else in this situation? Recognize being fresh out of Armstrongism is not the best time to make hard commitments. You don't even know yourself at this point (read my "Escaping Armstrongism - part II" post).

Money Issues

You've been (quite improperly) forced to surrender your money in tithes and offerings. This is completely unbiblical, but you didn't know that at the time. Much of what you were told to do was specifically designed to keep you paying while the top brass bought mansions and jets and meetings with world leaders and the Czar's golden flatware and Steuben crystal and $2,500 bottles of Remy Martin Lousi XIII cognac in the special baccarat decanter. No, I'm not joking! Herbert Armstrong did all of that, and more. And that is why you see so many end-time Elijahs and Elishas today competing to replace him. That lifestyle is what they want so badly, and they need your money to get it. Unfortunately, that love of money exists outside the COGs, too. (Looking at you, Creflo Dollar.) Be cautious, dear reader.

One of the beauties of the New Covenant is that giving is optional. It comes from the heart, not the law. If you are compelled then it isn't a gift, is it? No.

You are likely to develop a healthy distaste for anyone or anything that asks you for money. Don't let those greedy wolves steal your inner charity form you. Charity is at the root of Christianity.

My advice is to understand that if you are going to go to a church (I recommend you do), or listen to an online ministry, then you should contribute something. At least help pay for the resources you've consumed. You did use resources after all and it's only fair. All that costs something. But be wise! You are under no obligation to pay for those extras. And please pray about it. You're going to want the help of the Holy Spirit to keep your heart in the right place.

Doctrinal Disputes

Where there are people, there are disagreements. Christianity has been around for longer after Christ than Judaism was around before Christ. We're as far from Jesus as Abraham was. We've had time to think about things and to disagree about things.

There are tons of doctrinal disputes available for you to participate in (whether you want to or not). Traditionalist Catholics vs Modernist Catholics, Arminianism vs Calvinism, real presence in the Eucharist vs symbolic presence only, oneness of God vs threeness of God, Creeds or no Creeds, Filioque, KJV-only, speaking in tongues, Rapture, Female ordination ... it's an endless smorgasbord of dispute options! Just name the topic, there's sure to be some dispute about it.

It doesn't matter where you go, there will be some form of dispute going on behind the scenes. Might as well get used to the idea. Don't let it tarnish your view of your faith or your church. There were disputes in Armstrongism, too. Maybe a short string of tired cliches will help! Christianity is a hospital for the sick not a museum for saints. It it what it is. Such is life. We are fallen humans. The world's an imperfect place.

My advice is to rise above it all. Make your default position a neutral middle ground position. The truth is almost always between the two extremes. Nobody loves a moderate, but it's the wise choice. Listen carefully to both sides before making any decisions. Not everything needs to be a hill to die on.

Jewelry and Icons

Guess what you're free to do? Go to Christian book stores and shop for whatever you want, even crosses and images of Jesus! Yes, even statuettes.
You are going to feel conflicted. Part of you will still be motivated by the iconoclasm of Armstrongism, and you might think images are a bridge too far. That's perfectly fine. Move at your own pace. Don't go overboard.

Having a cross on your clothes or jewelry, or an image of Jesus in your home, is not a magic talisman. It has no power. It can neither help you nor harm you. Listen to your inner voice on that. After I was out a year, I got a cross necklace and one of those "This shirt is illegal in 53 countries" shirts. I did it to make a statement. The statement I was making was to myself. I wasn't going to be controlled by fear anymore. I did it because I could, and that's all. I wore the shirt twice and have no idea what became of it. I still have the necklace. I don't wear it all that often. Its intended purpose is fulfilled.

My advice is to limit yourself to one or two things. Maybe get a cross necklace; an affordable one.

Don't Have A Home Anywhere

This potential (but not guaranteed) outcome is a painful and frustrating one, to be sure. I am referring to the sense that you have no home anywhere.

One downside to having your unique background and experience in a COG is that you see things in a very different way than anyone else who did not go through it. Too differently, in fact. Pair that with other factors that cause you to keep everyone at a distance and you have the recipe for becoming an "unchurched". More extreme cases absolutely refuse to have anything to do with organized religion ever again.

If you try, you will always be able to find something you just don't like. You don't want a Priest or Minister in authority over you. The sermon touched a nerve. You wish there was more substance and less sappy fluff. You don't like feeling pressured to give money. Pastor doesn't get the Old Covenant like you do. There is no Rapture. Etc etc etc.....
So long as they aren't lording it over you, is it really that big of a deal? What, you think you had it so good before? You just left a doomsday cult for crying out loud.

I have seen this so very many times. ALL the authors here at As Bereans Did all have experienced it, including yours truly. I really struggle sometimes.

There is only one way that I know of to defeat this - humility. Know that you don't know so much as you think you do, and so don't expect others to either. Lower your expectations. Let yourself be wrong and let others, too. You will never experience perfection in this life. Churches aren't perfect, and neither are you. Maybe 10% wrong is 90% right, and that's an A in my book. These people have to put up with you, too, so return the favor.
Find a place with people you like and opportunities to serve, who tolerate each others' differences, and just be content.

Understand these are mostly fear responses talking. You hyper-fixate on the problems because you are afraid of something, maybe of being fooled again. Know thy self.

Side Show Attraction

Be ready to be a bit of a celebrity at first. Your new connections will ask you about your history and conversion ...a thousand times. You might like the attention at first. You might be annoyed half to death later on. It'll stop after a little while all on its own. You might even come to find you miss it.

Some people might get jealous of the attention you're getting. Some people might thoughtlessly say things that hurt your feelings. It's unfortunate, but it happens. They don't understand. Frankly, you don't have their experiences, either, so you don't understand them any more than they understand you. It's somewhat of a two-way street. Patience is necessary.

My advice is try to understand their natural curiosity isn't meant to be malicious or a bother to you. Don't let it get to you. The truth is, they are happy for you and they find your testimony inspiring. Control the conversation. Don't overshare. The best thing you can do is find some way to use your testimony to inspire and uplift.

Cliques and Politics

How I wish I didn't have to add this one. Nothing disappoints me more than this. After attending that welcoming new church for a while, you may find it has cliques and self-imposed hierarchies. Maybe half the church is related, but not to you. Maybe the people of means sit in front every week while those without sit in the rear. Maybe people who are very traditional don't like to sit near people who are less traditional.

It's human nature. Jesus talked about it. They have this in every COG. They will have it in your new church to one degree or another. I truly wish it wasn't so. But that is our lot in this life. We are still on the journey to overcoming.

My best advice here is not to fight too hard against it. That isn't the way to go about things. Only makes it worse. If it's truly toxic, move on. There are some great places out there.

Apathy

You have been through quite an experience. It was a long road out. You care about it. Doctrines matter to you.
Unfortunately, that might not be the case with the people you're about to meet.

In Armstrongism and out, there are people who coast. They take things for granted and go along to get along. They aren't interested in doctrine so much. They just do what they've always done. They might not even understand exactly why they do what they do. Maybe they were born into this. Maybe church is a tradition for their family. I am lumping this under the term "apathy".

Why do you always have to deal with people who don't care about their own doctrines? Gah!

Truth is, a deep understanding of doctrines is not required for Christianity. Most Christians who have ever lived didn't really understand their own religion very well. What is required is simply a saving faith. If it really becomes a problem, you might have to consider leaving. Before you go, consider your own part in this. Did you just leave Armstrongism because you mastered Christianity? Are you certain there are zero issue in your heart?

My advice is to employ generous amounts of good ol' Christian charity.

Dark Night Of The Soul

Last  but not least, let's talk about that prolonged feeling of having a dead faith and wanting to give up. It's coming! Better you know about it now than have it catch you unawares.

The time comes on us all when we don't feel that presence of God in our lives like we used to. Our prayers go unanswered. Life takes a downturn. We try and nothing comes of it. We get sad. We get frustrated. We get angry. We want to walk away from it all. This condition is called "the dark night of the soul" for reasons obvious to anyone who's experienced it.

Remember how Elijah was so sad he went to live in a cave. Remember the Parable of the Virgins in Matthew 25. ALL of them were asleep. Jesus' advice to us all was to keep a spare stash of the Holy Spirit handy. You might wonder where you can buy a jar of Holy Spirit. Not at Costco. It's a parable. It's not meant to be taken literally. There are times when the best you can do is continue to pray.

The dark night of the soul passes eventually. If you seek, you will find.

I am going to say something here that some people will take as blaming the victim, even though that's not what my intention is. The hidden, inner truth about why some people experience the dark night of the soul is because they have something in their life they need to repent of. Something is affecting their relationship with God in a negative way. Ongoing willful sin? Uncharitable heart? Stubborn, inflexible pride? Unproductive laziness? God knows. If that's your case, find it and change it. If that's someone else's case, pray for them and encourage them - never judge them. Dark night of the soul isn't always because of something like this. I am only saying it can be because of something like this.

My advice is to never stop praying. Insist on it, no matter what! Even if all you can get out is, "God, I praise you and thank you for who and what You are."
Try to think back on those times in your life when God was with you powerfully. Maybe you witnessed a legitimate miracle. Maybe you felt His presence. Maybe you had an event that moved you to a deep thankfulness. Remember those times. Hold on to them!


I think that's quite enough for today. No amount of my writing will ever prepare you fully. I think this gets the point across that it's not going to be simple. Good news is, it will be worth it.

God bless you in your journey and guide you as you step into the New Covenant. Enjoy the ride!


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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )

Acts 17:11

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Friday, May 24, 2024

What Will It Take?

Hello, dear reader. Today, I would like to do a short fireside chat. You see, one cannot read the articles at Banned and not get the impression that this has all happened before. (Because it has.) And I have something on my mind. I am wondering how long you intend to let this go on in your life?

You have leaders of almost every COG splinter group out there acting as a reincarnation of Herbert Armstrong. This guy over here wants to recreate the old Worldwide Church of God. That guy over there is on his 503rd sermon about how Jesus will return next month, for real this time. Half of them say they are the end-time [insert Old Testament title here]. The other half you can practically see the dollar signs where their pupils ought to be. And here we are, those of us still in the former COG blogosphere, writing practically the same articles over and over to cover it all.

Since As Bereans Did started in 2008, we have written countless articles detailing this theater of the absurd that we call Armstrongism and, frankly, it's getting tiresome.

How many times do you have to be lied to, fleeced, stepped on, and taken for a fool before you say "enough already"? How many times will Jesus not return next month before you say, "Huh, maybe this guy isn't a prophet after all, and I might do well to question other things he says,"? A 504th sermon? A 900th? How many more duplications of Ambassador College or the Plain Truth magazine or the World Tomorrow television program will it take before you say, "Huh, maybe that wasn't the best use of millions of dollars the first time, even less so now, and I might do well to question if this organization is really being led by the Spirit,"? How many self-aggrandizing leaders need to rise up, with their petty in-fighting and their posturing, before you say, "Huh, these people aren't any different than that Herbert Armstrong guy, and none of this looks like what I see in the New Testament,"?

I know a man who is going into the ministry right now. He has witnessed this same song and dance his entire life and still he is choosing to go into the ministry. He looked around at all this and said, "Huh, I want to be a part of that."
o_O

How???

If you're staying because of the Sabbath, I've written articles since day 1 recommending you try it over at the Church of God - Seventh Day. See for yourself that they aren't like this. They did the right thing and fired Herbert Armstrong in the 1930s. Here we are almost 100 years later and many still haven't learned that one simple lesson.

What became of these men? What became of Herbert Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong, Rod Meredith, Gerald Waterhouse, Herman Hoeh, Gerald Flurry, Ron Weinland, Dave Pack, etc etc etc etc? Did their work pass through the fire or did it burn up? Do you suppose those wells gave fresh water or bitter?

I know this sounds like I'm coming down on you. That isn't my intention at all. This is just a hard topic.

I want you to take an inventory of the past 100 years, an honest inventory, and ask if these are the fingerprints of Jesus you see. Was it Christ who got the prophecies wrong so many, many times? Was it Christ who caused church leaders to struggle for power and influence? Was it Christ causing these men to say "I am Elijah", "I am the Inkhorn", "I am the Two Witnesses"? Was it Christ who caused so many divisions? Was it Christ who misrepresented the facts of history and scripture over and over again? Was it Christ who ruined families financially?

Or maybe was it not Christ at all. Maybe, just maybe, is Jesus Christ to be found elsewhere?

Just ponder that to yourself for a while. Honestly ponder.
If those aren't the fingerprints of Jesus, I think it is fair of you to ask yourself, "What will it take to get my love of God to overcome my fear of men?"


What would it take to get me to finally leave?


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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )

Acts 17:11

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Friday, May 17, 2024

God Loves A Good Turnabout

God seems to enjoy contrasts and turnabouts and juxtapositions.

The Incorruptible puts on the corruptible.
A virgin gives birth.
The giver of the law is subject to the law to fulfill the law.
The possessor of all has nowhere to sleep.
The Master serves.
The sinful anoint His feet.
The Judge is judged.
The Word is silent.
The Shepherd is the lamb.
God suffers.
The sinless becomes sin, so the guilty can be innocent and the unrighteous can be righteous.
The Author of Life dies.
Humiliation becomes victory.
Death becomes life.
The women who could not be witnesses are the first witnesses.
The uneducated teach.
Strength is made perfect in weakness.
The dead live.
Love conquers.....


I'm sure there are more you can think of.


Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Tithing - You're Doing It Wrong

I was recently minding my own business, flipping channels on the telly one rainy Sunday morning, when I came across a church program from a local Protestant group in my area. This group is not affiliated with Armstrongism at all. They are one of those "intro to Christianity" seeker-sensitive churches, with the stage and the band and the light, airy messages peppered with buzz-phrases like "lean in". Don't get me wrong, it's a decent place. They have plenty of community outreach programs and genuinely try to plant the seeds of the gospel in people's hearts. It is difficult finding a balance between evangelizing and making disciples. It almost requires two different churches in one. Their messages may be light and airy, but they do not compromise on solid principles even while they are very patient with people who aren't there yet. That's why I figured I would linger a while and hear what the young gentleman on my screen had to say.

His message was about ... you know, it's odd, but I don't really remember what his message was about. It was something I thought was pretty good. Unfortunately for me, the message was lost when he mentioned one of my personal pet peeves - tithing.

I thought it quite unusual to hear a Protestant mentioning tithing. Especially one from a seeker-sensitive group.

I understand the economics of running a church. They cost a lot of money! You can imagine in our current economic climate, things only get more and more expensive. Tithing is a tempting option. Compelling people to hand over 10% of their income is a more reliable system than depending on freewill gifts.

But there is a serious flaw in this entire plan. For some reason, people seem to think tithing was a system of 10%. What if I told you that is incorrect.

Tithing was not 10%. It was one-in-ten.

HOW TITHING ACTUALLY WORKED

What is the difference, you ask? Let me explain.

Originally, ancient Israel was an agrarian society. All that means is most of the nation's wealth was generated in a field somewhere. That is why you will only see tithes of the farm, field, orchard, or flock. That is why you hear of the Pharisees tithing of mint, anise, and cumin (DEU. 14: 22). Note: the church leaders tithed. You will not find a verse where tithes came from money. Or fish, for that matter. You can turn a tithe into money in order to make it easier to transport, but it was not money originally. (Does your Minister accept tomatoes?)

Some did have "income" as we understand it, because there were tradesmen and specialists in that agrarian society. Somebody had to cut stone and build houses and smith bronze and craft the clay and fletch arrows, and etc. That tent aint gonna weave itself! Yet, you never see a verse commanding them to tithe on their pay. It is implied that money income was donated, but it is never directly commanded that money income was tithed. Some forms of income simply were not tithed upon.

So, we are back to tithing on farm, field, orchard, or flock. Here, the one-in-ten system becomes necessary. To explain how the one-in-ten tithing system worked, let us imagine some shepherds.

Once a year, the shepherds would all gather in their area to have their flocks counted. We were reminded by Miller Jones in the comments on this post that it wasn't the whole flock that was counted, but the increase of the flock. An important point to mention! (No one tithes on everything they currently own, but the new income. Or else tithing would guarantee poverty.) For the count, the new sheep were caused to pass under a rod. Every tenth sheep was given.

(LEV. 27: 32) And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord.

Let's say for example there is a poor shepherd who has three new sheep.
Under a one-in-ten system: This poor shepherd brings his three sheep to be counted. There is no tenth sheep to give, so he ends up giving nothing at all.
Under a system of 10%: He would have to cut three-tenths of one sheep and hand it over. That leaves him with two and seven-tenths sheep.

Let's say for example there is a more successful shepherd with twenty-nine new sheep.
Under a one-in-ten system: This shepherd brings his twenty-nine sheep to be counted. As the tenth passes under the rod, he hands it over. As the twentieth passes under the rod, he surrenders it over as well. Since there is no thirtieth sheep, nothing further is taken from him.
Under a system of 10%: He would have to surrender two whole sheep, then cut nine-tenths of a third sheep and hand it over. That leaves him with twenty six and one-tenth sheep.

Do you see the difference?

Let's do what is un-biblical and turn this tithe example into one of money. I only do this because so many people think of tithing in terms of money income, although that "biblical" idea is not in the Bible anywhere.

Ten percent of $19.98 is $1.99. One-in-ten of $19.98 is $1.00.
Ten percent of $983.75 is $98.37. One-in-ten of $983.75 is $98.00.
Same starting amounts, different tithe. The two systems are similar but not the same.

There is a tangible difference between 10% and one-in-ten. What is that poor shepherd supposed to do with that seven-tenths of a sheep, exactly? Plus, with one-in-ten you never have to round up.

If you understand how tithing really worked, it makes the ridiculousness of the Pharisees even greater. They didn't just weigh their herbs and spices then hand over 10%. No. If they were doing it as expected, then they had to count it all out and give one out of every ten. Talk about strain at a gnat and swallow a camel! Doing all of that fastidious counting, but missing the law of love almost completely.

CONCLUSION

Which system is the more merciful? Which system wastes no resources? Which system only takes from those who can afford it? Which system gives the poor a fighting chance to increase? 
It's not the system of 10%.


If someone tells you tithing is a system of giving 10%, you tell them to get behind you. The Bible never advocates a system of tithing ten percent (let alone thirty percent). The biblical tithe was one-in-ten. There's a difference!

This is a moot point anyway. The tithing system, whether it was ten percent or one-in-ten, is gone. Gone with the Old Covenant and the Levitical priesthood. Replaced in the New Covenant by a system of freewill giving. If you want more about this, we have several articles on our Categories page.

So, for all of the people who talk about tithing and how it should be about money and how a tithe is ten percent, you might want to search the scriptures as the noble Bereans did and reconsider what your Minister told you. Apparently, this goes even for the mainstream Protestants. Because, chances are you're doing it wrong.



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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )

Acts 17:11

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