Saturday, August 22, 2020

How To Move Forward

I left Armstrongism in August of 2008. I remember that day like it was yesterday. What I've learned in these twelve years I cannot even begin to describe. Many of the things I learned I put here in this blog, but even more are not here. Let me tell you, there is a lot to learn. I want to share a couple summary ideas with you.

The thing I want to emphasize most is something that should be obvious and go without saying, but so help me I see people making mistakes here all the time. That is:

Un-learn everything you have learned in the COGs.

Yes, un-learn everything you have learned in the COGs. To explain why, let's do a brief re-cap of the history of the COGs. 

In 1843, the false prophet William Miller started preaching the return of Christ. It didn't happen, and is called "The Great Disappointment." He doubled down and failed again. Some of his many followers refused to un-learn what they had learned. Instead they tripled-down. They adopted the Sabbath doctrine from the Seventh Day Baptists and eventually named themselves the Seventh Day Adventists. Thus began one of the most ridiculous episodes in modern history - the life and times of Ellen G White. If you are not emotionally invested in her, and approach her writings with honesty, you will see how this woman must have been demon influenced. Many of the most outrageous cults in the last 150 years are directly descended from this Adventist movement. Some Adventists refused her leadership and split off to form the Church of God - 7th Day (COG7). This is the group who hired Herbert W (the W doesn't stand for anything) Armstrong, a down on his luck detergent salesman, as a Minister. HWA saw dollar signs and used his sales experience to reach more people over the radio. His new angle was a deep reliance on end-time prophecy. HWA split off and formed his own church, the Radio Church of God, which later renamed as the Worldwide Church of God. In 1933, HWA began to repeat the mistakes of William Miller from exactly a century earlier.

"...19 years after the first seige, or 585 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar made his final siege, drove out all the Jews, took complete possession of the land, and the Times of the Gentiles came fully in. And 2520 years later, or 1936 A.D., the Times of the Gentiles will have completely ENDED. As nearly as we can calculate from the dates of ancient history, the year 1936 will see the END of the Times of the Gentiles. Those "Times" have not been completely fulfilled until that year."
-Herbert Armstrong, Plain Truth, June/July 1934, pp.4-5

The date came and went. And exactly like William Miller, HWA doubled down. No, he more than doubled down. HWA spent the rest of his life preaching the immediate return of Christ. Over and over and over his prophecies failed. The grandest of all was in 1972. We have articles detailing all of this. Did his followers un-learn what they had learned? No. They did exactly as the Adventists before them.

When HWA died in 1986, his lieutenants peeled away to start their own church groups and promoted themselves to the rank of leader. So, you get what you have here today. Did they learn anything from the past 150 years (other than starting a church is a great way to make some easy money)? No. Here we are, with one tiny little splinter group after another competing for the spotlight, and the tithe dollar of the remaining members. Still teaching the same end-time scenarios that false prophet William Miller invented, still preaching the same Sabbath message that false prophet Ellen G White borrowed from the Seventh Day Baptists, still passing on the same garbage Alexander Hislop penned which has been proven false more times than I care to count, still holding to the doctrines and practices of false prophet Herbert W Armstrong. What are the results? False prophecy after false prophecy after false prophecy. Confusion upon confusion. Can you expect fresh water from this well?

It's not just the prophecy that you must un-learn, it's everything. Un-learn it all. "But, xHWA," you may exclaim to me, "certainly not everything! I would have to un-learn Jesus Himself." Yes, everything. "Blasphemy!" No. I tell you that God is on His throne and Jesus is His only begotten Son. But what you have learned about both the Father and the Son is both flawed as well as nowhere near the whole story.  

There is a great deal more to learn about the Father and the Son that I cannot even begin to scratch the surface here. Un-learn the overly-simplified version of God that you have in your mind or else when you hear the rest of the story you will certainly be so confounded that you might even turn away from God. Think I'm crazy? There is a reason we say, "Armstrongism is an atheist-making machine."

Hundreds and hundreds of people who have left the COGs have gotten so confused and so frustrated that they gave it all up and abandoned their faith. Why? There are many reasons. No one can say it's this one or maybe two things. But I can tell you that in my experience the theme underlying it all is that people leave Armsrtongism but take half of it with them. It was that half that was incompatible with their way forward and unable to handle the challenges.

You have to un-learn even the simple things that you take for granted. Let me give you just a hint of a list here:

The COG's teachings are not unique to the COGs. COG doctrine is a lot like Catholic doctrine. The Catholic Church is not the Whore of Babylon. Protestantism is not the Daughters of the Whore. The Trinity is not an un-Biblical and unfathomable contradiction. Christmas and Easter are not pagan.There is no dark period after the first century where Christianity was completely changed. Apocalyptic literature is highly symbolic and never meant to be taken literally. The United States is not modern day Israel. The Bible does have a few issues (no, that isn't a deal breaker!). Moses didn't write every word of the Pentateuch. The Bible sometimes does contain elements found in other cultures that are older than the Bible. The understanding, world view, and context of ancient Israel is VERY different from yours today. Israel was not the first people to worship Yahweh (not even close) (yes, this is absolutely compatible with our faith). Many elements in Jewish worship are borrowed from paganism. "Once pagan always pagan" is a lie.

None of those things above, and there are a whole lot more than these I promise you, are deal breakers. God is on His throne. It all fits into the Biblical narrative. It's not the Biblical narrative that is flawed, it's your approach to it. I tell you, if you approach mainstream Christianity from a COG perspective, you will be hard pressed to accept them and will be more likely to give up your faith. How then can you handle the things that are even more difficult truths than the ones I've said above? I'll bet some of those things are a shock to you, yet they are demonstrably true. If you leave the COG and hold on to half of what they taught you, you are in danger. You need to be flexible. Bend, or you will break.

It's not just the factual aspects, but even the very approach itself that you should leave behind. 

No, you don't have to have every I dotted and T crossed. No, you don't need to have all the answers. You don't need to fit everything into a tidy little box. Humanity is messy, and God has chosen to work through us, so faith is by necessity a messy thing. The Bible is messy because God inspired humans to write it. Not just that but humans then edited it and translated it. If you leave the COGs yet maintain this trait of having to have everything figured out, you will break yourself. I am not saying give up study, just to change your approach.

Do you want the answer to what the "thorn in the flesh" was that Paul had? Here is the answer:
     We don't know.
And that's OK. We don't need to know. And we won't know until we ask him ourselves. Saying we don't know is the most honest, most relieving thing we can say. Just takes some getting used to.

Un-learn what you have learned in the COGs and bring yourself back to the one, simple, and foundational idea of faith. Faith. It's a simple, one-syllable word. Yet it is as profound as the universe itself.

If you can wipe the slate clean, clear your mind, let go, and possess nothing whatsoever in this life but belief that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, then you have everything else already. He possesses all things. In Him you possess all things. Faith is literally all you need and all He demands of you. Contemplate this. Revel in this. Revel in Him. It's all about Him! Because Jesus accomplished His goals, and you are one with Him in faith, then in Him all your goals are already accomplished. He did it. Accept His gift. Accept it, and never let go.

Soon the wheel will turn and you will start looking more deeply into things again. This is how it goes. We start with a basic faith, we get interested in a detail, which leads to other details, which eventually complicates the entire business and makes amok of everything, then we do a reset and come back to the simplicity of a basic faith again. The wheel forever turns.

Eventually you will want to investigate some matter more deeply. Do it! Only do it without the COG baggage. You may be tempted to say, "I need no man to teach me; I am not going to trust in anything other people say or write." I say to you, this is a clear indicator that you have not left behind your COG indoctrination. You are still caught up in black and white thinking. You thought that to leave the COGs behind you must now do the opposite? No! Doing the opposite is just falling into the other ditch. It's not black and white. The world is not just filled with shades of grey, but a 16 million colors besides. If you step out to take on the world like a teenager out of school, you will soon learn the world is far more ready for you than you are for it. When you have this kind of approach, you will fall into the same old ditches that millions before you have fallen into. Don't reject what people have written, just don't be naive about it. Some of it should be rejected because it's garbage, but don't reject it all - and especially not just to spite your past. There is an ocean of information out there which you haven't even been exposed to yet. It's not all false! There are also 2,000 years of lessons and debates in the Christian experience you probably haven't read. "In the multitude of counselors there is safety." You don't need to make the same mistakes. You don't need to reject it all, or reinvent the wheel, or become a scholar so you can review every little thing for yourself. There are some excellent resources out there already. Use the excellent ones and reject the rest. This requires a certain flexibility.
Want to know a secret? You will eventually find that not everything the COGs teach is false!

You might not understand why I tell you to let go of the COG now and you will eventually circle back to some few parts of it later. When you get to where I am now, at that time you will understand. But I digress.

Challenges to your faith will come. Meet them head on! The truth will take care of itself. I can give you this advice - draw on your past experiences of the presence of God in your life. 

When the "dark night of the soul" comes upon you - as it will (and not just one time only) - recall those times in your past when you felt the presence of God and saw His hand at work in your life. Don't discount your past experiences. Don't discount the experiences of others, either. The Bible is the past experiences of people who dealt with God. You will come to a crossroads. I tell you now, when you stand there it isn't going to be as simple as you might think. You will have a choice to make. In fact there are three paths at any crossroad, not just two! The three roads are these: 1) you can remain in faith, 2) you can go into faithlessness, or 3) you can sit on a fence and waffle back and forth. Set your mind to believe that God is real and His only Son is Jesus Christ, because that is your life experience and it matters, and this decision will make the rest of your life a whole lot simpler.

To those who went down road #2, what I just said sounds like a cop out. No, it isn't. I promise you that faith isn't just a blind thing. God has given and still yet gives evidence. Evidence is a rational thing. Therefore, faith is a rational thing. So is the decision to remain in faith. We are rational beings.

The entire book of Revelation is far less about some future events and more about how you approach life RIGHT NOW. We've had the book for nearly 2,000 years. Everyone who has read it has waited for the fulfillment but had to apply its lessons to their lives in their time. What does it say to us?

(REV 1: 3) Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. [Even today! Every day!]

Hear it and take it to heart. Look past the apocalyptic imagery, stop trying to figure out the who and the when, and see the big picture of what it is really saying. Learn the lessons and make the conscious decision to incorporate the lessons into your life. What lessons? Does I Peter 4: 17 not tell us to "obey the Gospel of God"? What do you mean "obey the Gospel"? If the Gospel is the good news, what is there to obey? Faith! Faith is the lesson!

We obey by maintaining faith in the truth of it. Jesus is Lord. He did die on the cross and on the third day rose again and ascend into Heaven. He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. His Kingdom will have no end. All else are wolves and imposters. There are imposters but there is the true. There are upheavals but there is a reward. And this very faith, which we choose and upon which we insist, will guide our lives ...if we let it. This is the understanding of the Book of Revelation. Faith. In our regular and every day lives.

Is it not obvious, even axiomatic, that this is a conscious, rational decision for us to make? Then why wonder when I say to consciously, rationally make the decision? When you stand at that crossroads, recall your experiences and the experiences of others and make the conscious decision to be a Christian. That decision is the very purpose of the crossroads metaphor in the first place.  

"I have experienced God in my life. I have seen God at work in my life and the lives of many others. I will not discount these experiences. I am having doubts and am very confused, but I know this is for a purpose that I will eventually come to understand. I will not throw it all away. I will not sit on a fence. Lord Jesus, you are my Lord, and I choose to side with you. Help my unbelief!"

And then, to the faith in our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, hold fast!

So to sum up, the best advice I can give you today, when you leave your COG and step out into a wider world, are these two things:

1) Un-learn what you have learned.
2) Insist on faith.

That said, I advise you to take this with you - God allowed you to have the COG experience you did for a reason. What is that reason? Find the good, and be thankful to God for it. You can be miserable, or bitter, or fearful, or thankful. Be thankful! God has never abandoned you and it wasn't all for naught.

God bless you and keep you and may the Spirit of Holiness go with you and guide you always. Thank you for having visited this blog.


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


Friday, May 1, 2020

Dave Pack Is A Fraud

Back on March 31, 2020 we posted an article called "COVID-19: No More Fearmongering". In that post I vented some frustration on the blatant fear mongering inherent in Armstrongism. What got me started was No2HWA over at the Banned By HWA blog reported about Dave Pack telling his flock that they will not see another Sabbath. In my Fearmongering article, I stated:
"God did not send Dave Pack this prediction. If you read this blog post on or after May 1, 2020, then you have your proof that Jesus did not come by "next Sabbath" and you are surrounded by a false system."
Guess what day it is? (No, not Hump Day.) It's May 1, 2020. And SURPRISE! Jesus did not make his second coming that week as Pack assured us.

So Dave Pack asked all of his top Ministers and they all agreed that none of them could see how we would be here another week. Well, it hasn't just been a week but another month. Out of the generosity of our hearts we gave Pack an extra month. Here we are. Not a single one of them could see how we would be here today reading this. Not. A. Single. One.

Funniest thing is, No2HWA has plenty of other articles in the meantime about how Pack just kept making more and more statements. Any hint of an apology, or remorse? No. And that, dear reader, is how it always goes. That's how it's been going since 1843. When are people currently in the system going to say enough is enough?

===UPDATE 1/1/2023===
Still here! We haven't died. We haven't been Armageddoned. No return of Hitler or escape to Petra. About a thousand new Pack predictions have all come and gone since this article was written.
Dave Pack is a fraud.

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

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Passover in the Age of Social Distancing

In recent weeks, Christians have found themselves navigating waters that have been relatively uncharted for a century. As the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19 has spread across the globe, leaders worldwide have started placing restrictions on social gatherings in attempts to limit transmission. Many state and national leaders have requested that U.S. Residents restrict group meetings to 10 or fewer individuals; some have gone as far as asking residents to stay home at all times unless except for essentials like groceries, medical attention or exercise.

These requests have challenged leaders from all denominations, now forced to help the church come together as one body – in a hundred separate homes. How can individuals serve others as the hands and feet of Jesus when all their limbs are required to maintain six feet of distance. Many churches have instituted online services. Some have opened drive-thru centers to hand out public assistance. But few seem to have found a good solution for handling communion – the commemoration of bread and wine.

While all Christian traditions adopt this sacrament, differing theological viewpoints affect how the ritual is practiced. Many protestants churches view communion as an important, yet symbolic, ritual memorializing Christ's sacrifice in remembrance “as often as” it is done. Some churches practice it weekly; others monthly; still others quarterly. In the current situation, many feel relatively comfortable waiting indefinitely for the next safe opportunity.

Catholics vary some in their belief about communion, but generally view the practice less symbolically and more as a ritual to be practiced regularly. The elements are served at every mass; but as I understand, it is generally accepted that Catholics should take communion at least once per year; preferably around Easter.  In my area, the diocesan archbishops has granted dispensation from mass – – to all within our district until the crisis passes.

It's more challenging to clearly define the views of the Churches of God, since they never had a  systematic theology and each splinter has its own flavor. Generally, though, the COGs view Passover – their annual communion service – as an observance critical to salvation. This view is based on Numbers 9:13:

But if anyone who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, they must be cut off from their people for not presenting the Lord's offering at the appointed time. They will bear the consequences of their sin. 

This application is in keeping with COG teachings on “ongoing justification” - that man is initially reconciled to God through Christ's sacrifice, but then is responsible for keeping his own slate clean – to varying extents – through a track record of repentance and spiritual growth. In short, if you're required to keep your library record up to date, the appointment for renewing your library card is critical.  and the schedule for available renewals is pretty limited - in this case, one evening per year.

I clearly no longer accept the reasoning behind the annual COG service, for both theological reasons and practical ones. Covenants aside, I find that annualizing the spiritual disciplines communion is intended to foster undermines our Christian walk. If we wait several months to get serious about a matter of sin in our lives, they have likely already taken root. If we wait almost a year to restore a relationship - and only do it because we have to - that relationship is likely over. If we make examination and reconciliation an annual practice, our personal holiness and relationships suffer.

Regardless of my reasons, many who I know and love disagree. And that's who I want to talk to today. Because I have no doubt that COG leaders are currently wrestling with decisions about the upcoming Passover. I also know that small groups of members are considering meeting for Passover even if their organizational leaders cancel official services. And I'm concerned about the graying COG population, given the risk COVID-19 poses to the elderly.  Today I'd like to give some food for thought - or at least consideration - advocating NOT gathering for Passover.

God created quarantining

First of all, the concept of social distancing to prevent illness is biblical - they're discussed in both Leviticus and Numbers. God mandated that Israelites who had symptoms of leprosy, or who had a suspicious discharge (among other concerns) stayed outside the camp until their
symptoms passed. This was intended to prevent contagion from spreading through the camp. Social distancing is a similar concept, except we avoid infecting others - or being infected - by isolating ourselves from the public by staying on our own property. Also, today, infection isn't as easily recognized as a seeping wound. COVID-19 has a lengthy incubation period, so it's possible to infect others unknowingly before knowing you're sick. As a result, retreating to your own home – and taking more drastic isolation measures if you're symptomatic – makes practical and biblical sense.

The Second Passover

God certainly wants us to fear and obey Him, but He's also a merciful God who understands that life is messy. Jesus experienced it firsthand; but we even see evidence of this in the Old Testament. In His wisdom, God established a second Passover for Israel when His quarantining mandates made people unclean. In Numbers 9, we see that a group of men who handled a dead body were concerned about being cuff off from Israel because they missed the Passover. God directly told Moses that those men could wait a month.

God's instruction didn't apply only to the ceremonially unclean - it even applied to those who were “away on a trip” during the first Passover. The Bible doesn't elaborate why men would be traveling near Passover - I can only assume it would be for an unexpected or critical reason. Most Israelites wouldn't choose to travel at that time. Regardless, this provision shows that God wants us to take Him seriously - but understands that life is messy. Will our current messiness clear by May 8? I doubt it. President Trump recently extended social distancing recommendations to April 30, and stated society might return to more normalcy by June 1. But an extra month would give church leaders - and the experts informing them - more time and data to evaluate.

Passover at Home 

Another possibility is keeping Passover at home. It's unconventional - but what isn't right
Pretend there's fewer than 10 here.
now. Most churches have already been tuning in to weekly services at home. There's no reason Passover couldn't be handled the same way. Chances are good that you already have unleavened bread at home (if not, and you're considering this option, I'm happy to send you a recipe).

But what about foot washing? Especially if you live alone?

Here's the thing. Foot washing is a beautiful symbol of Christ's humility and submission. It's an amazing symbol, and there's not one thing wrong with doing it ourselves. But in scripture, we have no evidence this practice was repeated in following years. New Testament authors repeatedly reference taking the bread and the wine, but foot washing is not a focus of those passages. Is it a beautiful reminder? Absolutely. Is it possible to do from 6 feet away? No. And does it appear to play into our salvation? Honestly, I don't see it.

Sacrificial love

During the Lord's Supper itself, where Jesus established the tradition of communion, He also told us that love would be the mark of His followers. The word used in this passage is a form of agape, or sacrificial, unselfish love characterized by outflowing concern for others. Throughout the New Testament, we see examples where Jesus, Paul, Peter, and others made choices that cost them personally in order to benefit others.

So what does that mean today? It means we may need to sacrifice our comfort and our preferences for the good of others. You may be young and healthy (although that's not a guarantee), but your graying COG brethren to whom you risk passing the virus are not. This knowledge has led to restrictions on assisted living and nursing home visits. It is not loving your elderly neighbor to risk passing the virus to them.

The Bible instructs us to respect governing authorities

Service at the River church held March 29, 2020
Early this week, news leaked that a megachurch in Tampa, Florida, preached before a crowd of several hundred parishioners over the weekend. Many Christians were shocked that the River at Tampa Bay Church ignored local orders restricting gatherings in non-essential services to 10 individuals or fewer. Other Christians were shocked when the pastor, Rodney Howard-Browne, was arrested.

I don't intend to rehash the arguments for and against Howard-Browne here - I'm sure we'll hear them ad nauseum in coming weeks. I've also heard of earlier instances where churches held services while restrictions on crowds larger than 50 were in place for weighty reasons like "we usually only have 80 fewer or people anyway" or "we didn't like the government telling us we couldn't meet."

I recognize that there are complex constitutional questions, among other nuanced issues, involved in this debate. But the Bible came before the U.S. Constitution. And Romans 13 clearly instructs Christians to obey the governing authorities, unless our leaders instruct us to commit an immoral act or to contradict God's instructions. I don't believe that requesting people temporarily limit gathering crosses this threshold. No one is singling out churches in this request - it's ALL GROUPS. No one is forcing church leaders to change their message, editing their sermons, or restricting access to broadcast media. It's not ideal, it's not fun - but it's not persecution.

This has all happened before 

The decisions we're being forced to make may seem unbelievable, but they're not unprecedented. Church leaders had to consider similar issues during the Bubonic Plague, and more recently, in the Spanish Flu outbreak. Martin Luther, father of the Reformation, had this to say regarding whether Christians should flee the Plague, in a surviving letter to the Rev. Dr. John Hess:
"I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God."

Throughout history, it's highly likely that Christians have occasionally missed taking the bread and the wine without jeopardizing their salvation. For example, we know Paul taught and received visitors while under house arrest. But it's unlikely he was able to continue Passover and other religious traditions as scheduled while in Roman prison in the late 50s A.D. We know he wasn't the only disciple imprisoned before martyrdom. Given the chaos that has defined much of human history, it's improbable that believers have been able to observe the Passover on the exact date, every year, for more than two thousand years. (This is just one more reason that ongoing justification, partially based on dates and observances, is implausible in my eyes).

We should, as Luther stated, pray for protection. We should ask God to wipe this virus out. And He could. But I'm not expecting it. God can do anything, and a miracle of epic proportions would capture the world's attention, for His glory. But my gut says He would have stepped in by now if that was part of the plan. Like everything else in His creation, God designed viruses for natural purposes. And like everything else He made, He designed them to be efficient and effective. In our fallen world, many things intended for natural purposes have spun out of control. xHWA wrote an excellent piece earlier this week explaining why COVID-19 is not a sign that Jesus' return is imminent, despite what some COG leaders are saying. Boils are the only human illness specifically named in prophecy, although the word translated as "pestilence" can have broad meanings, including human illness. In general, human life isn't expected to get easier as time draws to a close. While we should not be ruled by fear, I'm not getting my hopes up for a quick fix, either.

Really, there's only one reason for hope. Thankfully, it's a pretty big one.

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. 
                                                                                        - John 3:14-15
In this passage, Jesus cited a miracle from the book of Numbers, when God was punishing Israel for instance number 867,213 of disobedience and faithlessness. God sent serpents to
torment the Israelites. Many were bitten and died, but even then, God made a way for those who repented to live. The Lord instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and lift it up among the congregation. Those who were bitten but looked on the serpent lived.

If there's one thing that hits home at this time of year, it's that sin has bitten us all. Maybe that lesson is hitting you harder this year than in the past. Maybe virus-forced disruption to your usual preparation routine has left you wondering whether you've done enough to be worthy to take the Passover. Or maybe the time you've spent thinking during extended periods of down time has convinced you that you aren't.

In the example Jesus cited, there was Iittle the Israelites could do. They were bitten. They were dying. They couldn't hobble over to Moses. They couldn't touch the pole. All they could do was look at the bronze serpent in faith. And hope.

Good thing that was the one thing they needed to do.

And it's the one thing we need to do, too. Your eternal life doesn't hinge on your ability to fully remove leaven from your home, your vehicle or your church hall. It doesn't hinge on washing feet. It doesn't hinge on drinking bread or wine in the same room as your pastor - or even on a specific day. It hinges on recognizing that you aren't worthy and never will be, on repenting of your sin, and on placing your faith in God's promise of salvation to those who fully place their faith in Jesus' sacrifice for them. In His work instead of yours. That's more important to your future than deleavening, washing feet, wearing a mask or bathing in hand sanitizer.

Best of all, you can do at home.

In fact, please do it at home.

Stay safe, and know that even when we don't have time to post, you're still in our thoughts and prayers.

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

COVID-19: No More Fearmongering

I haven't posted in quite a while. Just couldn't let the COVID-19 situation go by without one. I needed to get my thoughts out regarding the Church of God leaders who make some sort of prediction about Jesus' imminent return.

Let's start at the start - the Church of God splinter groups all come from the Worldwide Church of God which was founded by Herbert Armstrong. Herbert Armstrong was a minister in the Church of God (Seventh Day). The COG7 was founded by former Elders in the Adventist movement - most particularly Gilbert Cranmer - who had disagreements over Ellen G White. The Adventist movement was started by William Miller in the late 1830s.
I want to emphasize the time here. Late 1830s. That was roughly 180 years ago. We are just shy of 200 years away.

Why is that important? Because of what William Miller was doing. William Miller decided that he had figured out Biblical Prophecy and preached that Jesus would return in 1843.  Clearly that did not happen. Undeterred, he reset the date for 1844. That also failed. He gave up but his followers did not. Jesus' second coming is called the Second Advent. Miller's followers were therefore called Adventists. This is how the Adventist movement started. They only adopted the Sabbath later. Their origin, their foundation, their entire genesis is in false prophecy.
Ellen G White continued to move the goal posts. Predictions came and predictions went until her death in 1915. Nothing came to pass in all those 75 or so years. Undeterred, her followers continue to this day. And not just her followers, but the many, many off-shoots of the Adventist movement, including the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Hebrew Roots movement, the Church of God (Seventh Day) - who, to their credit tend to stay away from prophecy - and, of course, the Worldwide Church of God.

In the early 1930s, Herbert W Armstrong started his own ministry on the sly, not letting his COG7 leaders know. What did he do? Let's take a look at his message:
"...19 years after the first seige, or 585 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar made his final siege, drove out all the Jews, took complete possession of the land, and the Times of the Gentiles came fully in. And 2520 years later, or 1936 A.D., the Times of the Gentiles will have completely ENDED. As nearly as we can calculate from the dates of ancient history, the year 1936 will see the END of the Times of the Gentiles. Those "Times" have not been completely fulfilled until that year."
-Herbert Armstrong, Plain Truth, June/July 1934, pp.4-5
That's right. He started with false prophecy about the imminent return of Christ. Did Jesus return in 1936? No. Did that stop Mr. Armstrong? No.
To save myself the time and effort of writing all this out again, I will direct you to our article "All Systems Are GO!" where we document HWA's repeated false prophesies that did not stop until his death.

HWA tried to weasel out of it all by claiming that he didn't "prophesy" but "predict." No. He DID prophesy! We have documented it. Read our article, "An Inconvenient Plain Truth" and see. We document over 60 time-specific prophecies from one small window of time, the 1950's, and some of those were done in the name and authority of the Almighty God. That's 60 time-specific prophetic failures, from only one publication, from only one decade. How many more are there? Countless!

We have plenty more articles that you can find on our Categories page.

Now, you might be thinking, "How is any of this relevant to me? This isn't 1972 and I don't follow Herbert Armstrong." It is relevant to you because it wasn't just William Miller, or Ellen G White, or Herbert Armstrong, but everyone that followed those people - including the leaders of the Church of God splinter groups today. And those people are relevant. When Dave Pack named his group "Restored" what do you suppose he was restoring? Why, the Worldwide Church of God, of course! Just Google it. It says so right there. When Gerald Flurry named his group "Philadelphia Church of God" it was because that was the name Herbert Armstrong chose for his next church, should the government of California force him to give up leadership of the WCG in the Receivership debacle in the later 1970s. The name of Worldwide Church of God would be abandoned for Philadelphia Church of God. Why do all Church of God groups call themselves Church of God? Because they all come from the Worldwide Church of God, which started as the Radio Church of God, which came from the Church of God (Seventh Day). They are not just following naming convention here. This is a continuation in every sense. Herbert Armstrong may not be directly relevant to you, but he is directly relevant to every leader of every Church of God splinter - and that makes this relevant to you. He is relevant to the entire system.

If you are a member of a Church of God splinter, you come from an organization that was born in false prophecy. It was raised on false prophecy. It makes its living off of false prophecy. And to this very minute it is led by men and women who continue the family tradition without shame or remorse.

No2HWA over at the Banned By HWA blog reports that Dave Pack is telling his flock that they will not see another Sabbath. Pack isn't going to stop when that fails. Ron Weinland said the end would come in 2008. He doubled down for 2012 and that failed. I will not waste the energy to collect more examples, but we all know they are all around. You have personally experienced a conversation with content much like this, no doubt.

But I want you to ask yourself - does the COVID-19 pandemic really meet the requirements of the imminent return of Christ, as taught by the Church of God movement? Does it? No.

Where is the Beast Power? I don't see Germany rising, do you? I don't see Italy doing anything but suffering. Where is the World War? Where is the famine killing over a billion people? Where is the False Prophet? I mean THE False Prophet of Revelation, not Dave Pack. The Pope in Rome isn't going around raising armies and moving the Vatican to Jerusalem right now. In fact, he is all alone; just as isolated as the rest of us. Where are the signs and wonders? Where are the Two Witnesses? I don't even know where Ron and Laura Weinland are right now. Probably jail, again. Where is ANY of the rest of the end time narrative? Nowhere.

You have one thing, the SARS-COV-2 virus, causing one plague, the COVID-19 disease, which is infecting millions, and killing thousands, and will burn itself out in a few more weeks from now. The response has been dangerous to the world economy, yes, but it hasn't been terminal. The quarantines will lift. The unemployed will return to work. The economy will be in recession, maybe even depression, for a while, but it will come back fairly soon. And when this happens what will you have? Among other things, like a job, you will have more evidence of false prophecy.

I wonder - what will you do with it?

Will you take almost 200 years of unrelenting false prophecy to heart? Will you hold yourself and others to a higher standard of evidence from now on? Will you stop tolerating wild speculation? Will you understand, and I mean truly understand, that a church getting this many things wrong cannot possibly have any authority on prophecy? Will you finally give yourself permission to question the teachings on prophecy? Will you reconsider what you have been taught and take steps anew to understand what the Bible is actually saying in prophecy? Will you hold your leaders to account?
Will you continue on as normal? All systems GO! Will you wait and hope for the next bit of tragedy to stoke up that flame inside you? Riding the rush of schadenfreude and Terror-porn? Will you continue to fall for it over and over and over again, year after year, time after time, again and again and again. until, like Ellen G White, Charles Taze Russell, Herbert Armstrong, Rod Meredith, Gerald Flurry, and so many others, you pass away from this life wondering why nothing happened?

I sure hope you choose the former! I sure hope you hold these false prophets to account.

I have a suggestion! Write or speak to them and tell them you will not pay one more cent in tithes until they can prove to you that they speak for God where prophecy is concerned. You will not pay one more copper penny until their prophecies start coming true, in specific ways. Don't let them put it back on you by asking, "How?" Don't let them back away with arguments over "predict" vs "prophesy." Don't let them gaslight you and place fault on you for holding them to account. You put their failure at their feet and let them get themselves out of it.

No more fear mongering! No more profiting off of misery! No more false prophecy! No more!

Are you afraid? I am! It's natural to be afraid. It is a perfectly normal human response to want a way out of uncertainty and to look for comfort. It is comforting to hear that Jesus is coming next week. It is comforting to think you won't have to endure anything further because in 7 days you're out of here. The problem is it's a false hope. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a lie. God did not send Dave Pack this prediction. God didn't deceive him, or Satan, or Ron Weinland, or anyone else, causing them to give a seemingly false message to throw Satan off the trail. If you read this blog post on or after May 1, 2020, then you have your proof that Jesus did not come by "next Sabbath" and you are surrounded by a false system. False prophets are profiting off of your fear. You are afraid, you buy into their message, and that message gives you a temporary, though false, hope. Then the message fails and they go on to the next opportunity to make money form people's misery. They have been doing this for almost 200 years. 200 years of failure and going on as if nothing happened. Don't allow them to do this to you any longer!

No more fear mongering!

"Where else am I going to go," you ask? "Who else has the true doctrines, like the Sabbath," you wonder? We do have suggestion that might possibly, just maybe, help you in that. Read our articles. We would like to assist you in finding those true doctrines and who else has them. Are you sure false prophets have true doctrine?
I bet you wanted something a little more immediate and material. Tell you what. I don't usually do this, but it helped me, so I will suggest it to you: go to the Church of God (Seventh Day). You need a safe place that gets you away from those false prophets but still has the Sabbath? There you have it. Reach out to them, attend their services, and then read our material here at ABD.

Finally, I want to ask God's blessings on you all. He loves you. He cares for you. When you suffer, He suffers with you. Is this a dark time? Yes. These things happen. Remember, Ezekiel and Daniel were taken in exile to Babylon even though they were righteous. Remember, the Apostles were all murdered, but one. Remember, Jesus specifically said we will have tribulation in this life. Bad things happen to good people! It doesn't mean God is particularly angry at you. Sometimes towers fall on people, and sometimes plagues disrupt lives indiscriminately. That's life. It doesn't mean there is no God. It doesn't mean He is golfing while we suffer. It just means there is a problem here below, and has been since that terrible decision our first parents made in Eden. This said, don't take unnecessary risks! I know you may be hoping on hope that Jesus will return and you won't have to face this current tribulation. Unfortunately, that isn't going to happen this month. Nothing else is in place at this time. You will have to face it with the rest of us. So, PLEASE, take every precaution and stay isolated. I will be praying for and with you. God bless you and preserve you! God keep you safe and secure! God provide and protect you! God have mercy on us all who look to Him. I pray in His Son's Holy Name. Amen.

UPDATED: See our follow-up article posted on May 1, 2020: "Dave Pack Is A Fraud."

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