Letter: August 15, 2002
I’ve been reading your magazine via the web. I am glad to see there are so many choices to “choose” from in the Sabbath independent movement.
However, I have to wonder how welcome someone like myself would be at some of these groups.
Response: You would be welcome at our group and many others that I know about.
Letter: Let me explain. In my current status as a believer, I no longer tolerate negative talk, especially about those not present to defend themselves; against dead people or against the fairer sex.
Response: I’ll refer back to this statement, down below.
Letter: I find it appalling the degree of racism, sexism, and ego-maniacs run amuck in our midst. Last church service I attended, the men were wearing dirty t-shirts or very casual attire; and I can’t describe the things the women were wearing. They sort of resembled sweat pants but with a finer material—but they were not dressy at all. I would expect these people to be attending a campout activity, not a worship of the almighty God.
Response: “For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?” (Jms 2:2–6).
I agree that there are some people who seem to dress worse for services than they do for other occasions, and I think that is a mistake. Nevertheless, James says we should not judge them for this. On the other hand, I remember poor people in the WCG struggling to buy a suit for church—when they desperately needed to spend the money on work clothes or other essential items. I see no biblical reason for someone to buy clothes more expensive than they normally wear just to attend a service.
Are there racists, sexists and ego-maniacs in our midst? Yes. Those of us who are “spiritual”, should be reading Galatians 6:1–2 and helping to restore them to Christ-like love.
Letter: Being from a conservative and somewhat highly-educated background, I am continually mortified and mystified at the degree of ignorance among Sabbath keepers from scriptural doctrine to history to general academic knowledge in general. You appear to be a man of logic and reason, especially when I see those killer replies you write in your publication to those idiots that write in about church government.
Response: Please remember your paragraph about avoiding “negative talk”. Many of the people who teach hierarchical government are not “idiots” or even evil-intentioned. They may be just so convinced that God has worked through their church and that hierarchical government is in the Bible, that they will accept any explanation they can find that holds it to be true. It took me years to realize that God can work with individual lives and through a church organization in spite of major doctrinal errors. But I do agree that many hierarchical ideas are self-contradictory, if one stops long enough to think about them.
Letter: Why does God call such ignorant souls?
Response: “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1Cor 1:27).
Letter: Is there any place in the church for the well-educated and successful individual?
Response: Of course there is. “…For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48). Those who have a gift of knowledge have a responsibility to teach what they know to others. What if they do not want to listen? What if they seem to be stuck in their ignorant ways? Then those with knowledge must use their knowledge to figure out the best way to reach those people. God sent all different kinds of messages and messengers to His people in the Bible, and he reached some. Jesus healed and did good to others, and they listened to His teaching. You or I probably cannot heal as Jesus did, but if we first do good in whatever way we can to others, then they will often listen to what we have to say.
Letter: Why does the church in general harbor such a negative lowly opinion about what life is to be like in the flesh?
Response: The Bible makes it clear that Christians would suffer trials in this life (Matt 5:10–12; Luke 6:22–23; John 16:22; Acts 5:41; Rom 8:17–18, 35–37; Phil 1:9; Heb 10:34; Jms 1:2; 1Pet 1:6; 4:13–16 and many other examples). However, I would guess that you are seeing what I frequently see—Christians who think they are suffering because they are Christians, but who are simply suffering from their own sins—or maybe the sins of others. When people blame problems that they are causing on something else (even Christianity), then solutions are slow in coming. Local congregations should be a place for brethren to share their problems and help each other see solutions. Many of the above Bible verses speak of having joy for suffering for Christ. This is possible because we know it has eternal value. But it is hard to be joyful, and indeed we should not be, when we suffer for our own mistakes.
Letter: Where oh where have the beautiful maidens gone?
Response: Women, like men, all get older, and their beauty must be seen in a different way. Girls grow into young women, but they seem immature to older men, probably because they are.
Letter: Every church area I visit, (note: I travel extensively for my work), I hear ongoing messages about how God is torturing us to prepare us to be His worms in the kingdom; how important it is to suffer with faith; to believe and accept one’s suffering lot; to keep oneself humble and not full of the pride of the world (i.e. don’t be too ambitious); don’t seek worldly pleasures, a.k.a. don’t be financially successful and finally, don’t be too happy… our lot is to suffer, suffer, suffer.
Response: This a common theme not just in Church of God groups, but in many older church groups that are no longer actively growing or working. It is mostly a means of trying to assure members that God is happy with their miserable suffering lot in life and that there is nothing better available. Many are suffering from their own problems and using religion as an excuse for not doing anything about them. These believers need to understand the Bible message of joy. God’s ways do produce a happy abundant life. Sometimes, when we are able to live in relative peace, not heavily impacted by the sins of others, we can have a very joyful life. And if we do actually suffer for following Christ, we can still learn to have joy in Him.
Letter: I am being somewhat sarcastic here, but I simply don’t understand why there is so much negativity, hopelessness, and overall major dead works wherever I have had the misfortune to visit?
Response: Please do not consider your visits a misfortune. These groups needs people with the joy of Christ to visit them. A lot can be done by speaking just a few encouraging words to individuals who listen.
Letter: I avoid church gatherings as much as I can because I leave depressed. I leave in a worse attitude than that in which I came.
Response: This is where you can grow in faith and strength. The four Gospels show where Christ was not only able to go through great personal suffering and sacrifice during the last days of His life, but also strengthen His apostles who were more of a liability than a help to Him at that time.
Letter: My life outside of church is very happy and productive.
Response: Good. Share it with those who need it.
Letter: Years ago, I had hopes of finding an incredible, God-worshipping and honoring woman, to share my life with. Instead, I find women who still live at home with their parents; divorced women searching for a provider for their offspring; single women who latch on to every decent single man in view, only to have nothing to give to him in return. The best women I’ve met are ten years my senior and I’m not interested in marrying my mother. This seems to cause offense. Why?
What ever happened to all the women who were good conversationists and who actually looked “good” in a dress? Seems like most women in our church are really “well fed” to the point they are obese.
Why aren’t there more women in the faith? Why aren’t there singles groups like there used to be?
Response: There are singles groups—we frequently cover them in Servants’ News (see page 4 of the March/April 2002 issue for the latest article).
It is interesting that I also receive letters from Christian women asking, “Where are the men of faith?” “Where are men who obey God, take care of themselves, earn a good living, treat women nicely, etc.?” “Why do so many men seem mostly interested in sex—in ‘getting’ a wife and then treating her miserably?” “Why are the only ‘mature’ men old enough to be my father?”
God has placed us in a world where we never find the perfect mate, and where we never are the perfect mate. The success of our marriage, and our eternal judgment depends far more upon “being a good mate” than it does upon “finding a good mate”. Pray for God’s guidance and wisdom, and realize that He may not give you everything you want, but wants to see what you will do to help your wife.
Realize that overweight and other undesirable conditions are often caused by a negative environment which is not always permanent. I know of cases where women from a negative past were overweight—worrying if they would ever have a normal married life. When they married, they lost the excess weight and kept it off for many years. By contrast, I know of other women who kept themselves in marvelous shape looking for the “right man”. After they “got him”, they let themselves rapidly deteriorate. Sometimes, God packs diamonds in the rough and one has to have the wisdom to discover them.
Letter: I date outside of the church. I have found incredible conversationists; women who take care of their bodies; and who have some resemblance to what used to be called “female”. I miss the spiritual dimension, but I’ve not seen this in a COG female in over a decade.
However, I won’t marry outside of the faith. But alas, I won’t marry an obese woman who just wants to suck my bank account dry either. I want a woman who has her own career and who is educated and has many interests. Am I asking for the sun, moon, and stars??
Response: You are asking for a lot, and have said little about what you are doing to make yourself the person that this wonderful woman would want to marry. Of interest, I can think of one woman whom I knew over 20 years ago who was absolutely beautiful as well as all of the things that you describe. She had numerous men in the church trying to date and marry her, but found problems with all of them. So she, too, decided to “date outside the church”, even though she would not marry outside the church. The owner of the business where she worked took a liking to her. He was a handsome, strong, prosperous man who treated her wonderfully. After a year or so, he was baptized by a WCG minister and not long after that, they were married. I don’t know of anyone who was against the marriage. A couple more years and a couple of babies later, it was clear that he was treating her badly and they finally divorced. He stopped attending Sabbatarian services, though she continued. Apparently, his main purpose for doing so was to “get her to marry him”. Yes, even this kind, Godly woman and the ministry which counseled her were fooled. She would have been much better to marry one of the stable, less fantastic church guys.
I could relate numerous other stories of exciting, attractive, wealthy, interesting people who married, only to quickly divorce or to live out a miserable marriage. On the other hand, I can tell of apparently bland people with few outstanding qualities who had happy marriages for years.
Letter: Well Norm, I finally had time to do the impossible: write an e-mail.
Thank you. I think a lot of people are dealing with these same issues in their lives.
Keep up the good work and spread the word, there is an athletic, handsome, non-sexist, intelligent and incurable romantic looking for a modern day Eve crossed with a Deborah! Where art thou my Juliet!??
Response: I hope that some people will respond to you and that you will treat each with respect and Christian encouragement. Let me also add that I have known quite a few life-long bachelors who could always describe in great detail exactly what the wife of their dreams should be like. Most are still bachelors because “she” never showed up. A few realized how old they were, panicked, and married the first woman who would say, “yes”. That did not always work well. When an older person realizes that he or she has been too fussy and wants to be married, it seems that the best results come when they do these things:
1) Try to develop a genuine sense of caring for all other believers of the opposite sex, not just those who might be potential mates.
2) Shorten one’s “list” of “required” qualities down to only what is essential.
3) Diligently try to meet and date a wide variety of people, even some who do not satisfy all of the points of the list.
4) Ask God for wisdom.
5) Be willing to marry someone who seems to be the best choice of those available. Avoid trying to marry the “perfect person” or “just any person”.
Our free article, How You Can Meet Other Singles should be helpful.
Letter: May 2, 2002
Hello Norman, my name is Sr. Pastor Michael Goodrich. I had the opportunity to read your manuscript titled: Where Does Judaism Fit Into New Testament Teachings? [Jan 1998.]
I noticed on page 1, a statement: “Why Have Christians Persecuted Jews?” I personally found that your statements were correct, yet I thought you might have somehow overlooked the first real persecutor in his hatred for the Jewish race, and that was none other then the Fourth Century Church Father Saint John Chrysostom who laid the foundations for all succeeding generations of the teachings of contempt. His writings state: “Are (Jews) not inveterate murderers, destroyers, men possessed by the devil; debauchery and drunkenness have given them the manners of the pig and lusty goat. They know only one thing, to satisfy their gullets, get drunk, and maim one another. Indeed they have suppressed the veracity of the wild beast for they murder their offspring and immolate them to the devil. The synagogue? A house of prostitution, a caravan of brigands, a repair of wild beasts, the domicile of the devil, an assembly of criminals.” Yes this has been the anti-semitic forefather of all anti-semitism. I used several of these statements in my book titled: What You Always Wanted To Know About The Roman Catholic Church, But Were Afraid To Ask? This rich material comes from the book titled: The Jesus Connection to Triumph Over Anti-Semitism by Leonard C. Yaseen (ISBN 0-8245-0718-5, The Crossroad Publishing Company, 370 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017).
Norman I look forward to more of your writings, in Yeshua Messiah.
—Sr. Pastor of The 7th Day Church Of Yeshua Messiah and The Fiery Sword Of Truth Ministry.
Response: There is no doubt that people within the Catholic church, especially the top leaders, have killed and persecuted a great many people, many of them simply because they were not Catholics. This is all sin and evil for which they will be punished in the Judgment. On the other hand, I have a friend who was wounded during World War II and was treated in a Catholic hospital. The Germans warned the nuns that they could be shot for treating anyone who may have been from an opposing army, but they did anyway. We can find other such examples of Christ-like behavior among Catholics. God will reward them in the Judgment. There is a big difference between the Catholic man or woman who knew the evil of his group and supported it anyway, and the one who honestly thought such “awful stories” were impossible and never looked into them.
Christ will judge each and every one’s heart, not group them together because they were part of an organization that they actually knew very little about:
“And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked” (Isa 11:3–4).
Thank you for mentioning the book. I have not read it, but the quotation you gave does not surprise me. John Chrysostom is also considered the founder of the “great Christian oratory”—the inventor of the “powerful, inspirational sermon”. I think church congregations were a lot better off when many of the members contributed, speaking in normal voices, rather than having the “powerful, inspirational sermon” which differs little from “well-staged theatrics”. But we cannot lay everything at his feet. The Romans and false teachers like “Simon the sorcerer” persecuted Jews and true believers well before John Chrysostom.
Letter: August 4, 2002
I go to a local Sabbath-keeping congregation in Knoxville, TN (www.seventhdaychristian.org). A member brought a copy of Jan-Jun 2002 issue of Shelter in the Word to Church yesterday (8/3) and I happened to see it.
Please send me a personal subscription. It looks like the kind of stuff I’ve been looking for for quite some time. Feel free to send it electronically to avoid any postage fees. Also, will you be updating www.shelterintheword.com anytime soon? It’s got stuff from 1998 out there currently.
By the way, do you have any back issues that delve into the separation of OT law between civil/statutes and ceremonial? I have never seen a categorical description of this but have heard vague references to it in various Church of God pulpits over the years.
Thanks in advance for your assistance.
— Glen Leslie
Response: You can download issues of both Servants’ News and Shelter in the Word in PDF format here: www.servantsnews.com/PDF
Versions of Servants’ News easy to read with any Web browser (HTML format) are available here: www.servantsnews.com/snprev.htm
I am sorry that the Shelter in the Word website is not up to date. I hope to work on that in the next few months.
I will send you a list and index of all of our literature and you can either print it from the web site or ask us to send it—we do not have everything on the website yet.
I would very much like to do a study of all the Old Testament Laws and come up with a Biblical basis for determining which an individual Christian should follow, which an Israelite in the Land of Israel should follow, which are sound principles for all governments, and which only apply when there is a functioning priesthood. There may be other categories as well.
I wrote a series on Bible law that was helpful to myself and many others. It can be found in the June 95, July 95, Nov 95, Feb 96 and July 96 Servants’ News issues. You can read them on the above website, or I will be glad to send them to you. Nearly all groups, including Sabbatarians, have Bible laws that they do not follow. In the New Testament, they were attempting to determine exactly what Gentiles should do, while the Jewish apostles seemed to never live in conflict with the Old Testament rules taught in their day (though in conflict with some of the added tradition).
Letter: August 19, 2002
Just an observation. In the most recent 3-issue mailing of Servants’ News, I sensed a greater level of anger than I remember in prior issues. I have long admired your courage in taking a stand, but I also have come to realize the importance of tempering (righteous) anger with wisdom and obedience (in doing what God would have us do—and not do).
Response: Thank you for mentioning this. I have had some personal difficulty with anger over the past months. It is not surprising that it has surfaced in my writing to some degree. But trying to hide it is not the solution. Even wisdom, knowledge and daily Bible study do not by themselves prevent anger. It is the Spirit of God and the life of His Son in us that bring peace and remove anger. Thanks for mentioning this.
Letter: I was wondering if you have ever heard the interesting and cautionary message by Phil Arnold entitled “Sabbath Friends and Enemies” (available from Bible Sabbath Association). If you’ve never heard it, I can send it to you. Doubtless, you’ll find it worthwhile both for its entertainment value as well as for the message.
Response: I believe I have heard of the message, but have not heard the message. I would be interested in listening.
Letter: Also, I have a question regarding the Original Languages Bible project(s?). I had thought there were two projects currently underway: one by James Trimm that we heard a great deal about in past issues of Servants’ News. And one sponsored by nazarene.net. But lately I have been seeing James Trimm’s name/influence a great deal on nazarene.net. Are the “projects” one and the same? Any info greatly appreciated.
— Jeanie Rosenthal
Response: James Tabor is the one doing most of the translation work for the Original Bible Project (www.centuryone.org/obp.html). The translation will will actually be called the Transparent English Version (TEV). He is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Mr. Tabor is an independent Sabbatarian, not a member of any Christian or Jewish denomination. While I do not agree with all of Mr. Tabor’s theology, the samples I have seen of the Original Bible Project lead me to believe that he is trying to produce an accurate translation, even when it disagrees with his understanding of the Bible.
James Trimm is producing the Hebraic Roots Version Complete Bible. I am not familiar with it, but one could get more information at www.nazarene.net.