Volume 13, Number 3, September-October 2009

 

Living His Way

Letter:        October 21, 2009

Dear Norman,

Tanuja and myself are sending you a a check for [amount removed] toward the Servants’ News magazine and the work of your ministry at PABC. May our Father bless you all at PABC as you strive to live His Way. May His Kingdom come soon on earth!

With many blessings,

                                                                                  Rahul, Illinois

                                                                                   

Response: Thank you for your encouragement. The difficulties that we have suffered here at PABC give us a clear understanding of how far we need to go to be ready to rule with Christ at His return. Even when one lives among and ministers to people who claim to be believers, there are some major differences of opinion about the meaning and application of scripture. But if we look to our father in heaven to correct us, He does it.

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter (1Pet 4:12-16).

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us (2Tim 2:12).

—NSE

The Christian Way

Letter:        October  23, 2009

Norm,

This little offering is for you to use as you see fit. Thanks for the magazine. I see nothing wrong with what you are doing, helping and serving others: friends, family, strangers—it makes no difference. This is the Christian way, the way I’ve tried to live for 45 years.

       —Jim, Ohio

 

Response: Thank you, also. It is amazing how similar your brief letter is to the one (above) that I received just two days prior. While truth is very important, our Savior said other people would recognize us as believers by our love:

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35).

—NSE

Trying to Take Our Faith Away from Christ

[This letter contains quotes from the Worldwide Church of God’s Bible Correspondence Course. They are in this blue bold typestyle. The “Comment:” paragraphs are also copied from that correspondence course.]

Letter:        October  14, 2009

Dear Norm,

Guy [writer’s husband] and I left the Worldwide Church of God in 1980 just after Trumpets. We went with CGI and left when we found out what GTA was like. We went with United Church of God twice. Since I haven’t attended with anyone. I have learned more and have grown more.

Lesson 49, printed in 1967 entitled “I will build My Church”, page 9, subhead “What Was Peter’s Job?”, question 6:

On Peter’s first trip, did John accompany him? Acts 8:14. Did the Church usually send out men by twos? Luke 10:1; Acts 15:39. Jesus Christ from the beginning designed John to be the one to supervise the whole Church after all the other apostles were dead. John 21:22-23.

Comment: This does not mean that Peter or John was ever the Head of the Church or in a pontifical office over the other apostles. Notice Peter and John were sent by the apostles collectively under Christ’s inspiration.

Lesson 19, printed in 1983 (new one), “What and Why the Church”, subhead “The Real  Purpose of the Church”, question 8:

What did Christ command Peter, who was to become the leading apostle of the early Church? John 21:15-17.

Under subhead “Government in the Church”, question 1:

Who set government in the Church? 1Cor 12:28.

Comment: Just as ancient Israel’s government, as established by God, was hierarchical, the Church of God today is organized under theocratic government, hierarchical in form. Government is from top down—the very opposite of democracy. The members do not set officials in the Church—God does, even as He sets lay members in the Church. 1Cor 12:18; John 6:44; Acts 2:47.

The government presently in God’s church is the same form of government by which Christ shall rule all nations during the Millennium, and the Great White Throne judgment period. Those in God’s Church today have voluntarily placed themselves under the authority of His government. Thus they are learning to rule in the Kingdom of God. How? By first being ruled by the government of God during their mortal lives. Spirit-begotten children learn to rule in preparation for the  World Tomorrow by submitting to and administering God’s government within his Church today.

Under the subheading “Salvation Outside God’s Church?”:

Can a person receive salvation outside of God’s Church—the “mother” through whom His Spirit-Begotten children are being fed spiritual food?

(It was more like milk and pablum.)

In Question 1:

To what did Jesus liken Himself by analogy? John 15:1. And to what did He compare individual members of His Church? Verse 5. Can the branches bear fruit apart from the vine? Verse 4.

Comment: Jesus pictured Himself as the vine and those of His Church as the branches on that vine. Notice that Jesus is not several separated vines—He is the one vine! The members of the body of Christ are the branches—but not separated, isolated branches. All are joined to the one vine—the body of Christ.

Question 2:

But What happens to those branches that are separated and broken off from the vine—that separate themselves from the  body of Christ? John 15:2,6.

Comment: Jesus was speaking to those chosen to be apostles in His Church. He told them that the Father is the husbandman—the vinedresser. John 15:1. Every branch of this vine (the body of Christ, the Church) that does not bear fruit for the Kingdom, the Father cuts off so that the organized, united vine may bear more fruit.

Jesus’ analogy is a grave warning to those who would cut themselves off from His Church. They will stop growing, wither and finally die spiritually.

First Christ is the vine, next HWA has the Church as the vine.

God will not allow anyone into his Family who refused to be part of the Church receiving spiritual training. That’s why it is so important for those who are called and begotten of God to grow

(which they didn’t)

and be loyal

(which they were)

and obedient to the government of God in His Church—for the Church is indeed the Kingdom of God in embryo, soon to be born of God!

Where did HWA get this from? It is not in the Bible.

I Thought that you would find this interesting

Your sister in Christ,

       —Brigitte Le Burel, Comox, BC, Canada

 

Response: You did a very good job of pointing out what happened in the WCG—and the same thing happens in hundreds of other churches. The Scriptures focus on Christ as being the Head of the Church, the vine, our savior, the chief shepherd, etc. Denominational teachers quote all of those verses. But then, they carefully transfer the object of those verses to their own church group or organization. Suddenly, one has to be a member of their organization to be in the Body of Christ. And the Bible says nothing about church membership rosters. Nor does it set up a church board or hierarchy which has the right to determine who is in the body of Christ.

From the change in text from the old Correspondence Course to the new one, somebody had to know what they were doing when they changed it from a scriptural explanation to a non-scriptural one. The claim that God gave ancient Israel a hierarchy is obviously false by reading 1 Samuel 8. It was Israel that asked for a king against God’s wishes. He gave them judges, to whom they could go when they had disputes with others (Ex 22:9; Deut 1:16; 16:18-20; 19:16-19; 21:1-9; 25:1-3).

It is good to discover that we have been taught and accepted error, to repent of that error, and to depart from that error. Unfortunately, that is not all that Christ expects of us.

"By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).

 

Each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is (1Cor 3:13).

Many groups that erroneously taught that their church organization was the “body of Christ’ still bore fruit and did good works. The WCG’s correspondence courses contained much Bible truth and taught hundreds of thousands of people. Some of the information in them was not easily available elsewhere. Even though members there were primarily expected to “pray, pay, stay and obey”, at least some significant part of the money they sent was used to do good work, and their prayers were probably heard (Jms 5:16).

When we appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2Cor 5:10), we do not want Him to say:. “I appreciated your tithes, prayers and service while you were in that church denomination. I was even happier when you studied your Bible and realized that you could come directly to Me and did not need a church denomination with its human government. After you left, you studied and learned so much more truth. But you never used all you learned to edify the brethren in My Church or to teach My truth to unbelievers.”

It is one thing to learn that we do not need a church denomination with a schooled ministry to learn the Bible. Christ can teach us. It is a different thing to learn that we do not need a church denomination with a schooled ministry to be effective in Christian service and evangelism.

Independent believers and their congregations have been improving in their efforts to do Christ’s work. The Feast and other articles in this issue show that. But we still have a long way to go.

—NSE

Book of Galatians

Letter:        October 18, 2009

Hi Norm:

Regarding the letter about the Book of Galatians (SN July-Aug 2009, p. 33). I have no opinion about whether the Galatians were Jews, Israelites or gentiles, but the point was raised that the name derives from Celtic tribes of western Europe. You and your readers might be interested to know that these Celts were referred to variously as Gauls or Galatae which terms correspond with the Hebrew 'Gola' or 'Galut' which means 'the exile'. The term 'galut' is still used in common speech by Jews to refer to the Diaspora. (I wonder if slang terms like 'galoot' and 'guy' (goi) might have been Jewish witticisms aimed at non-Jews—just a thought!).

This fact alone makes it all but certain that the Celtic peoples of western Europe are descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes. The Galatians of Anatolia – who gave the region its name—originated with a Celtic invasion of that part of the world a couple of centuries before.  Whether Paul or anyone else in the NT era made the connection I don’t know. It might have some bearing on the vexed questions of exactly who were the Galatians referred to in Paul’s letter and the nature of the controversy which he was addressing, because those questions are what makes the book so difficult to grapple with. Nevertheless it was widely believed that the Ten Tribes were scattered abroad in the areas north of Judea.

Best wishes,

       —Dale Heslin, Australia

 

Response: I have not done any research on the history of this time, but the book of Galatians clearly shows that they were struggling with people teaching salvation by works of the law on the one hand, and with unbiblical customs on the other. Galatia may well have had some traditional rabbinic Judaism mixed in with the the beliefs of the ancient Israelites—which were probably false with a little truth mixed in. They had clearly departed from the true God long before they were sent into exile. Adding belief in Jesus might have been "liberal" for the Jews, but “strict” to the lax Israelites, which certainly could have been there.

—NSE

Sell Your Good Will to Us

Letter:        October 28, 2009

Port Austin Bible Church:

Your organization is an important part of our community: therefore, we are inviting you to join us in an innovative partnership that might raise money for your organization while helping your members and supporters get exceptional tax preparation services.

The program is easy and convenient. Just alert your organization’s members and supporters that H&R Block can help raise money for your organization. For each new client referred who has their taxes prepared, H&R Block will provide a $25 reward to your organization.

To receive the program reward, the referred members must be new clients and they must bring the referral form to H&R Block when they have their taxes prepared. The more new clients you refer, the more money your organization can earn.

[details of program omitted]

We hope you’ll consider this simple way to help your organization earn some extra money. Please call us at 269-9351 if you have any questions.

       — Cheryl Halifax, H&R Block

       Bad Axe, Michigan

 

Response: Thank you for your letter and offer of an “innovative partnership” to help raise money for our organization. We realize the state of the Michigan economy and understand the need to find additional business.

However, the truth of the matter is that you know almost nothing about us and we know almost nothing about you. We are almost certain that you obtained our address from a purchased mailing list. We have never used your company for tax preparation and have no idea if your service is the best in the business, the worst or somewhere in between. We do not believe that we have the time nor the expertise to evaluate which tax preparation organization would be the best for people—or whether they should use any such organization at all.

The purpose of a local church, or any organization is to benefit its members. We believe that the world is suffering greatly now because people put a short-term desire for money ahead of long-term faithfulness to others. The Bible teaches:

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold (Prov 22:1).

We cannot in good conscience recommend your organization simply because we would receive $25 for each person who heeds us. We would be more honest to ask them to simply give us $25 and to encourage them to work together to negotiate the best deal they can with any tax preparer they may need.

We have prayed that our Father in heaven will take care of the people of your company and reward you for your faithful service.

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matt 6:26).

—NSE

And Life Goes On… Or Does It?

Letter:        October  27, 2009

To Servants’ News with Best Wishes and hope you all had a lovely Feast of Tabernacles and look forward to the reign soon of Jesus Christ on the earth—The Great Reign.

We enjoyed your magazine and it was great again to see.

I hope you may be interested in my story as we head toward God’s Kingdom on earth.

Here is a copy of it:

Bullfinch. I remember the gold mining town of Bullfinch. I was about three years old when we came to ‘live’ here. We were city people and I was born in the city of Perth, Western Australia.

It is also near Kalgoorlie, another gold mining town. The towns remind me of cowboy towns as they are similar to the ones in the USA and the ones we see at the cinema often.

There was my sister, Jill, 2½ years old;, my brother, Bill, about 5 years older. My younger brother wasn’t born until the middle of the 50’s.

We owned a shop, a newsagent shop, and my mum and dad would work quite hard. It was quite rare to have a mother working so long hours.

My parents were from mixed religious backgrounds, being my father’s side of the family was not accepting my mother because of religious difference—dad was often drunk.

I remember helping in the shop and getting shop experience plus riding my bike with a basket full of papers to deliver to the customers.

Hope I am not boring you. By the time I was 12 dad had educated himself to be a chartered accountant and we were off back to live in the city. It was about 1962. I was about 12 years old and Bullfinch had become a ghost town.

I remember my pet cats and dogs and always walking around it seems with a cat in my arms for comfort.

I will finish now as we head onward to that glorious reign of “you know who” and the the rule of God’s Servants on the earth.

Here I am, living in England, happily married for 37 years and with 2 sons, Peter and Allister, bachelors in their 30’s.

       —Sue, Hampshire, United Kingdom

 

Response: Thank you for that captivating story. at first I wondered, “is there a point here?” Then I saw one—I hope it is a lesson that you intended.

Many people would read about the circumstances of your upbringing and say “a child should never have to go through that.” Your parents had difficulties, you had to work as a child, etc. Nevertheless, they apparently loved and supported each other, and they raised four children.

You also happily married and raised two children.

Your children are not yet married and are not raising any children.

This same thing is happening all over Europe. Many young people are no longer marrying and raising families. The population growth is way below replacement levels.

The free running cats and dogs that you played with as a child often ate scraps or foraged for themselves. Today, they have been replaced by pets who are vaccinated, licensed, fed gourmet pet food and dressed in the latest fashions. So today, the natural process of child bearing and rearing has been replaced by a very long list of government, medical, school, legal and social costs—most of which neither make parents nor children happy.

All of our modern “social engineering” and technology have not made family life better—they have made it more expensive, more difficult and much less enjoyable.

We do need His Kingdom! Thank you for your letter.

—NSE

Is It O.K. to Pray in Public?

Letter:        May 20, 2000

Dear Norm:

Hope all is well with you.

As always, I have a question for you. What do you think about “people praying in public?” The Bible seems to condemn it.

I have a brother who likes to discuss religion. I gave him a tape that I thought would help him see the will of God. He was appalled by it because there was a prayer on it. He said this guy does not take the scripture seriously and he doesn't believe he should teach. I did not know what to say. Perhaps I am overlooking something?

Gerty Himes, Pennsylvania

Response: I have heard that philosophy from many different people. It is based on this scripture:

"But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Mat 6:6).

If that were the only scripture on prayer, I would understand why people would not want to pray in public. But there we need the context of this story as well as the many biblical examples of public prayer. If we read the previous verse, we see that Christ was not condemning public prayer, but prayer to show off to others:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matt 6:5).

This is a useful admonition until today as many public prayers are orations to be seen of men—not humble requests to God. Even today, people who are praying to be admired by others need to realize their admiration is their reward.

Nevertheless, there are public situations where public prayers are appropriate. Here is an example of Christ’s public prayer just before he raised Lazarus from the dead:

Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me" (John 11:41-42).

Christ explains here the reason for public prayer: It is a witness to the people who hear it that the power of God was in Christ and in those who work in His name today. When people pray for the success of a church service or evangelistic project, the people who hear need to know that it is not human strength that made the event a success, but God who heard the prayers.

(In an effort to “get around” this  example, some will claim that the above is not a prayer because the word “prayer” is not mentioned. But a prayer is talking to God and that is exactly what Christ did!)

Here are some other examples of public prayer in the Bible:

Solomon prayed in front of the nation at the dedication of the Temple. God responded with His glory to fill the temple and fire  to consume the Sacrifice. I wonder if the “private prayer only” brethren have ever received a response like that to their prayers. (2Chr 6:12-7:22)

The Psalms call themselves prayers, dozens of times. Yet these “prayers” were written down for all to read, and were sung in temple and synagogue services. Peter and John went to the temple at “the hour of prayer” (Acts 3:1).

The Apostles prayed before casting lots to replace Judas (Acts 1:24-25).

Another longer prayer of the apostles meeting together is recorded in Acts 4:24-31. After they finished, the building shook and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Finally, Paul prayed with the elders of the Church at Ephesus (Acts 20:17).

There are other examples in the Bible, but these should suffice. I am not sure why some brethren have concluded the Bible teaches against public prayer. It might be a reaction to the people who do pray to impress others. Or, maybe they have difficulty praying in front of other people and are looking for a reason to avoid it. Certainly there are enough believers willing to pray in public when it is necessary that the Church is not handicapped by what I see as a mistake.

Iwill certainly pray that believers everywhere will understand God’s true teaching on prayer. And I will pray for that in private. A public prayer should be to God; it is not a place to preach a doctrine to someone else who might be listening.

—NSE

People of the Passover

Letter:        April 20, 2008

Norm Edwards:

I finished reading your People of the Passover [published July-Aug 2008]. Thank you for the effort to show us in a more detailed way, how serious it was back then, and throughout history to the present days, to be the type of believer who will stand up and not worry about this world’s reaction to righteousness.

I am very troubled by these leaders of this nation and in the churches who are dangerous to us. It is refreshing to read of the few in power who are trying to make a difference.

I also want to remember that as righteous Daniel prayed so that his individual sins would be forgiven (I wish I had Daniels’ sins instead of mine), all of us should realize as you have shown, we all are part of this problem. So, I appreciate the description of the 10 categories of people and hope that  this will give me much food for thought and provoke me to more godly action in the future.

Sincerely,

       —Don

Response: Thank you for your encouragement. We received quite a few letters similar to yours. Our media and movies tend to paint people as “good guys” and “bad guys”. I even hear military people use those terms a lot. The “good guys” are, supposedly, on our side and we trust them and do everything we can to help them. And the “bad guys” are, supposedly, all bad and we do not help them or trust them and, in the case of the military, we kill them.

God’s judgments are not like that. He weighs both the good and the bad in everyone. People vary from very righteous to very evil with everything in between. That whole spectrum occurs in big business, in government, in the work place and even in church groups.

In the difficult times ahead, Christians might expect to be helped the most by other Christians, and maybe suffer the worst at the hands of big government or business, but sometimes the exact opposite may occur.

I would gladly send our remaining copies of People of the Passover to anyone who Requests one.

     —NSE  &

 

by Norman Edwards

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