Servants' News

Sept/Oct 2001

Letters and Responses

We print a representative sampling of our mail—both positive and negative. We do not include names unless we are fairly sure that the writer would not object. To avoid any difficulty, writers should specify how much of their name and address they would like us to print.

The Journal and the Place of Saftey

Letter: September 20, 2001

Dear Sir,

May I request the literature: The Journal—News of the Churches of God. May I request also the topics which pertain to the place of safety and 144,000.



— Herbert Laureta, Philippines

Response: We mail out sample copies of The Journal so people can decide if they want to subscribe, but we do not want to bypass The Journal’s normal subscription mechanism. You may subscribe directly to The Journal at the international price of $14 for 6 issues, or $24 for 12 issues. Contact: The JournalNews of the Churches Of God, PO Box 1020, Big Sandy, TX 75755. Tel: 903-636-9974 fax: 903-636-9965; e-mail:

We do not have any literature specifically on “the place of safety” or the 144,000; though we may have covered some aspects of it in answers to letters in Servants’ News. The Bible does mention protection for believers (Rev 12; 14; 3:10; Luke 21:36; Mal 3:17; Ezk 34:12; Is 26:20–21). It also mentions a group of 144,000 (Rev 7; 14). I appreciate your desire to understand these scriptures, but I feel I must warn you of the long history of groups that claim to understand these scriptures and obviously did not.

Do we find commands in the Bible that tell us we must understand the meaning of these or at least find a group that claims to know how we can go to the “place of safety” or be one of the 144,000? I cannot. But I have faith that God will manage these issues in perfect fairness and wisdom—and reveal them to me if I need to know them.

I believe many church organizations find that they get more response to their broadcasts and booklets when they cover prophetic subjects, so they believe that God wants them to teach prophecy. Indeed, some may even have visions or dreams telling them what prophecy to teach. Unfortunately, other groups may simply find that they receive a lot more money from prophetic broadcasts and literature. Individuals are drawn to prophecy partly because they seek knowledge of God and partly because they want to escape trials by being a part of a group that understands these prophecies and knows how to be “protected”.

I appreciate the sincere ones, and disagree with the ones who are preaching prophecy for money—God knows which is which. Nevertheless, I prefer to follow the words of Jesus directly:

“Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matt 24:34–36).

Yet one can find hundreds of prophecy books and web sites that claim to know the exact day.

“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt 24:37–39).

How could a lot of people know nothing about His coming if the exact prophetic scenario has been published on the worldwide web or in major books and magazines?

“Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left” (Matt 24:40–41).

Notice that the people “taken” were mixed in with others who were not “taken”—they were not all in the same church organization or all following the “right” prophecy teacher.

“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matt 24:42).

He repeats again, “you do not know”, yet thousands of teachers say, “we know”.

“But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt 24:43–44).

People read the above verses and say: “Right, we don’t want to be caught off guard! We are going to watch world events and study prophecy so that we know when He returns!” but that is not what Jesus advised. Here is what He said to do:

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 24:45–51).

The message is that we are all to be feeding God’s household—feeding them with the spiritual food that they need at the time. This is a very broad assignment. Many other references in Scripture talk about spiritual gifts, and how one serves those in and outside the church. Unfortunately, some people do not believe in prophecy at all, so they have no idea that Jesus may be returning. But even some who preach prophecy do the things that Christ said not to do—fight other groups that have a different prophetic or doctrinal understanding. Others become personally sinful, or stagger back and forth, going from one prophetic interpretation to another, and from this doctrine to another. We can find more detail about how to act here:

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels (Luke 9:23–26).

It is unfortunate that some people who are very soon expecting the “Great Tribulation” and return of Christ are very careful to try to keep their names from turning up on the Internet, in the press or on any government documents that might identify themselves as Bible-believing Christians. They are concerned that the government, New World Order or some mega-church group will persecute them because of it. And maybe they will. But we should not think that we know more than Christ! We should not think that we can figure out His prophecies and know when the end is and cleverly avoid all of the trouble! We should not be ashamed of Him, we should not be worried about preserving our life, and we should trust Him and do what He says.

“Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife.

Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left” (Luke 17:30–36).

In the above scenario, the believers obviously had divine revelation that it was time to flee, but no advance warning—not even time to come down from their roof to get food or a coat. They did not have it all spelled out on a prophecy chart with a backpack ready and waiting on the roof. But they were not afraid of losing their life for Christ. This is the message that needs to be taught.

I am not opposed to studying prophecy and asking God for understanding. But I think that believers today are placing far too much emphasis on understanding prophecy for themselves and not doing enough to feed others, using their spiritual gifts. That is why I emphasize this message. The above verses are not an interpretation on my part, but what Christ said when he was asked about what we should do when it looks like the end might come. Many other verses say similar things.

May the Eternal bless you in your serving and studies.



Appreciates Servants’ News

Letter: August 8, 2001

Dear Norm,

I am thankful for the good sense and devotion to God’s Word that exemplifies your ministry. I believe that producing non-denominational literature that encourages people to read and study God’s Word for themselves, literature that increases the knowledge of, regard and respect for, and understanding of God’s Word is a worthwhile goal for your ministry. I am reminded that in the book of Acts “success” for the early ekklesia was defined, first of all, in these terms: “the word of God increased” (Acts 6:7). That is the important thing.

Your e-mail links didn’t work for me. Glad to have the hard copy.

Best regards,

— Jeffrey A. Caldwell, California

Response: Thank you for the encouragement. The Bible paints people’s actions far more in terms of “good and evil” than it does in specific methods or doctrines.

Due to problems with an Internet router, a few people were not able to access my website (including me for a while). If anyone was having trouble with e-mail, and would like to try it again, I would be glad to do so. But if having the hard-copy makes it more likely that you will read it, then I want to send the hard copy.



Truth Heard If We Speak It

Letter: August 31, 2000

Brother Edwards,

I read your article about eternal judgment. So very informative and scripturally based. Just today I considered some of your thought with a radio station announcer who asked me questions. He was concerned about when a Christian would “go to heaven” and the statement by the Savior to the thief on the cross that this robber, because of his faith, that this man would “be with (Him) in Paradise.” I explained the misplaced comma. This man, like some of the men written about in “Truckers’ Bible Study”, was eager for Gospel Truth.

— Joseph McGuire, Georgia

Response: Groups that have large, centralized evangelism usually tell their members that “people don’t want to hear the truth from them”. But once we start talking, it is amazing how many will listen to a kind and respectful believer.


Evaluating Other’s Teachings

Letter: June, 2001

Dear Sir,

I write this letter in the hope that we may be of some help to you and your congregation. We have been members of God’s church for 22 years and have over the past few years come to see some very important knowledge which is vital for the end time people of God on whom the ends of the age have come.

We have sent an article which we hope you will be happy to share with your congregation. We have a website which is:

We also have an e-mail address:

At the website there are many articles which contain new knowledge which has been revealed by God. They are not our ideas or views, they are God’s revealed knowledge.

I would like to ask the following questions and if you are interested in the answers please visit our website or contact us by e-mail.

[1] Is Christ the born Son of God before creation?

[2] What is the correct night to keep the Passover?

[3] Should the Wave Sheaf be kept today, and why was it not kept till the promised Land was reached?

[4] When we are called, when will we be chosen and what do we have to do to qualify to be faithful, crossing the Jordan River, and entering the promised Land, has an amazing parallel for our spiritual journey to Eternal Life. What is it?

[5] Who is the God of the Old Testament?

[6] Are we now the Laodicean Era?

[7] Why is there almost no knowledge of God the Father.

We hope that you will find the above questions compelling. God has revealed the answers to these questions and many more, in these last days. This is new end time knowledge for Gods people, it is to be shared with any one who has ears to hear.

We are happy to receive your comments and look forward to hearing from you.


—Jim McGinn and Peta McGinn
5 Cedar Court, Brightview, QLD 4311, AUSTRALIA

Response: I looked at the website and found some of the articles very helpful. Some consisted mostly of scriptures. Putting multiple scriptures on one subject, and explaining how you think they relate is always very useful. I appreciate your desire to go just by the scriptures and not by the ideas of men. Also, it is always an inspiration to see someone focused on the things of God rather than the things of the world.

What I do not understand is why you make such an effort to claim that these things were “revealed” to you. Although you say you are not trying to collect a following, the website heading “End Time Knowledge Revealed” makes it sound like you have a “special” relationship to God. If you are sure that God is revealing these things only to you, then should not every serious believer come to you to learn?

All of the scriptures that you quoted have been read by thousands of other believers and at least some others have put them together in a manner very similar to the way you put them together. There are places where you say that these things have not been known “until now”, and I have read them in articles that are decades old. This is especially true when it comes to writings on “God the Father”.

I think everyone who teaches from the Bible should pray that God will reveal truth to him or her. I do that and I believe God has specifically shown me things at times. On the other hand, I have also occasionally written something that I had prayed about and thought was right, and then later on found additional scriptures that changed my understanding.

How can any of your readers know for sure that your information is “revealed” by God? Many of the old Testament prophets described a vision, dream or angel who spoke to them. The Apostles of the New Testament were taught directly by Christ. There were other prophets in the New Testament who had a track record of being correct. These told us how their messages were revealed. I am not saying that God did not reveal these things to you, but if He did, I would like to know how. I receive many articles and letters claiming revelations of God, the writers use only the Scriptures as their source, but they do not agree with each other.

While some of your papers seem completely based on the Bible, your paper on the Laodicean Era started out quoting Herbert Armstrong—who did not have a very good prophetic track record. As you know, the expression “Laodicean Era” never appears in any commonly used Bible. Jesus Christ, in Revelation 2 and 3 actually commands everyone to listen to all of the messages to the churches. There are not many times in the Bible when Christ repeats himself seven times—I think it would be very important to listen to all the church messages, not to assign messages to “eras”.

I want to encourage you to continue to study and to share your teaching with others on your website. I hope that the Internet will someday have hundreds of thousands of independent sites where Bible information is taught and discussed. But we all need to realize that the work of God is greater than what any one man is doing—even if that man is (or was) the head of a huge church organization. We should mightily seek God’s will and try to faithfully teach from the Scriptures. But then we should realize that we are not perfect and that it is possible that we can make mistakes—and be willing to let our brother come to us and show us our mistakes.

Thank you for your letter and your hard work on your web site.



Bible Hymnal Available on CD?

Letter: August 12, 2001

Hello Norman

Many Thanks for the latest copy of The Servant’s News, and please keep us on your mailing list.

On another matter, we have a request to make: Would you know of anyone, or any group, who has put the the complete Purple Hymnal onto CD or audio cassettes as Choral music? We did receive, some few years ago now, a couple of CDs from the Philadelphia Church of God, but there are at least fifty one hymns missing—they are just not on the CDs. Our group here would like to obtain something that has all the hymns on. If you can help in any way, please let us know.

Thanking you


— Mike & Helen Carboni, South Africa

Response: I have a copy of the Choral version which is probably similar to the PCG version you have. It stops at hymn 122. There is a piano version available on this website that includes all of
the songs: Another source of information for Church of God music is They have a number of the Scottish Psalters that Dwight Armstrong borrowed from.

I encourage the use of CDs, hymnals and whatever else is needed for a group to be able to praise God together. But if a group hopes to continue into the future—especially if it has young people—it should eventually find a hymnal that is still available somewhere for purchase.



Glad to Share SN Articles

Letter: August 12, 2001

Hello, I am from the Church of God Sabbath Day, in Hope, AR. I maintain our web site at I have copied an article that you print and I have posted it on our website. If you would rather I not do this, then I will delete it. But if it is OK with you, I will make it one of the articles we have listed on our home page. Thanks,

— Cindy

Response: Thank you for asking, but it is fine that you put my article out there. I looked at your website and see the purpose in what you are doing. You are not including names of anyone, but just putting out sound Bible articles. There are a few I would have some disagreement with, but I have disagreement with some of my own writings of seven years ago. Nevertheless, the overwhelming influence of your web site is positive and pleasant and true, and I pray that the Eternal will use it to help many people.

You may use any of my articles on your site. I hoped to create a similar site, but I have not had time to do it. I still might in the future, but I will gladly send you files of anything that you would like now. (Much of what I have written is either too long, or too COG-specific for your site, but there are probably some that you would find helpful.)

I have attached our literature list and index with this post.


Finding a Job and Tithing

Letter: August 9, 2001

Hello Norm,

[Literature request omitted.]

Norm, do you have any perspectives on tithing at this point in time? I am utterly confused by the different perspectives on it and what the Bible appears to be saying compared to what WCG and the splinters have taught. Seems like I received few blessings when tithing or not tithing. This used to be considered the measuring stick for righteousness when I first came into this sabbath community in about 1984.

Do you have any philosophy about ongoing financial problems some people experience even when they have properly prepared for the work force? I’m talking about professional careers not like general labor jobs. Seems like the church as a whole is more blue collar than white collar, which is fine, but I’m finding a huge lack of empathy and severe criticism/judgment from brethren regarding my husband’s unemployment plight and my underemployment plight. I currently work as an instructor part-time at two community colleges: full time is not available (I have a Masters’ Degree).


— June Narber, North Carolina

Response: I can understand the confusion about blessings for tithing. The Church of God groups frequently taught that tithing produced blessings and they would cite letters written by people who had tithed and then been blessed. What they usually did not say, is that they also received letters from people who tithed and went deeply in debt—even bankrupt. They also received letters from people who were on low, fixed incomes and suffered greatly. These latter letters were rarely ever published.

These examples of people who “tithed and were blessed” are no better than the many product testimonials that one sees in TV and print advertising. If 1,000 people try a product, 10 people may experience fantastic results—which may be coincidence and nothing to do with using the product. But if these people write positive letters and the company publishes them—ignoring hundreds of other negative letters, their advertising will sound like the product is wonderful. The Church of God tithing testimonials are very much the same. They do not give any kind of accurate picture of how many people were blessed/cursed depending upon whether they tithed or did not. We simply do not know what percentage of positive versus negative letters were received, and we do not know what percentage of people in the “blessed” and “cursed” categories decided to write. A Church of God member who wrote that tithing failed to produce prosperity for him or her certainly ran the risk of being disfellowshipped.

Does the Bible teach that wealth is the measuring stick for righteousness? Answering that question is better than reading selected testimonials. There are many promises in the Old Testament of wealth and blessings to those who obey God. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 are two important chapters. Malachi 3:7–12 is one of many scriptures that promises a blessing for tithing. Faithful men such as Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David and others achieved great wealth. On the other hand, prophets who devoted their lives to God were sometimes quite poor. A group of crowded prophets had to borrow an ax to build a log cabin for themselves (2Kngs 6:1–5). The issue is summed up even more pointedly here:

“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (Heb 11:37–38).

This same concept of suffering for righteousness’ sake is taught throughout the New Testament (Matt 5:10–12; 10:18–22; Acts 5:41; 2Cor 12:10; Phil 1:19–20; Jms 1:12; 1Pet 3:14; 1Pet 4:13–16). It is specifically compared to the prophets: “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:23). It is important to be sure that we really are suffering for righteousness’ sake, not because of our own faults (1Pet 2:19–20). Asking God and trusted friends to show us our faults can be helpful.

But even if we are following God in the way that we should, there is still no clear statement that we will become financially well-off. The New Testament neither holds up riches nor poverty as a sign of righteousness. It does indicate that possessions can take people away from God (Matt 19:21–22). However, other scriptures clearly show that financially able believers used their wealth to help others in a variety of ways (Matt 26:9-12; Mark 15:43 Luke 3:11; 8:3; 1Tim 5:10; 1Jn 3:17). Yet the Bible also indicates that becoming wealthy was not a goal in the Christian life of itself:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt 6:19–20).

“You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions” (Heb 10:34, NIV).

“Useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. Now godliness with contentment is great gain” (1Tim 6:5–6).

Where does tithing fit into all of this?

The New Testament affirms that tithing continued—to Levites (Matt 23:23; Luke 11:42; 18:12). It does not teach that tithing transferred to the “ministry”. I am including my paper, How Do We Give to the Eternal? which shows the error of the common Church of God teaching that Hebrews 7:1–14 transfers the tithe from the Levites to the “ministry”. The New Testament clearly teaches that all believers are priests, not just the “ministry” (1Pet 2:5, 9). Except for the scriptures mentioned in this paragraph, there are no other references to tithing in the New Testament. Yet there are numerous references to collection of offerings to support Bible teachers and to help the poor.

The Jews would have strongly opposed anyone who taught tithing to non-Levites (Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin), who taught Gentiles to tithe, or who taught the need to tithe outside the land of Israel. All of these things would have been changes from the teaching of the Old Testament as they understood it. Yet neither the Bible nor secular history records anything about this. Tithes were not collected by “the church”—what was becoming the Catholic church—until the late 300s a.d.

In the Church of God groups, the major function of the members was to fund the preaching of the Gospel and the paid ministry. Tithing was taught extensively and in many cases required (people were disfellowshipped for non-tithing).

A wealthy member tithed a lot more than a poor one, so great emphasis was placed on the scriptures that equated prosperity with righteousness. Indeed, wealthy people were frequently selected for deacon and local elder positions—both to hold them up as examples to the poorer members and to help assure the allegiance of major contributors. The Church of God groups largely did not understand that God gives a variety of spiritual gifts to the believers (1Cor 12–14; Eph 4:11–15; Rom 12:6–8; 1Pet 4:8–11). Therefore, they did not read the many scriptures about brethren who gave up the pursuit of wealth for more important goals of serving, teaching or helping others in various ways.

I realize that you and your husband worked hard to physically prepare for good careers. But you must certainly be aware that “over-qualification” is quite a problem in the professional job market. I have talked to people who have occupied a very top job in a major company, left it for a good reason, and found that no smaller company will hire them, not because they cannot do the work, but because they are afraid that the person will leave as soon as another job with a “big company” opens up for them. Some of these people search for jobs for years, and then nobody will hire them because they have been “out of a job too long”. Many end up getting “temporary” work in a completely different field and gradually build that into a career.

But you can rejoice. God may have something even more important in mind for you: “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.’ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Heb 12:5, NIV). At times, we all have to ask God, “What do you want me to do?” and let Him show us.

At one time, I thought I would live out my life programming and designing systems for big mainframe computers—eventually growing into very-large scale project management. I was investing in real estate and hoped to have enough money coming in to buy whatever I wanted. Today, I write a couple of newsletters and serve God in other ways, and take care of my family by buying a lot of used things at low prices and fixing them as necessary. My family and I have not always been happy with the results. It has taken a while, but I have learned to live at peace with this because I believe that nobody else is doing exactly what I am doing and I believe God wants me to do it.

These trials are more difficult when they are not understood by fellow believers. Some laborers despise “knowledge workers”. Some “knowledge workers” despise laborers. The truth of the matter is that all kinds of workers are necessary to make our civilization work effectively. Just as laborers may not have the education to do some jobs, educated workers may not have the strength, patience or endurance to do other jobs. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil 2:3). Everyone should be willing to help others in need when we can, but we should also be willing to go without things in order to make ends meet. People really can live without cable TV, air conditioning, restaurant meals, new clothes and appliances, etc., etc.

When Christ walked the earth as a man, he talked to the rich and the poor. He judged them by their character, not by their possessions. When I have spoken to others with job difficulties, I have encouraged these five things:

1. Ask God to show you what He would like you to do. Be prepared for something unexpected.

2. Ask yourself how you can best serve God. Some people go to great extent to plan their careers, house purchases, car purchases, etc., but spend only a few minutes thinking out how they will serve God in their lives.

3. Be diligent to look for and apply for available jobs that fit the results of the above—even if they do not bring as much money as some other job might.

4. Use extra time (due to not having a job) productively. It is very easy for people without a job to drift into time-passing: watching TV, reading books of limited value, playing games, etc. People seem to be vulnerable to drinking, smoking, drugs, pornography and other addictions during uncertain times in their lives. Time-wasting and addictions are things that really degrade a person’s self-worth. If he or she can set goals and achieve them, even though they do not produce money right now, he or she can maintain dignity and a sense of accomplishment. They will be able to say “I did these things” during that time that I did not have a job. Extra time should be used to:

a) save money (doing work that you might otherwise hire out, searching for used things at a discount)

b) prepare for a possible job (education, training, practical experience working for free)

c) work on something that might become a job (write a book, invent something, clean someone’s carpets with rented equipment, etc.)

d) serve others (either personally or as part of a volunteer program)

One must be careful that one’s efforts to effectively use extra time do not become a hindrance. Going to school, writing a book or serving others can consume a lot of badly needed money. They can also consume all of a person’s time so that points 1, 2, 3, 4a and 4b become lost. Work-substitutes are better than depression or addictions, but they should not be used as an escape to prevent a person from facing the reality of needing to provide for oneself and one’s family.

5. Share your situation with other believers. They may be able to help you better see yourself as others do, and they may be able to help you see what God would have you do. In addition, most good jobs are not advertised, but found through friends or other workers. The code sections governing the process of “fairly treating” all who apply for an advertised job are extensive and difficult. Many companies would rather interview several friends or even “friends of friends” of their own workers and hire the best one, than have to interview everyone who responds to an ad, and then prove that they are not discriminating in any way against the ones whom they did not hire.

In general, the Bible teaches the need to work, but not the need to be wealthy:

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim 5:8).

And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).

May God show you what he has in mind for you at this difficult time, and may you have the courage to receive it.



Personal Lifestyle Important; MLMs and Success Motivation

Letter: December 3, 2000

Dear Norman,

In regards to your Local Servants Directory, I have enclosed the form. It may or may not be the type of thing you are looking for.

Since the Worldwide Church of God did a 180 degree turnaround on their doctrinal positions, I have done a lot of independent Bible study and analysis. Doctrinally, I still agree with most of the original WCG doctrines, but I don’t agree on their administration of the same. I have also come to believe that the Christian lifestyle has more bearing on salvation than doctrinal issues. For instance, I still believe in the Sabbath, but I no longer believe that New Testament Christians have the same legalistic restrictions that were in the Old Testament. I also no longer believe that God works only with Sabbath keepers.

In the last few years I have done considerable review of doctrinal issues and have studied success literature. My belief is, that as a Christian, my responsibility in this life is to develop whatever talents God has given me to prepare for rulership with Christ. I am to improve my talents and abilities to the best of my ability while living the proper Christian lifestyle. I am to represent Christ primarily through my example, and to provide an answer to those who are attracted to me by my lifestyle.

I have put together a package on Christian success. I have given a couple of presentations on this topic at David Antion’s feast site in California. I am also in the process of setting up a website to make this information available to any Christian, whether they are Sabbath keepers or not. The site is:

I expect to have the site up and running within the next 30 to 60 days [It is working].

As explained above, my focus is on personal lifestyle in the context of my doctrinal beliefs. I have yet to find any group that has a significant focus on self-improvement and developing future leaders. All that I am familiar with are primarily focused on doctrinal issues.

The intent of my website is to offer assistance to any practicing Christian who wants to improve themselves regardless of their doctrinal position.

If that falls within the context of what you are offering, please include me in your directory.

— Daryl Houck, Texas

Response: I agree that the Bible seems to indicate that what we do with our lives is more important than how much we know. I have often envisioned two men standing before Christ in the Judgment. (It probably will not work exactly this way, but this is just my imagination.)

Christ asks the first man, “What did you do with the abilities that I gave you?” This man would say, “I kept the ten commandments, the Sabbath, Holy Days, clean meats and all of the other Biblical laws. I studied prophecy and the deep spiritual analogies of the Bible.” The man continues on for hours expounding his knowledge. Christ finally asks him, “So how did this knowledge help you serve others?” The man replies, “I would have taught what I knew if someone asked me, but you know that the unconverted people of the world just are not interested in spiritual things. I stayed away from them so I wouldn’t be tempted to sin.” So Christ answers, “You have taken care of yourself well, but now you must learn to love your neighbor as yourself. You will be ready for the Kingdom soon.”

Christ then asks the second man, “What did you do with the abilities that I gave you?” This second man says: “I heard the last man talking and I am sorry, I just did not study the Bible enough to learn the many things that he knew. As a teen, I spent weekends and summers building houses for the poor. Then I went to evangelism school and conducted Bible studies on campus during my college years. After I got married, I joined a mentoring program for inner-city kids and it seems that it always pre-occupied our lives. Half the time, we had one of more of those children living with us. After our children left home, my wife and I went to serve at a mission in South America. I had always hoped to have more time to dig into some doctrinal questions that had been in the back of my mind, but I never did it.” Christ answered, “you have learned to love your neighbor, and you obeyed the doctrine that you knew. An angel will teach you the other things that you need to know. You will be ready for the Kingdom before that first man.”

I repeat, this is mostly my imagination working, but it is based upon Matthew 21:31: “Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.’” I mentioned this story because it seems to illustrate your understanding of how God judges us, with which I agree.

However, after reading your website, I am not sure that the way you are going about this is the best. Your site is primarily about the use of Multi-Level Marketing and “success motivation literature”. Your writing indicates that you know these things can be misused, but that you desire to do it in a Christian way. That is good. Since your website did not describe the programs in detail, I will just generally give what I believe are correct “golden rule” guidelines for these types of things.

First, let me explain exactly what is wrong with the classic “pyramid” scheme. In the simplest form, a person receives a letter asking him to send one dollar to a name on the top of the list. Then he adds his name to the bottom of the list and sends out 10 copies of the letter. Those people each send out 10 copies, making a total of 100 in circulation, then they each send 10 copies making a total of 1,000 in circulation, by which time our original letter writer should be at the top of the list, and should receive $1 from 1,000 people, or $1,000. Of course, the amount of money, the number of letter copies and the number of levels on a list all vary with different schemes. It sounds great. But if a person paid $1 and actually received $1,000, there would be 999 people who paid $1 and got nothing. What if the pyramid scheme kept going until they all got $1,000? Then there would be 999,000 people who each paid a dollar and got nothing. If we imagine this pyramid scheme cycling through to two more levels, we would quickly exhaust the population of the world—there would be nobody left to pay those dollars.

The truth is, pyramid schemes produce nothing useful and for everyone who gets a dollar somebody else loses a dollar. The pyramid letters never say that. They are lying and stealing; Christians should not be involved with this.

(By the way, most of the people who make big money with pyramid schemes do not follow the rules on the letter that they mail out: they put their own name and names of friends in all of the places in the list and send out thousands of copies. That way, they will get all of the money that is sent for the next 3 copyings of the letter—assuming people ignorantly follow the letter’s rules.)

As your web site implies, some bad MLMs (Multi-Level Marketing organizations) are little more than pyramid schemes. New people make a payment to join and a certain part of that payment goes to the person who “signed him up”. (Another part of the payment may go the one who “signed up” the one who “signed up” the new person.) New people are also encouraged to “sign up” yet other new people and collect “sign up bonuses”. People who sign up lots of people (who sign up lots more people) make a lot of money whether anybody sells any of the product or not. This works essentially the same as the pyramid scheme. For every person who gets rich by collecting “sign up” bonuses, there are hundreds of others who will pay “sign up” fees and receive nothing.

I was glad to see you state that the MLMs you work with pay money out of actual sales of products, not “sign up” fees. This is essential. But I would like to go further and state that the only MLM in which a believer should participate is one where working as a salesman is profitable—without “signing up” anybody. Why? Because just like the pyramid scheme we discussed, most of the people in an MLM will be at the bottom—having never signed up anyone. If a person cannot make a decent wage only by selling the product, then it is certainly wrong for a few people to get rich at the expense of others who are suffering. Most MLM promotional material insists that prospective new recruits will be able to sign up numerous people under them in just a few months or years. Most do not tell the truth: at any given moment, most of the people in their organization have nobody “signed up” underneath them.

MLMs make the most sense for unusual products that require a lot of teaching and education and maybe installation (e.g. energy efficient appliances, water softeners and filters, exercise equipment, etc.) They cannot possibly be as efficient as a discount department store for common items everyone buys.

Finally, let me speak about “success motivation literature”. I have read several books of this nature and it is usually a mixture of four things:

1. Encouragement to work hard and stick to a job—the Bible teaches this.

2. Encouragement to improve one’s skill for a job—learning from others how to achieve success. Again, very good.

3. Encouragement to make long-range plans for the future. These are good as long as they do not crowd out one’s plans to serve God or one’s family. Planning to “be a millionaire before one is 40” is probably not a good goal unless it also includes something like “while serving in a church program every other weekend and spending two nights per week with my family.”

4. Encouraging a desire to succeed no matter what. While much success literature does not openly advocate unbiblical or unethical behavior, it frequently does little to encourage its readers to think about what God would want.

This writer has seen many people alienate themselves from nearly all of their friends and family by trying to make money from a scheme that was legal, but not beneficial to anybody. If a product or service is not worth selling, getting salesmen all psyched up to become wealthy by selling it is a recipe for disaster. Usually, neither customers nor salesmen end up happy—or rich.

On the other hand, this writer has seen people with few goals in life read success motivation material, begin to apply it positively to a job that was useful and make changes their lives.

The Bible clearly teaches a balance of learning the ways of God, and diligently putting them into practice. May God help all of us to do both.


Catholic Believer: “If It’s Not in Scripture, I Don’t Believe It”

Letter: June 27, 2001

I hope there isn’t any problems with me being a Roman Catholic [subscriber]. If there is, I would be more than happy to explain the Christian faith with you.

I worship Jesus, honor Mary, I also believe that Jesus instituted seven main outflowings of the spirit, not to mention the other countless ways he pours grace upon us, I call upon Jesus to fill you with the Holy Spirit, and with his full knowledge, to know that many of the very biased things taught about Catholics are not true. We do not worship statues, we do not worship the Pope, we worship Jesus, its just not in the same form that other Christians do.

If there are any questions about my faith, please ask and I will show you where we believe is in the Bible. Verse for verse literally. If its not in scripture I don’t believe it. Thank you for the subscription.

Your brother in Christ Jesus,

— Don Marrero Jr, Louisiana.

Response: Thank you very much for your kind words. It is my belief that there are spirit-filled believers in many denominations, even though the leaders may teach error or be morally corrupt. A Bible student can find evil and doctrinal error among Catholics, Protestants, Sabbatarians, independents and any other flavor of Christianity. But those things do not stop the existence of believers who are simply blind to the problems. I personally spent over a decade being blind to doctrinal errors of a group that I attended and I have many friends who have done the same thing.

If I want to know what the Catholics teach, I will go to Catholic sources. If I want to know what Catholics do, I will be among them and see—or I will talk to those I trust who do. I realize that Catholics teach that they do not pray to a statue, but that the statue is an aid to worship. I realize that the Catholics teaching is that they do not “pray to Mary”, but that they ask Mary to “pray on their behalf”.

However, one Catholic article admitted that the words “pray to Mary” (or other saints) are used so much that many of the less-educated Catholics probably think that they are doing exactly that. I do not use statues in my prayers or ask deceased saints to pray for me because neither Christ (Luke 11:1) nor the Apostles (1Tim 2:7) taught these things.

Furthermore, is Mary in Heaven listening to us to pray in our behalf? Look at the following scriptures and what they say about David, a man after God’s “own heart”, who is dead and not in heaven, but awaiting a resurrection:

“And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all my will’” (Acts 13:22).

“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” (Acts 2:29).

“For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’” (Acts 2:34–35).

“I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15).

What do you believe the Bible says on this issue and why?

I hope that these letters will increase both of our understanding. May God bless your study.



[Don Marrero replied to my letter and did not understand how David not being in Heaven had anything to do with Mary not being in Heaven. He quoted other scriptures that clearly showed to him why she was (though it was not clear to me). I could say that because I have the Spirit of God, I understand the Scriptures, but he doesn’t understand them because he doesn’t have the Spirit. But he could say the same thing about me. And how could we learn anything from each other if we declared the other incapable of understanding? We both want to understand the Bible. The only way to arrive at the truth is to patiently study the scriptures together, and figure out what is our bias from past teaching and what does the Bible really say. I realized that I just do not have the time to do this now.


Sabbath: An Ox in the Ditch?

Letter: July 22, 2001

Hi Norm,

Recently I had to change jobs within my company and now I’m in a situation in which there is overtime, especially for unforeseen problems that are the result of program failures that would result in me being available.

Do you have anything written that explains our view on the Sabbath? My boss wants to know what I can do if a problem would need my immediate attention. Is there cases where it maybe considered an ox in the ditch? If you have anything I would appreciate it.

— Will Blair, Ohio

Response: I am sorry to take so long to respond to this. I wrote about it in the December 1997 Servants’ News issue. There are a couple of paragraphs about it on the second page or so.

In summary, I believe that:

1. Any worker ought to be able to help his boss in a genuine emergency—an unforeseen circumstance, not the scheduled handling of problems that routinely occur on the Sabbath.

2. People ought to be able to do a certain amount of scheduled work in emergency-handling jobs where believers would expect service on the Sabbath: utility emergencies, police, fire, hospitals, etc. The temple guards had shifts on the Sabbath. Places like Ambassador College had security, emergency facilities maintenance, and their dining hall crew rotating Sabbath Work. We should be willing to do our part for essential services in the world that we live in. I would work in a hospital emergency room, I would help patients who require help every day, but I would not keep a job where I would be doing Sabbath work that could easily be done on another day.

Also, I think brethren should avoid jobs where they must work an 8-hour shift every Sabbath no matter how important the job is. The Sabbath is then not any different than any other day. Emergency Sabbath Work should be spread out among as many people as possible. Being “on call” or working a whole day every few weeks is the most that I would do.

I think most jobs that people do on the Sabbath are are not necessary, and Sabbatarians should not make use of them, nor should they work in them. These include things like restaurants, airlines, entertainment places, stores, manufacturing, attended gas stations, etc.

I realize that many Sabbatarians would say that nobody should ever work at any job on the Sabbath. However, is it then not very hypocritical to call 911 on the Sabbath if someone is sick or dying? Or to call the utility companies if our house loses power? Or to call a tow truck if we run off the road? Does God miraculously deliver all Sabbath-keepers from such problems on the Sabbath? And if it is right to go for help, is it only the non-Sabbatarians who can serve their brethren by being available to help? What would happen if a whole city or whole country were Sabbath Keepers?

Christ’s lesson about pulling an ox out of a pit on the Sabbath (Luke 14:5) is a matter of doing emergency work to save money. One could easily let the ox die and buy another if the Sabbath was more important than anything. May God grant us wisdom to know what to do.


Hierarchical Groups Probably Won’t End Soon

Letter: June 1, 2001


Thanks for the Feast info and for your continued hard work in publishing the Servants' News. We will publish your Feast notice in the next two issues of our newsletter before the Feast arrives.

Concerning your statement on page 1 in the Jan/Feb 2001 SN: “Is the Eternal helping His people today by taking them out of hierarchical church groups before He puts an end to these groups?” Would you mind commenting on that statement or are you planning to write about it at some time in the future? Personally I have been thinking the same thing for the past 2–3 years. Just one reason that the corporate groups have had no growth. They only recycle members.

Hoping you and your family are happy and doing well. Have a great Sabbath.

In Christian Love,

— Rick Beltz,

Response: Thank you for your continued publishing of The Churches of God News. For the last 4 or 5 years I have thought that the hierarchical groups might largely come to an end—their members would realize that they are not doing the big WCG-style work and then they would look for something else. I suppose that there is a human tendency for me to want to believe that my work will be justified by the fact that thousands of people will eventually “see it my way” and leave corporate churches.

Upon thinking about this in greater detail, especially in the light of history, I cannot be at all sure that God will end them any time soon. Nor is it beneficial for me to try to “scare people out of the corporate groups” so that they will all join the independent groups. Paul said, “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1Cor 11:19). If God’s primary goal is to have His believers follow perfect doctrine, He would have made sure that each one had a perfectly copied, perfectly translated Bible with no uncertainty—and watched to see who obeyed. But search diligently to find truth, and we can never find it all in our lifetime. It seems that God put us in a complex world to see what decisions we will make to follow Him.

A lot of good things are done by the corporate groups. A lot of truth is taught and a lot of people are encouraged to continue following God by their writings and services. Some people repent and are baptised by those groups. I feel that there is error taught there, and that many of their current practices will make them far less effective than they could be. I will not re-iterate those points here as Servants’ News has had dozens of articles on the subject over the years. Some of the people in corporate groups are highly dependent on their minister and would either “sink or swim” if they went to an independent group. Yes, it would be good for those who could leave and “learn to swim”, but maybe God does not now want to “sink” a bunch of the others who are not yet ready.

The reason one leaves a corporate group should not be only to avoid oppressive government, tithing, false teaching, etc. It should be to use one’s spiritual gifts, and to serve in a greater way. I know many non-aligned brethren who are doing that; I know many who are doing very little.

I believe the independent groups have a chance to teach many. But that dedication has to come from Christ in each one. There is nobody standing over them making them do it.


Does God Laugh?

Letter: Sept 11, 2001

I have been studying the Psalms and in studying Psalm 2, a good number of the translations say that God laughed. Now I was predisposed to take this as God has a sense of humor. But some feel that this does not at all demonstrate God’s humor. I know that humor is a type of healing. I would appreciate your input on this subject because it is important to me.

— Ken & Arlette Omick, Wisconsin

Response: The same Hebrew words used for God “laughing” are used for people who “laugh”. Sometimes the context indicates sarcasm, other times it is funny.

We are indeed made in the image of God, the main difference being that we are divided into males and females (Gen 1:27). It is only fitting that the emotions we have are a pattern of what God has. There are other scriptures which show that God is sometimes happy, sorrowful, angry or even “distant”. God is continually portrayed in the Bible with attributes of people, though He is perfect and infinitely powerful. It speaks of His arms, fingers, eyes, etc.

One last thought: when we are resurrected, if someone says something funny, will we find ourselves unable to laugh? Or will we be able to, but God will not?

The only way I could see that this is important is if someone decides that people should not laugh because God does not. I think there are enough clear commands in the Bible for us to follow that we do not need to invent some more.


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