Servants' News

May/June 2003

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.

What Is the USA Doing?

Letter: December 2002

Dear friends,

The time has come to remember all of you who have been instrumental in sending me their magazines or newsletters. They keep me busy on YHVH’s Holy Sabbath day and for your kindness it is my great pleasure to let you have a freewill donation which may help to cover printing and postage.

Last year we were still suffering from the calamity which struck America when the twin towers collapsed under the impact of two killer planes and through it has been relatively quiet on the Western front. The next assault may not come from the terrorist but from America itself. Bush is ready to strike and will take it upon himself to defy the United Nations and YHVH Elohim by attacking a country which appears to be a sitting duck but which will show its fangs. If it should be destroyed it will not be because it is part of the axis of evil but because its oil is coveted by the Bush dynasty and those surrounding him like Rice and Rumsfield and many others who all have a stake in the oil business. The final commandment reads not to covet anything that is your neighbor’s but this commandment must have been overlooked by them.

America will not get out unscathed and thousands of American boys will die in the process but America goes on singing God bless America. I wish someone could tell me why He should. Bush underestimates Saddam who will inflict heavy losses on his attackers. America may have gained that which it coveted but the world and the Arabs will turn against her en masse and there will be no blessing from above. YHVH will show His wrath and will direct America’s eyes to Proverbs 1:16–33.

Why is there no concerted effort instigated be the CSOG, all 4 or 500 of them, together with all of the many Christian denominations to warn the Christian Community to be on guard against a phenomenal injustice to be inflicted upon the innocent, the poor and miserable, the women and children and gray hairy man Iraq who want nothing else but peace and prosperity as America has had for so many years. A full page in USA Today may make Christian America aware of what is in store for them. When the body bags come home it is too late to repent so repentance is required now before it is too late and calamity will strike you like a storm. May YHVH have mercy on you all.

Be an Ezekiel Watchman lest the people’s blood will be required at the Watchman’s hand (Ezk 33:6).

Yours Sincerely,

Aptdo. Correos 75
03530 La Nucia/Prov. Alicante

Response: It is always interesting to read these kinds of letters a while after the events occurred. American casualties were not as high as many expected, but on the other hand, there is no end in sight for them. Iraqi war casualties were substantial, and nobody has a firm grasp on how many Iraqis are being killed right now by Ba’ath party loyalists, by Shi’a muslims or by Iraqis who just have a score to settle. While Saddam was indeed brutal, it is very difficult to say that Iraq is a better place to live after the war. There is no doubt that Christians and women are being oppressed much more now than they were in the Saddam-era.

With Saddam still unaccounted for and with a popularly-elected Iraqi government unacceptable to the United States, the situation is likely to continue for a long time. (The United States does not want free elections because they would bring Shi’a muslims to power who would be very anti-US and possibly ally with Iraq.) The cost of the war is being borne by the American taxpayer, while the oil, military and “reconstruction” companies will reap billions. (They may not show large profits, but such international corporations, have long-ago learned the accounting tricks necessary to absorb lots of wealth without showing a big profit.) There is no doubt that American leaders have long been connected with the companies involved.

Although it may not happen in the way you have said, it does appear that this war is greatly weakening the USA.

Unfortunately, most Church of God groups are too preoccupied by their long-held prophetic concepts to look at the facts and view them in light of a biblical standard of righteousness.

As you have said, “May YHVH have mercy on us”. Many in the USA are truly blind to what their leaders are doing, and Christ said that the blind “have not sin” (John 9:41). Many Americans are basically honest people who just cannot believe that their leaders would lie to get them to go to war—and then advance their own interests with the blood of their own countrymen. But all one needs to do is read the Bible or history to see that many leaders have acted that way. People want to trust their human leaders when they should be trusting God.


Beware of Scholars

Letter: December 25, 2001

Dear Norman and all,

Finally getting a chance to read your March/April 2001 issue of Servants’ News.

I’d like to warn you of getting too many scholarly people on your editorial staff and in the writing of the Holy Scriptures. The project will be greatly frowned upon by Satan and he will greatly put an educated “mole” in your organization to 1) stop it, 2) subvert it, or 3) detain it by wasting your time.

Remember God used men like Amos, Jeremiah, Peter and John (Acts 4:13) to write and do great things. It takes humility not education to work for God. He can even speak through an ass if He needs to!

We appreciate your work and would like a copy of the Holy Scriptures if it would be available, yet.

God will use you if you don’t reject any of the things He has taught you. I really question the validity of rejecting or not keeping “God’s calendar”, as you taught it, for the sake of unity…?

— LS, Nevada

Response: Thank you for your comments. I am well aware that education has nothing to do with spirituality, righteousness or true knowledge. It also seems to be generally true that the more education one has, the less fear of God they have. However, this general trend is not always the case. There are some highly educated people who do obey and serve God.

“And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22).

Samuel was educated by Eli from the time he was three years old.

Daniel and his three friends were educated in Babylonian language and literature for three years (Dan 1:4–6), but turned out to be some of the most diligent, righteous men in the BIble

“I [Paul] am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel [a Jewish teacher still recognized today], taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today” (Acts 22:3).

There are other examples in the Bible of educated men who followed God. The important issue is to never confuse human education and wisdom for godliness and righteousness. When I work with somebody, I want to get to know them and know what they are like—whether they have the most advanced degree or had no formal education at all.

I agree with your point that Satan does sometimes seem to send people just to discourage work or to stop it if possible. That is why any work of God must run on prayer and study, not on human organization. Even so, “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1Cor 11:19). I pray for God to protect me from deceptive people and I try to watch for those who seem too eager to help me for no clear reason.

Regarding the calendar, I am “rejecting God’s calendar” in that I am not sure what it is. I have studied for hundreds of hours, helped to organize a calendar conferences, and still do not believe I can determine the calendar that was in use by the priests in ancient Israel. The one thing I can be sure of is that there was only one calendar in use by the priests—the high priest could go into the Holiest Place only once per year on the day of Atonement. To me, unity around the Jewish calendar, even though it is probably incorrect is better than disunity around a lot of different calendars, all but one of which are incorrect.


Learn Sabbath Independently

Letter: June 14, 2003

I hold small Sabbath meetings groups at my home with approx 4–6 people. God led me to the Sabbath on the 28th of September 1998, having been with a Pentacostal group since 1980.

— Robert Beasly, Australia

Response: Thank you for sharing your backgound. It helps other Church of God members realize that God teaches his truth in many ways. May you and those who meet with you grow in their service to God.


Working with People with Error

Letter: May 12, 2003

Dear Friends @ Servants’ News,

I just received a copy of the Nov/Dec 2002 Servants’ News in the mail—that’s Dec 2002! Was there a mistake?

Response: It is a series of mistakes and difficulties, mostly mine, that has caused me to get behind in issue production. Our periodical mailing permit requires that we mail certain issues, but I know of no requirements regarding the timing of the mailing. Your issue was mailed at the same time as the others.

Letter: While I got you (so to speak)—I wrote to The Sabbath Sentinel about 4 months ago in response to an article a person wrote which essentially criticized those who misinterpret Scripture for their own means. I wrote to this person and told him that, while I pretty much agreed with what he said; I found it ironic that his statements came from a person who wrote for a magazine that includes writers who come from a variety of different faiths. Faiths (C.G.7, W.C.G. and its off-shoots, “messianic”, and SDAs) that were all started by individuals who had their particular “slant” on the Bible. I also raised the question as to whether or not he should contribute to a magazine that included people whose view of Scripture was not based in truth. Naturally, this person tried to justify himself by saying that they (the staff) were united under a common bond—-the Sabbath. Frankly, I don’t buy it. I forgot to mention, my friend occasionally sends me the Sentinel, personally, I’d never subscribe to it.

Response: This reminds me of a discussion at a Nazarene Church Bible study that I visited. The Nazarenes don’t believe in drinking alcohol. Someone asked, “Would you go into a bar to get a fellow-believer out who has made a mistake and was getting drunk?” One person responded that he would not dare “go into a den of iniquity”, while another said that he thought it was his job to do it if he could help. I mentioned that Jesus was frequently among people known as sinners, but they never caused Him to sin. Also, Paul taught that we should help other believers as long as it does not cause us to sin (Gal 6:1). I do not see any difficulty with writing for any magazine or teaching anywhere that it might do some good. Does one become tainted by appearing with “the wrong people”? Jesus was frequently put down for being a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” as well as a “glutton and a drunkard” (Matt 11:19; Luke 7:34). Yet, he did not let that change His ministry. I would speak to almost any group or write for any publication if I was permitted to say what I believe God would want me to say to them.

When it comes to deciding which publications to read, one has to weigh the relative benefits of them—every believer’s decisions may not be the same.

Letter: As a sidenote, one of the editors of the Sentinel, Daniel Botkin, is a self-described messianic believer. Years ago I briefly received his newsletter, I believe it was called The Gates of Eden (or something like that). In one article he mentioned the fact that when he prayed to God he prayed in “tongues”. I wrote him a letter and inquired as to whether or not he was actually biblical—I added that basically he sounded like a pentecostalism to me. Boy,did he let me have it! In the next issue of his magazine he printed my letter and stated I was coming dangerously close to blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Can you believe the arrogance? In that same issue he carried a lengthy article on glossiola. I guess I touched a nerve there! All this came from a guy who believes that beards, prayer shawls, tzit-tzits and the rest are required “attire” for the true believer. Now what was Jesus reprimanding those Pharisees about?

I just love people who think because they spend several hours a day in the Bible that it makes them a Bible scholar.

Anyway, as for you, keep up the great selfless work you are doing.

— Dave Cavall, Surf City, N.C.

Response: I would like to admonish both you and Mr. Botkin with a few clear scriptures. Paul does mention speaking in “tongues of angels” (1Cor 13:1), and “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries” (1Cor 14:2). These verses show that at least some “tongue speaking” is not understandable to us. The typical “Church of God” teaching is that all “tongue speaking” was in other languages as in Acts 2, but that is not correct. On the other hand, there is also error in modern day pentecostal practice where people speak in tongues in a service without interpretation (1Cor 14:27). Mr. Botkin should also realize that not every believer speaks in tongues: “Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1Cor 12:30). In services where tongue speaking is common, I think some people “fake it” just to appear “spiritual”, but that there are some who do have a spiritual gift. On the other hand, in groups where tongue speaking is not expected, God apparently almost never grants the gift. If he did, the believers would probably not be permitted to use it.

I am sure that Mr. Botkin would also show you both Old and New Testament scriptures where he believes beards, prayer shawls and tzit-tzits are important. He would be quick to point out that these things are much different from many man-made rules that the Pharisees bound upon the people. Are these things necessary for a believer? It is my understanding that circumcision, once physically required by God, is now of the heart (Rom 2:29) and that believers do not need to be circumcised to be saved (Acts 15). Similarly, the tzit-tzit or fringe was a reminder of the law (Num 15:39), but now that law is to be written on our hearts (Rom 2:15; Heb 8:10; 10:16). There is nothing wrong with continuing the practice of circumcision or wearing tzit-tzits. In the process of “becoming all things to all men” to teach them about Christ, those preaching the Gospel to Jews may be more effective by wearing the tzit-tzit and adopting other biblical customs that Jews will see as evidence of obeying God.

Bottom line: Daniel Botkin’s practices appear biblical and are probably very important to his ministry. We should encourage him to do his work. But at the same time, he should also realize that God has not extended the ordinances given to Moses to all believers.


Sequel to Previous Letter

Letter: May 12, 2003


No offense, but, you may have a point on the first part of your response regarding the Sentinel but you are dead wrong on Botkin—in fact you are being an apologist for his preaching of errant views—-he teaches that beards, tzits-tzits, shawls, sacred names, etc are NECESSARY things for a “true” believer. This is a FALSE teaching!!! Botkin should not be encouraged in his “ministry”. His ministry is putting people in bondage because of errant beliefs.

Response: Does his ministry primarily consist of teaching Jewish traditions to people who are already Christians, or does he reach out to Jews and unbelievers and give them some knowledge of Christ? The former is not particularly useful, the latter has some value. God may then work with some where he has sowed seed, and bring them to more truth.

Letter: As far as tongues—he’s an admitted former charismatic—I spent years in the pentecostal church during my youth. In dozens of different churches and assemblies I was a part of, all I saw and heard was gibberish and confusion.

Response: I realize that some groups are that way. On the other hand, there are groups which have learned about the Sabbath and Feast Days through speaking in tongues and interpretation. A very few times, I have prayed in a language that I did not understand—it was extremely peaceful. I have heard of other Sabbatarian believers doing the same thing.

Letter: Encourage his ministry, come on Norm, who's next? Gerald Flurry? Yisrael Hawkins? Please!

Response: Dave, I agree that these men have great errors. They teach that they are the main work that God is doing, yet they seem dictatorial and do not have the Biblical signs of an apostle. But I also remember that Herbert Armstrong was the same way for decades, yet did some good for people like me who learned from his teaching and from the brethren in the groups that he was ultimately responsible for organizing. I did not mean to say that we should encourage anyone’s errors, but people who are preaching the Bible and Christ to those who are listening to anyone else are doing a work that may be used of God in some way. I am sometimes amazed that independent groups who seem to have the most understanding to true biblical doctrine are continuing to study, but are doing almost nothing to try to teach it to others. I am not sure that they can claim to be bearing more “fruit” than the groups which are diligently teaching others, even though they have much error.

Christ will judge these things perfectly, and I certainly do not claim to have all the understanding that he does on these things. The Bible does say: “Now John answered and said, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side’” (Luke 9:49–50).


Request to Copy Granted

Letter: May 11, 2003

Dear Sirs,

Thank you for the Servants’ News received yesterday. I was intrigued by the brief item at the bottom of page 25 [Nov/Dec 2002].

Consequently I created the one page (attached) that I’d like to send to about 25 friends. But I thought to check with you first to be sure: (#1) it’s o.k., and (#2) if o.k., that it is in the format that would suit you best.

I gave you credits at the bottom. Are these credits in the format that you would like?

— Gary Arvidson, North Carolina

Response: I certainly encourage this kind of copying. The whole purpose is to convey information to as many people as will hear it.


Question about Love that Lasts

Many people wrote in appreciation of the paper Love that Lasts included with the November/December 2002 issue. However, there was one part of that paper to which several people took exception. It was the part that said that the Bible does not specifically condemn oral sex between a husband and wife.

Before we go any further, I want to reiterate that I am not saying that the Bible specifically supports this practice. I also believe that if one partner does not want to, indeed the other should not force it upon them.

My purpose in writing Love that Lasts was to try to find God’s perspective on sexuality. In doing so, I wanted to encourage what God encourages, and forbid what God forbids, and be neutral on things that God does not talk about. I did not want to add in customs of the day or my own personal opinions or practices.

The arguments made against oral sex in the letters were these:

1. It can cause damage or disease to the human body. While it is possible that this is true, I could not find any conclusive medical information on it and none of the letter writers gave a source of any such information. (Whereas there is a lot of medical information on the problems with anal sex, which the Bible condemns—Lev 18:22; 20:13.)

2. It is something that prostitutes do. While this is true, prostitutes are involved in every imaginable sexual practice, good or bad. If Christian couples refrained from all practices of prostitutes, they would not have sex.

3. It does not produce babies and that was God’s purpose for sex. Most Christian couples realize that they are responsible to God to take care of any child that they produce. There are times when they realize that they are not economically capable of supporting another child. Nearly all birth control methods have some percentage of failure. Some have found to be dangerous to mother, baby or both. Oral sex is 100% effective in preventing conception and as noted before, has few problems associated with it. God mentions joy as a purpose for sex as well as procreation (Prov 5:18, Eccl 9:9)

4. It is included in most dictionary definitions of “sodomy” and is therefore condemned by the Bible. We must realize that the English Word “sodomy” is less than a 1000 years old whereas the Hebrew word cedom (Strong’s #5467) is well over 3000 years old. That word means “to scorch” or “to burn”—an appropriate name for a city God destroyed by fire. The Hebrew cedom does not define any sexual practices. What we do know is that those who lived in Sodom practiced homosexuality (Gen 18 & 19) and God destroyed them for it. The KJV and other similar Bibles use the expression “Sodomite” (Deut 23:17; 1Kngs 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; 2Kngs 23:7), but it is from a completely unrelated Hebrew word, qadesh, which means a “male temple prostitute”. Most modern translations use an expression like that. Even so, it has no definition or biblical example relating it to oral sex. The definition of the modern-day word “sodomy” comes from hundreds of years ago when sex was rarely discussed openly, when churches taught that there was only one proper position for sexual intercourse and when nearly every other sexual practice was labeled perversion or “sodomy”.

At least one person decided to stop reading our publications because of that statement. It is unfortunate when that happens. I thought about avoiding the subject, but I have heard many Christians ask about it, so I included it in the paper. Anyone who believes that oral sex is a sin should not practice it (Rom 14:23). But to married couples who engage in the practice, I cannot honestly say that the Bible classifies it as sin.

—Norman Edwards

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