Letters & 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.

BigSandy Minister Respects SN and Shelter in the Word

Letter: May 24, 1998:

Hi Norm!

Hearty congratulations on your new publication, Shelter in the Word. I much appreciate and respect the work you and your small staff have been doing these last few years. I don’t always agree with your arguments or conclusions, but I’m certainly stimulated to think about what I believe and practice and why. I believe such dialogue and openness can only be to the good. Keep up the good work!

Thank you!


P.S. Please say "hi" to the Whiteman's in England for me next time you’re in touch (if you remember). Leicester used to be my home town.

—Reginald Killingley

Voice/fax: (903) 636-5506

Rt 2 Box 443D, Big Sandy, TX 75755


Response: Thank you very much for your e-mail. We hope you will find Shelter in the Word useful. We would appreciate any writing that you might care to do for it, as time permits.

Is my understanding correct that you are serving the independent Big Sandy group, and therefore no longer a part of the UCGIA? If so, I wish you and Dave Havir well in your service to this now organizationally independent congregation.

If it is all right with you, I would like to publish your name, address, and telephone number as there are many brethren who would like to contact independent ministers who are truly interested in serving the brethren.

Unfortunately, many independent ministers seem to quickly turn into a "one-man Work." Once they leave an organization, they begin to study other teachings, some of which make sense to them (which I think is good). But then, they preach these new teachings to their congregation(s), and then tell them that they really shouldn’t fellowship with other groups that do not have the new teachings. Finally, they begin to make tapes and write papers and try to convince others that they must believe these teachings, also.

I think some do this out of a genuine desire to teach truth, and I think some is done in order to to try to keep their membership so they can be financially supported. (When ministers see members of their congregation begin to "try out" other groups, they have a tendency to try to "scare them into staying" rather than "serve them into staying."

I would appreciate and publish well-thought-out alternative views to Servants’ News articles.


Likes Servant’s News Format

Letter: December 22, 1997

I appreciate receiving your magazine and especially since it is free (I have little funds). Please continue the following which I find most useful:

1) pre-punched paper

2) colored last page

Although the above sounds trivial, they are a great help to this pensioner.


—Bill Storey, Alberta, Canada

Response: Not everyone has been as happy with the format as you have, but it seems to be fulfilling its function. As we have not had any suggestions that would be both more economical and more functional, we plan to keep this format for now.


Church of God Seventh Day Bigger than Worldwide Church of God

Letter: May 16, 1998

"I am going to end all comment about that group here, with the epitaph that—like a dead tree—they have since split and resplit into so many little tiny groups, all hating one another, that no one seems to know where all of them are" (Autobiography of HWA, p. 530).

That comment was intended for the Church of God (Seventh Day), but may also apply to us today in principle.

Yet the Church of God (Seventh Day) has 130,000 members today and there has been some reunification and co-operation amongst some of their branches. Yet we have split and resplit. And now with UCG shrinking from 19,000 to about 16,000 going down even further—due to the situation in Big Sandy (and who knows where else soon), we don’t seem to be co-operating amongst even ourselves. GCG, UCG etc. should be co-operating, but refuse to even talk to each other. Is that Christian?

This constant self-devouring and cannibilising is just destroying us and will prevent us from undertaking a Work. It is interesting to see the class of person and the names who are doing so. It is not the Roman Catholic Church, not infiltrators, not the members, not conspiracies. It is ...

—Craig White, Sydney, Australia


Response: I have heard estimates of the size of the Church of God, Seventh day as high as 300,000. The vast majority of those people do not live in the USA, Britain, Canada or Australia, but that does not make them somehow "less valuable" to the Eternal. Because they are composed of many groups, usually with a very loose central organization, it is hard to know exactly how many people are there. It is possible that the combined Church of God Seventh Day groups have always had more people than the WCG. But since we have no way of knowing exactly how many people really had the Spirit of God in either organization, comparisons prove little.

But twelve years after Herbert Armstrong’s death, the Church of God, Seventh Day is larger than the WCG, PCG, UCG, GCG, and CGI combined. That fact should teach us that decentralized government with local evangelism can produce more stable, long-term growth than an HWA-type hierarchy. There is no doubt that Herbert Armstrong did reach much of the world with a "warning message" in a way that the Church or God Seventh Day never has. But if the Eternal gave that job to Armstrong, and not to us, then we will not be able to do it. I think it is unfortunate, but I think many COG leaders today covet the money that is necessary to do a massive media work. (I am not saying they want it all for themselves, but a few percent of a 10-million dollar budget goes a long way.) It is possible to show that the WCG spent the most money on evangelism, but where does money fit into Revelation 3:17? Should any leader want a lot of money, or want to be close to the Eternal?

I really appreciate your last paragraph. It appears that the Eternal allowed theTkach’s to gain control of the WCG and to change most of the doctrines—slowly and sometimes deceitfully—to see what His people would do. Far too many of the ministry simply preached what they were told to preach. Some quit rather than stand for the truth. Some stood up as leaders to oppose the changes, but usually turned out to be more concerned with justifying their position as "head of the work" and ensuring loyalty to themselves, rather than simply helping others.

I remember being amazed in 1992 how silent all of the WCG "leaders" were about the changes there. It was private conversations and electronic forums, such as Compuserve, where those of us who were puzzled by the changes were strengthened by the counsel of friends. My wife and I finally wrote an anonymous letter expressing these concerns and mailed it, signed "Friends in Pasadena". I also remember you, Craig, as probably the first contact I had with someone in Australia who was trying to make sense of the changes there, and to "wake up" others to what was happening. I believe you used an e-mail pseudonym to begin with. Both of us felt that it was vitally important not to be "put out" of a human organization.

Looking back in retrospect, it does not even seem to matter to me whether I decided to leave on my own or whether I was "put out" of the WCG. The Holy Spirit is available to those who believe and obey. We are judged by what we do, not by the group to which we belong.

Thanks for your letter and let me encourage you to keep writing.


Stone Cut Out Without Hands

Letter: October 25, 1997

Dear Servants’ News,

I would like to touch on a subject of the vision that Nebuchadnezzar had of a large statue, as mentioned in the 2nd chapter of Daniel. I know we can all agree on the meaning of the vision revealed to Daniel—namely four world ruling empires: that of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. But if we look closely enough, they are successive empires, and a stone smashes the fourth empire there and then (Daniel 2:40-45). The verses go on to say that God would set up a kingdom in the days of those kings—namely Roman.

If we look closely enough, perhaps God did set up a kingdom—and that kingdom was in the midst of them in the form of Christ and his embryonic church. Perhaps this is the true meaning of these passages in Daniel, for God does not lie. I believe this is a truly possible interpretation that we have overlooked due to misinterpretation and a lack of a genuine desire to know and learn the truth. I hope you will publish these thoughts for the benefit of the readers and perhaps get more input from them in the process. Thank you.

Paul Christophy, England

Response: When one looks at the New Testament use of Old Testament prophecy, it is clear that it may have multiple meanings. Joel 2 clearly seems to be about the "day of the Lord" and the restoration in the Millennium, yet Peter quotes two verses from the middle of it to refer to the Holy Spirit being poured out at Pentecost (Acts 2:17-18; Joel 2:28-29).

Your understanding is certainly possible, though it is not complete. The Babylonian, Persian, and Greek kingdoms are gone, but the Roman Empire has apparently lived on in various forms—and is becoming stronger by the day. Today, the church is a scattered group which has essentially no influence on the world compared to the "Roman" kingdom. In the future, we believe that both the Church, and a physical government under the Messiah will replace the Roman kingdom.


Questions on Predestination

Letter: December 30, 1997

Dear Norman,

Have you ever considered the fact that God knows all things, and how it relates to predestination, and free moral agency? We have always found the explanations of our former association somewhat unsatisfactory, with explanations like "God chooses not to know" and "we would have no choice" if He knows the outcome. It seems to us, that as long as we don’t know the outcome, it doesn’t really make any difference. And regardless, just because we can’t wrap our puny little minds around it, surely that doesn’t mean that it is not possible? After all, His ways are far beyond ours, and scripture indicates plainly that He knows all things, and the end from the beginning.

And would it not also clarify and simplify a lot of questions about ages past, God’s plan and predestination, as well as the age to come and the judgement period?

We would be very interested in your opinion about this, if you are not too busy.

Greetings from Canada’s West coast, and may the Almighty bless you.

—Henk & Gina Vander Geest, BC Canada

Response: Consider the following scriptures:

And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart (Gen 6:6).

And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me"(Gen 22:12).

And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not (Deut 8:2).

You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deut 13:3).

However, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, whom they sent to him [Hezekiah] to inquire about the wonder that was done in the land, God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart (2Chr 32:31).

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone (James 1:13).

These Scriptures show that the Eternal tests people and then learns what they will do in their trial. He tells us what will happen if we follow him, and what happens if we disobey, then tells us to choose Him. None of this makes any sense if the universe is on a fixed course and the Eternal knows what we will do ahead of time. There are times when the Eternal and Jesus express amazement and sorrow at how individuals behaved, both good and bad.

There are Scriptures that show that the Eternal gives certain men certain jobs, but they still have a choice. Saul had the chance to have his kingdom established forever, but because of his bad choices, he was replaced (1Sam 13:13-14). Jehu did his job, but still did not care to follow the Eternal (2Kng 10:30-31). Isaiah was called from birth and willingly did his job (Isa 49:5;6:8). Jonah tried to get out of his job, but the Eternal compelled him to do it anyway (Jonah 1-4).

Does the Eternal know about every person who will be born hundreds of years before they are born? If so, how can He consider adultery a sin? If all of the babies born out of wedlock had to be born to fulfill the Eternal’s plan, then how can the Eternal hold anyone accountable for adultery that produces a baby? If the Eternal willed it, they had to do it! We must realize the difference between knowing what every person is going to do before they do it, and knowing in general how people behave, and then having the ability to make specific things happen.

Think about it! If the Eternal knew how each person was going to turn out before he made the universe, then why did he even make the universe? He could have simply made only the people whom he knows are going to have eternal life, and just skipped making all those who will not be saved, and spared everyone all of the suffering! But if we understand that the universe is a place where physical people can make, as well as learn from, real decisions that affect the physical realm (but cannot pollute eternity), then it all has a purpose.

There are other scriptures that explain how the Eternal knows the beginning from the end, He knows our hearts, He knows our thoughts as we think them, etc. But I can find no scripture that says God knows exactly what you are going to think and pray about tomorrow. Why don’t you try surprising Him? Don’t think about it today (because He’ll know), but tomorrow try to pray about something that you have never prayed about before. You might politely ask for a simple, but confirmable answer. Our Father might appreciate being treated like He is really there and cares about what we say, instead of hearing the same, routine prayers again.


Why Do I Read Servants’ News?

Letter: August 15, 1997

Dear Mr. Edwards,

Today, at last, I finish reading Vol. 3 No. 3 of Servants’ News, May 1997, which I received on July 17. The June issue came in the mailbox on August 9, of which I already read half of the articles so far. The fact that it takes a rather long time to get here, is no problem for me. I am so busy reading the many papers among which is your Servants News, and doing my Bible studies, that I don’t mind your paper coming in so late. I still have to read all the back issues that you send me a few months ago!

In April 1995 you published the first issue of your informative publication. In May 1995 the first issue of In Transition was published, and in February 1997 continued as The Journal. These papers have not been able to make yours redundant. There is a place for both publications, because they complement each other.

There is at least one difference:

One has to pay a subscription price for The Journal, due to their way of gathering news, and making a profit; whereas the Servants’ News is gratis, though one is free to support your publication financially whenever possible.

Why should I, so far, keep on reading Servants’ News?

There are at least 4 reasons:

I am aware of the fact that you and I do not have all knowledge of the truth, if ever. I may have discontinued reading 12 to 15 papers that are issued on a regular basis. Why do I still read Servant’s News? It is mainly because of your approach in viewing the Bible with an open mind, in a sympathetic and realistic way, unlike so many others who are so pedantic, not knowing that love is more important than knowledge and that, instead of man, only the Creator can give us understanding of the knowledge of His Truth via revelation through His Holy Spirit into each person’s human spirit.

[Literature request omitted.]

Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Edwards and others who help us.

—Frans Louwinger, Netherlands

Response: Thank you for your letter. We very much appreciate the fact that many Servants’ News readers do not believe everything that we write. We are always happy to print other opinions that are well-thought-out. We try to study the scriptures and avoid writing articles with major errors, but we realize that we are human and it is still quite possible for us to make mistakes. We pray for understanding, but do not believe that every thought that we write is divinely inspired.


What To Do With KJV Mistakes

Letter: July 16, 1997

Dear Sir,

Thank you for the literature which we find very interesting.

I would appreciate your comments on how one can arrive at truth when there are so many mistakes in the King James Version of the Bible and in other translations. Thanking you in advance.

—TR, Australia

Response: Your question is a fair one. I think the answer to it is found in Luke 12:47-48:

"And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more."

In the above, and other scriptures, the Eternal promises to judge us based on what we know. For the first 1600 years after Christ’s death, most believers probably did not own a Bible at all. Of all believers who had owned a Bible, probably only a small fraction have had access to multiple translations or to books that would help them learn directly from the Hebrew and Greek. It would be extremely unfair for the Eternal to judge us on absolute truth because a lot of truth has simply not been available to many people.

This is not to say that doctrine doesn’t matter. The scripture above shows that there is a penalty for doing wrong, even when we do not know what we are doing. However, the greatest penalties come from not doing what we know to do. Too often, I find that "Church of God" people seem to be more interested in studying and learning "the last ounce of truth", but seem to have little interest in doing the truth that they know.

Are we helping the poor, the sick, and the people who need comforting? Are we truthful and just in our dealings with others? Do we try to help others with the knowledge we have, or do we judge them for not having our knowledge? If we sin against our friends, do we go apologize and reconcile, or do we say "they did something wrong, too—they have to apologize to me first"? Do we hold our tongue when we should? Do we look to Christ for guidance, and speak and act like Him in all circumstances? The Eternal can try our hearts in these basic issues even if we have gaps in our doctrinal understanding.

Christ has promised to shepherd His people and teach them through the Holy Spirit. We need to ask Him, then have the confidence that He will show us the truth we need to know as we need to know it. That truth may come through a KJV Bible, another translation, a Hebrew/Greek Bible help, or a good article. Sometimes, the Eternal lets people believe error for a long time. I don’t know of anyone who I think had "all the truth" just before he or she died.

We simply have to be diligent to study and to let the Father show us more truth as we are able to bear it (John 16:12).


Only Under God’s Authority

Letter: November 23, 1997

Hi Norm,

Thanks for the back issues of Servants’ News. I’ve almost finished studying them, and I feel as if I know you, so let me introduce my wife Loretta and myself.

We began with the WCG in 1973. We made it to November 1992 and coming to a crossroads. The WCG did not represent my beliefs concerning "major" doctrines, doctrines that (because of the knowledge God has allowed us), to compromise with these teachings would cost us life eternal

Then it was out of the frying pan and into the fire for about 6 months with PCG.

We have been studying widely and we’re currently of the LRCG. The third part of our trio is Joe Hewitt of Beaufort, SC.

By the very (nature) of organized religion, anyone that becomes associated with it will always be limited, very limited, in understanding or able to grow in understanding.

We received a great quantity of understanding in the WCG, but the quantity and the "quality" of understanding that we’ve been given since leaving WCG overshadows greatly the former.

Anyone who puts themselves under any "authority", other than God (through Jesus the Christ) will not be spiritually free to receive the gifts that God would give.

We were purchased, redeemed from bondage to Satan and thereby we are now bond-slaves to Jesus.

For anyone then, willfully putting themselves under any other authority than their Master (Lord) is rebellion. And those who do (sorrowfully) then can’t receive this saying, that He has the power to redeem them over again.

Jack Pye, Georgia

Response: We can submit to human authority as long as we do not let it replace the authority of the Eternal. Wives can submit to husbands, workers can submit to bosses, members can submit to the leaders of their congregations, and people can submit to duly constituted civil authority—provided these authorities are not in conflict with the Eternal.

But problems often do occur when people let these physical relationships get in the way of their relationship with the Eternal. If a person relies only on a church organization or leader for new spiritual knowledge, it may appear to work for a time if the leaders are diligently studying and teaching what they have learned. However, human leaders always either eventually stop studying or die. They are often replaced by less competent leaders or bureaucracies. The person who relies on such an organization is in trouble. Once an organization writes an extensive doctrinal statement, it is often very difficult for anyone in the organization to study and teach anything that is not already in the doctrinal statement. But often, a major crisis in the organization is required to change the doctrinal statement.

The best way to allow the Holy Spirit to teach individuals while maintaining peace in a congregation is to recognize that there will be a diversity of beliefs, without tolerating the obvious heresies shown in Scripture to be unacceptable.


Working Toward Shared Ministry

Letter: December 1997

The latest news here is that a number of us who meet every Sabbath have decided not to have the minister who met with us on a regular basis. We have felt that he has become somewhat of a dictator. He calls all the shots. No one else speaks unless he’s away. He has been condescending to different points of view when challenged. He does have a very deep knowledge of the Bible. However, when he conducts services, he pulls out his recorder and fills a 90 minute tape (not including songs and his general comments). This leaves very little time for any input from the brethren. It also stifles comment, because the more you try to add something to the service the longer services go (some 3plus hours). Therefore, who wants services to go 3plus hours? When we first started with this minister, it was very open, no recorder, it was great! Now, it has evolved into the type of service I dread. Come to service, sit down, be quiet, and listen. Then when you disagree, which I did 2 weeks ago, "you have a hang-up". That is what I was told. You see, it’s the same old thing, if you study your Bible, and have a different understanding, you have the problem.

I do understand we all have our short comings, however, they must not affect the growing understanding that we all need. This system creates a stagnant environment conducive to frustration and dread.

—Internet Post.

Response: Simply leaving hierarchical government does not "solve" the problems of a congregation. When one has been in a hierarchical group for years, it is just a tendency to look to one person to have all the spiritual gifts, rather than developing them throughout the body. There is still a tendency for one individual (especially a former CoG minister) to dominate a group. There is also a tendency for people to look to one person to do most of the speaking, most of the visiting of the sick, most of the anointing, most of the counseling, most of the casting out of demons, etc. Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 indicate that gifts are normally distributed among the believers. That is where we should look for them and pray for them to be granted.

We should not expect local fellowships to be smooth and cheerful all of the time. People learn a lot by working through difficulties. The history of the nation of Israel (a forerunner of the Church), the book of Acts, and the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 indicate a lot of struggle. That is why we need to be "anchored" on our Savior, not organizations of men, be they large or small.


Think Big While You Fellowship

Letter: April 15, 1998

Servants’ News,

My wife and I went to services with an independent group several weeks ago, with some old friends from Worldwide. They gave us a warm welcome and were glad to see us, as we were them. Their attendance was about twelve, they had not grown for over a year. They left the WCG in 1993 starting with the Global Church of God. As Global grew, they decided to put two groups together, and rented a hall. Things went rather well for a short time, then trouble began. I don’t know all the details, but it seems that each group wanted to give announcements, sermonettes and lead songs.

So they took their grievances to "headquarters." Several of the top men came in to settle the dispute. They did not settle the dispute the biblical way going to each other and hashing it out…So the hierarchy settled the dispute by putting one group out of the church…to the satisfaction of one group and sour grapes for the other. Later, the group that was put out affiliated with the Christian Biblical Church of God, things went along smoothly for awhile. Then there was something said on a tape that they didn’t like. So they called California to get clarification of the tape. Well the CBCG would not change, or qualify their position. I don’t know who is right or who is wrong. They appear to be satisfied, but they are still looking.

Most of our family is still looking. Will we ever be happy with our own little group? There are a lot of us still hunting for someplace to fellowship with like minds… Will we still be looking when our Savior returns?

Well, as long as we are looking for that sweet someplace in never-never land, where we all live happily ever after, with the same doctrines, with no deviations, same calendar, same sacred names, and we all love vanilla ice cream, (happy days). Well dream on! We are going to have to learn there are other ways of thinking and doing things. Maybe not just exactly as we would do them, but close enough that we feel we are not putting our eternal life on the line. Nowhere are we going to find the perfect church group, assembly, or ecclesia that we can agree with straight down the line on every point. Brethren when you find this independent group, let us all know. All it takes is one rotten apple to detour us, and lose sight of our goal. Hebrews 13:9 "do not be carried away with false doctrine." As long as the doctrines being taught are not erroneous, try to stay put, no church is going to be perfect. On the other hand, never again do we want to sit in a chair half asleep, while false doctrine is being preached. Most of us thought if it came from headquarters, and was preached in local congregations that it was infallible. (Shame on us). It boils down to this, do not give up fellowship with the brethren because of a few minor points. How did the old joke go? Everybody has to be some place.

—Houston Holland, Indiana

Response: We find your experience to be very helpful. If we read the list of the "people of faith" in Hebrews 11, we do not find very many who lived peaceful lives among their friends. The next chapter gives us a clue: "And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives" (Heb 12:5-6).

If we are young and in need of learning, we need to assemble at the place we can learn the most. As we mature, we need to go where we can participate and practice what we know. The more mature we are, the more carnality we should be able to put up with. (As far as we can tell, Jesus almost never preached to people with the Holy Spirit.) If we leave groups every time we find something wrong with somebody, it is a sign of our own weakness.

Do not be discouraged!


Moved On From the "CoG"s

Letter: December 7, 1997

Dear Norman,

Thank you for all of your Servants’ News issues and the hard work you and others have put into it in order to bring us the latest news regarding the "churches of God" and other relevant articles for those of us who are originally from Worldwide Church of God. I like a lot of what you have to say and your publication is among the few in these circles which I’ve found palatable.

I am writing because I wish to discontinue receiving the Servants’ News. After five years since I left Worldwide Church of God, I am growing ever tired of hearing about them. Like many, I grew up in "Worldwide." I have many memories—some good, some bad. Even the "good" times weren’t really all that good but merely delusions of a healthy, happy life which never existed. There is virtually nothing left now in my life which connects me to my former years nor does my life resemble the one I once lived. Thanks be to God alone (and my husband too!). I’ve had to learn how to kick some of the "bad habits" I picked up through my years as a "Worldwide" slave. In all honesty, any of us who have spent a number of years there could truly benefit from introspection—to recognize within ourselves the weaknesses that brought or kept us in the bondage of a cult. Refusal to do so will simply enslave us into "new" cults and/or extremely damaging ideas and belief systems. It is apparent that our growth-hindering characteristics include pride and arrogance. We have it in abundance. (Proverbs 11:2, 16:18-19, 29:23.) Pride disallows us the necessary introspection. It is this introspection which will hopefully bring about humility—the realization that our sins have taken us on a whirlwind of debris for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 or more years. Our Lifeless example reflects on God and impacts other lives, oftentimes, even severely and with devastating consequences. (Matthew 12:33-37.)

There is a desperate need for serious and substantial change within our lives, not just an organizational or doctrinal change, but a transformation possible, of course, only through Messiah...if we let Him.

Although the Servants’ News has a very useful purpose to those still impacted by the loss of their individual "Church of God," I am happy to say that I’m no longer interested in what any of the "Churches of God" are doing or not doing. I am ready to move on.

May God bless you and all of your readers!


—T. S., Austin, Texas

Response: Thank you for your letter. Being younger, you are more flexible and able to change quickly. We agree with your basic premise: little will be accomplished if people continue to think of themselves as "former members of the Worldwide Church of God". The Bible teaches us not to align ourselves with leaders or groups (1 Cor 3), how much worse is it to align ourselves with former leaders and groups. We need to begin thinking in terms of what we will be and what we will do in the future.

Nevertheless, many former Worldwide Church of God members need to come to grips with and recover from the mistakes made in the past. Not everyone recognizes or recovers at the same rate. It is not possible to suddenly erase many years of previous life. Hence, Servants’ News continues to deal with issues that are of concern to its largely Church-of-God readership. When the Eternal shows us that it is time to stop serving in this way, and to move on to something else—we will be ready to do it.

We agree that introspection—in the light of the Bible—is very good for us. We should be able to see the truth that we learned, and what the Eternal did in our lives. We should also be able to see the mistakes we made. It should not be hard to see how we respected people more than we respected the Biblical standards of justice and fairness. We should know, better than nearly everyone else on earth, why religion should not be based around trust in a single person or organization. We agree that there is now a need for transformation in our lives. There is a need to teach this to others also.

One thing you might help us with: now that you are moving on, where are you going? Are you serving others? Are you meeting with others that hold similar views? One thing the Worldwide Church of God did right is teach more Bible truth than the average religious organization. We simply cannot join our local Sunday-keeping church and take a part in their Christmas play—even if they have good programs helping the poor and distributing Bibles.

I hope eventually that the Eternal will use us to reach out to our own communities—not to build organizations, but to teach truth and to do good. I also hope we will be able to provide training and literature to our readers so that they can do the same thing. We believe that people do not need a central group to look to, but to know that the power of the Eternal can be among them.

Please, even if it is just a short note, let us know where you are "moving on" to.


Dragged Back Into Study

Letter: March 22, 1998

I attend no service right now. Except, on-line. I was with the Christian COG in Lantana from about 1983 to 86 or so. Other than that with the old WCOG from 1965 till 1972. Been about 12 years now. Lately, and suddenly, I have been dragged back into study!

Left the WCOG just about the time GTA left. Left and watched from a distance as the organization disintegrated! Most of the 7th dayers seem to have branched out and are still Sabbath keepers. Actually, the divisions seem to prevent any easy take over by satanic forces I think. God said the gates of hell shall not prevail—I see this as one way to prevent it. Just my observation.

While at the Lantana CCOG I wrote the booklet New Moons v The Sacred Jewish Calendar which we sent around the world....My only claim to fame!

Again, thanks.

—Gary W. Geiser, KeepThe7th@aol.com.

Response: Thank you very much for your letter. I am glad that you are studying again. It seems that the Spirit of God has a way to do things even when people are removed from brethren.

I agree with your understanding of the break-up of the WCG. Christ has no trouble working with hundreds of groups or millions of individuals. It is now impossible for one man to corrupt all of former WCG members.


Hierarchical Organizations:
Ticket To Place of Safety?

Letter: May 1998

Dear Norman and Marleen,

I would like to say something about one of the reasons why a lot of people are in these hierarchical organizations. People are taught that the group with the truth or the most truth and resources "wins a trip to the place of safety". I don’t find this being the fate or goal of the saints in scripture. Instead of earning protection by our righteousness, I see the saints who know their God working exploits (Dan 11:32) and being martyred for their faith (Dan 11:35; Rev 6:5-11; 12:11; 14:12,13).

We have been taught that the woman who flies into the wilderness to be protected is the church. (The Philadelphian era who had more truth and wealth than the others). Some organizations still teach that the wilderness is somewhere out in the Jordanian desert (Petra). But I would like to point out that John the Baptist (Matt 3:1) was preaching in the wilderness of Judea. (Wilderness being the same word used in Rev 12:14).

Then who is the woman who gave birth to the male child (Jesus Christ) and flies into the wilderness to be nourished from the face of the serpent? It has been taught that this woman is the church at the end time (because of all her knowledge and righteousness) and that her children are somehow not measuring up. (They are Laodiceans).

I would like to point out again that the woman cannot be the church as these scriptures (Rev 22:16; 5:5) and many others say that Jesus Christ is the root and offspring of the house of David. And also that this woman’s children keep the commandments and also have the testimony of Jesus Christ (12:17) and that the testimony of Jesus Christ is the spirit of prophecy (15:10). I think the scriptures in Zech 12:5 through 14:21 might describe the two witnesses (mentioned as governors in Jerusalem) and the house of David, Nathan, Levi and the others in the last 3 and ½ years before Christ returns. Satan has been trying to destroy the house of David and the Jews since David took the throne. The generations have been carefully preserved as shown in Matt 1:17 through all time and I believe they still are. It’s the time of Purim, and I think that the book of Esther has more significance than we realize.

There has been so many false concepts taught that are still around and need to be rooted out. If we are in the church to save our necks or doing righteous deeds or keeping the commandments so we can be protected—then I think that is the wrong motivation.

We really appreciate all you do and the trouble you go through to print your newsletter. Keep it up, OK?

Cherie Zimmerman, Alberta, Canada

Response: Very interesting points! So much of Revelation is symbolic—I do not know anyone who believes that the Eternal will make a literal animal ("beast") with seven heads and ten horns. On the other hand, some verses seem to be literal—such as the letters that John was told to deliver to seven real cities in Asia. But there are a number of things where we pick and choose. Your idea that "woman in the wilderness" symbolizes the church preaching the Gospel message amid a religiously desolate people seems reasonable. If the woman is a symbol, why not the wilderness?

I do not see any conflict in saying the "woman who gave birth to the man-child" is the Church. The nation of Israel is referred to as the "church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38, KJV). If one sees the New Testament congregation as a continuation of the Old Testament congregation, it fits all right.

However, I have not had time to study these verses extensively, nor have I asked for (or received) divine revelation on this matter, so I refuse to make any definite pronouncements on their meaning.


Don’t Forget To Read The Bible

Letter: December 10, 1997

Dear Norm,

Just a short note to say thank you. Since receiving Servants’ News about a year now. It’s made me more aware of what’s going on in many areas.

People saw my letters that you printed in Servants’ News and I’ve received feedback in the form of newsletters, magazines, and articles.

You can see many of us are learning from the present experience of being scattered the way we are. But some of the publications have made me also aware (the ones people sent me) that there’s a disturbing trend among some. They want to look to the latest "prophet" for the latest "prophecy"; it seems like they get into a "dial a prophet" attitude.

Yes, I know God has His true teachers and prophets around. Eph 4 tells us this is how God’s people are brought along in the faith through the work of His leaders with different gifts.

But the danger I see in a lot of it is once again it’s looking to man and it avoids the discipline where God says each Christian should "seek him diligently" (Jer 29:13) in their own prayer life.

By looking so much to the latest "prophecy" it offers a way to "pick the lock"—a quick and easy way that avoids the discipline that each should have in their own personal prayer and Bible study to stay in focus—instead some are once again depending on man.

The only way we can discern the difference between God’s true teachers and the false ones is if we are having enough contact with God ourselves. So these "prophets" offer a way to "pick the lock" by following them.

There are no shortcuts—each must seek God diligently. We must get our marching orders from the boss—Jesus Christ—and follow the lead of his Spirit (John 10:27) so we can discern his voice.

In the urgency of the times we are living in, Jesus gave us instructions of what to do to stay in focus and endure, (Luke 21:36) "to watch and pray always".

I’ve noticed those who want the latest "prophecy" from the latest "prophet" avoid this discipline of praying diligently as Jesus told us to do.

Here’s a promise from Jesus that ties in with John 29:13—whether we happen to be around one of God’s true prophets or not—God will keep us in focus through seeking Him diligently in our own individual lives, and that’s the bottom line and foundation—look to Jesus—with the tons of articles and material that’s out there, many can get distracted. There’s nothing wrong with reading other material for sure. But let’s make sure we’re spending enough time in the Bible.

—Tommy Willis, Louisiana

Response: Thank you for your insight. I agree that there are too many so-called "prophets" essentially preaching a message of physical salvation. They claim to understand prophecy and know exactly what we need to do to escape the tribulation, Beast, etc. However, almost none have any proof of divine inspiration of their claims—they simply believe their interpretation is better than anyone else’s interpretation.

There certainly are scriptures that promise physical deliverance to the obedient. But I know of no scripture that says deliverance will come to those who spend most of their time looking for it. And some scriptures promise a reward for suffering:

"Women received their dead raised to life again. And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection" (Heb 11:35).

"For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it" (Mark 8:35).

"Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also" (John 15:20).


Feels Positive About The Scattering

Letter: August 10, 1997

Dear Mr. Edwards,

I have recently begun receiving the Servants’ News and am generally pleased. I am a former WCG member (since 1986) and have been a SAHCOG member for a little over three years. I subscribe to several types of informative material. In Transition/The Journal, the IBLC, The History Research Project, Origin of Nations, and have recently corresponded with Mr. Nickels at Giving and Sharing over a mistranslation of Revelation 11:18.

Since the recent "Diaspora", I am finding a wealth of information, ideas, opinions, etc., that were not available before. I think it is just great. It increasingly becomes more clear to me why God either caused or has allowed this scattering. It is now time for the free exchange of information and ideas between those called to The Truth. In this way I believe we will be better prepared to do whatever it is we are going to be called upon to do. I think that when the time comes we will all know what we are to do. As Patton told his green troops before battle "When…You’ll know what to do." Until then we must grow in knowledge, understanding and wisdom in the Truth. There is so much information available now that at times it seems that I’ll never get caught up. But this abundance is truly great (as long as we use discernment). I notice that you do print articles by members or put them in Q & A format. When I was with WCG I wrote up many of my personal Bible studies as did others. However, about two years I wrote a short thesis on the Born again/ Begotten again controversy. It is slightly different from what was commonly taught by the WCG and of course was radically different from what they teach now.

In any event, I sent a copy to Rod Meredith/GCG, asking for some solid Biblical input and also asking if I was indeed correct, as I believe from the scriptures that I am. No response. Next I sent a copy to Donald Ward, IBLC asking for the same input. No response. I have sent a copy to the Journal. To date no response. Keep in mind that I am not pushing my ideas, I am asking for an honest Biblical review. If I am wrong I want to know from the Bible and be proven wrong. Of course I think I am correct. But I am only interested in the Truth. In any case, it is not a matter that would affect someone’s salvation. This is one of those points at which we can be at a small variance and not stumble. I therefore must conclude that the lack of response is due to either the fact that the conclusion I came to cannot be refuted and is therefore ignored by those who seal their doctrines in granite or that a simple lay-member ought not pose alternative point of view. If I don’t receive any responses soon I may send you a copy. It seems that you at least try and address such items.

I am grateful for the diverse areas that we of the new "Diaspora" can obtain information. We must gather all the knowledge that we can now while it is available. It is really only now that I believe that I understand the parable of the ten virgins. I can barely keep up myself at this time. When things start to happen I am not going to be able to re-educate those who want a synopsis to internalize in a hurry. They will have to buy their own oil. I hope this doesn’t sound selfish. But we have to tie our own shoes so to speak. We can ask for and expect help from others, but we must do it ourselves.

Enclosed you will find a small donation and a small list of items that I would like to order. Keep up the work.

—RM, Illinois

Response: I agree that the average "independent" has hundreds of times more information available to him than someone who sticks to one organization. Even if only 12% of this available information is good stuff, the independent still has dozens of times more good information available to him than the one-organization person.

Most hierarchical organizations are not interested at reading member’s doctrinal papers at all. The theory of top-down government implies that if God is going to reveal anything, it would be to the man or men at the top. Can you see the difficulty they would have publicly stating that "we are changing our teaching on ‘born again’ because Joe Member saw this wonderful thing in the scripture"?

We at Servant’s News receive more papers than we can read, but would like to read and answer them all if we had time. We have certainly read and responded to a large number. Iwould encourage you to share your paper with other serious brethren. You will probably get a more honest evaluation from them than from leaders in a group who would rather not "rock the boat" by changing their doctrinal statement.


Day and Night Article

Letter: August 1997

Dear Norman,

Howdy from Texas! I do hope things are well with you and your family.

I just finished reading Herb’s article in the latest SN [July 1997] and basically agree with what he brought out, with the exception of the part about the first three days of the re-creation. As you know, my study on the calendar has focused on the role of the stars in determining time—specifically the year. As I studied this issue, I was also beginning to see the role of stars in determining the beginning and ending of the "day." It puts more focus on the stars (that "declare the glory of God") instead of "ol’ Sol" which has such a prominent role in the other religions. Just as Herb points out, "Gen 1:14-16 does not mention the words ‘sun’ or ‘moon’...", I believe it is showing us the stars’ superior role in time-keeping. Remember, astronomers use star-time (sidereal) in all their calculations—everything is in relation to the stars.

Knowing that "the moon determines the (festival) seasons", the moon is next in line of authority. So that would put the sun at the end of the line in determining time—the time of day is all it’s good for. It appears then, that we’re supposed to be looking up to the heavens as soon as it’s dark enough to see what time it is— whether it’s a new day, a new month or even a new year. So I see Herb’s article as a first step on the road to understanding the prominent role the stars play in keeping track of time.

Since time is a matter that must be established, and knowing that "every matter must be established by the testimony of two or more witnesses".

{ Formula: witness + witness = established matter}

Please consider the following:

The sun is dropping on the horizon. You either have finished work or are taking a break. You watch as the beautiful colors paint the sky, the shadows rolling across the mountains/hills/ocean/river/etc., and you can’t help but to reflect and meditate on the beautiful creation and its Creator. It grows darker and one by one the little lights appear, first the planets (reflecting the suns light), and then the closer/bigger stars (their own light). Ah, the beginning of a new day!

{ Formula: planets(sunlight) + stars(ownlight) = night/day divide}

Now there just happens to be a thin sliver crescent of the moon lit by sunshine and the rest of it lit by earthshine giving it an awesome 3-D effect and appearing "full". Ah, the beginning of a new month!

{ Formula: crescent(sunlight) + remainder(earthlight) = new month}

Now the Winter Milky Way—the "one end of the heavens" from which the sun starts its "circuit" (tquphah) in Psa 19:6—just happens to be above this new moon—which itself is somewhere in Taurus, and sometimes "hitting the bull’s eye" (Aldebran). Ah, the beginning of a new year!

{ Formula: certain stars + new moon = new year}

Just think of the simplicity: no instruments (poles in the ground = obelisks), no complicated calculations, no "rules", no guessing. It’s just there—to be read like a watch, and from every part of the world! It’s so simple you will even be able to hear: "Look daddy, the stars are appearing, a new day has started...oh, look at the new moon isn’t it neat, it must be a new month!...oh, and I see the stars of Taurus behind the moon and the Milky Way above it, it must be the beginning of a new year!"

Well, that’s it for now. Just wanted to send a little something to you on this issue. Take care.


—Michael Turner, Texas

Response: Thanks for the letter. Your calendar system looks straight-forward and simple, using primarily the stars. It is a system that certainly could work. My question about your system is still this: how can we be sure that it was the system that the Eternal prescribed? Have you discovered any historical or biblical proof that the calendar was ever determined this way in the past?


"New Moon=Full Moon" Calendar

Letter: Jan-May, 1998

[Servants’ News has received several letters and phone calls asking about Psalm 81:3. Does it say that each month should begin with the full moon?]

Response: The primary scripture used to justify this Calendar system is Psalm 81:3:

Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, At the full moon, on our solemn feast day.

The NKJV used above is one possible meaning of the Hebrew. (The KJV and a few other translations say "time appointed" instead of "full moon," which is wrong.) Because there is no "and" connecting the three phrases separated by commas, some people conclude that they are all equivalent—that the trumpet should be blown on the new moon, which is the full moon, which is the Feast (of Trumpets)—therefore, all months should begin with a full moon. But this scripture does not say all of that. We must realize that this is a Psalm, and connecting words are sometimes left out in order to preserve the rhythm. This literary technique can be found in other Psalms. Since there are no connecting words between the phrases, we cannot be sure exactly what the writer intended from this verse alone. The NIV translators understood these three phrases to be a progressive time sequence:

Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast;

Some people understand this to be a blowing of the trumpet on the first day of Nisan to mark the new religious year, and then again on the first day of unleavened bread (which is usually a full moon). This makes much sense in context as the Psalm seems to have a Days of Unleavened Bread message—putting out false gods and coming out of Egypt. Others understand this scripture to refer to blowing the trumpet on the Feast of Trumpets (the start of a month) and again on the Feast of Tabernacles (usually a full moon).

Everyone must acknowledge that this chapter’s purpose is to tell us to praise the Eternal and to have nothing to do with false gods. It is not an explanation of calendars or feast days. Studying the use of the Hebrew words for "trumpet" in the Bible will show that trumpets were blown at many times.

There are other scriptures that full-moon advocates use, but all are less definite than this one. It is also important to realize that historical evidence is strongly against this calendar. Historical records show that the Babylonians started the month with the first visible crescent moon. When the Jews left Babylon to return to Israel, it appears that their calendar was the same as Babylon’s—they used the same month names." It appears this calendar continued to the time of Christ and beyond. The "full moon" calendar will always be between 12 and 18 days off from the "first visible crescent" calendar. The New Testament records Jesus keeping Holy Days at the same time as the other Jews in his day. If the full-moon calendar is right, then Christ almost certainly kept the Holy Days on the wrong days. If it was O.K. for Him to do that , it is probably O.K. for us to do it.

Nevertheless, if a person is convicted that this is the calendar that the Eternal has given, then they should observe it. "...for whatever is not from faith is sin" (Rom 14:23).


John’s Miracles and Revelation’s Seven Churches

Letter: December 31, 1997

Dear People at Servants’ News,

My wife and I really appreciate your ministry. [Literature request omitted.]

We have done some research in comparing the miracles listed in the Gospel of John with the seven churches listed in Revelation. Do you know of anything published about this subject? If so, please let us know. Thank you and keep up the good work!

Could you send me an explanation of the meaning of Romans 14:5?

—D &D O’Neill, Tennessee

Response: Within the last few years, we believe we have heard of some study comparing the seven churches of Revelation to various parables. However, we cannot recall who did it, nor is it in the partially-complete index to our files. If some of our readers know about such a study, we hope they will write and we will publish their letter.

Romans 14:5 states: "One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind." It is often used as a proof that there is no need to keep the Sabbath or any other day. Obviously, it does not mention the Sabbath at all. The subject of Romans 14 is stated in verse 1: "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things." The Sabbath could not have been a "doubtful thing." Either they believed they needed to keep it, or they didn’t. To me, Biblical and historical evidence indicates that the early Church kept the Sabbath.

However, the question of whether or not one should eat meat (verse 2), can become doubtful. There are many Bible examples of meat eating, but some will go to Genesis 1:29 and say that originally the Eternal intended for people to eat only plants. Also, much of the meat sold in the markets at that time was often sacrificed to idols (1Cor 8). These and other factors can be put together to make an argument not to eat meat. To this day, many Seventh Day Adventists do not eat meat—though most do it for health reasons, some will claim biblical reasons. There is no command in the Bible requiring people to eat meat. (The requirement to eat of the various sacrifices does not apply to the Romans who lived too far from the temple to sacrifice.)

The "esteeming one day above another" is the same type of thing as deciding not to eat meat. They are both mentioned together (Rom 14:6). We do not have any details in the Bible, but this practice sounds exactly like the modern day Jewish practice of trying to move into a new house (or perform other major events) on a Tuesday or a Friday. Why do they do this? Because on the third and sixth creation days, the Eternal said "it was good" twice (Gen 1:10,12,25,31), so they believe those days are more blessed than others. This practice, like the eating of only vegetables, is based on the Bible, but it is not a direct command. Yet it is not specifically forbidden in the Bible, either.

Are such practices idolatry? Are they sin simply because they might be wrong? Paul makes our role in such things clear: "But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Rom 14:10).


More on Sacred Names

Letter: December 6, 1997

Dear Norm:

I received the invitation that you sent to me regarding the "Special Sabbath Service" that you are sponsoring on December 6, 1997 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.. I thank you for it, but I will not attend. You see, once a person passes a certain point of understanding, such as knowing the true name of our Heavenly Father and His Son our Messiah, one cannot go back and worship them in error. I have been given understanding, which few in this world wish to have. The facts are there for all to study, but few wish to go there since many will not and you will have to leave them behind.

I can no longer sing songs which do not contain the True names since singing the false names are prohibited in scripture and would be disrespectful of the True Mighty Ones of Israel. The word "god" is a generic term actually derived from the name given to Baal, "Lord Baal God". It in no way honors our Heavenly Father whose name is Yahweh. Likewise, the name Jesus Christ is a derivation of "Zeus". It in no way honors our Messiah whose name is Yahshua.

If you are brave and sincere in wanting to maintain your position as "One of the Elect, or Called Out Ones", then you will have to look into this issue and study it with an open heart and mind.

I will continue to pray for you and the other Elect who have not come to the knowledge of the correct names of the True Elohim of Israel. We must never think that we have arrived. We must plod on.


Response: We appreciate your diligence to do what is right , but it appears that your understanding has now taken you to the point where you can fellowship with almost no-one in our area. If your beliefs have given you a closeness to the Eternal that is producing great fruit—healings, miracles, peace among the quarrelsome, etc., then you should be out among others so that they can see your light shine. But if you do not have great fruits, then maybe there is still more that you need to learn. If songs are a problem, most independent congregations will be quite happy for you to substitute the divine names that you understand into songs and scriptures that you would sing and read.

In the first century, the Jews at the time would not commonly say the Father’s name, and the recently-converted Gentiles certainly did not know it. Why, then, does the New Testament make no effort to teach converts to say the name and how to pronounce it? We realize that some people claim that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew, but even so, there is no section that says: "This is His name and make sure you pronounce it correctly." If these things were "edited out" of the New Testament, how can the Eternal hold people responsible for not knowing them?

We have seen several books and papers attempting to prove many of the points that you make, but find that they too often make statements like: "early English dictionaries say..." or "historic evidence indicates...".We would feel much better if they would quote the exact dictionary, or give the source of their historic evidence. Also, we have seen some evidence that the books of Matthew and Revelation may have originally been written in Hebrew. But does that mean that all of the rest of the New Testament was? It is hard to imagine that Paul would have written to largely Gentile congregations in Hebrew—how could they read it?

Servants’ News would be very interested in receiving conclusive answers to any of the following:

1) Was all or most of the New Testament originally written in Hebrew?

2) Does the word "God" come from a pagan deity, rather than being a general term for a divine being—like the Greek word theos used throughout the New Testament?

3) Does the word "Jesus" come from the Greek Zeus (a mythological god) rather than the Greek Iesous—which is also used to translate the name of "Joshua" from the Old Testament?

We would be interested in reading and publishing such evidence. We would hope that anyone sending such evidence would clearly mark the pages that contain it. (If we receive an unmarked book, it may be a long time before we can read it.)

We would agree with your last two sentences. But in which direction do we "plod on"? Nearly all of the scriptures about judgment are concerned with how we have treated our spiritual brethren and the world in general. How can we be judged on these things if we are almost never in contact with such people?

We pray that the Eternal will help you to continue to grow in the understanding of all that He has for you.

—NSE &

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