by Andrew Munro
Does God Need An Army
given Bristol UK 16 Aug 2014
|In many Protestant circles the role of the Christian group is likened to an army - fighting for Christ! But is that view accurate? Not according to scripture - particularly when we understand the account of Gideon. (1.8 Mb)|
by Ian Henderson
The Struggle Of Earnestly Contending
given Bristol UK 16 Aug 2014
|Jude 3 tells us to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." But what exactly is it that we need to "contend" for? And what exactly does God want us to do so earnestly? (13.3 Mb)|
"Just as a message could pass along the mail route from Ephesus to Laodicea, so would the truth of God be passed from era to era." (Mystery of the Ages - page 283)
But who is the custodian of that Truth today? is there one sole Church of God that is entitled to that heritage? Is any organisation qualified to make such an exclusive claim? Several divergent groups vociferously do, but obviously they can't ALL be right!
In the Pastor's Report last week I emphasised how Mr Armstrong explained that — at its core — "the government of God is a way of life. It is the way that develops righteous, holy, perfect character. It is the way that produces peace, harmony, happiness, joy, abundance. It is the way of love." (Why Humans Were Put On The Earth - PT August 1978) In explaining God's Government this way, I also pointed out how the physical corporation of WCG was not the Church. The True Church of God is the Spiritual organism of God's people who believe God's Truth, and follow God's Way ... led by God's Spirit ... obedient to Jesus Christ (Romans 8:9,14).
This explanation prompted the following query:
"Thanks for your recent Pastor's Report. Could you kindly throw more light on these two articles you have in your web site ( 1.Christ is the living head of only ONE Church and 2.Is God's church composed of many separate groups. Good News December 18.1978 ). I think they are different in meaning from today's Pastor's Report."
Reading the articles he mentions alongside the Pastor's Report does indeed reveal a discrepancy. But to understand how the two views are reconciled, we must grasp the profound difference between merely not deviating from whatever Mr Armstrong happened to say when he was alive, and being faithfully submissive to the Spiritual Heritage that came from Jesus Christ via Mr Armstrong.
In the booklet: Just What IS an Apostle?, I attempt to define just what I mean by the term "Spiritual Heritage":
Our spiritual heritage is intrinsically bound to this teaching purpose for our calling. Isaiah states that those who live humanly into the millennium are going to “hear a word behind thee, saying, This [is] THE WAY, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Is 30:21). Please notice that we – as teachers – are going to have to point out “the Way” in all circumstances , as it says, “when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” This can only be done if “The Way” being spoken of here, primarily involves a principle that can be applied to each and every circumstance.
“This Way” that we must point people toward as teachers under Jesus Christ also cannot be something new, as we are told “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb 13:8). So “The Way” we are to point people toward in the millennium, is clearly the same “Way” we must also walk today. It is also the same “Way” as taught by Christ and the early apostles. It is also the same “Way” obtained from God via the apostle who originally spoke the Word of God to us – in our case Mr Herbert W Armstrong. It has to be the very “Way” of God Himself. This “Way” lies at the very heart of everything. This “Way” is our spiritual heritage. ...
.... Though describing our spiritual heritage as “The Way” may appear somewhat trite on the surface, what we are actually describing is the very government of God . (Chapter 10 - Our Spiritual Heritage)
A key aspect of faithfully administrating this Spiritual "Way" involves the ability to correctly apply God-given spiritual principles to each and every circumstance. This is something critical to our training that God expects all of us to get to grips with. It is something we are going to have to do continually as born sons in the Kingdom of God out into eternity. When Mr Armstrong was alive, we witnessed constantly the dynamic leadership of God's Living Word through Him. And it is the same Living Word that also guided the early Church:
A few miles south of the area of Thessalonica to whom Paul wrote the above, lies the city of Corinth. Part of the same word given to the Corinthian church "not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God" , is the following. Astoundingly, it is a section of scripture that appears to promote the idea it is best not to marry:
When we read the above phrases in the light of the rest of scripture, there is clearly a discrepancy. God created sex and marriage as the sole means of perpetuating the human race. When He did so, He emphatically declared that it was "very good" (Genesis 1:31). In creating a wife for Adam "the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis2:18) and further instructed that a young man should "leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (Genesis 2:24) So how could Paul possibly make the suggestions he does against marriage in the seventh chapter of I Corinthians?
To properly understand, Paul's words MUST be read in the context of the time in which they were written. The uniqueness of that time is made very clear in verse 26: "Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are.." (I Corinthians 7:26 NIV) It was ONLY because of the intense persecution they were experiencing at the time that Paul made the comments he did. Taking his words out of that clear context would cause the reader to entirely misapply what he is saying.
So what was happening when Mr Armstrong wrote what he did in the two articles I mentioned previously — and how does that time differ from what we see today?
Note the date very carefully indeed: December 1978. I remember it very, very well — Mr Armstrong had been having to deal with a hot-bed of discontent, rumours, false ministers, spurious new organisations and discord for that entire year — and even a few years before. The "scum" of the first potential takeover finally rose to the surface following his heart attack and near death in August 1977 — just over a year before that article was written. At that time several senior ministers appeared to regard Mr Armstrong as a spent force and so "made their move" — seemingly ignorant of the fact that Jesus Christ is the Head of His Church, not a mere man.
That year (1978) was also the year the “Systematic Theology Project” (STP) was discovered — and cancelled. It was the year Mr Garner Ted Armstrong was suspended and finally disfellowshipped and marked. Of that fractured time Mr Armstrong wrote:
Now I come to something I have felt I had to withhold from you brethren. During these past few years when I sensed a CONSPIRACY to bring about a complete “takeover” of the entire Church’s Work – virtually to PUT JESUS CHRIST OUT as well as myself – I went to Garner Ted about it. He flatly denied everything of the kind and assured me he did not want to be head of the Church – our talks would end up in an embrace – and I would then appear on the platform telling you brethren that Ted and I were solidly together – standing back to back. I WROTE FOR YOU THE SAME THING – BECAUSE I BELIEVED IT! I still believe there simply HAD TO BE a conspiracy, but I attributed it entirely to Satan; I was willing to believe that Ted and those close to him were not themselves conscious of the adroit subtle cunning Satan was using in his conspiracy.
To protect my son’s name and reputation, I HAVE covered up for him – because I have said to him that I love him above all people on earth. But I know now that in my eagerness to show “LOVE” and to protect my son’s name, I have without realizing it been a “respecter of persons;” that I have protected my son to the detriment and harm it has brought to God’s Church and Ambassador College! Of that I now have to repent! (Co-Worker Letter 28 June 1978)
That particular month (December 1978) vividly sticks in my mind as towards the end of the month we happened to be staying with friends who worked in the UK office and virtually every evening the husband was on the phone to the USA. Holding a senior position in the international work of the Church, he had personally discovered yet another conspiracy forming and was daily alerting those over him. The problem was, no one believed what he told them was legally possible — until the Attorney General actually walked in and seized control at the turn of the year.
It was only then that Jesus Christ — who obviously fully knew of the gathering puny human conspiracy — really got the point across just how unwise it is for the Spiritual organism that is His Church to rely on organisational structures of this world. He clearly wanted us ALL to get to grips with this key aspect as He could see what we would need to face individually — in this area — in the coming years. This crucial background just as much forms a part of the Spiritual Heritage Jesus Christ leaves us as do the words of Mr Armstrong when he was going through the turmoil. It is similar to "the present crisis" mentioned by Paul in the seventh chapter of I Corinthians — which enables us to make sense of the passage. It is what Christ allowed to lie behind the restructuring mentioned on 4th July 1981 for example; once the dust had settled following the attempted government takeover:
... in this past week we have been going over a constitution, and forming and carefully going over every line, and sentence, and paragraph of a constitution and bylaws of the Worldwide Church of God, an unincorporated spiritual organism. But it is organized, and well organized. Now the unincorporated Worldwide Church of God does have a number of corporate entities under it, one of which is the Worldwide Church of God Incorporated, a California corporation. We are incorporated actually in a number of States, but the only members of the corporation are merely the officers of the corporation. But the general laity of the Church are only members of the Church of God... (HWA Speaks To The Brethren - 4 July 1981)
And that brings us to the present day: If we think that the current position the Church finds itself in is totally unexpected — we would be wrong! It was only unexpected by us — not by Jesus Christ. God the Father is still at the controls of the universe. Christ is still the living, active Head of His one true Church — and that Church still believes the same things placed into that Body by the end-time apostle, the one sent under the clear direction of our High Priest. And by the leadership of His Spirit, we are to be instructed by His Word, which remains consistently "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." (Hebrews 13:8)
But just as there was a crisis during the time of Paul that modified the wisdom of marriage and another crisis during the time of Mr Armstrong that required a strengthening of the uniqueness of WCG ... so we too are at a critical period during our own time, following probably the greatest apostasy ever to strike God's Church (II Thessalonians 2:3) It was very different from previous attempts because this time the highest human leadership was involved — specifically targeted by Satan from the inside. And when a shepherd was no longer humanly there with the authority to counter it, the sheep were scattered (Mark 14:27).
Yet we should not have been surprised as the current shattering of God's people was prophesied in Daniel 12:7. The latter part of this scripture is probably better translated "when the shattering of the holy people comes to an end, then all these things will be accomplished" . This eventual resolution seems to gel with the fact that the Church appears to be regarded as a single entity at the point of fleeing right at the end (Revelation 12:14-17) At that point when God brings His people together it appears we will have very little time indeed — probably just days — and the tribulation will follow.
Putting all the scriptures together, it appears the current scattering is something specifically allowed by God in order to sift and test His people. The stones of the Spiritual Temple are currently being measured (Revelation 11:1) — being prepared off-site (I Kings 6:7). And based on the assessment of that measuring some will be protected and some will need further refinement as part of Laodicea within the Tribulation. But God will unite His people — His Temple — in His time and way, and until He does, we in the ministry have the job of preparing the stones entrusted to our care via the Spiritual Heritage that is over us. That role I feel is best defined in Matthew 24: 45-46 : "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed [is] that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing." That is what we in the ministry should regard as our "job statement".
As far as I am concerned, this is the bottom line: — HWA was our apostle (I Corinthians 9:2), and the foundation laid by Christ though him must remain as what we align our teaching to (I Corinthians 3:10, Isaiah 28:17), otherwise we are off track, being out of step with the government of God, out of step with Christ, and He is outside the Church knocking (Revelation 3:20). The Bible is not for private interpretation by all and sundry (II Peter 1:20). True understanding must be revealed — according to grace which God gives to each as He chooses (Ephesians 4:7). And there is no one alive today who has the grace of an apostle. I regard our failure to understand these basic points, as the major reason for the present chaos within the corporate churches.
So during the present crisis, I do not believe there is a single physical organisation, as YET, that comprises the Church of God — though there will be. I certainly do not claim that for the Church of God in Wales. However, I do believe there is a single — though currently shattered — spiritual organism, being personally and individually moulded and shaped by the Master Potter (Isaiah 64:8) prepared and led by the same Spirit to the same Godly mindset.
Admittedly, I do not know where all these people are at present. But I do know that the preparation of the Spiritual Temple to which Christ is to return was given into the hands of His end-time apostle — sent as His messenger — and that task is still being accomplished via the Spiritual Heritage left to us through him.... so that before long, there will indeed be a total unity within: the one Body, the one Temple, the one Church, and the one Bride...
As Gaza grabs the headlines, epic slaughter engulfs the rest of the region. But where are the protests?
“The battle raging in the Gaza Strip has transfixed the world. Relentless TV and media coverage has concentrated on the appalling death toll of 1,900 Palestinians, hundreds of them children. Protest marches sprang up across the globe as the conflict caused widespread outrage and some of the worst manifestations of anti-Semitism the West has witnessed since the Thirties.
Horrific though events in Gaza have been, they were actually a sideshow to the appalling slaughter now raging across much of the Middle East as well as Libya in North Africa.
What is so extraordinary is that the voices protesting so vehemently against Israel’s actions remain resolutely silent over this bloodshed which is on a far greater scale than ever took place in Gaza.
Despite the indignation of so many at Israel’s ruthless display of power, the country has gone to great lengths to prevent civilian casualties by using leaflets, text messages and phone calls in Arabic to warn people to leave targeted buildings. No such niceties were afforded the hundreds of innocent victims of armed militia groups running rampant in Libya and battling for control of its major cities Tripoli and Benghazi. There were a staggering 1,700 of these groups at the last count.
Libya is now a country in meltdown. The government has disintegrated, law and order has been abandoned, violence is endemic, thousands have been killed, airports are in flames and high-grade weaponry is available on every street corner, able to find its way to Islamist militia groups in countries such as Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Niger. The fact is that while the world protests over Gaza, it has given up on Libya.
Just three years since Gaddafi, its despotic ruler of 40 years, was deposed …the country is no longer functioning, as warring tribes and sects slug it out for supremacy. There is an old Libyan saying: ‘Within Libya, it is region against region; within regions, tribe against tribe; within tribes, family against family.’
Meanwhile the situation in Syria and Iraq is as bad, if not worse.
Yesterday, it emerged that 40,000 members of one of Iraq’s oldest minorities have been stranded for days on a mountain in the north-west of the country without food or water. These people from the Yazidi sect were driven there by Islamist militant group the Islamic State, formerly ISIS. They now have to choose between slaughter at the hands of the Islamic State jihadists waiting for them below, or death by dehydration if they stay on the mountain. Where are the protests in the West for action to stop their suffering?
Last week the Islamic State released a 36-minute video to mark Eid, an important Muslim festival celebrating the end of Ramadan. Eid should be a time of happiness, a holiday known as the Sweet Festival to end a month of fasting. Instead, the Islamic State chose to signify its arrival with a shockingly violent video which revels in the carnage in Iraq and Syria as Islamic State militants conquer vast swathes of the country.
The video showed men crammed into the back of an open-topped truck, weeping in fear before being driven off to be executed. In another sequence, hundreds sit on the ground in the desert, their hands bound, waiting to be shot. Still more men are shown being hit with rifle butts as they march, bent and blindfolded, one behind the other. When they reach their destination, the blood-soaked edge of a small jetty, each of them is shot dead and tossed into the water.
Thousands upon thousands of innocent people — Muslims and Christians — have been murdered by the Islamic State since it captured the country’s second largest city of Mosul. Last month it declared its own Islamic caliphate, or kingdom, across northern Iraq and Syria.
In a development with overtones of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, Christian families have had their doors ominously marked to inform them they face the bleak alternatives of conversion to an extreme version of Islam or death. In the past 24 hours, 200,000 Assyrian Christians have fled the Islamic State into Kurdistan where there are already 1.56 million refugees.
Crucifixions and beheadings are commonplace, while the Islamic State runs extortion rackets in every town it conquers and has looted hundreds of millions from banks. Amid this brutality, the flight of refugees is destabilising the entire region still further and reviving ancient rivalries between Sunni and Shia Muslims — rivalries dating back to the 7th century which concern divergent beliefs in who was the successor to Mohammed.
Nine million people have been displaced within Syria as the civil war rages, but millions more are fleeing to neighbouring countries. Lebanon’s population of 4.8 million, for example, has been forced to cope with an extra 1.1 million people from Syria. Most of these refugees are Sunni Muslims, which upsets a potentially explosive balance in Lebanon, in which Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims share power. The Islamic State has now tried to seize a town in northern Lebanon.
Meanwhile, the influx of one million Sunnis to Jordan — a country of just 6.6 million people — is boosting the (Sunni) Muslim Brotherhood, a political organisation which seeks to overthrow the monarchy of King Abdullah II, a staunch ally of the West. Within Jordan, there have been growing signs of support for the Islamic State — last month there were anti-poverty marches in which protestors unfurled the group’s black flag — which is threatening the border from Iraq in the east.
As we witness the disintegration of entire states in Syria and Iraq, some observers have been claiming that erasing their borders, cooked up by British and French colonial rulers in the Twenties, would be a good thing.
But if we allow such countries to disappear, whole communities would be caught on the ‘wrong’ side of newly-drawn borders.
This is already the fate of Christian and Shia people in the Iraq city of Mosul (regarded as heretics by the Islamic State, who are all Sunnis) or the Sunni population in Baghdad (where the ruling class and the country’s Prime Minister are Shia). It would be a license for wholesale slaughter by religious maniacs.
Yet even this would not be the end of it. Because the rival religious factions carving up Syria and Iraq are supported by their own local superpowers, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey among them. And as Sunni battle Shia, these countries are now being drawn into the conflict. Syria’s President Assad and his ruling party are Alawite Muslims, which is a form of Shia. Lebanon’s Hizbollah militia are also Shia. They are both supported financially and militarily by Iran, the main Shia power.
The jihadist groups, on the other hand, are puppets of Qatar and Saudi Arabia which are Sunni — and determined to fight President Assad of Syria to the death. The Islamic State is partly funded from private Qatari and Saudi sources. This age-old power struggle was kept in check when dictators such as Saddam in Iraq, and Gaddafi in Libya, were in power.
But now it has been unleashed, many ordinary people in the region yearn for the restoration of the kind of strongmen in whose overthrow the West naively connived.
“As the Arabic proverb says:
‘Better a thousand years of tyranny than one of anarchy’. ”
Absurdly, Britain’s Middle East envoy Tony Blair claims that this chaos has nothing to do with Western intervention in Iraq and Libya. The truth is that, by displacing their dictators, we have caused carnage. And this descent into chaos has coincided, like a perfect storm, with America’s weariness of overseas conflicts and mischief-making by Russia which supports President Assad of Syria, where it wants to keep a naval base.
But make no mistake, key allies of the West are now under threat from the Islamic State, and the crisis is lapping at our own shores.” (dailymail.co.uk)
Maplecroft, a British risk consultancy “…classifies 12 countries as ‘extreme risk’, including Iraq at the top as most at risk, as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Libya. It also includes the growth economies of Nigeria, the Philippines, Colombia and Kenya.” (telegraph.co.uk)
“In Nigeria, the campaign of violence by Islamic militant group Boko Haram saw the country record the highest number of fatalities per attack, with Maplecroft’s figures recording 146 reported attacks between July 1 last year and June 30 this year, resulting in 3,477 killed…” (telegraph.co.uk)
“Iraq has been torn by a new wave of violent attacks since April 2013, with the numbers of dead jumping to its highest levels since the worst of the country’s sectarian bloodshed in 2006-2008.
8,868 people were killed in 2013, and 1,666 people died in the first three months of 2014 due to terrorist attacks or other acts of violence, according to UN statistics.” (rt.com)
“A court in Egypt has dissolved the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing. More than 1,400 people have been killed and 16,000 detained in a crackdown by the authorities on Mr Morsi’s supporters. President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, a former military chief who was elected head of state in May, has vowed to wipe out the group.” (bbc.co.uk)
The following went largely unreported in the mainstream media…
“The killings of at least 817 people by Egyptian security forces last year [August, 2013] probably amount to a crime against humanity, Human Rights Watch says.
A report by the US-based group says 1,000 or more people probably died in one day around Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. The deaths came during demonstrations broken up by Egyptian security forces. Executive director Kenneth Roth said the deaths were ‘one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history’.” (bbc.co.uk)
“The death toll in Syria’s three-year conflict has exceeded 160,000, an activist group said Monday, a harrowing figure that reflects the country’s relentless bloodletting that appears no closer to a resolution.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it has documented 162,402 deaths since the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s government began in March 2011.” (cbc.ca)
“What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1-2).
“He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws” (Psalms 147:19-20 NIV).
Satan hates God’s Law. He hates God’s way of life. He also understands the importance of the nation of Israel today. That’s where Satan’s focus is, he is concentrating the attention of the world on this war with Gaza. In the meantime, the whole Middle East is boiling, with a dramatic increase in death and destruction. This will build up until the beginning of the Great Tribulation, when Jerusalem will be given over to the Gentiles.
What we are witnessing right now is the build up to that event!
“But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.” (Revelation 11:2)
Mr Armstrong, writing in ‘The United States and Britain in Prophecy’ explains:
“Jesus continued: ‘For then shall be GREAT TRIBULATION, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved [alive]: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened’ (Matthew 24:21-22).
Here is described the greatest time of TROUBLE – TRIBULATION – in all history, or ever to be. Jeremiah described it as ‘Jacob’s trouble,’ so great ‘that none is like it’ (Jeremiah 30:7).
Daniel described the same most severe trouble of all history. Speaking of a time now in our immediate future, Daniel foretold: ‘And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince [archangel] which stands for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of TROUBLE, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time’ (Daniel 12:1).” (US and GB in Prophecy)
This soon coming period of time will be the most violent time that the earth has ever experienced. The death and destruction will be on such a scale that Almighty God Himself will have to step in and cut short events – otherwise all humanity will be totally destroyed! This is beyond anything that we can imagine!
And what of God’s Church?
The Philadelphian era of the Church is promised a place of safety:
“And there were given to the woman the two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness unto her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent” (Revelation 12:14).
The Laodicean era of the Church goes into the tribulation:
“And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17).
Notice why Satan makes war with them?
Because they keep the commandments of God - and his wrath is not just against God’s Church, but the whole of mankind!
“Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knows that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:12).
With Satan removed, and Jesus Christ ruling all nations, EVERYTHING will change!
From being the pariah in this age, the Jews will have an entirely different status in the eyes of the world:
“And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you’” (Zechariah 8:22-23 NIV).
Not just Judah, but the whole House of Israel:
“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33).
Thy reign come: Thy will come to pass, as in heaven also on the earth
(Matthew 6:10 Young’s Literal Translation)