by Jon Bowles
The Order of Services
given Wales UK 8 Mar 2014
|Why are the COGiW services as they are? Why in a largely lecture format? The answer lies in scripture - particularly 1 Corinthians 14 - and understanding the very purpose of having Church services at all. (6.0 Mb)|
by Jon Pippy
Christ's Final Hours
given Canada 11 Mar 2006 played Wales 8 Mar 2014
|With Passover only a few weeks away, our minds need to begin being focused on the sacrifice of Christ - freely offered on our behalf. Several aspect of this sacrifice, can be seen in the events Christ went through before he died. They include: A series of illegal "trials"; Who was Barabbas who was freed; The last words Christ uttered. (10.0 Mb)|
With Passover a mere 5 weeks away, will we be able to take the sacred emblems in a worthy manner — when even the concept of "physical sin" is disputed by some?
Because the specific words "physical sin" do not appear in scripture, some in God's Church have concluded there is no such thing. But as we approach the Passover it becomes doubly important that we ask ourselves, what God's view is of the subject — and examine ourselves to be sure our view is the same. This is vital — if we are to indeed partake of both emblems in a worthy manner.
Today the word sin has an almost "naughty but nice" aura to it — but it carried no such religiously-induced 'baggage' originally: The vast majority of words translated as 'sin' — in both Hebrew and Greek — have a root that simply means 'to miss' or 'to miss the mark'. And the mark being missed is God's standard set by His Laws — hence the very clear Bible definition of sin of all kinds: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." (I John 3:4) This definition is further reinforced by the very meaning of the Hebrew word translated as Law — Torah — which has its root in the Hebrew word "yara" (strongs: 3384) that means to shoot or to aim or point at. So sin is missing whatever standard God has decreed we should be shooting or aiming for.
But the question is: how far do God's standards go? Is God only concerned about standards that have spiritual repercussions? Or has He also designed Laws to help and protect us physically as well? The answer should be obvious: Throughout the creation we see multiple systems that operate within God-ordained physical laws. In scripture also we clearly find that living God's Way results in tangible and material blessings of all kinds — including physical health and physical well-being:
Although God's focus is on the spiritual character being developed via this temporary physical chemical existence we have, that focus is by no means all there is to God's view of the life He gives us. Jesus would hardly declare, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) if at the same time the daily Christian existence was destined to be a dour ascetic opposite, as some religions would have us believe. God's Plan is the very antithesis of such a concept. It involves mankind being given access to the Tree of LIFE in all respects — eternal Spirit-Born life certainly, but also the best way to live NOW — bringing abundant blessings, health and fulfilment as we SIMULTANEOUSLY develop that spiritual character and righteous life-style that will be lived for eternity in the coming Kingdom of God (Mark 10:30).
But the problem is, we currently find ourselves in a very different age from the one that will dawn once God's Kingdom is ushered in. These past six millennia we have been experiencing what can only be described as 'aversion therapy' — so that all mankind will become so utterly sick of the repercussions of Satan's way of life that no one will again return to that way of thinking — ever! A large segment of our present day society therefore, even appears hell-bent to remove so much as an acknowledgement of there being a Creator God — changing the glory of the incorruptible God into a mindless evolutionary process where sickness becomes mere survival of the fittest in action — a concept that is as far removed from confessing to sin, or missing God's mark, as it is possible to be!
But such a view has no place within the Church of God. For those of us whose eyes have been opened (John 6:44), we can see a totally different basis to the natural world. We recognise the clear, irrefutable evidence of intelligent design found throughout the creation (Romans 1:20). Even though we acknowledge a present satanic distortion — through sin — we recognise that there is God-provided information — sometimes billions of pieces — stored in the DNA of every living creature, from bacteria to man. And we also acknowledge that natural law can ONLY exist because there IS a Supreme Law Giver who crafted and designed such things. Scripture reinforces this further by teaching that such natural laws are nothing less than the spoken words and direction of The Eternal Creating God Himself:
This is the only reason why the creation is so orderly — His words define and cause it to be so. And on the occasions where we find it disorderly and chaotic via sickness, there has to be a clear cause for that evil effect. For it is the word of the One who became Jesus Christ that not only made this world in the past, but currently sustains and upholds "all things by the word of his power" (Hebrews 1:2-3) — including each one of our physical bodies in every single aspect, while in His position of supreme power and authority, seated at "the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3)
So the question is, how do The Father and Christ view the chaos that results from the transgression of their Laws — including the physical laws they have set in motion? Is there any possible way that they would allow a satanic approach of insolent disobedience — without penalty — to succeed? Absolutely not! Christ Himself — when tempted by Satan — illustrates this clear denial:
Had Christ "cast himself down" as Satan suggested, He would have needlessly put God the Father to the test — exposing Himself to physical injury or death via the very laws of gravity and inertia He and the Father set in motion. Unlike the profound lesson taught when the laws were briefly suspended to allow Peter and Himself to walk on water, in this case there would have been no point. It was merely needless aggrandisement, an appeal to vanity and a satanic ploy to sin — to "miss the mark" both physically and spiritually and therefore immediately rejected by Christ.
And this brings us to probably the GREATEST lesson of this present life: When we treat God's Laws with contempt — even unknowingly — then there is invariably a penalty to be paid. Whenever The Creator's laws are broken ... big or small ... the result is the same: destruction of His creation of some kind. Be it a Hiroshima-scale devastation of human life, or, at the other end of the scale a nagging toothache that makes life a misery. This is quite simply because God's Laws are given for our benefit and long term good so that going contrary to them will invariably produce the exact opposite: suffering and misery.
This is true both physically and spiritually for in both cases the penalty is sickness and destruction. In one case it is physical sickness and eventual physical death — in the other it is spiritual sickness and eventual eternal death. Both sets of Laws have been brought into existence in the same way — from the same source — by the direct proclamation of the Godhead.
And so we come to the Passover. For mankind to experience the required aversion therapy of the detrimental and injurious effects of sin — yet still have access to eternal life — a crucial event was necessary to make it possible. This was set in motion the moment man chose the wrong tree in Eden. That instant was the founding moment of this present age, and it was then that Jesus Christ became "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). Without compromising so much as a millionth of an inch with the Laws of God, it became necessary that the penalty of sin — of all kinds — had to be paid.
It was this loving nature of God therefore that included TWO concepts within the Passover emblems — both for the forgiveness of sin. One for physical sin; one for spiritual sin — so we can indeed then go on "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) — a truly complete sacrifice in every respect:
"Taking the broken unleavened bread means we ACCEPT Christ’s beaten and broken body (prior to being taken to the cross) that WE MAY BE HEALED. How does His broken body make our healing possible?
"It is IMPORTANT that you UNDERSTAND the answer to this – because some have been falsely teaching there is no such thing as physical sin. 1 John 3:4, properly translated from the Greek, says, “Sin is the transgression of LAW.” It does not refer to – or say – the spiritual law of the Ten Commandments. Yet it is referring to LAWS INSTITUTED BY GOD – not transgressing man-made codes.
"... GOD formed the human body out of matter (Genesis 2:7). God so designed our physical bodies that they function according to definite PHYSICAL LAWS. The digestive system, the eliminative system and the circulatory system, for example, were designed to function together and this functioning is a LAW OF NATURE – physical LAW. Eating improper food, neglecting elimination or polluting the lungs with tobacco smoke prevents those laws from perfect functioning definitely transgress laws that God set in motion and that operate in the human body. This definitely is TRANSGRESSED PHYSICAL LAW! It is a law GOD designed and set in motion. This TRANSGRESSION OF LAW, according to God’s definition (I John 3:4), is physical SIN! It’s penalty is sickness, disease or debility.
"The RSV translates 1 John 3:4, “…sin is lawlessness” – without regard to WHAT law GOD instituted.
"... HOW does Christ’s broken body make our healing possible? I answer with another question: How does Christ’s shed blood – His DEATH – make possible the forgiveness of spiritual sin – transgression of the spiritual law – the Ten Commandments? Simply by having PAID THE PENALTY IN OUR STEAD – THAT’S HOW! His beaten body paid in our stead the PENALTY we are suffering when the physical laws in the human body have been transgressed and have brought on the PENALTY of the sickness, disease or whatever – sometimes the first death!
"To say there is no such thing as physical sin, as has been said by self-professing intellectuals, is NOT intellectual – it is rank STUPIDITY, IGNORANCE OR WILFUL PERVERSION OF PLAIN, SIMPLE TRUTH!..." ( The Plain Truth About Healing - Chapter 5)
At the heart of our conversion lies the process of repentance — the clear and full intent to turn unreservedly from our own ways to God's Way in absolutely everything for all eternity. Coupled to that — as part of the package — it IS God's will that our physical sins are forgiven and we receive healing! But how physically repentant are we in this area of our lives, to the degree within our control?
As the Passover approaches this year, there is a clear need for us all to examine ourselves (I Corinthians 11:28). It would therefore be helpful for each of us to think deeply about where we personally might be falling down (missing the mark) in this area of physical sin — diet, sleep, mental approach to life, exercise etc. — as our Saviour willingly underwent a horrendous beating that we might receive miraculous healing. For we know that vibrant health is His eventual will for ALL mankind in the Kingdom of God ...
The Road To Political Union In Europe?
Are the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church about to be reconciled, after a 1,000 year rift and how will this affect the political situation in Europe?
Over 30 years ago, Mr Armstrong suggested that this could occur – before the formation of the final United States of Europe!
In a Co-Worker Letter dated November 27, 1981 Mr Armstrong wrote:
“…a United States of Europe. The nations of Europe have desired such a union, as ONE COMBINED WORLD POWER. It would be perhaps greater in power than either the Soviet Union or the United States… It is foretold in prophecy in Revelation 17. It can be brought about only through the Roman Catholic Church…
An ecumenical union between the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox churches could well precede such a union of nations into one super, combined nation.” (Co-Worker Letter – November 27, 1981)
The question is, is this union very close to happening? First, a little history. How and why did the Great Schism occur?
“Eastern Orthodox Catholics and Roman Catholics are the result of what is known as the East-West Schism (or Great Schism) of 1054, when medieval Christianity split into two branches.
The Byzantine split with Roman Catholicism came about when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne, King of the Franks, as Holy Roman Emperor in 800. From the Byzantine viewpoint, this was a slap to the Eastern Emperor and the Byzantine Empire itself — an empire that had withstood barbarian invasions and upheld the faith for centuries. After Rome fell in 476, Byzantium was the only vestige of the Holy Roman Empire.
Charlemagne’s crowning made the Byzantine Emperor redundant, and relations between the East and the West deteriorated until a formal split occurred in 1054.
Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Pope Saint Leo IX weren’t friends, and each one mistrusted the other. Cerularius crossed the line when he wrote in a letter that the Latin use of unleavened bread was Jewish but not Christian. He was denying the validity of the Holy Eucharist in the Western Church. Leo countered by saying that the patriarchs had always been puppets of the Byzantine emperors.
In the end, Pope Leo and Patriarch Michael excommunicated each other and their respective churches.
But more than 900 years later, in 1965, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople removed the mutual excommunications.” (dummies.com)
“The fundamental breach has never been healed, with each side sometimes accusing the other of having fallen into heresy and of having initiated the division. The Crusades, the Massacre of the Latins in 1182, the West’s retaliation in the Sacking of Thessalonica in 1185, the capture and sack of Constantinople in 1204, and the imposition of Latin patriarchs made reconciliation more difficult. Establishing Latin hierarchies in the Crusader states meant that there were two rival claimants to each of the patriarchal sees of Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, making the existence of schism clear.
In 1965, Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I, nullified the anathemas of 1054, although this nullification of measures taken against a few individuals was essentially a goodwill gesture and did not constitute any sort of reunion between churches.
Contacts between the two sides continue: Every year a delegation from each joins in the other’s celebration of its patronal feast, Saints Peter and Paul (29 June) for Rome and Saint Andrew (30 November) for Constantinople, and there have been a number of visits by the head of each to the other.
The efforts of the Ecumenical Patriarchs towards reconciliation with the Catholic Church have often been the target of sharp criticism from some fellow Orthodox.” (wikipedia.org)
Here is an example of that “sharp criticism” by some of the Orthodox faith.
“Of late, certain theologians, under the influence of contemporary, world-wide currents, have begun to savour the words “ecumenicity”, “ecumenical spirit”, and “ecumenical movement”, as if they were hard-candy. Ecumenicity; what a beautiful word! And yet, behind these words, lay hidden a most fearful danger for Orthodoxy. What is this danger?
One of the worst of these heresies is Papism, which, on account of its delusions, its authoritarian spirit, and its atrocities, caused the rise of Protestantism and the fracturing of all of Christendom. Yes, the Papists are heretics. They have begun a new war, a war of peace, a war worse than the Crusades. Do you not hear the voice of the serpent, seeking to corrupt the minds of Orthodoxy, leading us away from our simplicity?
Here is what the serpent says: O, Orthodox Church! Why do you keep your distance? Why are you afraid of me? I am no dragon; I am a sweet angel bearing the message of love. I am not going to hurt you. Keep your dogmas and your traditions. Leave these things to the theologians …I invite you into my room to discuss other matters. Let us make a common stand against hunger, against poverty, against atheism, against communism, against war. Do these matters not move you? Does this proposition not excite you? Come then, let us begin our conversation on high, on the level of ecumenicity, on the level of mutual understanding. You will see just how beautiful our coming together can be!
O, Orthodox Church! Our suffering mother! Will you accept this proposition? Will you enter into dialogue with Papism? Can you not see the danger inherent in this proposition? That those who ineptly and unworthily represent you are creating conditions favorable to your enemies to such a fearful degree that you, without even taking notice, will fall into the arms of Papism. And what will follow then? A union, a pseudo-union, spiritual adultery, a most vile act; something which ought never to have occurred…” (lessonsfromamonastery.wordpress.com)
“Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, talks about next May’s meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew
Question: “Pope Francis will go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May and meet the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew 1 and other Christian leaders in Jerusalem for the 50th anniversary of the historic encounter of their predecessors - Paul VI and Athenagoras, there on 5 January 1964. How significant will the meeting in May be?”
Bishop Farrell: “Well, as somebody once said, historical events can only happen once. Their anniversaries are never as effective as the first time; it’s impossible to repeat such an extraordinary event as happened in 1964. Fifty years later, however, it’s truly important that we have a public re-affirmation, on the part of the two Churches, of the intentions of Paul VI and Athenagoras at that time, and of the progress that has come as a result of that great meeting.
So I think that what we have here is both an affirmation that we’ve been on the right track and a kind of intensification of the relationship so that we can move on now to further steps towards communion.” (vaticaninsider.lastampa.it)
Here are comments made February 28th 2014 by the Metropolitan of Pergamon, Ioannis Zizioulas, a former member of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, co-President of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.
Zizioulas: The link
“Zizioulas, whom many consider to be the greatest living Christian theologian (his “Eucharistic ecclesiology” is appreciated both by Pope Francis and his predecessor Benedict XVI) restores faith in the upcoming meeting between the Bishop of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem next May. He sees unity among Christians as much more than just an alliance between Church hierarchies to form a ‘common front’ to deal with ethical and sex-related issues.
Meanwhile, the direction the Ukrainian crisis has taken raises questions once again over the control the Patriarchate of Moscow exercises over the majority of Orthodox parishes in the Ukraine.”
In response to a question regarding the upcoming meeting between Francis and Bartholomew in Jerusalem, Zizioulas said:
“It’s going to be a very important event. The intention is to commemorate the meeting between Paul VI and Athenagoras 50 years ago, the first time a Pope and an ecumenical Patriarch had met since the days of the schism. Their embrace sparked hopes of forthcoming unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. This has not yet happened.
But it is important to show the world that we are continuing to move patiently and determinedly towards unity. We are on our way to achieving this. We haven’t stopped. This is why the upcoming meeting between Francis and Bartholomew in Jerusalem will not just be a commemorative act looking to the past but represents a door that is open to the future.” (byztex.blogspot.co.uk)
Could this ecumenical dialogue affect events in Ukraine?
Often lost amongst the political situation is the part played by the Roman Catholic Church in the ongoing drama in Ukraine. And the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine is unique, as the following article points out!
“Perhaps sensing inevitable backlash, President Viktor Yanukovych has offered an olive branch to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church by saying religions should be able to offer services anywhere. The president’s press office issued the statement Tuesday after Ukraine’s Culture Ministry sent a warning letter to church officials about their work with pro-EU demonstrators.
‘People should have the right to pray where they wish,’ Yanukovych said, according to the presidential press service. ‘We need to relax the legislation requirements and ensure believers have an opportunity to pray where they wish.’ The culture ministry sent the letter to church officials saying they’re breaking the law by offering outdoor services to protesters, Agence France-Presse reported. Upset Ukrainians have besieged Kiev’s Independence Square, or the Maidan, for two months after the government abruptly rejected an agreement with the European Union in favor of ties with Russia.
The Greek Catholic Church has erected tents in the square where people can pray, give confession or even have babies baptized. The letter to Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk reminded him that it’s illegal to hold services outside a church. ‘We thought that the prosecution of priests was a thing of the past,’ Shevchuk said in response, according to AFP.
On the UGCC website, Shevchuk said the church is playing an essential role in preventing human rights abuses. He also called for ‘honest and open dialogue - our church has always been true and will remain so for the future despite any threats,’ the website reads.
Ukrainian Church is Unique! It Embraces Byzantine traditions and the Roman Catholic Church.
The church dates back centuries and is unique in that it embraces Byzantine traditions and the Roman Catholic Church. It was forced underground in the early 20th century as a threat to Soviet rule. Hundreds of UGCC clergy were sent to Soviet gulags for refusing to embrace the Russian Orthodox Church. The church appears to be bolstering protester resolve today. Since Ukrainian independence in 1991, the Greek Catholic Church has witnessed something of a renaissance. AFP says it boasts 5.5 million followers, or about 12 percent of the population.” (globalpost.com)
In a Co-Worker Letter dated November 22, 1982, Mr Armstrong wrote:
“Other reasons have held up and delayed the formation of a United States of EUROPE. The nations there are divided by different languages – German, Italian, Spanish, French, Polish, Romanian, Greek and others. They are divided by different nationalistic aspirations and patriotisms. They have different governmental systems and currencies.
Bible prophecy says this European unification will be also a union of Church and State (Revelation 17).
Many European political leaders do not want religious domination, or even participation. But they are coming to realize they cannot be welded together into one great European super nation without the unifying power of the Catholic church.
And therein has been another problem that has caused long delay in achieving unification. The Catholic church is divided between the Roman Catholic church in the west and the Greek Orthodox church in the east. The latter has strenuously objected to supremacy of the Pope, and to the doctrine of papal infallibility. But on this trip we learned in Athens that the Eastern Orthodox church at last is willing to give in on papal leadership, though not yet in agreement on infallibility. I feel sure some compromise or agreement will be reached very soon.
When I was last in Jerusalem, the Patriarch of Jerusalem came to see me. I asked whether he felt ecumenical reunion would be achieved with the Roman church. His reply was, ‘We are praying for it.’
On the Pope’s recent 10-day visit to Spain, he made an urgent plea for a united Europe. He warned that Europe faces many crises in the immediate future. The solution, he said, lies in the affirmation of Europe’s Christian heritage. He told the audience: ‘Find yourself… discover your origins. Give life to your roots,’ which are Roman Catholic.
So even the Pope now comes out in public advocating European restoration of ‘the Holy Roman Empire.’ Religion, he contended, is the unifying balm for healing the differences between divergent languages and national aspirations.
An important government official in Athens said to me that European unification on a political and military basis is the only hope for world peace. But this world little understands what in real fact is going to bring world peace at last.” (Co-Worker Letter – November 22, 1982)
Major changes in society normally happen as a result of a crisis. The bigger the crisis, the bigger the change!
Right now, there is a major crisis in Ukraine. If the USA does not intervene, as seems likely, it will be seen to be weak, both by Russia, and Germany.
3rd March News Update: It has just been confirmed…
“…three senior US administration officials made clear that the ‘menu’ of options before the White House does not include military action.” (theguardian.com)
The article also points to the fact that China is backing Russian actions in Ukraine.
This could further boost Germany’s new more robust foreign policy – politics backed up by military might. It could further the push towards a United States of Europe – as Europeans see that they can no longer rely on America/NATO for protection.
As Mr Armstrong stated, a United States of Europe “…can be brought about only through the Roman Catholic Church… An ecumenical union between the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox churches could well precede such a union of nations into one super, combined nation.” (Co-Worker Letter – November 27, 1981)
Is that ‘ecumenical union between the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox churches’ about to be finalized? The meeting in Jerusalem during May 24th-26th between Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew could well lead to unity between Rome and the Orthodox Church. Both men strongly desire this unity. Patriarch Bartholomew’s Presence at Pope Francis’ Installation as Bishop of Rome was evidence of this. This pointed the way to a healing of the breach which occurred in 1054 AD.
The present crisis in Ukraine could well speed up the process. If the Roman Church and the Greek Orthodox Churches officially heal the breach, the ‘United Universal Church’ will be seen as a world unifying religious force. Will the Catholic Church intervene in the Ukrainian crisis – through links with the Russian Orthodox Church? Mr Putin is a member of the Russian Orthodox Church; will the Church influence his actions?
The next step in an often predicted major financial collapse – The Great Universal Church could rally the ‘faithful’ into supporting a strong leader in Europe. With the Church united under Rome, and a United States of Europe created, any opposition will not be tolerated!
With the USA limiting its action in the Ukrainian crisis to ‘political and financial sanctions’, it has confirmed it’s impotency as a military power to Russia, China and Germany – and the rest of the world.
Things are happening fast…
“Accordingly then, let us not sleep, as the rest do, but let us keep wide awake [alert, watchful, cautious, and on our guard] and let us be sober [calm, collected, and circumspect].” (1 Thessalonians 5:6 Amplified Bible)