Friday, May 24, 2019

Dale Schurter Health Declining After Dave Pack Used Him and Then Abandoned Him

Remember several years ago when Dave Pack was crowing like a strutting cock in a barnyard about how he had scored a major coup when Dale Schurter jumped COG's and joined up with the Restored Church of God?  Dale then disappeared from public view. Dave then boasted about how he had to reeducate Dale into the true mysteries of the RCG.  Dale disappeared for several months as he was being inculcated into the great mysteries of  God Dave. Then Dale was back for a while and then suddenly Dave went on the warpath and publicly shamed Dale and his wife.

Like any good Church of God leader, Dave did not take care of Dale and left him on his own as various illnesses took their toll on him.  While Dave built himself a new home and expanded his campus, Dale was left by the wayside without any assistance.

This is the latest on Dale Schurter:

Hello everyone,
Wish this was good news, but without God's intervention, does not look good. 
Saw an update this morning, offering great hope for Dale's recovery.  Meantime, just learned this afternoon that Dale fell at some point in the facility where he was being kept and broke his hip.
With a broken hip, the facility now says they cannot care for Dale and will not accept him back.  Insurance says it will not cover the costs for a facility that does care for such patients according to Linda Schurter who has been helping Dale and Mona by handling their financial matters even before all these latest health issues.
At this point their son David also has serious health problems (just diagnosed as having Lymes disease) and is only mobile about 30 minutes or so a day, spending the rest of the time in bed.   
Vernon and Marian say they cannot care for both Mona and Dale and are thinking to put Mona in a home for alsheimer's patients and have Dale stay with them if other arrangements cannot be worked out.  I fear that will be the end for Mona, as her thinking seems to be very clear at times and not so much so at others, but clear enough to comprehend she is alone and apart from Dale I am sure, unless they keep her sedated with drugs as I hear is standard practice in some of these facilities.
This is as much as I know to give at this time in order to help our prayers be beaten fine for them both.

"Christianity: It's Personal": A Response to Dennis (for the benefit of all Readers)

I received many responses on my previous contribution entitled "Christianity: It's Personal". I want to personally thank every person who commented on this article, I appreciate each comment and have read every one. Tonight, I want to specifically discuss a comment from Dennis concerning the approach of witnessing from a Christian to one who has gone through a substantial amount of loss and pain in their walk of life as Christian. Dennis' comments will be in block quote, and in italics. 

SHT said: " I can tell you right now that I am absolutely certain – fully convinced – of the personal intervention of spiritual beings in my life – interventions in my path, interventions that have saved me from harm, interventions in daily life, warnings that have stopped me from certain catastrophe – even direct angelic experiences. There is no other explanation to me. This is personal."
First of all, I completely understand the reality of events that could have ended our lives , didn't for some reason and it is completely normal to attribute them to divine intervention and protection when in a church environment. It is natural and something expressed by people of all faiths when something almost happened to them that didn't or did and they recovered etc.

That is true. I am well aware of the fact that if you are Muslim, you thank Allah. If you are Christian, you thank Jesus - and the same goes for even atheists, who thank "their lucky stars" or even "good fortune". There is an inherent gratefulness in the hearts of everyone who for whatever reason experiences a good nudge from certain doom to their favor. So you and I both are in complete agreement about the human response of thanksgiving. We simply differ on to whom, or what, receives the gratitude. 

I just want to relate the downside of being overly public and enthusiastic about our perceived divine interventions and yet be unaware or careless around those that also have their faith and suffered a loss without intervention or protection within the same community.

You raise an interesting point that I believe all Christians should take a good and hard look at. Is their witness - or testimony - perceived as haughty, callous, self-righteous, or even smug? Can a witness approached in the wrong way actually turn someone off from the Lord when it was intended to help? Can a person be working not out of love, but out of self-serving pious conviction and not even see the hypocrisy of their actions? Yes, that can happen. It has happened. I've witnessed people - even close people - who are completely insensitive to the emotional fragility of the person they are speaking to or praying for, ignoring the substance of love in favor of the normalcy of "Christian etiquette". There was a person that I witnessed who was praying for a person with cancer who only had days to live. The Christian praying a prayer was praying commands to the cancer for it to be gone and etc... and the end result is that the cancer did not leave, and the individual died not many days after this happened. I've seen interventions fail to happen, and I've seen protections fail to happen. I - and I believe every other Christian (and non-Christian, and other faithful people of different belief) have experienced the "lack of response" of prayer or protection and yes, it can be a very faith-trying experience to have something not happen that is, to us, "supposed" to happen. I believe that the main differences have to do with a general public testimony versus a specific personal testimony, and when you talk to a person as if they were a general audience, then that is where the problems come in. TOO many people lack personal sensitivity and compassion and common sense love when personally counseling a person who has suffered a loss or are in general, suffering. It is difficult to be unaware or careless in a "general" testimony or witness, because the general testimony and witness is geared to many, not a personal conversation with a genuinely suffering person. 

You relate this story: 
At a Festival back in the day my church area and others close by had suffered horrible losses of children through drowning, farm accidents leading to rather difficult deaths from which I will spare us the details and auto accidents etc. One minister during his sermon went on and on about a miraculous intervention by God that saved one of his congregants children etc. It was a long story and while I understood his enthusiasm to impress God's intervention, he was not aware of was not thinking that any number of families in such a large crowd had not received such a blessing. They got a funeral and all in the same context of the church. While he is going on and on about God's intervention they are reliving the horror and dying inside refeeling guilt and asking why they were not so blessed. It was very unwise of the minister to do this I am sure he was simply oblivious to the fact that the audience may have had dozens of such families regrieving their loss and perhaps losing faith or the ground they had gained since the death and no protection.
At lunch I approached him and had this chat with him about being careful and being aware of such brethren in the audience who were being forced by his good tale to relive their bad one. He looked at me like I was stupid and moved on. Oh well, I tried.

It is a difficult thing, balance. Especially when talking to a group of people (whether it's 10 or hundreds, or thousands) to fully address every circumstance in a public sermon or discussion, where people of many different experiences gather together. I think the right thing to do in these situations is to devote an entire message to exactly what some congregants experience. To address the question "Is it Me, Lord?" and "Should I feel Guilty?" and at the least, interject that those questions would be spoken to in a different sermon soon to come. I, too, can tell you certainly that I have also experienced those times when I have felt "not blessed" when others have been, "ignored" when God was certainly helping others when I also felt he should have been helping me in the same manner, and all those feelings. In fact, I think that the majority of the congregation (not just the few families of the congregation) probably had those thoughts. A good preacher would have acknowledged that the congregation would have been thinking such and at least addressed a teaser in that message, and not doing so was a mistake that many (myself included) make in talking about interventions, miracles, and divine interventions. Perhaps, it's due to excitement and that desire to share without thinking about those who are going through discouragement and hard times and doubting, questioning, and thinking about quitting the faith in pure hurt, depression, discouragement, and despair - and sometimes anger at God himself for the way things have gone and life has turned out. The thing is: Everyone who claims to be a Christian has had those moments at one time or another, and if they haven't, they will. You make a good point that compassion and understanding towards all who read or listen to a testimony or a witness should be top priority, and such a witness should be carefully and prayerfully thought on and how it will be perceived by anyone and everyone in their congregation or audience. Sadly, in the COG's, this was very rarely the case by most pastors, who instead were more concerned about other things than that. 

Just a note here to be careful in such matters in public and aware of the feelings and challenges in the loss of their children in the same Church environment and all the chaos and doubt that brings with it.

Agreed. I do need to add that there should not be an apology for enthusiasm and witness. One wouldn't be a Christian if they were ashamed or embarrassed or hesitated to witness the interventions and miracles of God - it's part of the deal, you could say - but it must always be accompanied and carefully embraced with love and compassion toward the situations of your audience. Could I have done better with my last article? Absolutely yes. No one is harder on myself than myself when I fail to consider certain elements when I am sharing my story and my faith, because it's what is important to me. So, I will gladly take your counsel, acknowledging the fact that you are a compassionate and caring person who genuinely has the interests, feelings, and compassion of those who read or hear in mind. You truly do have the heart and soul of a caring and considerate teacher and pastor. 

Personally to me, time and chance happens to all of us. I have escaped weird and near fatal things as a pastor (near plane crash, near falling out of one (don't laugh), missing a flight hit by a fighter jet over LA, inexplicable headon crash that ...I don't know what didn't happen there as I thought "It's finally happened to me", but I learned my last words would be "oh shit...' :)

It is true. Time and chance - and random events do happen to all of us. Yet there are just as many times when there is absolutely no denying what happened was not just "time and chance", but the absolute masterminding of an extraordinarily powerful intelligence that had to take over where my human stupidity nearly completely took me off whatever path I was supposed to be on at the time. What's random? What's not? What's just happenstance - and what's a divine intervention? In my opinion, some things we just don't know, and it's okay not to know. My thought is in everything, be grateful and for happenstance or divine intervention, for the good and for the bad, for the times of plenty and the times of poverty, for the times of gain and the times of loss, the lesson is trust and reliance on that great Intelligence and thinking beyond ourselves. A Scripture in the Bible says, "The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still". It's a scripture I hold to when I find myself spinning paddles against the water. 

I am writing this not to convince you of my side of the coin here, but to acknowledge your validity of your statement, and to share a response that I believe the entire audience here might benefit from. Many might condemn you for your lack of belief and current positions on all things spiritual. I do not. Instead, I thank you for your compassionate nature and heart of understanding that many in the COG's have never had and never will have.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

United Church of God Still Cannot Figure Out How To Properly Run Itself After 24 Years

That gang of fun-loving boys in Cincinnati held another Conference of Elders recently. This is always that fun time when the UCG ministry from around the world gathers to hear words of encouragement, learn that budgets have been set ensuing their salaries for one more year, and hear important topics that the world is soooooo interested in, like British Israelism.  It seems like after 24 years things still have not changed.

Of the 300 some elders pastoring in UCG, only 144 even bothered to show up.  Seriously dudes, get your act together!  You have a great commission in front of you, act like it! Sheesh!

Anyway, at this conference, like ALL the other conferences, goals were set out for the church to aspire to.  UCG is still desperately seeking to make itself relevant to the world of 2019/20. They want their members to be filled with joy and so warm and loving that people will flock to join up.  Yeah, right. I'm going to start holding my breath right now that this will be accomplished.  I just know it will! Cough....

“I would like to share with you the nine primary goals I have as Operation Manager for Ministerial and Member Services:
Develop close relationships with all pastors and elders. Together we want God to be pleased with our service to His children and called-out ones.
Encourage all pastors to be helpers of our members’ joy and to involve all members in service wherever possible. Develop church congregations around the world that are warm and inviting to new attendees.
UCG elite from Cincinnati will be traveling to as many UCG churches as possible this year to show the members that they love them and care for them, so much so that they will continue to pay tithes and keep the church afloat, which is the ultimate reason behind these trips. 
Visit as many church areas as feasible with the intent to meet as many members as possible and to cultivate a relationship of mutual trust and openness.
The Boys in Cincinnati are also going to survey the members of UCG to see if they are satisfied with the church and its ministry.  Just how many more of these surveys does UCG need to do to figure out things are not right in the church?  The huge implosion that formed the Church of God a Worldwide Association should have been a warning sign that things were NOT going well!
Survey every congregation to determine overall satisfaction level of members and to help pastors and elders improve in their service to our local congregations.
They are going to implement annual pastor and elder self-evaluations.  Seriously? Self-evaluations?  Can UCG members honestly expect ministers to properly self-evaluate? Why not let the members evaluate the ministers and elders?  That will quickly hold ministers accountable and swiftly ensure some will be losing jobs!  Oh, wait!  This is UCG after all, and they protect their own.  No minister needs to ever worry. 
Implement annual pastoral and elder self-evaluations, in collaboration with regional pastor and pastors.
Improve regional ministerial conferences and ministerial education, Leadership Workshops, Pastoral Development Program, all programs and online training.
Respond to international requests and needs for training and help.
Encourage all pastors to mentor others in their congregations to serve in the ministry.
The ministry is also encouraged to head off conflicts in the church by invoking Matthew 18.  (In case you forget what Matt 18 is about, it is posted below.)  Many, if not most of the conflicts in the church have been caused by ministers, elders, and the leadership in Cincinnati.  That doesn't matter though, its the members who will be accused of causing problems. They always have been.
Endeavor to head off conflicts in the early stages–point everyone involved to follow Matthew 18 carefully.
I asked all pastors and elders to be actively involved in helping these goals to be realized. I would ask that you, too, where applicable, also help in the achievement of these goals for Ministerial and Member Services.”


Matthew 18 New International Version (NIV)

The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Causing to Stumble

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

The Parable of the Wandering Sheep

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. [11] [a]
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Dealing With Sin in the Church

15 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[e] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[f] loosed in heaven.
19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[g]
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[h]was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

COG Prophet Declares WWIII WILL NOT Begin June 13, 2019

The other day God's most important end time servant and closet Catholic had a posting on his blog trying to prove that an article on a fringe right-wing Catholic site that is predicting the start of WWIII on June 12, 2019 it wrong.  I had to laugh when I first saw his post, considering here is a self-appointed prophet of a fringe splinter group of the Worldwide Church of God trying to prove a fringe group of the Catholic church is wrong.

Then I received this today:
I see that Prophet Bob also predicts what WON’T happen.  This is a neat trick: find some even more obscure, deluded, and fringe group or person than you; publish their prophecy, and then explain that it won’t happen. Today’s example being COGWriter’s email about WW3 occurring this year.  This is far safer than trying to guess what will happen, and it improves your overall Prophecy Score. (“I predicted that the Great Tribulation wouldn’t occur in 2001 and 2002 and 2003 etc etc. and, by golly, it didn’t.  I must be thrice blessed with the Spirit of Prophecy.”)
This is what the COG false prophet quoted from the fringe Catholic site:
A fringe Catholic site, possibly based on Jacinta Marto of Fatima fame and/or other apparition reported a claim related to the start of WWIII:
A Possible Date of World War III – #1…
June              13        through       15                    2019
A Possible Date of World War III – #2…
October            13     through       15                   2019
(What Could Happen in 2018 and 2019… These Last Days Ministry, Updated July 13, 2018. Update accessed 11/01/18)

The ‘Lady of Fatima’ appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal, once a month (almost always on the 13th of the month) from May to October 1917. 
A massive shrine related to this is now in Fatima, Portugal. 
Some believe that the ‘Lady’ correctly predicted the end of WWI, as well as the coming WWII, and some future disaster. 
Is it possible that WWIII, which would seem to be the start of the prophesied Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21) can happen next month or in October of 2019?
Then in his smug, self-righteous know-it-all attitude adds this:
Based upon Jesus’ words, there is no possibility that the Great Tribulation can happen in 2019 and those who rely on the Bible have realized this. It is only those who overlook scripture and rely on their own views and/or false traditions who make the mistake of thinking that the Great Tribulation can, or could, happen in 2019. 
Why do I state this? 
Jesus pointed to Daniel. 
Daniel shows that the coming “King of the North” will make a deal of some sort with one called the King of the South just before the appointed time of the end:
27 Both these kings’ hearts shall be bent on evil, and they shall speak lies at the same table; but it shall not prosper, for the end will still be at the appointed time (Daniel 11:27). 
Thus, one reason that the Great Tribulation will not begin yet is that one known as the final King of the North in Daniel 11 needs to rise up.
Elijah Thiel has been blabbing for some time now that not one single COG group understands prophecy as he does and will be left behind when it is time to flee to Petra.  Only he and his group are  the people who possess the real truth.

How many more of these buffoons need to arise in the Church of God who proclaims this kind of crap?  We already have so many of these men making these kinds comments and not a single one of them has ever told the truth.  Not one of their prophecies has ever come true nor will it ever.

All Elijah Bob does is spend his time trying to prove other people wrong in order to make himself look good and "accurate" in the eyes of his deceived followers in Africa. God is not working with Thiel, never has and never will.  That is what is so sad about the thousands of African followers he has duped into believing he is a prophet, they believe he is essential to their walk with God.  He is not and never will be.


Christianity: It's Personal

There will never, ever be any scientific evidence that atheists require out of Christians for proof of our convictions. Never. I do not have it, I have never claimed to have it, I never will claim to have it. Because the scientific evidence that atheists demand simply does not exist. This does not, and will not, waver my Christian beliefs. How is it that I can live with such a paradox of thought? How is it that I readily admit that I don't have the evidence that atheists look for, but continue to accept what they would consider to be blatant fiction?

It's a valid question and an important question. It's also a question that needs to be thought out and pondered – especially as more and more question the validity of the Christian faith for many, many reasons – especially when mainstream Christianity has become, in my opinion, anything but Christianity but a political and financial powerhouse in itself, which poses in a shroud of religiosity. But that is for another time.

Why then do I continue to believe in Jesus Christ and His teachings? Why is it that I believe in the realms of heaven and the reality of spiritual beings even though I cannot show you or prove their existence? Why is it that I believe in angels? Why is it that I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? That there even is a God? I can't prove it to you – so why do I continue to harbor and support what many today regard to be myths, legends, fantasies, or even acute mental illness? How is it that I can believe in the face of so many arguments that seemingly assert that the Christian faith (and other religions) are simply the relics of bronze age educational immaturity?

It's not that I ignore the arguments. In fact, I know them pretty well. I've not only read Dennis' posts frequently – and much more than these – I have. It's not like I haven't heard of the skeptic's bible or skeptical positions. It's not that I haven't ignored the theories of Dawkins, the scientific minds of brilliant physicists, or the many arguments of the non-religious. Many of their findings are rooted in scientific fact and evidence, that's undeniable. I don't ignore the arguments. I don't even reject the arguments. The fact is, much of what they say can be evidenced as fact in reality – in our universe and in our realm. 

So how do I reconcile the fact that they may be correct in some things and yet I am still a Christian?
  • I believe in the existence of other realms beyond our scientific evidences of our realm.
This may be the most important belief structure that I carry. Science itself has proven that there are multiple, parallel dimensions well beyond our own, separate and distinct. I embrace this belief and reality, and I believe that what many call “Heaven”, and what many call “Hell”, and other realms in between, are simply what scientists now believe that have theories that point to their existence. This is where I am not able to pull out “proof” to the point. The only thing I can do in regards to this is to believe.
  • I believe in the personal evidence of a personal God in my personal life.
This is equally as important a belief structure as the first thing. That the evidence that I hold is personal, undeniable evidence that no other person beyond myself can prove. I can tell you right now that I am absolutely certain – fully convinced – of the personal intervention of spiritual beings in my life – interventions in my path, interventions that have saved me from harm, interventions in daily life, warnings that have stopped me from certain catastrophe – even direct angelic experiences. There is no other explanation to me. This is personal. This will not, and cannot stop those of whom I might share these experiences with from attempting to use the rules, laws, and physics of our universe to attempt to explain these away – using arguments of illusion, illness, coincidence, irrational thought, and you name the other twenty thousand explanations they would come up with. Yet personally – to me – there is no other explanation as to where I am today except for the direct intervention of spirit beings in my life. It is the only thing that makes sense to me.

Now, what about my belief in Jesus Christ, and in God? Even if many can accept the reality of some sort of higher power – that can stop for many when it comes to the claims of Jesus and of God as written in thousands of year old scriptures. The only answer that I can give is this:
  • Believing in Who and What Jesus Christ and God is – and the Holy Spirit – is a matter of personal conviction and faith and cannot be proven in any other way. It's a sole choice.
There will always be, and has always been, countless physical arguments concerning the things of God and Jesus Christ. There will always be those who will look at the Bible “literally” and will “literally” debunk tens of chapters and thousands of scriptures that do not fit with reality by any shape or form. There will be many who will look at some scriptures and literally refute talking donkeys, burning bushes, worldwide floods, six days of creation and one day of rest, manna – and taking it clear to the resurrection of dead bodies being raised, earthquakes, three hours of darkness, and you can go on and on with the literalism. The truth is, I wasn't there. You weren't there. We are not familiar with the writing styles and allegorical styles of thousands of years ago. We will never get a full grasp of what the whole story really was. The problem happens when you begin to take our translations of scripture as completely literal and fully perfect (there have been full scriptures added, and words removed or changed, depending on the translation.) The other problem happens when your understanding is that there is nothing beyond the box beyond the “written word”. I do not pretend to know the whole story. I do not pretend to have all the answers. What I do know is that I believe in the main point of the story – the central focus of Love, of God, how man fell from Grace, and was reconciled to God the Father through Jesus Christ, and all that entails in the age of grace and reconciliation to the Father in this present age. Misunderstandings only happen when you look at things perfectly and literally and miss the overall big picture.

Then there's the elephant in the room I need to talk about. What about “Old Testament Bible God”? What about all of the blatantly horrible things that are mentioned in Numbers? And Deuteronomy? Kings? And other OT books? What about that? Do atheists have a point here? Are they right that Bible God is exactly what they say He is? And that Old Testament God and New Testament God seem to be two very different Gods – or one very Bi-Polar God? How does one reconcile the things that Old Testament God did or endorsed – with the things New Testament God condemns? Does this make any sense? Are we just to ignore the arguments of those who see these things and are bold enough to point them out? Are we to simply ignore them and say “We don't have all the answers”? Should we brush those points out?

No. I don't believe we should. There's a lot in the Old Testament that is cringe-worthy to read. There's a lot that is horrific. A lot that is very gruesome and a lot that we know is unacceptable in a civilized society. No one is going to claim that such things are permissible “just because God did it so we can too”. If we were to believe that then we've missed the whole point. So how then do we approach this?

I can only tell you how I approach it. First, I believe that through the beginning of time to the end of time that the realms of love have always existed, and that God is and always has been love. Scripture is clear that God has always been love, and changes not, yesterday, today, and forever. Love is and always has been the nature of God, through and through. We know that is the foundation of all things holy – love. Second, I know that something happened from modern man's rise in civilization – the introduction of wickedness and evil from what we read in the Bible are called “the Serpent”, and “the Watchers” otherwise known as the “Nephilim”. We know this wickedness rose to horrific proportions, according to scripture. We know that mankind was categorically evil through and through, due to the interference of the “serpent”, the “watchers” and the “Nephilim”. Do I have proof of these things? No, I do not. It is simply a matter of belief.

It is my belief that in order to be reconciled to God the “fully evil” mankind had to be made “fully aware” of their condition and their need for a Savior to reconcile them to God. This then is where the prophets came in and the Law was made known so as to bring people to a place where repentance could finally be achieved, and where Love could come down and reconcile mankind to the Father, once, and for all. I am not going to sit here and claim that I know all the answers to the OT God/NT God questions. Because I do not have the answers. It is only by faith and by belief that I can state this: That just because we do not know the answers completely does not mean that we have to have it all figured out. There is much we must admit we don't know, and things we think we know and understand and have to admit we absolutely do not understand. It is not shameful to admit we don't know it all, but to trust that those things will be answered in due course. It is more shameful to try to convince others of things we say we know and actually do not, then to admit we do not know when asked if we know.

It can seem difficult to live a life of belief in a world where physical evidence is absolutely mandatory in modern life to show fundamental truth because our belief is in what is beyond our reality, and what is beyond our realm. It is beyond us. This is what Christianity demands, though. Christianity demands belief in the unbelievable. Christianity demands we believe what Christ has told us. Christianity demands we take Jesus for his WORD. Christianity demands we surrender ourselves and let Christ lead the way to the other realms we know nothing of, but have personally and unexplainably yet undoubtedly experienced. Christianity demands faith in those things which have not yet been seen, and belief in that which has not been revealed. This is the life of the Christian. This is the life of faith. It's a life that seems to the atheist to be crazy, insane, ill, illogical, redundant, misguided, ridiculous, bronze-ageish, mythological, fantastical, immature, unreasonable, and uneducated in every sense of our physically minded realm. But personally, it's anything but. Personally, it's a whole different picture. It's meaningful, reliable, calming, assuring, relieving, clear, fully visioned, fully seen, grateful, truthful, and – and this is the main point – absolutely undeniable. But you can't convince anyone else of what you know is true, because it's personal. And it's real – but only to you. And your God who has a personal relationship with YOU.

And in that is the whole point which physics, literalism and atheism cannot and will never see, feel, or grasp. Which leads Christians to be seen to be illogical, unreasonable, insane, mentally ill, and uneducated.

If that's how it seems, that's how it seems. Because it's a personal link to a personal God. And there's no other way to explain it. And there never will be any other way to explain it. Not now, not ever.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Promised Land: New Play Based Upon Armstrongism, Brighton, UK

Rhiannon Brace’s autobiographical play The Promised Land gives us the best of two dramatic worlds – the ring of authenticity and a pleasing narrative arc (not always present in autobiographical work). Her website states that she 'creates performance from a female perspective' that is 'often rooted in personal experience and events'.

The best of two dramatic worlds.

Here we are drawn into Brace’s childhood experience of the Worldwide Church of God, a conservative and fundamentalist Christian organisation with a head office in the USA. The end of the world is nigh, and this inevitably has repercussions – what is the point of making long term plans? Why go to school when we’re all about to be consumed in a lake of fire? (except for the faithful, of course, who will enter the Promised Land). Ultimately, though, how many years can you wait for the imminent end of the world?

Brace’s evangelical father (played with benign menace by Scott Swinton) tells us, as members of the congregation, 'Satan is not neglecting your children!', and every aspect of life has to be policed to keep the faithful and their vulnerable offspring safe - television and pop music are full of invitations into an almost universally sinful world. In terms of UK television, only Blue Peter gets an enthusiastic thumbs up. All else has dangerous content lurking like deadly rocks below the surface, ready to wreck all good intentions.

The only problem is that Brace is not faithful, she is indomitably guileless and with an innocence that becomes increasingly fragile as time passes. She is a musician who cannot understand why music can be sinful; a dancer who can only see beauty, and not Satan, in the ballet that she is learning and which ultimately becomes forbidden.

The perspective of personal experience makes this a tender piece of theatre rather than a cult-bashing diatribe, although the toxic nature of this kind of rule bound religious community is clear throughout. Being told that she will need to be subservient and obedient to her future husband leaves Brace bemused rather than angry and this is perhaps a key point: in the sheltered world of her community such statements are perfectly normal, even though it is the 1990s. In Rhiannon’s case, independent spirit (which, we are reminded, comes solely from Satan) remains subdued but it is still very much alive. Poignantly, we find that this remains the case despite much effort to subdue it. A tale of female resilience and survival, this is a testament to one woman’s authenticity and tenacity in a world that demands subjugation and threatens ‘disfellowship’ at every turn.

Novelist, journalist, co-founder of Yama Theatre and Fringe fan. Author of cult Brighton based novel Thirteen.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

COG Myths: The Place of Safety CANNOT Be The Mountains!

Ever since Herbert Armstrong and Gerald Waterhouse dreamed up fantastical stories about "the place of safety" or the "place of final training", the church has been filled with endless speculation on how this would happen.

We all know that Herb and crew designated Petra as that final place, while a few raving lunatics found other places, like Pella, Utah, in your own home, in the moutnains. and many more crazy ideas.  You can now official scratch the mountains as a place of safety.

Juan Raines of Truth Search, a COG splinter, has the reason the mountains CANNOT be the place of safety.  Because the mountains are now infected with survivalists, white supremacists, and forest rangers, it will not be safe to hide in the mountains. Leave it up to Smokey the Bear and the forest rangers to kill a good idea!

Another aspect of the argument is that God will protect us wherever we live, in the mountains, etc.  Forget that!  The mountains of this country are no haven for anyone.  They are full of forest rangers and if people started hiding out in the mountains the FBI, and other federal agents, would be swarming in no time.  Furthermore, there is the problem of finding food to eat and water to drink.  Moreover, let us face it; most of us could not climb a good size hill without having to call in an ambulance with a cardiac massage team!  One might say, “But God will have to produce miracles.”  True!  
Therefore, why does it have to be in the mountain at the back of our home?