Saturday, September 14, 2019

Herman Hoeh and Rabid Squirrels

"Plagues are coming-and, according to this prophetic warning, in about two years from now! Our cattle have already suffered from the drought. Soon we shall find that the hoof-and-mouth disease will spread out of control! Rabid foxes, squirrels, muskrats will attack our children. For seven long and frightful years, we are going to suffer as never before-until we be left 'few in number.'..." -- The Plain Truth, Herman Hoeh, April 1956, p. 22.

File this under "Stupid Things Church of God Ministers Say..."

" If you no longer climb up, you slide back. If you no longer hold on, you fall away. If you no longer adhere to a set of rules or responsibilities, you have lapsed."

Hard To Become An Atheist: What Christians Don’t Realize (And Atheists Don’t Talk About)

There’s something many Christians don’t realize, and many atheists don’t talk about: it is very hard, scary, and time-consuming to leave your faith and become an atheist. Becoming an atheist (or agnostic, polytheist, etc.) tears at the fabric of your personal identity, rips out all the mental, emotional, and (il)logical safeguards you previously placed your faith in, and decimates your support networks and communities. As a former Christian, I know this firsthand. And it frustrates me that this isn’t talked about more, among Christians and among atheists. So here I am, talking about it on the internet.

Christianese and The “Lazy Atheist”

The Christian community has an extensive lexicon of terms and phrases, something I like to affectionately call “Christianese.” Christianese does some pretty silly things with the English language. It puts prepositions in strange places — only in youth group do you “love on” someone, a term that is both puzzling and slightly pornographic. Christianese also peppers sentences with unnecessary proper nouns and adverbs — “Lord, just…” is a common way to start every sentence in a group prayer.
Christianese also has a selection of phrases for people who leave the faith, including: “backslidden,” (primarily Old Testament) “fallen away” (primarily New Testament) or “lapsed” (primarily institutional). These words all suggest that to leave the faith is an act of laziness, weakness, or lack of trying. If you no longer climb up, you slide back. If you no longer hold on, you fall away. If you no longer adhere to a set of rules or responsibilities, you have lapsed. With this kind of language ingrained in the Christian community, it’s no wonder that they view people who walk away as being weak (either mentally, emotionally, or spiritually). This couldn’t be further from the truth, but the subtle negging of this particular mind game is admittedly brilliant.

Becoming An Atheist Is A Struggle

Listen, leaving a faith you grew up in is not an easy thing. It’s a painful, introspective, self-aware process wherein you strip yourself down to your elements and reassemble yourself piece by piece. It will inevitably include feelings of panic, loss, guilt, anger, frustration, and betrayal, none of which are pleasant and all of which need to be worked through sufficiently before finally coming to terms with your atheism. You will be forced to wade through conversation after frustrating conversation with other Christians — in small group, in church, over lunch with friends, in lecture halls — where the questions eating away at your mind are dismissed with the same Bible verses or institutional catchphrases. Even at my college, surrounded by some of the most intelligent minds in Christian academia, I walked away with either insubstantial fluff or mind-bending interpretive theories, both of which left me wanting to pull my hair out.
Becoming an atheist doesn’t happen overnight, either (although terms like “backsliding” and “falling away” make it sound like a quick, split-second kind of thing). The process of leaving the faith can take years. I started having those first deep, world-shaking questions about my faith four years ago. I’m still adjusting to this new life, weeding out old biases, teaching myself that cosmic guilt is unnecessary. I’ve listened to the many debates, read dozens of books, watched hundreds of videos, inspected multiple holy texts, exposed myself to innumerable worldviews, and exhausted most of my close friends (both religious and otherwise) with persistent conversations on the subject. It’s time-consuming and intentional. It’s not a slip-up, not a mistake, not a lack of attention or concentration, and certainly not weakness.

Choosing To Stay An Atheist Is A Struggle, Too

Once you become an atheist, choosing to stay one presents its own challenges, which require strength and mental clarity. If you come from a background of faith, you will find that the people who used to be your greatest support system either vanish, become hostile, or look at you differently. Sure, the lucky atheists among us might have family or friends that accept them and love them regardless of their lack of faith, but the point remains: you now embody everything they think is wrong with the world. You are now, more or less, the “enemy,” the thing their God said to watch out for. If you are not hated, you are pitied. And you are always, always to be disproved, by word, deed, or prayer.
There are also very personal reasons staying an atheist is hard. If you’re going through a difficult time in your life, it’s really hard to no longer be able to feel like a higher power is watching out for you. If something bad happens to someone you care about and you can’t be there, you feel at a loss to help because you no longer believe prayer works. If someone asks you “Why do I face this challenge?” or “What happens after death?” the answers get a lot more tricky. (On the other hand, questions like “Why do bad things happen to good people?” get a lot easier to answer.) These are trying experiences, especially when you used to feel connected, safe, like you had the answers.

Atheism Is Worth The Struggle

So, why become and stay an atheist? It’s different for different people, and I can only speak for myself. I went to a Christian college where we were encouraged to ask hard questions about faith and the Bible. (Note: Of course I didn't and wasn't)I asked the questions that didn’t have acceptable answers. Believe me, I looked for those answers. If you could have seen 20-year-old Vi staggering out of the library with a dozen thick tomes on the subject of God, you would have laughed. I decided I couldn’t logically come to the conclusion that God existed (at least in the form that Christians claimed He did). It wasn’t even a choice at that point. My brain literally wouldn’t allow me to reenter that warm, fuzzy world of faith, even if I’d wanted to. It was like waking up from a dream and not being able to fall back to sleep.
Once that happened and I came to terms with that loss, I realized that other things I had been living with — a pervasive sense of inherent dirtiness or unworthiness, fear of the corrupt outside world, the ghostly promise of societal persecution, the mental gymnastics required to morally justify Hell, the concept of sin itself — had been lifted from me. The freedom and lightness of being that I’ve felt since then is rivaled only by my newfound ease of mind and spirit. But the point is that this did not happen all at once, it did not happen without sacrifice, and certainly did not happen without years of critical thought and work that continues to this day.

A Call To All Christians With Atheists In Their Lives (AKA All Of Them)

Dear Christians, atheists know you will never agree with them about their lack of belief. Reasonable atheists don’t expect you to. We are grateful when we can have civil conversations about our differences without fear or anger. But the one thing you can do for the atheists in your life (and no matter how insulated in the community you are, I guarantee you have atheists in your life) is respect the intentionality of walking away. We are not weak. We’ve done a very difficult thing, something many people wouldn’t even dare to do. At least give us the courtesy of acknowledging that.
Originally published on Medium in November 2017. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

God's ONLY Prophet Lays Down The Law On Sex And The Day Of Atonement

Bwana Bob Thiel has spoken!  

No sex on the Day of Atonement! 

Furthermore, fasting and sexual abstinence is the norm for those who observe the Day of Atonement/Yom Kippur.

Did Jesus Trick the Sincere Members of the Worldwide Church of God 1933-1986


In reading and musing on the "changes" that swept through WCG in the brief leadership of Joseph Tkach, I don't believe I have worked around or met a more sincere, friendly and dedicated to the cause a person as Greg Williams,  now President of Grace Community International, formerly the Worldwide Church of God. Greg replaces Joseph Tkach Jr, who still lurks from all I can tell.   Although formerly sounds lame as there is no comparison between the two.

As a pastor in SC I knew Greg and his family from the Asheville, NC area. All very fine and dedicated folk. Towards the end of my own time in WCG, I attended meetings on "the changes" etc with Greg and always found him to be probably the one pastor I'd ever wish to say was both friend and pastor of any church I attended.  He's a good man and very sincere in his doings.  We parted ways in every way but I respect Greg for many real ways, both for his personable self and for going on to better educated himself in all things theology.  Something most ministers, in the splits, splinters and slivers of WCG simply will not and cannot do.  

I spent time with Greg in ministerial meetings during the transitional times from what WCG was to what CGI now is.  Greg was on board from the start and almost relieved at the changes and I think that may reflect his having somewhat grown up in WCG.  I on the other hand felt I was just being dragged back into what I grew up with and my enthusiasm was not so apparent as you might expect. We parted ways in every way. I knew I wanted out of what most in the meeting seemed to want in on. 

During that time I also had a chat with Ron Kelley, evangelist in the WCG and now enthusiastic supporter of "the changes."  I have my own view as to why but I spare you. Our discussion took place after I had left the ministry but before I knew what direction I'd take with the rest of my life.  We talked about it all and I asked about some personal concerns to which he replied that the church was not able to meet its obligations because "Jesus worked a great miracle in the church and we simply do not have the funds anymore."   I did ask about the monies harvested with the sale of the Pasadena and Big Sandy Campuses, but evidently that was none of my business.  

Jesus worked a great miracle and Joe Tkach another one by being neither accountable for the resources gained in the sacking of the church properties nor remotely apologetic to the very sincere members whose lives he and his cohorts had turned upside down and over a very short time. The emotional and physical toll on the people never seems to have crossed Joe's mind. I guess when you are convinced you are doing the Lord's work, nothing matters anymore but getting it done and see what's left.

  Joe Tkach Sr. changed the church over in a couple years where historical Christianity took several centuries to do so.  I understand on his deathbed Joe Sr lamented that "I have been so foolish" , but who knows and nice timing Joe.  

I chuckle now at Joe Tkach yelling at my wife over the phone to squelch the rumor I had asked him about the day before, I was not home when he called back, about HWA getting divorced.  Of course about a month later it proved true.  I found the rule when talking to the Tkaches about what they had in mind to change and what not to that a "no not that" meant yes and a "Yes, that is the same" meant not for long.

I have always thought that the Tkaches and those of the same persuasion had an obligation not to change the church to their liking, but to leave it and go where they felt better about their theology. They had no right to hurt so many sincere people whose sacrifices and closely held faith and hope in all things seemingly also taught in the Bible and now rejected by them.  They simply should have left themselves.  It seems it was too difficult to change the church and lose the perks of their "leadership", so the rest is history.

Another grievous mistake was Joe Sr continuing the Herbert/Garner Ted pattern of nepotism by bringing comfortable family into positions of authority. But it was a good example of "The first generation founds it. The Second generation maintains it. The Third generation loses it and walks away."

My question then is, Did JESUS  Trick the Church and the incredibly sincere folk that made it up?  In all those decades of sacrifice both in material and spiritual ways, in all those prayers offered for God to bless the Work, guide the Armstrongs, give personal strength to get through the ups and downs of life and look forward to everything from resurrections of loved ones to the change they no doubt would experience themselves "in a moment in the twinkling of the eye and at the last trump" into the Wonderful World Tomorrow, was it a trick?  Some will say that "Jesus was never in the WCG" but that's not the point. The people were. They read their Bibles, prayed for the success and needs of where they were expressing their sincere faith in God, Jesus and the Kingdom of God to come as they understood it.  They scheduled their lives accordingly and for the most part participated freely and in faith.

If Jesus worked this great miracle, it implies he either was in the Church as a church but decided to play a different game at the expense of the people's faith or , not ever being in it, waited 50 years to intervene and bring the leftovers into the fold and set the course aright, again at the expense of the faith of thousands who can not be blamed for all that followed emotionally, spiritually and in their newfound skepticism of organized religion, which often proves to be an oxymoron in the extreme over time. 

Again I ask...

 Did the Cosmic and Resurrected Jesus, who was the supposed head of the church in all things and leader of the leaders as they followed him, trick the good people of WCG over all those years?  Or perhaps, like the Devil who "didn't do it",  Jesus "didn't do it either"?

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Feast is rapidly approaching and this fraudulent COG leader is expecting you to give him your hard-earned money

Where would the Church of God be without some miserable grumpy self-appointed old leader demanding more money at Feast time?  The COG Chief Pharisee, James Malm, was sitting in his lonely kitchen tonight banging away on his keyboard bemoaning the fact that no one is sending him money right now. Seriously people, get your act together!  You are supposed to financially support the man who does not do any physical work but expects you to hand over your money to keep him living comfortably.  Sadly, there will be some few that will.

12 Sep 15:00 PDT: Dear Friends, over this summer TheShiningLight has received an average of 5,000 unique visitors reading nearly 150,000 pages each month.  This COG News site receives almost the same amount of traffic.  In spite of this almost no one has remembered that your financial support is necessary to do this work.  As the Fall Festivals approach our bank balance is shrinking towards zero and we find ourselves in serious need; please consider helping us to serve you.

Is the COG Belief in Zechariah 14:16 a "Profound Misunderstanding"?

It's that time of year again - time for COG Members and families to go forth and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, in obedience to the prophetic writings of Zechariah in chapter 14. For the COG Community, because the Bible Says It, you then must do it, as a commanded convocation, and this is enough reason for them. Let's look at Zechariah 14:16 and it's commentaries:

16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain. 18 If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
20 In that day “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” shall be engraved on the bells of the horses. The pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. 21 Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the Lordof hosts. Everyone who sacrifices shall come and take them and cook in them. In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts. (NKJV)

Zechariah 14:16-21 Matthew Henry's Bible Commentary (Concise) (Bolding mine) 

"As it is impossible for all nations literally to come to Jerusalem once a year, to keep a feast, it is evident that a figurative meaning must here be applied. Gospel worship is represented by the keeping of the feast of tabernacles. Every day of a Christian's life is a day of the feast of tabernacles; every Lord's day especially is the great day of the feast; therefore every day let us worship the Lord of hosts, and keep every Lord's day with peculiar solemnity. It is just for God to withhold the blessings of grace from those who do not attend the means of grace. It is a sin that is its own punishment; those who forsake the duty, forfeit the privilege of communion with God. A time of complete peace and purity of the church will arrive. Men will carry on their common affairs, and their sacred services, upon the same holy principles of faith, love and obedience. Real holiness shall be more diffused, because there shall be a more plentiful pouring forth of the Spirit of holiness than ever before. There shall be holiness even in common things. Every action and every enjoyment of the believer, should be so regulated according to the will of God, that it may be directed to his glory. Our whole lives should be as one constant sacrifice, or act of devotion; no selfish motive should prevail in any of our actions. But how far is the Christian church from this state of purity! Other times, however, are at hand, and the Lord will reform and enlarge his church, as he has promised. Yet in heaven alone will perfect holiness and happiness be found."

Such an interpretation was never considered in the Worldwide Church of God Days. Zechariah 14 - as most of the prophetic writings were in the Old Testament - was taken absolutely literally. Did we ever consider the fact that our literal interpretations of scripture were wildly out of the realm of realism? 

Coffman Commentary:

Any literal acceptance of this verse as a pledge that God will destroy the whole world except a remnant of Jews in every nation, and that the entire physical earth shall journey three times a year to physical Jerusalem to live in tents for a week must be accounted as a preposterous misunderstanding.
There is nothing in the last 2,000 years that resembles a fulfillment of this prophecy, except the repeated triumph of Christ and his gospel in those very lands which once were pagan enemies of the Lord. This verse is a pledge that it will continue to be so.

Yet it is exactly that "preposterous misunderstanding" that the Churches of God hold to - and dearly - when it comes to what they view as biblical support of their steadfast adherence of their unique version of the Feast of Tabernacles. What logistics would be required to literally bring "all nations" to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem? "You, your son, your daughter, your maidservants, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widows"? Has it ever truly been considered that the city of Jerusalem itself cannot possibly contain all nations within it's gates? 

Have the logistics of food, water, sewage, lodging, sound, meeting (how, when, where) ever been considered? It was our belief way back in the day that a literal (there's that word again) Super-Highway would be built to handle the traffic of all nations. Again. Has anyone considered the logistics? 

Perhaps we were certain a supernatural miracle would have had to happen. In exactly the same way we took other literal prophetic statements - such as the taming of wild animals in the World Tomorrow - to be supernaturally conducted. 

So here's the question. For those who hold on to the "literal interpretation" of the Zechariah 14:16 prophecy concerning the Feast of Tabernacles, I ask you - have you ever considered the logistics - and why is it a figurative allegory to these verses cannot, and does not, to you, apply? If Herbert Armstrong was wrong about over 200 "prophecies" in scripture - then what makes him so right about understanding Old Testament prophecies such as the Zechariah prophecies? 

I will tell you on my end as one born and raised in the Church - it was taken absolutely literally, not figuratively. I was not told how these things would happen, just that they would happen. This led to more of a sci-fi like understanding of how these events would transpire in my young mind. Certainly, it would have to be somewhat different for those who came into belief of these prophecies through Armstrong who may not have seriously read these scriptures before. 

Let's have a conversation on Zechariah 14, how you interpreted it then, how you interpret it now, and what it was that made or makes you believe a particular way about this particular prophecy. Please comment below if you are so inclined.

submitted by SHT

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

New Book: Grace Communion International - A Giant Step Forward

Grace Communion International (former Worldwide Church of God) has released a new book co-authored by Greg Williams, Rick Schallenberger and Tom Nebel.

It supposedly documents the continuing "miraculous transformation" of the church into a mainstream denomination.  This can be considered Book 3 in a trilogy of books documenting the "transformation" of the church.

Amazon has this to say:

The last significant books written about Grace Communion International were authored by Joseph Tkach and Michael Feazell in 1995. A lot has happened over the past two decades, so this book is an update to anyone who may be looking in and wondering “What has transpired with this group that experienced such an amazing grace awakening? Where are they now?” This book does a pretty fair job of recounting the peaks and valleys of the past twenty years.It is a major transition for me to step into the shoes of President Joseph Tkach. It isn’t just a big step for me personally, it is also a big change for our worldwide fellowship. Who is this new guy? What does he have in mind for the next phase of GCI? This book discloses a lot of my personality, big portions of my journey in GCI, and a glimpse into my leadership style. I am excited to serve in this next chapter because I believe the Lord has good things in store for GCI.

Buy it here for 4.99

If anyone is interested in reading it and doing a review, I will post it, good or bad!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Dave Pack: Challenge My Doctrine...You Challenge Jesus Christ!

Adult Sabbath School: What Do You Do When No One Will Ordain You?

Have you ever wondered why:

The Apostle Paul never met Jesus in real life though he lived in and was a contemporary in Jerusalem

Never is mentioned in the Gospels as the Pharisee of the Pharisees

Never debated Jesus in Jerusalem like the Pharisees are said to have done

Never tells a story of encountering or challenging him 

Never relates talking with any disciple of Jesus in Jerusalem

Never quotes Jesus in his Epistles when it would be to his advantage to do so

Is claimed (by Luke in Acts) to have encountered only the risen Jesus on the Damascus road

...but of himself , in Galatians, claims he was called from the womb

...and like Dave Pack, Gerald Flurry and Bob Thiel, ordained himself to his title of choice.  


Or maybe?

"All my Christian life people have told me Paul never met Jesus during his ministry. I have somehow instinctively never quite believed it. Why you ask? The main reason is psychological. Paul was driven by such hatred to persecute christians it seems hard to believe he hadn’t met the object of his fury. I suspect Paul had met Jesus, indeed I wonder whether many of Luke’s Pharisee encounters were actually told to him by Paul.
It seems bizarre to me that Paul who was a bright young pharisee (who also seems to have been a member of the Sanhedrin) would not have sought out Jesus to debate with him. Paul seems likely to have been in Jerusalem at the time as he would presumably have been trained as a pharisee. According to this quote seems to have lived in Jerusalem since being a youth having presumably been born in Tarsus.

Acts 26:4-5,9-10 “My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. 5 They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee……
I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them.”'
Adrian Warnock

However, the facts are:

Paul went from a newby baptised Christian with blood on his hands to Apostle  skipping any and all steps in between

Galatians 1:11-24

I.         Paul was different from the other apostles (Note:  First Hint of trouble)
            A.        He wasn’t with Jesus when he was on earth (Second Hint)
            B.        He was not among the original twelve apostles - Luke 6:12-16      (Third)
            C.        He started out as a zealous persecutor of the church
            D.        How is it that Paul claimed to be an apostle?

II.        Paul did claim apostleship
            A.        He was called to be an apostle - Romans 1:1
            B.        He was an apostle to the Gentiles - Romans 11:13
            C.        He was an apostle of Jesus by God’s will - I Corinthians 1:1; II Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; II Timothy 1:1
            D.        He was an apostle by God the Father and by Jesus Christ - Galatians 1:1
            E.        He was an apostle by God’s command - I Timothy 1:1
            F.        He was appointed an apostle - I Timothy 2:7; II Timothy 1:11
            G.        He was an apostle according to the faith - Titus 1:1
            H.        Notice that Paul didn’t just claim to be an apostle, he claimed that it was by God’s will and God’s command.
                        1.         No man made him an apostle, and that includes      himself
                        2.         And he said it was according to the faith
(Note: How convenient) for thought and the oft used justification for men like Herbert Armstrong,  Dave Pack, Gerald Flurry and Bob Thiel snatching titles for themselves, passed on to them by no one,  in the quest for credibility in speaking for all things God, which they don't. 

If no one will ordain you, just declare it so, no questions asked.