Saturday, November 9, 2019

LCG's Weston, Ames and Winnail: Fear was the primary motivational driver behind their "conversion"

Watching the Behind The Work video at an LCG feast site this year, one admission from Weston, Ames and Winnail was unmistakably clear: Fear was the primary motivational driver behind their "conversion" and complete immersion into the WCG cult. This makes sense when you consider HWA's delusional vision of himself and God's role in Herb's plan.

Herb settled on a niche that allowed him to get very rich whoring for money in the name of God. His approach was time sensitive that masterfully created a worldview of urgency, danger and imminent death and destruction. You literally had no time to argue with his message. There was no need to critically analyse his message. God either gave you the ability to agree with everything Herb said or you were simply not called and on a crash course with the worst time in human history in just a few short years or months.

Herb's message was fueled and justified by one key verse:

"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations and then the end will come."  -Matthew 24:14

HWA was a "wolf in sheep's clothing" in my opinion and never converted. But Paul makes an important observation when he says,

"It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry...preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely...But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice."  -Philippians 1:15-18

Over the years, I watched many brethren wake up to the dark truths about HWA and the WCG and even find that not all the teachings were sound. Unfortunately, the response is often to throw it all away, going as far as to even declare themselves agnostic or atheist.

Once one allows cognitive dissonance to begin to pop holes in the worldview HWA created for us, the initial response is, as expected, anger. How could I have been so stupid? How could that person do such a thing? If there is a God, why would He allow someone to do this in His name?

The hard part is waiting out the anger and letting reason drive the car. In doing so, we can understand WCG in the context of Christianity as a whole. Not only was it NOT "the" church or "only" church BUT it is just another church made up of people who generally mean well, want to have a relationship with God and none of which have all the answers.

While HWA's message was embodied in Matthew 24:14, it was not the driving force for some to respond and become members of his church. Some actually found other doctrines having to do with God's mercy, love, kindness and inclusive plan for all mankind as their inspiration and motivation. Unfortunately, these are not the AC graduates that made their way into leading the church. Instead, many were drummed out throughout the 70's. The intellectuals were burned at the stake and narcissist managers won the day.

But I have found (and this is largely anecdotal evidence) that after the failures of prophecy culminating in the 1970's, generation x born in those years and others coming later in the 90's do not have the prophetic fear factor as part of their personal Christianity. I believe this shift from fear to love is real and the reason why old goats pushing the HWA "work" falls on deaf ears today. Gen X and Millenials are pioneers of the Information Age. Baby-boomers gave us every reason to be skeptical.

HWA certainly trained more wolves to follow in his steed but I would argue many are more like goats than wolves. To understand my perspective on this, consider Jesus' parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46.

Creating a church around Matthew 24:14 diverted the resources that enable Christians to exercise love and care for humanity, into a message that justified leaving acts of kindness undone. As one friend pointed out to me, when you demand 30%+ of people's incomes to fulfill Matthew 24:14, there is literally nothing left to exercise those things Christ said would make you a sheep in His good standing.

HWA's gospel created a clergy and laity of goats. The good news is we don't have to remain goats. And I am inspired by more Gen X'ers waking up and Millenials that are challenging the old guard. I no longer tithe and divert most of those resources to helping people in my community. And I don't require those people to be members of my church or even professing Christians. The only criteria to receive love should be in being a "biological" made in God's image.

When Christ said to love one another in John 13:34-35 as evidence that we are His disciples, He obviously didn't mean that Christians or members of a Christian sect showing love for one another was the evidence. He already made that clear in the Sermon on the Mount.

"For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others?" -Matthew 5:46-47

When He said we have love for one another, He meant all of humanity. That is what would cause observers to notice such action because nobody does this.

HWA created a church that naturally (but not necessarily) locks its members into being goats. We must overcome this by no longer supporting a Matthew 24:14 message with unbiblical tithes. We can abandon the wrong teachings and the unbalanced approach without giving up altogether. We can continue to call the errors out publicly on blogs like this without the fear of being silenced, marked and defamed by the old goats keeping the gates. The AC alumni can't live forever and the spiritual generation gap in the church is real. Christ said if we really want to make a difference, it will not be in supporting one man in "his" mission to usher in the Great Tribulation. It will be in acts of kindness toward those that would never expect it.

Bronze Age Noah or 21st Century NOAA? Is Weather More Than Just Weather?

Dr Bob Thiel , as always....

The BBC reported the following:

Australia bushfires: Record number of emergencies in New South Wales

Australian authorities say an “unprecedented” number of emergency-level bushfires are threatening the state of New South Wales (NSW).
More than 80 blazes were raging across the state on Friday.
Gusty winds and up to 35C heat have exacerbated the fires, many of which are in drought-affected areas.

"Fires should get people to consider. But will people in Australia or the other Anglo-descended areas heed?
As regular readers of this page are aware, I have repeatedly warned of weather problems coming. Back in 2009, in my book, 2012 and the Rise of the Secret Sect,..."

"...And weather-problems are one tool that God uses to urge people to repent (cf. Haggai 2:17; Amos 4:7-12). But most will not. Nor will most Christians as they should (cf. Revelation 3:14-18; see also The Laodicean Church Era).

Most will ignore weather changes and simply believe that weather changes all the time and the changes do not have to do with God or disobeying His laws.

Yet, the Bible shows that weird, severe, and odd weather patterns are part of the warning messages that God gives.

Are you paying attention to those messages?"

On the other hand it is pretty obvious in the human history of god making and according to the modern day NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration),  and not the Bronze Age Noah...

What do you think?
Bronze Age or 21st Century?

Friday, November 8, 2019

LCG: When will members repent and stop trying to find ways around the teachings of the ministry?

As usual, the Living Church of God members can not seem to do anything right.  There is always something wrong that they need to correct.  They need to immediately stop arguing scriptures and stop trying to find ways around doing the things the ministry command.  Unless they stop this they will NOT be able to rule as KING over the rest of humanity!

It’s a Matter of Heart: The Bible reveals that God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) and that David was chosen to be king because God saw that David was “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22). But what exactly did God see in David’s heart? God saw that David was a person “who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22). God saw that David was teachable and that he “loved” God’s law and meditated on it daily so he could learn God’s mind and gain God’s perspective (Psalm 119:97105). David did not argue with the Scriptures or look for ways to get around instructions that God clearly revealed in His word (Psalm 119:161827). David praised God with his whole heart (Psalm 119:1–2), and he repented wholeheartedly when he realized that he was wrong (Psalm 51). This is why David will reign as king over the children of Israel in the Kingdom of God (Ezekiel 34:23). If our thoughts, words, and actions reflect what God is looking for, we will be given the opportunity to reign with Jesus Christ and with David in the coming Kingdom (Matthew 19:28–29Revelation 5:10). The Bible reveals that our reward will be based on what is in our heart!
Have a profitable Sabbath,
Douglas S. Winnail

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Why is Living Church of God So Incredibly Dull?

From COG News

LCG’s Behind the Work video this year was uninspiring to say the least. Instead of information on congregations around the world and perhaps news of evangelism, it was just an extended version of TW Now, with the Presiding Evangelist, Gerald Weston in a studio with 3 other talking heads, having a general discussion on end-time prophecy, and recalling when and how they came into contact with WCG literature. For Doug Winnail it was when his younger brother handed to him a copy of Herbert Armstrong’s 1975 in Prophecy. Church members were supposed to go to a ‘place of safety’ in early 1972 of course, followed by 3½ years tribulation and the return of Jesus Christ in 1975, but over 40 years later these men were continuing to agree that Herbert Armstrong was right about biblical prophecy.

Gerald Weston and the boys in Charlotte feel that they are the most enlighted Church of God out there today. Yet, they seem to have no idea they are living in 2019, that Herbert's been dead 33 years, and that they are NOT living in the Worldwide Church of God glory days of the 50s-60s.  

Never has there been a COG so completely out of touch with reality!  This may be the reason Church of God a Worldwide Association had big uptick in Feast attendance this year.

Jim Franks of COGWA has announced that the total attendance for 2019 was the highest ever, with holy day offerings in the USA up almost 12%.
More people attended than actually registered, he said. At Park City, Utah, two overflow rooms had to be provided, while at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, registration was closed early at the 1000 mark, but space had to be found for another 100 who turned up.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Child Sexual Abuse in the Churches of God

With sickening frequency, former church members share stories on various private ex-COG Facebook pages about being victims of sexual abuse in the church over the past decades.  From being abused as small children or as teenagers, the stories are horrific.

Adding to the filth are the things that the ministry did to cover up the abuse. They regularly dismissed the stories of the children and teenagers and embraced the abusers as the victims.  Some even made the children and teenagers apologize to the abuser because he was a prominent member or was the child of an elder or the minister himself.  One minister had the abuser write a letter to the parents of the girl he abused apologizing for the them for the abuse and never said anything to the child.  The parents, stupidly like expected, did nothing.  Members were not to sue members or turn them in to the police.

There have been a few instances over the years when ministers and members of the Church of God have been sent to prison.  Those stories have been covered here in the past, though they are minuscule compared to the number of people sexually abused.

There has never been any accountability in the church to its members for abuse that has taken place, not then and certainly not now, as it is STILL going on in the Churches of God. The excuse some make is to let God take care of it in his own time. Others are afraid of being kicked out of the church and losing their salvation.

Why has the Church of God, who claims 1st century true Christianity, cared so little about is children and members?

Speaking of Paul: Using the WCG Experience to Understand The Problem of Paul in the New Testament

In this “compulsively readable exploration of the tangled world of Christian origins” (Publishers Weekly), religious historian James Tabor illuminates the earliest years of Jesus’ teachings before Paul shaped them into the religion we know today.

This fascinating examination of the earliest years of Christianity reveals how the man we call St. Paul shaped Christianity as we know it today.

Historians know almost nothing about the two decades following the crucifixion of Jesus, when his followers regrouped and began to spread his message. During this time Paul joined the movement and began to preach to the gentiles. Using the oldest Christian documents that we have—the letters of Paul—as well as other early Chris­tian sources, historian and scholar James Tabor reconstructs the origins of Christianity. Tabor shows how Paul separated himself from Peter and James to introduce his own version of Christianity, which would continue to develop independently of the message that Jesus, James, and Peter preached.

Paul and Jesus illuminates the fascinating period of history when Christianity was born out of Judaism.

Tabor was born in Texas but lived all over the world as the son of an Air Force officer. He was raised in the Churches of Christ and attended Abilene Christian University, where he earned his B.A. degree in Koine Greek and Bible. While earning his M.A. from Pepperdine University he taught Greek and Hebrew part-time at Ambassador College, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, founder and president of the Worldwide Church of God.
Tabor earned his PhD at the University of Chicago in 1981 in New Testament and Early Christian literature, with an emphasis on the origins of Christianity and ancient Judaism, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, John the Baptist, Jesus, James the Just, and Paul the Apostle. The author of six books and over 50 articles, Tabor is frequently consulted by the media on these topics and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs.
During the Branch Davidian siege in Waco in 1993, Tabor and fellow religion scholar J. Phillip Arnold "realized that in order to deal with David Koresh, and to have any chance for a peaceful resolution of the Waco situation, one would have to understand and make use of these biblical texts.” After contacting the FBI, they sent Koresh an alternative interpretation of the Book of Revelation which persuaded Koresh to leave the compound, though it was stormed by Federal forces first. 
Major publications and research
His first book was a study of the mysticism of the apostle Paul titled Things Unutterable (1986), based on his University of Chicago dissertation. The Journal of Religion named it one of the ten best scholarly studies on Paul of the 1980s.

In 1992 Tabor turned to an analysis of attitudes toward religious suicide and martyrdom in the ancient world, the results of which appeared as A Noble Death, published by HarperSanFrancisco in 1992 (co-authored with Arthur Droge). Tabor's book has been used as a standard by ethicists, lawyers, and physicians who are participating in the current debate. Tabor has also published a wide variety of scholarly and more popular articles in books, journals, and magazines.
In 1995, he published Why Waco? Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America (University of California Press), which he co-authored with Eugene Gallagher, and which was one of the first books to explore what had actually happened during the Waco siege. In 1995 he testified before Congress as an expert witness on the siege.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Has the COG Shackled and Chained the Freedom We Have?

If there's one thing that Armstrong Apologists tend to bristle their brow about is the "protestant" concept about "Freedom In Christ". In the universe that Herbert Armstrong created, "true Christianity" is militaristic in every sense of the word - a hierarchy from top to bottom set to regulations and rules as derived in the Old Testament - from the fundamental basics as listed in the Ten Commandments to, in some cases, every jot and tittle as can possibly be made applicable in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. These rules and regulations - as critical as they are to understanding the very minimum of what Christianity is all about (Love to God and love to neighbor) - have become the chief cornerstone, on which even every command of Jesus Christ Himself hangs on. This is a highly controversial subject and the core differentiator of what causes Armstrongism to, well, be exactly what it is today. 

The view of the Father - and Jesus - in many Armstrongism circles - is one of a prosecutor. God is sitting in heaven, with the Books of the Commands spread out and opened - judging how well that his servants are doing in their obedience to the Law. In Armstrongism circles, this is primarily: Obedience to the Ten Commandments, Obedience to the Sabbath and Holy Days, Obedience to the Dietary Food Laws, Obedience to the laws of Morality, Observance of Holy Convocations, and Tithing. Anything else that is "questionable" is decided on by the Church Authorities (that is, whoever has decided to take that claim, and convinces followers of their legitimacy) on the Law of Binding and Loosing. This not only absolves the lay member of any personal responsibility (the decision is always up to the Church Authorities), but takes the "protestant" concept about "Freedom in Christ" and buries it under the rug. In Armstrongism, the only "Freedom" one has is whatever is approved by whoever's in charge. Personal responsibility and decisions always fall under the rug of the Authorities. 

The focus that made Armstrongism so appealing to so many in the 20th Century was on a "revival" of the neglected laws that a "great, false Church" buried away. The claim that many adopted so enthusiastically is that the "great, false church" traded in God's appointed times and seasons for man-made traditions and festivals, with the charge that they were not licensed or authorized to do so. The charge has been that paganism had infiltrated the Church, and those that think they are worshiping Jesus Christ in "Protestantism" have been hoodwinked into pagan and even "satanic" rituals and observances - and aren't really worshipping Christ at all. The claim that Armstrong Apologists make is that they have absolutely no freedom of worship or observance, regardless of what and how their heart is. 

In fact, "the heart" has historically in Armstrongism been the most mocked and - for lack of a better term - sissified - emotional aspect of Christianity in it's dogmatic history. "the heart" - the true intent and purpose of a person's actions and thoughts - was the one aspect of spirituality that was continuously dogged and beaten out in favor of militaristic obedience. One could even say that the "heart" was beaten out of a person in favor of chains and shackles. And those who - in protestant and in "Worldly" circles had their hearts in the "right place" - that is, worship of Jesus Christ and the obedience of the commands of Jesus Christ - were simply "Deceived", could not get it, and would not get it - they'd get their chance "later". For those in the Church who "knew better"? Everyone else in the "world" was simply uncalled, unsaved, cut-off, pagan, heathen, un-Christian charlatans with absolutely no knowledge of what Christ - and freedom in Christ - was all about. 

The reality is that the greater sin was not on those in what we termed "the world". The greater sin was that of judgment by the adherents of Armstrongism to every member and denomination of mainstream Christianity. Every catholic, every protestant, every man, woman, and child who faithfully and, with full belief in Jesus Christ, went to Church on Sunday mornings, on Easter, and on Christmas, who lived lives of love and exhibited the fruits of the Spirit in their walk of life, who lived lives according to the Code of Morality - judged as lost and deceived and "2nd Res" people because they didn't subscribe to the "Faith once delivered". Every one of these people were judged as "the world" to be avoided. Every person who loved God and loved neighbor was judged, and judged severely, while at the same time all of the carnality, deception, lies, and evils within Armstrongism were somehow not as bad because Armstrong Adherents were keeping the Sabbath, the Holy Days, and had the name "the Church of God". The stench of hypocrisy was stronger than the stench of a year-old tuna salad sandwich. Their hearts were not considered. Their hearts were judged and trampled on. 

Freedom in Christ is a level and a standard of maturity for those who have grown in wisdom, and in mind, and in actions. With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the mind and in the hearts of a true Christian, there is freedom. (2 Cor. 3:17). But for those in Armstrongism," for to this day, the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.

That freedom allows choice. That freedom allows responsibility. That freedom allows options. That freedom allows thought and thinking. That freedom allows opportunity. That freedom allows ways and methods - whatever is needed or necessary as an Ambassador of Jesus Christ to show Christ and to be the hands and the feet of Jesus Christ. It is that freedom that allows interaction with others - to show and even for many - introduce - what love is and who Christ is through the power of the Spirit. 

You cannot show and introduce what love is and who Christ is through the Spirit by avoidance. You miss opportunities by holding on to the obsolete writings of stone of the old Covenant. You miss opportunities to share Christ when, in self-righteous arrogance, one in great pious conviction stays away from "worldly people" in "worldly celebrations". When you are filled with the spirit, when your heart is in the right place, the spirit will transcend the physical every time. You are enacting and using the freedom of Christ in you and through God's spirit to do God's will whether you are attending The Feast, or Trumpets, or Atonement, or stretching your freedom to Christmas, to Easter, or Sunday, or any other day. Your heart - their heart - your fruits - can make a difference, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, no matter where you are or what you are doing so long as you are doing it in Christ and in the Lord - for his glory. 

Armstrongism was, and is, shackles and chains on the freedom of Christ available to a believer. It is a hindrance to the power of the Spirit. It is a quencher of the works of God, and a disabler of the heart. It is a doorstop on opportunity to serve and to honor God and love to man. God is not confined by time, nor by the calendar, nor by the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars. God's spirit transcends these things, as a servant of Christ is focused not on the physical, or on times and seasons, but on the permanence and timelessness of the spiritual. Once one looks beyond denominations and earthly religious and non-religious empires and begins to see the transcendence of the spiritual, and the omnipresence of the new Covenant, and the width and height and depth of the grace of God in all his people - then the veil is lifted, and freedom - true freedom in Christ, can set a person free - at last. 

Submitted by SHT