Saturday, January 11, 2020

Self Tarnished Reputations

The eternally butthurt Great Bwana to Africa delivered a new sermon to his African followers.

He makes a couple of absurd comments in the posting:

Solomon gave instructions and observations about life in Ecclesiastes. This sermon covers all the verses in chapters 7 and 8 of that biblical book. Reputation, and those who would tarnish it, are discussed. A focus of this sermon is dealing with anger. Is anger a sin? Can you be angry and not sin? Is it acceptable to sin when angry? Should you retain anger? How can you reduce anger? What do other passages in the Bible teach us about anger? Although Solomon wrote it would turn out well for those who obey God, did he refuse to follow some of the specific instructions for kings? Did Solomon fully understand God’s plan? Do you have a better opportunity to understand aspects of God’s plan than Solomon? Dr. Thiel addresses these issues and more in this third sermon in a series covering the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Never has the Church of God had a more self-absorbed man that Bob Thiel and his grandiose ideas of self-importance?  Even Gerald Flurry and Dave Pack, in all of their vaingloriousness, cannot compare to the Great Bwana and savior of the Church of God.  The Bible was apparently written for this time in COG history as a vehicle to justify the self-appointed of the Great Bwana as a prophet and church leader.  Never has the church seen so many people dream this guy into existence, or seek to legitimize his self-appointed prophethood status.  

in spite of all that, no man in the COG has tarnished his reputation to the extent that the Great Bwana has done.  Even Ron Weinland, after his conviction and jail time, seems saner at times than the Great Bwana does, and that is being generous!

And then there is this: 
"Do you have a better opportunity to understand aspects of God’s plan than Solomon?"
Yes, Bwana Bob, there is!  That person is Jesus, that silly man you continue to ignore and discredit every time you make one of your absurd comments about the law, the old covenant, and 99% of the other useless neo-pagan crap you think is important to a Christians walk.  Law-keeping, 10 commandment-keeping, sabbath keeping, holy day keeping, non-pork eating, and all the rest of the legalistic drivel you claim is important will not and cannot save anyone. What he did and accomplished is far greater than the trite actions of Solomon. Grace, justification, mercy and eternal rest far outshine Solomon, David, Moses, Amos, Joshua, or Ezekiel.

You try to act like Solomon and pretend you have the answer to everything, know more about history than anyone else in the church, or understand doctrine and prophecy better. Do you think the following list of topics means a hill of beans to any of your deluded African followers, let alone, your couple hundred white American members?

  • Hyginus: Did this Roman leader try to change times?
  • Shouldn’t All Christians Be Multi-Millionaires?
  • CGFF and PCG view on ‘restrainer’ is in error
  • 2020: Could this be the year?
  • PCG and COGwriter on Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg
  • Iran retaliates, threatens more, and Donald Trump announces more sanctions
  • Apollinaris of Hierapolis: Church of God or Church of Rome?
  • Catholic World Report on a Jerusalem Temple and the Millennium
  • ZH: Iran Evaluating 13 Retaliation Scenarios To Inflict “Historic Nightmare” On US
  • Former Global Church of God board member says that pride is the main reason Christians do not accept a prophet
  • BIN: Why Some Christians Are Eating Biblically Clean
  • How Long Will It Take For The US To Collapse? Could the US dollar collapse like Rome’s currency? Well, in modern times, some nations are also working to push the US dollar aside
  • What was the largest empire in recorded history?
  • Do you understand Ezekiel 37 better than Pope Francis?
  • BIN: Iran Raises Red Flag Over ‘Messianic Mosque’ Declaring ‘End-of-Days’ War’ for First Time Ever
  • BibleNewsProphecy: Should You Smoke? Would You Like Help to Quit?
When it comes down to the fact of life for them, they could care less about the rantings of a privileged white American who imagines himself as the savior of the church and who thinks he is God's final mouthpiece.  Their identity is in Jesus, who they seek to follow in their own traditional ways and not in the mindless crapfest coming out of Arroyo Grande. 

Your reputation has been destroyed by you and you alone.  Not by this blog, not by the Living Church of God and United Church of God (who rightly rejected your lunacy) nor by any other COG out there who have told their members to steer clear of you.

Of course, you are just one of many in a long history in the Chruch of God who have tarnished their reputations. Liars all.

Gerald Waterhouse

Stupid things Church of God members heard from Gerald Waterhouse.  

How many more can you recall?

from Facebook

Friday, January 10, 2020

Joshua 24:15 We Will Serve the Lord!

Over the holidays, two of the young adults in my family posted comments on social media that reflect very different perspectives on the principle outlined in Joshua 24:15. You know, the one that goes something like this: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." One is a member of a prominent Armstrong Church of God splinter, the other belongs to a non-denominational Sunday-observing church. Both are hard-working, devoted parents and appear to be sincere in their beliefs.

The non-denominational Christian has a plaque on her living room wall with the Joshua quote. She posted a comment on social media recounting her experience as a child whose parents believed that Christmas was pagan and did not celebrate Christ's birth. She went on to mention the fact that some members of her family still don't celebrate Christmas, but that she respects them, accepts their devotion to Christ and loves them just the same. She said that Christ was/is the most perfect expression of God's light and love and concluded that this was something that everyone should be able to rally around.

The Armstrong Church of God Christian posted the Joshua quote in his explanation of why he and his family don't celebrate the holiday. For him, his choice to not observe this holiday reflects his decision to put God's will first. In other words, those who choose to observe the holiday may not be serving the Lord.

As I read through their comments, it occurred to me that their remarks demonstrate that this scripture (Joshua 24:15) means very different things to both of them. For one of them, the words reflect their devotion and commitment to God. For the other, the same words seem to imply that we are doing the Lord's will and you aren't. Both of these young people appear to be devoted to God and their faith. Both of them give one the impression that they are sincere and good people. Both look to be following the dictates of their conscience in this matter.

For me, this family interaction perfectly demonstrates the point that Christ made to his disciples about judging each other. It also illustrates the point that Paul was trying to make to the saints at Rome and Colossae about different religious observances. If it is your personal conviction to observe or not observe a particular day, then follow that conviction. Your observance or lack of observance is not the thing that matters in the end - it is your attitude toward what you are doing that matters in the final analysis. I believe that both of these young people have exhibited the light and love of Christ in their lives, but I worry about any feelings of superiority or self-righteousness that might poke its slimy way into their hearts.

Miller Jones

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Is Division the New Unity?

Division is the New Unity

The COGWA Winter Family Weekend was a blast from a fellowship perspective. I even ran into old friends I haven't seen in over 20 years. This happens because so many of us have been playing musical chairs in the splinters since the 90's. I would never dismiss anyone's experience and criticism of the church but for my own experience, the average member in these churches is a God-fearing Christian that is just trying to do what they believe is pleasing to God and usually has a genuine affection toward others. I have never had a major conflict with anyone in the churches of God, including the ministers (save one, years ago). Many are just nice people that are fun to be around and party with, including the ministers. (Again, my own experience)

The theme at the WFW was "Unity" and I definitely felt unified with the brethren as I talked with old friends and made new acquaintances. There was a general sense among all the brethren I spoke to that all the competing churches of God are generally the same. (This would not include the personality cults like Pack and Flurry) But this was, as I expected, not going to be the message of unity that would come from COGWA HQ.

[WARNING: What follows is going to come across as very harsh and cynical but only because I believe the churches of God  need a heavy dose of horribly tasting medicine and a prescription for a cure. Major "trigger warning" for those who love the church as I do but are still incapable of dealing with cognitive dissonance and facing reality.]

I have spent years in LCG being told at Feasts, winter weekends and must-plays from HQ that "We are NOT all the same!" All this did was prompt me to study and determine if this was actually true. I found most of the claims that made us different to be petty and the ones made that were seemingly important, I sometimes determined LCG to be the splinter in error. That being said, the cry for unity and all speaking the same thing from the ministry has always been a subjective cluster-

How much unity does it take to qualify to be unity until it's not and then there must be division for the sake of unity? If you ask the average member, it seems the bar is set much lower than those who claim to have the rule over them. The ministry would argue that such a low standard is set by lukewarm sheep. Maybe the standard is set too high by graceless shepherds concerned more about self-preservation.

In the very first seminar I sat in on, David Johnson made a not-so-veiled attack on 3 LCG teachings. The message was, don't go looking at LCG because:
1. They have an inordinate emphasis on the Ezekiel warning.
2. Dick Ames has a personalized version of the wedding supper. (Johnson tries to relate this to the rapture)
3. Doug Winnail thinks the "falling away" may be a general and global rejection of Western Civilization rooted in Christian ethics.
After this, came the usual threats and warnings of being deceived, even by "brethren" and family members (very unifying). He even concluded with a classic "Ames" tactic by shaming people who are not consuming organizational literature and webcast productions.

Regardless of one's position on those three points, what do they have to do with the gospel and the need for salvation?

Next up was a seminar by Joel Meeker who set up the classic straw man argument "proving" church government using Hebrews 10:25. He goes on to say that you must have a pastor and that we are commanded to attend holy convocations and have no choice. I haven't found any commanded assemblies in the New Covenant, Joel.

Joel then creates a list of "duties" for church administration and a list of "duties" for the members. He said the church is an organization and the organization organizes (brilliant). The church supports doctrine and protects us dummies from tricky men. When people leave the organization, it is always over "quarky" doctrine (I see what you did there, Joel). The church instructs, strengthens, comforts, encourages, protects, anoints and even provides physical needs because sheep faithfully tithe. Wow Joel! I guess when you put it that way, where would we be without you?

The duties of the sheep are to pray, study, fast, repent, think (how did that get in there) meditate, plan, and discern. This is where he took the time to flatter everyone in COGWA because they had the "spiritual discernment" to recognize UCG had "called good, evil and evil, good" and went with the holy men of COGWA who enacted division. He finished this list by warning us that everyone gets hurt by the church at some point but it is the duty of sheep to suck it up, persevere, watch your attitude and avoid a root of bitterness.

He concludes by attacking "those who would say that we [churches of god organizations] are all the same" using a real doozy of a straw-man argument. He goes to Revelation 2-3, points out they are all church of God and asks, does that mean you would not care which one you were in...that any one would do...are they all the same? (well played, Joel...well played) This obviously implies that the church really is an organization that we would call COGWA  and to go sniffing around anywhere else would be spiritual suicide. Yep...unity be the theme.

Next up, the captain of the ship, Jim Franks. Let's see. The smack-down was already put on LCG and UCG. Who would be next?

Franks starts by asking what one body means and what does unity look like. Ever the masters of double-speak, he humbly claims not to know. And then, I kid you not, he  references a class offered at their Foundation Institute that explains all the doctrinal differences between all the churches of God!
Jim Franks mentions that he read a new book on the history of the Worldwide Church of God. He didn't give the title but based on the sermon, I would guess he was referencing "The Fragmentation of a Sect: Schism in The Worldwide Church of God" written by David V. Barrett, PhD in Sociology. This caused him to wax nostalgically about the good ole days like when, for example, in 1967, the whole church was unified in praying God would heal Loma Armstrong (and then she died a week later). He said the church always had issues through the 60's, 70's, 80's and early 90's but "it was still one body!"

In a shaken voice, he described what it was like being bullied by the Tkach administration that was changing everything. When he told them he did not understand the new teachings, they told him to just preach it first and you will come to believe it later. He compared his firing to being put on a cattle train headed for Auschwitz! Is this the response you would expect from a man that fears God more than losing his paycheck? I have actually lost jobs or lost job opportunities because of the Sabbath and never once felt I was on my way to Auschwitz. It truly amazes me to see it on display, how earth-shattering it was for (some) ministers to face financial difficulty but make light of it when brethren have routinely lived it, often expressing great faith in going through it (even if misplaced). Who did you think you were, Elijah on the run for his life?! Maybe you felt like you were in a cattle train headed for Auschwitz because that is how the top down-hierarchical structure with a narcissist pope you thrived in, operated for decades.

He goes on to argue that in order for the church to be unified, it must be unified in doctrine, purpose and behavior. But his main emphasis was almost exclusively on doctrine as he took time to attack Tkach and the changes they made and attributing the reason for the changes was because the new WCG did not value truth. I thought, you may not have agreed with the changes but you cannot  say the changes were because they did not value truth. What is truth? They certainly no longer valued Herbert Armstrong's truth, to be sure.

It is clear that to Jim Franks, unity is everyone in one corporate entity and he lays all the blame for all the splinters at the feet of Joe Tkach. But as I pointed out in my post, "Who Causes Division" David Barrett says all splits in WCG to the present various  churches of God could only be caused and were caused by the ministry. On pages 208-209:

"But in a family of churches where top-down authority has always been the norm...members were expected to follow their ministers."
" is primarily ministers who have actively left one church to join or to found another, and in many cases they took their members with them."
" is a feature of established sects that schism comes only from the divisions among the influential elite within each movement; no other person is sufficiently influential to cause division..."
"Schism must thus be from the ministerial ranks, and in particular from those at the center of the organization; the laity are too receptive and docile (accustomed to obedience) to initiate schisms, and have no opportunity to preach heresy, or to challenge organizational arrangement." 

Take note: Barrett says division in the churches of God come particularly from those at the "center [HQ] of the organizations" and the "influential elite." Preaching unity to the laity, and most of the field ministers, is preaching to the choir. We get it better than you! Unity is a message that must be preached TO these HQ administrations, not BY these HQ administrations. “Divisions” in Jude 19 is APODIORIZO: which means, false teachers that cause division.

It's funny but, agree with him or not, at least Joe Tkach had fundamental change as reason for blowing up the cult. What are the reasons that Jim Franks, Gerald Weston, and Victor Kubik have for continuing to promote division? What fundamental, irreconcilable differences exist between them?

Then, just like Johnson, in a spirit of unity, he laid out 3 differences between COGWA and COG7D that justifies being divided:

1. They reject British-Israelism
2. They reject the annual holy days
3. They believe it is "the" day of salvation instead of "a"

Again, I will let you decide if this is of any salvational consequence.

I want to conclude with some things Mark Winner said in his seminar because I believe it gets to the root problem with the churches of God. Mark says in order for us to be unified, we must be less interested in our own ideas and more interested in God's ideas. I have been around long enough to know that "God's ideas" is code for what HQ determines is God's ideas.

He went on to actually say at a Winter Family Weekend where unity was the theme, that "focusing on what we have more in common takes us away from what God would have us to know." Really, Mark? Focusing on what unifies us separates us from God?

The one thing I heard all week that rang most true is when Mark said "unity and arrogance cannot coexist." Well, God bless you, Mark! That is exactly why division will always be unity in the eyes of those beholden to a corporate business model.

Peter told the brethren to grow in the "grace and knowledge" of Jesus Christ. Because the Adventist Movement has been Gnostic from it's inception, it has  an inordinate focus on knowledge (and foreknowledge) and has fallen flat on it's face concerning grace. Paul said if he had all knowledge and prophecy but had not love, he had nothing. Grace is the key ingredient needed for true unity because grace understands that everyone is not in the same place concerning knowledge at any given time. Each person is a unique library of knowledge and understanding unto themselves that grows daily.  Knowledge "puffs up" in and by itself but grace allows people to be where they and others are in the learning process without judgment and condemnation. Grace is what enables us to work out our own salvation, individually. Grace is what makes way for us to dwell peaceably with all men and enjoy one another in a spirit of unity, despite which splinter we attend. And maybe most importantly, grace is what enables us to actually learn from someone else and God forbid, even change our minds.

Knowledge, even "right" knowledge, without grace can be a stumbling block for those looking to embrace that knowledge and can cause offence. You know what Jesus said about being offensive.

Did you notice in Joel's list of duties, the brethren are not to be easily offended and to suck it up but there was nothing about the administration having a duty to not be offensive? Christ has a stern warning for those who cause offence in Matthew 18.

In Matthew 20:25-28, Jesus provided the model necessary for the proper functioning of the church that would organically suppress the always-present effects of arrogance, greed and abuse. WCG, LCG, UCG and COGWA have all chosen to directly disobey Christ and establish organizations He specifically warned them against establishing.

The context of Jude is a stern warning to be on the lookout for false teachers and leaders that cause division for they (Verse 11)  “have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit…” Add money to the mix and we now have a very toxic soup of arrogance, greed and abuse that largely goes unchecked every time you leave human power unchecked.

Again, I ask, what fundamental, irreconcilable differences exist between LCG, UCG, COGWA and even COG7D? In the business world, competitors often come from within an existing business where they learned the business. The competitor goes across the street and establishes a competing business that is fundamentally the same but with the "belief" that they are a little better or they have improved the product or service. There is no fundamental difference in the product or service, only the belief by the competition that they can perform the same service or produce the same product better or cheaper to increase profit margins. Every corporate entity is filled with a certain number of employees that believe they are better suited to lead and run the company. So they begin the climb of the corporate ladder or strike out across the street to compete.

And of course, the other driving factor to compete is the realization that the guy at the top is taking the largest cut, making money off the labor of those under him. There is nothing wrong with this per se, but is this something God would want as motivation in the "body of Christ?"

Businesses incorporate several methods to try and keep their best employees from becoming the competition or leaving to work for the competition. One of them are team building retreats. This is where the business throws a team-building party complete with seminars designed to propagandize and fun events to whip up endorphins in hopes that it will unify the help amongst themselves and with HQ while widening the gulf between the competition. By the time the retreat is over, it is hoped that those capable of competing are too happy to put in the work to compete and that they are convinced that the existing competition is inferior and not worthy of their effort.

Every business exists to get a certain percentage of your income in their pocket. Can you think of a business more lucrative than one that is able to siphon upwards of 30% or more from each customer's total income with no money-back guarantees, no product-performance expectations and the backing of a god who will rain down punishment on anyone who puts their hands to their corporate plow-share only to turn back? A business that is protected by the government, pays no taxes and is not required to make a profit, show a return on investment or present any positive fruits to justify existing?

 The unbiblical structure of the organizations and the unbiblical collection of tithes is supported by a false unity rooted in the arrogance of special knowledge. A ministry dependent on money will always market division as unity to protect the corporate entity. The church is not a business to be owned and controlled by wolves on Wall Street but that is what Herbert created; his own Information Marketing business cloaked in his own personalized Bible-speak. That cannot and never will fulfill the definition of the "body of Christ."

So the COGWA business retreat was fantastic. I got an endorphin fix from the fellowship. The adult beverages flowed late into every night, including the sabbath. As far as the seminars go, I have no clue how successful they are on the brethren. What I hope is only few brethren are making their decisions on which COG to attend based on petty doctrinal differences.  It is more probable those decisions are (nowadays) locally oriented and being based on where family members are, where friends are, where kids are so that our kids have friends. Who is providing more opportunities for the kids and who is throwing the best parties. I think this is blow-back from years of forcing brethren to live in a continuous state of urgency, never allowing people to be apart of life "out there." Never allowing us to take root in our communities, build church halls and actually have opportunities to love our neighbors.

Future seminars, sermons and feast messages will try to convince us making corporate decisions based on that kind of criteria is Laodicean or worse, showing ones self to be a "tare among the wheat." Whatever. The messages were disappointing as expected. I just didn't expect them to be that so blatantly bad! But I wonder. Does this show how "puffed up" and obnoxiously confident they are in the "unity" they have manufactured or does it expose just how fearful they are of the statistics showing the movement is continuing to dwindle with deaths out-pacing births, with no new prospects and the next generation saying, "I'm out"?

Either way, I expect the ante to continue to rise. More corporate retreats will be implemented with bigger and better bells and whistles. More camps, more dances, more adult beverages. Maybe a Hezekiah-type declaration to keep the Feast for two weeks! We are witnessing a church of God "Cold War" to see who will out-spend the competition to sop up the remaining tithe-payers of a dying movement. The winner will be the corporate entity that gives back the most dollars they whored for.

My advice: The failing business model of post-Herb splinters don't need a "prophet" (sorry, Bob). They need "The Profit" Marcus Lemonis, who rescues small businesses on CNBC because you are definitely not the body of Christ. That distinction is reserved for those spirit-led individuals that exemplify fruits of the Holy Spirit, always precluding organization. Dr. Meredith used to yell, "You can't put God in a box!" It's true! And yet, WCG and all the splinters have been trying to lay the body of Christ to rest in corporate coffins for decades. Hello?

by Stoned Stephen Society

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Are there REAL COG prophets in our midst?

My other favorite self-appointed Church of God prophet is the Great Bwana to Africa. He is so magnificent that he leaves Prophet James Malm trembling at his kitchen table in abject frustration.

The Great Bwana to Africa is back up to his old tricks trying to justify his self-appointment as the ONLY prophet in the Church of God today.  All other prophets are just dime store imitations sent by Satan to deceive the church.  Not the Great Bwana though!  He is the "real" deal!

The Great Bwana to Africa is using Norm Edwards, again, as a justification of his prophetic status.  Seriously?  Norm Edwards?  While he is good at doing charitable works for others, his theological rants are about as absurd as the junk the Great Bwana and James Malm writes.  Ultimately, not worthy of a New Covenant follower of Jesus.

The Great Bwana to Africa, the end-time Elijah, the reincarnated Elisha, the embodiment of Amos, the true Joshua, and whatever name his magic eight-ball leads him to each day, says this:
Norman Edwards was the editor for Shepherd’s Voice magazine. He is not part of the Continuing Church of God, where, I function as its human leader (and am an ordained prophet; the only known such ordained prophet in any legitimate Church of God group). 
What a crock of nonsense. He is NOT ordained as a prophet, he set himself up as one.  No matter how much he tries to rope Gaylon Bonjour into this nightmare, he is still not a prophet.  Given the fact that Bonjour is NOT qualified to ordain a prophet makes this silliness even more absurd.  No human Church of God leader today is able to pass on any "rank" that is from God. Every single one of them has disqualified themselves by teaching heresy, making false prophecies and abusing the brethren.
While Norman Edwards and I have long disagreed about aspects of church governance and various matters of doctrine, we both agree that many who are in or claim to be in the Church of God (COG) wrongly do not accept that God has any prophets today and that Laodicean pride gets in the way. We also agree that most have severe difficulty identifying one who really is a prophet because of various unscriptural biases and improper criteria that they have. 
It does not take a rocket scientist, or even a talking jackass, to tell us that the current batch of Church of God leaders are false prophets. 
Because of false prophets in a couple of COG-related groups and a disbelief in prophets by most of the COG groups, the non-Philadelphian COGs have a lot of severe prophetic misunderstandings.
Anyone that follows the lies of the Great Bwana to Africa is going to have SEVERE prophetic misunderstandings. 

The Great Bwana to Africa goes on to list 41 silly points that he thinks PROVES he is the true Prophet of God and all other COG prophets are wrong.  You can see that silliness here.
Some will come up with their preferred rationale as why not to agree with the position of the Continuing Church of God (CCOG) on these matters. Yet not only is CCOG’s position biblical, it should be noted that leaders in the Living Church of God and/or the United Church of God confirmed to me personally that I was biblically correct on all the above points, despite the fact that their respective churches hold to several of the errors pointed out above. Those who rely too much on a compromised ministry (Ezekiel 34:7-10) to teach them prophecy that is not truly in accordance with scripture need to realize that according to Jesus’ words in Revelation 2 & 3 and Luke 21, only relatively few Christians will be protected from the hour of trial that will come upon the whole world. 
As if anyone in their right mind would care what some disturbed leader of LCG or UCG claimed about the Great Bwana!  Seriously, who cares?  Given the track record both churches have in lying to the brethren and abusing them, why would ANYONE care what they said? 
As Norman Edward’s article points out, it is scriptural to now have prophets according to the New Testament. But many who truly believe that they live by the word of God have discounted or overlooked what the Bible actually teaches and/or have been influenced by others who have done the same or worse. The COG has at least one demonstrably true prophet today, yet most in the greater COG world seem to be able to ignore the truth about that, like most ignored John the Baptist and others in their day. 
Pride is a bigger problem for Christians than most realize.
The Great Bwana to Africa is lecturing the church about pride.  Hilarious!

For anyone who is a follower of Christ; that person knows that all of the belchings by COG prophets is useless. Christ, through everything he accomplished, invalidates all of the self-appointed COG prophets today. No one in the church needs them today.  Those who follow Jesus know that their rest is in the one they follow and in whom they place their worries about some upending trauma that might happen in the future.  Their confidence is assured in that salvation and not in some fool in a Church of God who set himself up and who lies through his teeth.

Oh Noes!!!!!!! Middle East Conflict To Break Out By Mid February!!!!!!! So says unemployed COG Prophet

My OTHER favorite Church of God prophet has been busily parked at his kitchen table cranking out new books, making videos by his pretend "fireside" and uttering prophecies about the impending doom to hit humanity, particularly those living in mythological British Israel nations and those who happen to be part of the various Churches of God. No matter how hard he tries, he still cannot get his little kitchen-based ministry off the ground so that he receives a steady income stream.  Unable to claim miraculous dreams and double blessing, like my other favorite prophet does, he struggles along hoping that someone will buy one of his books or heed his message and send him some desperately needed money.

The problem that Chief Pharisee James Malm faces is that most COG members are sick and tired of the lying false prophets in their midst.  They are tired of sending money to unemployed wanna-a-be's, and especially tired of those who bastardize the law making it more important than grace.

While subject to various military and political calculations there is good reason to expect the general regional Middle East war to begin in mid to late February.  I plan to begin recording now with the first program to be about the imminent conflict and its purpose and aftermath to be published on 24 Jan, just ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan 27th.  
That one News Prophecy program is scheduled to be followed up by a series “From Sinai to Jesus” about the reason for the captivities and covering the remarkable fulfilled prophecies of the rebuilding of the temple and city and the inter testament history up to the ministry of Christ.
It does not take a talking jackass to tell us that there is trouble in the Mideast right now, but it has nothing to do with the prophetic belching done by Church of God liars right now.

Adult Sabbath School: Death-Kicking the Bucket, Being a Goner, Biting the Dust, Checking Out and Feeling No Pain

It's very difficult for humans to say the words "He/she/they died." What a marvelous number of euphemisms for death we have. We pass on, croak, kick the bucket, go home, expire, succumb, leave, meet our maker, go to our reward, get wasted, check out, eternally rest, are a goner, end, bite the dust, get liquidated, terminated and annihilated. We CROAK! (Thanks Tonto!) We give up the ghost, make the change, transition, get mertilized, go to to the other side, fall asleep, get taken, rubbed and snuffed out. We depart, transcend and buy the farm. We are feeling no pain, lose the race, cash in, cross Jordan and go with the angels. We get done in, translate into glory, return to the dust, wither away, give up, take the long sleep and a dirt bath. It can be curtains, a dropped body, six feet under and out of our misery. We find everlasting peace, new lives the great beyond, ride into the sunset and that's all we wrote. But in plain fact, we are dead.
All of religion is predicated on the fact that we have to go somewhere after death. "We" being everything from our spirit and energy to our mind and ethereal body. We like it better if there is a good place for the nice ones of us and a bad one for the jerks. Although the idea of reincarnation lends itself to allowing everyone their spot after having learned lessons along the way many times over.
Western Churches spend your lifetime convincing you that their understanding is THE only understanding of what happens when we die and usually provide you with a program whereby you can leave your worldly goods, you know the ones they told you in sermons not to store up on, to them. I have seen many a family outside the particular denomination of the one who "went home" have to face the fact that all the goodies went to their church and not their family. Let's make a rule that if a person gives a church their stuff after they die, and sons or daughters protest, the Church has to give it back to the family. This will help the church to practice what they preach and give that which actually belongs to a family to the family it actually belongs to. Beware of Churches who have a program for you to "honor God with your death," or "Your will, a way for you to continue giving after you die," program. The money given to the Church will be mis-spent and it would be more satisfying to have your kids mis-spend it than your church,( no matter what Dave Pack says.) 
It's funny how if you ask someone about quantum physics, how evolution works or universes are born, , it's such an unknowable mystery in the final analysis, at least for now. But ask a religious person about what happens after death, and pfffft...that's easy. We go to heaven, they go to hell, we get reincarnated often, we are deader than dead, we wait in the grave until Jesus returns, we rise in a physical body, we rise in a spiritual "body", we this and that as if they knew and the truth is that they don't. Westerners would never question the Bible as knowing what happens after death even though one can find all of the above mentioned in one form or another in the pages of the Bible. Like Humans, the Biblical understanding of death evolved into what we see in the Evangelical Christian Church today.
The Catholic Church has gotten good at adding new places the dead go, such as unsaved babies, or the unborn or the not quite saved types, but it's all a crap shoot. Because we can come up with questions like "well what kind of God would throw an innocent child in hell for not knowing.....", we have to figure out new holding pens for such categories of people. They are not real mind you, but they help us cope.
Missionaries rush to save the lost before they die while admitting, in some circles that if they left them ignorant, a loving God would automatically translate them into heaven upon death. I mean, they can't help it they were born in New Guinea or the Great Plains. I loved it when Geronimo was asked by the General who hunted him down and imprisoned him in Florida if he wanted to go to heaven when he died? Geronimo asked if the General was also going to be there? "Why of course," came the response met by as simple "Then no" by Geronimo.
 Hell would indeed be for many having to spend eternity with those that drove them nuts in this life! I mean, do you really want to spend eternity closer than ever to all the people in your church, including the same pastor day and night forever! I think not! Heaven just might seem like one big endless potluck of boring people who are still pretending to be what they never were back on earth. It would be an eternal obligatory Thanksgiving or Christmas with the relatives that most never wanted to attend anyway! Nope, if I get to go to heaven, please God, let there be quiet places where no one can find me and those I want to be around. You know, kinda like we can do down here if we choose.

My quirky sense of symbolism caught up with me in my pics of a downtown Greenville Cemetery.
I saw a lot of death as a minister. Sometimes it was after the fact long enough to just bury someone in a nice funeral service in a nice setting. Sometimes I found myself standing at the edge of a river while they searched for a lost one or taken to a morgue to roll the dead body of a child or friend out of a drawer for a private family look. I even dug a grave once on a farm while we waited for family to arrive for a quick same day funeral and burial. I've picked up the cremains, ugh what a word, of people I had just talked to a few days earlier, now reduced to about 10 lbs. of gray sand. I have transported the neatly wrapped body of a newborn to another city in the backseat of my car, as the couple could not afford for the funeral home to do it.
Since writing this article, I have seen two out of three brother's in law die, a Nephew hit by a train, the loss of both parents at just under a 100 who died of evidently nothing much according to the Doc and the accidental death of my sister, a nurse, on the way home from work.  And finally to be followed by my former wife and boys mom of Glioblastoma, an always fatal brain tumor just last year. When I belatedly posted her obituary on the Ambassador College site, not knowing I could, I was immediately attacked in the "sorry for her loss" comments by a zealous former AC student and now ministers wife (of another denomination I surmise) as the SOB she knew I was because she knew was in touch with my ex etc.  I had just come from going to Grandparents day with her in her final month and a tearful talk on the back patio about our experience together and my own regrets of all things church and the pressure it put the family under for years. We made our peace.
This is all I need to know for purpose. It is enough and it is true
I have no illusions about my own passing in time.  No wait, my own death. Unlike others who either worry for or can't wait for me to find out there is a Lake of Fire, I am quite at peace with having had the conscious human experience and all that made me up, save for the conscious part, which indeed is still a mystery,  of elements forged in the cores of exploding stars over billions of years.  Not a bad beginning at all!
Once I had visited a mother, just socially, who spent much of the visit recounting the talents, skills, and beauty of daughter, which is normal when a parent is well pleased. I specifically remember thinking on the way home "how would she cope if she lost that daughter, who was the center of all the mom lived for? When I got home, the phone was ringing and I was returning to the hospital where this young woman had just been brought fatally run down at 18 miscrossing a street. Tough stuff. 

More quirk...
As a hobby, I took up paramedic skills. I learned why so many paramedics are overweight and smoke like chimneys. Pure stress. Most paramedics are wonderful caregivers but face the most horrendous of human deaths often. They eat and smoke too much and party way too hard. I don't blame them. I won't relate what I have seen. Just know that I have seen it. Death at it's worst. A Soldier could certainly top that.
The point seems to live in the moment, staying both out of the past of our lives, where we tend to store our anger and hurt, and also the future, where we store our anxiety and all that is unknowable. No one knows what happens at death. Just to say that is to stir the pot of religious surety. I know, no one but YOU.
There are some great stories of past lives recalled by some with uncanny detail. Hmmm, could be. Even the Bible gives the account of the blind man who caused the disciples to ask if the man's blindness was the fault of his parents or his own sin, "that he was BORN blind." We at least have to admit there is room there to question that if one is born blind due to sin, the sin must have taken place in a previous life. No other explanation is possible. Some in the early church believed in reincarnation. General George Patton was famous for his knowing where he had fought as a Roman Soldier in a previous life, while fighting again during WWII in Europe. He wasn't kidding and no one made fun of him either.
When my parents had my brother who ended up O2 saturated back in the day before someone figured out nitrogen was also a part of the breathing experience and then blind, deaf and unable to speak, their Presbyterian minister told them "well you must have sinned in some way for God to allow this." So it's an age old leap to false and judgmental conclusions on the part of those not so affected. 

There are stories of those who have left their bodies in near death experiences only to return and recount the experience in detail that only a, well "Ghost" could give. They got recalled to finish their lives evidently and everyone who experiences such a thing never again fears death. Well worth the experience if only for that little peace of mind, I'd say.
The Gospel of John presents a risen Jesus who exhibits all the signs of one who survived a sure death and came back a changed man. It's the  "Jesus survived the crucifixion view that grew from there. 

Stories abound of those who were given organ transplants donated by those who have died, only to mysteriously acquire the deceased's taste in foods, books or familiarity with topics never studied in their own lives. This would give credence to the idea tha cellular memory can be passed on. Whoa..pretty inspiring stuff and not just a little bit spooky.
Crass religions make big bucks off the masses who need to purchase their places in the Kingdom of God. I remember once shoveling a drive buried in feet of snow for a woman who then paid me in Catholic indulgences. They gave me a full 90 days less in Purgatory. I told her I was Presbyterian. She smiled and closed the door. I almost shoved the snow back into the drive.
I'm glad that so many can be so sure they know what happens at death. Some just know because they read it in the Bible never thinking that even that book is just another attempt by humans to figure this out. Some just know it's true because it's "true for me." Some feel that it just has to be true or what's the point. One cannot just die for nothing after learning all this stuff in life. And some just know what they know is true because somehow even science can prove it so.
As I mentioned earlier,  my brother in law died just two days after he was told he might live another three months. My boys mom was told 16 months and she died in three. If there was ever an example of a mind saying, "uh, no, I believe I need to go now," that was it. They  just left, and I believe on their  own terms. Or maybe they  passed on, or went home, or bit the dust, or left  this world, or got mertilized, transcended, lost the race, cashed in, got translated into glory, are on heavenly shores, out of their misery, carried by Angels, found peace, went into the zero point field, the great beyond, rode into the sunset and that's was all he wrote. I am not so arrogant to think that I know. But we all spend our lives wanting to know, hoping there is (that's what faith is) and fearing the "if not".
Personally I assume that because I did not notice or mind not being here the first 14.5 billion years of our Universe's existence, I won't mind or notice it after my death  as it expands out into thin nothing or implodes to bang again. All that we are, were and perhaps could be in some way again, will always be in the soup. And if perchance there is a Deity, He/She/It  and is not of the Hebrew cultic kind that will like me enough, I'm sure, to include me in Plan B. :)
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Reposted with edits  as death never gets old :)

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Symbol and Meaning

Symbol and Meaning
Symbol is something I have thought about for a long time. It goes back to studying marketing, branding and the use of symbol to project power, wealth, influence, solidarity and belief. The COGs love to criticize others for the use of symbols. An obvious example is the cross. The COGs say that the cross is a Pagan symbol that goes back to the worship of Tammuz in Babylon and other various Pagan connections. The COGs also mock the use of the cross as a symbol because it was a Roman instrument of cruelty and death. The "reasoning" goes that if Christ was killed with a machine gun or an electric chair, would Christians wear those around their necks?

It shows a fundamental ignorance of what symbol is, how it functions and why. The question I would ask is: Does a symbol define its meaning, purpose and use for people or do people define the meaning, purpose and use of a symbol? The obvious answer is that people define symbols. A symbol in and of itself cannot ascribe anything to itself. With that in mind, does it make any logical sense to try and attribute Pagan meaning to the cross for a people who decided that the cross represented the sacrifice and resurrection of their Savior? It does not.

Because individuals define symbols, it is an arrogant offence to tell someone else what a symbol should mean to them. Try going up to someone with a tattoo and tell him what his ink means and you will probably get a deserved punch in the face. And yet it is what the COGs do constantly in their "gospel" message and wonder why the church continues to shrink.

A day can be a symbol we attach meaning to. God defined what the seventh day was to mean to Israel. Saturn is a planet as well as a god and is commonly attributed to be a symbol of Satan. We even call the day "Saturday" and go to worship God on "Satansday" but if anyone was to try and use the kind of reasoning we do concerning the cross, for example, against us, we would be offended. We don't worship Satan or Saturn and they have nothing to do with the Sabbath and the God who defined its' meaning in the Old far as we are concerned.

When the COGs are criticized for having "Winter Family Weekends" at Christmas time, they  get offended. It has nothing to do with Christmas as far as they are concerned and they are correct. Yet! They will turn around every December and tell Christians who observe Christmas that they are celebrating a pagan holiday and somehow bolstering an ancient practice of roasting babies in fires and eating them like Babylonians or Canaanites did 4000 years ago or supporting drunken sexual orgies practiced at this time of year by Greeks and Romans 2000 years ago.

With no Sola Scriptura establishing time as a symbol in the New Covenant, Christians were free to set aside any time they chose for religious purposes. The Gentile Christians who were regularly assaulted by Jews and Jewish Christians about the Old Covenant, the Sabbath and circumcision, naturally developed an aversion to Saturday and an affinity toward Sunday as a day to get together since Paul started the custom to gather offerings for Jerusalem on Sundays and the Christians knew Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday.
I know Sunday-keepers today elevate Sunday in the way Jews elevate the Sabbath. But the early Christians did not transmigrate the symbolism, meaning and purpose of the Sabbath into another day (Sunday). Neither Christians, nor Pagans observed any day as a day of rest. Later generations of Christians chose to define what Sunday was to them and how to use it. Rome imposing its will and meaning on Sunday observance has no bearing on what it meant to Christians for 300 years beforehand.

It is interesting that the two annual observances that Christians did create was:
1. Celebrating the Resurrection (called "Easter" later)2. Celebrating the Incarnation (called "Christmas" later)
Both observations are practiced annually by Christianity but largely ignored by COGs. I don't think I have ever heard a minister rehearse the Incarnation in a sermon. And the only time I hear sermons concerning the resurrection is to simply try to prove that a Friday crucifixion-Sunday resurrection is wrong. Look at what Paul says in I Corinthians 15:1-4
"Now brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to Scriptures, that he was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." 

Paul says this is the most important part of Christianity and this is exactly what is embodied in the observance of Easter and Christmas every year. The COG's two annual main focuses are on Jesus being the Passover Lamb acknowledging His death and His prophetic return as King of Kings. Not saying this is wrong but is it any better than a focus on the Incarnation and Resurrection?

Focus on prophecy was confusing people in Thessalonica (II Thess. 2). Paul and Peter both had to walk back their false assumptions about the immediacy of prophecy. COG focus has always been Old Covenant (Seventh Day) and Prophecy (Adventists) which, in my opinion, has only brought back into focus, first-century confusion caused by Jewish Christians, no matter how well-meaning.

If you consider Judaism and Mainstream Christianity at opposite ends of a spectrum, the COGs seem to exist somewhere in a confused middle because they refuse to articulate a clean break from the Old Covenant. Supposing all three positions miss the mark, where is the sweet spot? Some think it's inching closer to Judaism. We see it in a growing Hebrew Roots Movement. I know some here would say completely off the spectrum. I personally lean closer to mainstream Christian scholarship and historical research instead of HWA's 6-month library study but fully realizing fundamental flaws in Catholic and Protestant doctrines.

I think if Paul were around today, he would be telling us all to leave each other alone about the observance of days. I feel no inclination to observe Easter, Christmas or Sunday but I also see no benefit in harassing well-meaning Christians that do. Some may say I am wandering too far off the COG farm but I would just ask anyone with eyes to see if they see the churches of God growing in grace or knowledge or in fruits of the spirit? Have we set any better of an example of what Christianity should be than Catholics or Protestants? Since growth in the "work" was established as a measuring stick by HWA, is there growth in the works being done by the petty, infighting, AC alumni we call ministers?

The unpleasant truth is we are the descendants of an Adventist Movement started 176 years ago on the foundation of a false prophesy and that has continued to provide additional false prophets along the way. Are we really "the" church or are we just "a" church? Are we really a church or are we the dying aftermath of a personality cult? If we are a dying remnant of a cult, can we be salvaged and reformed into a church? Should we seek to be grafted back into the parent church started by Gilbert Cranmer? Will the church of God movement as it exists right now, spread a Sola Scriptura gospel to the whole world and usher in the return of Christ?

"Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to dispute over doubtful things...Who are you to judge another's servant?...One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind...He who observes a day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe a day to the Lord, he does not observe it...But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother?" --Romans 14:1, 4, 5-6, 10

I think everyone under the fundamentalist umbrella trip over themselves because they all declare Sola Scriptura but no one actually abides by it rationally, nor accept that Scripture does not plainly answer many questions. Approaching the Bible with a spirit of grace allows us to accept our vast ignorance and resist telling everyone else what's what. Sola Scriptura in the hands of narcissists and psychopaths is a "thus sayeth the Lord" cat o' nine tails in each competing and divided church of God that demands their work be your god, their thoughts be your meditations, their cross be your burden, their days be your idols, their private interpretations be your doctrines and their every precious heresy be your sin; sucking the free will out of hapless souls over doubtful things.

Gerald Weston used his Winter Weekend message to attack tattoos and vaping again. But I digress.

Stoned Stephen Society