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Posts Tagged ‘Worldwide Church of God’

Yesterday I sat down for lunch with two men who will both be 70 within the next twelve months.  They could not be more different if they had been born on separate planets.  One had lost his way in the drugs and parties of the 70’s.  The other had gone to seminary and doesn’t even know a single Led Zeppelin song.  One worked for over 40 years as a union worker, even through the party life, and lives on an adequate retirement, in a rent house.  The other re-built his life from scratch after divorce and career change left him with nothing.  One watches TV most of the day, the other works his small ranch and plays basketball on a city league with men half his age.  They are my fathers – one by birth, the other through marriage.  Even though my husband and I have been married over 20 years, this was the first time our fathers had ever been together long enough to have a conversation.  My dad is a former SDA pastor, and my father-in-law, former long-time member of the Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong.  Over lunch at this home-cooking diner, they found common ground, and I sat in awe of God’s amazing love and faithfulness to all of us over the last many years.

My father left Adventism  in the 80s during the big upheaval when the truth began to come out about their prophet, Ellen G. White, and prominent leaders began to question the doctrine that had been seen as the founding pillar of the group.  He lost his job for the sake of the gospel, and over other matters, his wife as well.  For a long time I feared he was going to give up on faith altogether.  He never seemed to find a church where things worked out after that, and his questioning began to take directions that frightened me as I began my own life with Christ in my early adult life.  But through all the confusion, he has found Jesus to be the only worthwhile Truth.

After Worldwide Church of God shifted their theological position from Old to New Covenant in the early 90s, through the influence of their leader, Joseph Tkach, my father-in-law also embraced the new path.  On a side note, my father’s mother – also a long time member, did not.  She followed one of the many splinter groups that sprung up after the shift in opposition to the change.  My grandmother passed away seeing grace as too good to be true, and my father-in-law drifted out of fellowship and back into drugs.  As often happens when people let go of the Law-based religion, they feel lost and alone, and overwhelmed at the thought of trying to attend a mainstream church. (His old congregation dwindled and floundered badly.)  If you don’t replace the void with a very real Jesus, you will feel hung out to dry.  Simply changing your mental understanding *about* God, does not always spark a living relationship *with* Him.

After losing his wife two years ago, and surviving massive heart attack, followed by bypass surgery this past year, I saw a huge transformation in my father-in-law.  He stayed with us during his recovery and we really formed a new bond with him.  I saw His spiritual heart had been broken when his physical heart nearly ended his life.

Yesterday he was re-baptized at his new church two blocks from his home.  My father, visiting from another state, attended the service with me.  The significance of the day began to sink in as I sat on the pew, between them.  Two men with long journeys to tell.  And a young whelp of a pastor who had no sense at all of the holy ground he was treading on.  He was in a hurry.  Dunk the new member, rush through the sermon, brush off the old man who puts a hand on his shoulder and tries to tell him how much he reminded him of himself as a young pastor back in 1966, with tears brimming in his eyes.  I believed a good lunch was in order so insisted we sit down for some real fellowship after church.  There two men were able to share and rejoice in what God had done for them, with someone who understood.  I sat mostly quiet (I know, hard to fathom) in awe of what God had orchestrated this day.

Early yesterday morning before getting ready for church, I saw a friend living on the opposite side of our planet had posted a quote by Joseph Tkach on his facebook page.  I took this amazing “coincidence” as  gift from God for the day, and printed it for my father-in-law.

We have always understood grace to be unconditional, an unmerited pardon of our sins. But we tended to think of it as one of the components of salvation that needed to be “stirred into the mix” because we can’t keep the law. We need to see that God’s grace is much more than that.

Grace is not just a spiritual supplement that God provides because we can’t keep his law, like a whiff of oxygen to help a sick person breathe a bit easier. Grace is the love and freedom-producing action of God that reconstitutes humanity into an entirely new creation. It transforms us and gives us a new kind of life – life that no amount of law keeping could sustain. Grace is the environment that allows us, God’s new creation, to not just survive, but to grow and flourish.
Joseph Tkach

Sometimes it takes a long time to see what Grace can do.  It knows that life cannot be forced or coerced before its time.  In our short life spans we find it so hard to endure this slow process, in ourselves and others.  It reminds me of the words in Corinthians, that love bears all things, and believes all things.  I have often been like the young pastor, in a hurry and unable to see the miracles in front of my face, wishing for big things to happen.  But God is at work in every moment,  no matter how hard or dark.  I pray to be more aware of every day of Grace!

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I have often said that telling a story is more effective than arguing a point, and this film, Paradise Recovered, demonstrates this to be true.  It shows a young woman who believes in her church as the very voice of God.  She devoutly obeys every teaching, even looking for a part-time job so she can financially support “the work”, in addition to her position as a live-in nanny to her pastor’s family.  As the picture of perfection begins to crumble, she finds a new friendship at work that challenges her to the core.

The depiction of spiritually abusive religion in this movie represents an interesting composite of various cults as well as some mainstream Christian belief and practice.  As I have maintained here repeatedly, the cults do not have a monopoly on legalism. The injured lambs leaving the cults often find the same spiritual illnesses in evangelical churches.  How can doctrinal orthodoxy produce the same fruit as a heretical cult?  Rightly dissected doctrine by itself (whatever that is) doesn’t affect the heart.  It only creates a mind that knows it’s right.   And we all know where that leads.

Fruits of love come from abiding in the vine – a genuine spiritual experience in Jesus.  The only head-knowledge that produces the fruit of love is the mind of Christ.  Jesus didn’t write a list of doctrines, however useful we may find them.  He lived and died for love.  He spoke truth, but drew people to love God and one another as the highest aim.  Much of Christian religion attempts to wash the outside of the cup.

I found the most poignant scene at the beginning of this film.  Esther, the main character, tries to tell the pastor’s little girl a Bible story with the same felt characters I grew up with in Sabbath School.  She tells her the story of the Good Samaritan with the Law as the focus, not love.  (How we teach our children… topic for a different post).  The little girl squirms and says, “I don’t like this story.  I want to hear about baby Moses.”   How many adults have I known, and how long was I also of this opinion?  We would have never admitted it, but our lives and words professed this:  Jesus, we don’t want to hear you.  Let Moses speak to us instead.

Fear, control, performance-focused thinking,  Jesus-plus-something teaching – these all come naturally to us.  To truly believe and ingest the truth about what Jesus has done feels so unnatural.  He defies logic and we like justice that we have something to do with, not the kind that takes us out of the equation.   Freedom can be terrifying as well, as this young woman in the movie finds out.  I identified with her brief return to the confines and security of the church, even after the abusive treatment.  She said, “I miss God.”  She had not yet experienced Him apart from her church culture.  Just as an abused wife may repeatedly return to her husband because she “loves” him, she possibly has not yet known genuine love.

Someone recently commented to me that we should not worry ourselves over hypocrites in any belief system – no matter what it is.   But I find a problem deeper than hypocrisy.  In dysfunctional families, as well as churches, we find the ability to compartmentalize thinking so that opposing ideals do not touch one another and conflict.  To the greater degree we do this in our own lives, as well as in religious communities, we find various forms of insanity.  The goal of mental, spiritual, and emotional health is to integrate truth into every aspect of our hearts and minds.  That truth, is a Person.  He is Jesus.  Knowing Him, abiding in Him, and allowing Him to fill us up with Himself – isn’t the focus of legalistic Christian practice or teaching.  Instead, we become no different than the Pharisees that sought to promote themselves above the Man who would set the people free.

Some may find this movie uncomfortable in some ways, and challenging, but I hope it gives some the courage to be free, in Christ alone.

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When giving our own testimony about leaving Torah Observance for Jesus alone and His Covenant,  I have always tried to make a distinction between the Hebrew Roots Movement (comprised almost completely of Gentiles) and Messianic Judaism, which I had no direct experience with.  Watching it from a distance I assumed this was culturally relevant for Jewish people having these customs as their background.

When I came to meet the brother who has shared this booklet I’m passing on to you, my theory was turned on its head.  I am so thankful that God has led him to write and freely share the wisdom he has learned from God’s Word.  He has blessed our lives incredibly with his words and I pray it blesses many others.

Judaism has beautiful elements in its practice and can be extremely alluring to those who mistakenly think they can learn to  “do what Jesus did.”   This is just the beginning of many distractions and deceptions, leading people to flirt with practices and philosophies of Judaism.   To draw from this well, as a believer, whether Jewish or Gentile is to drink from a broken cistern, guaranteed to run dry on you, most certainly NOT the Living Water that leads to everlasting life.

This booklet entitled “What Went Wrnog With the Messianic Movement” is a Jewish believer’s plea to reject the futility of false religion and inherited lies in favor of the One saving truth of Jesus Christ in a powerful, honest, heart-felt manner.  I praise God for the deliverance He has so graciously given so many of us who were once blinded, but now the veil has been taken away as we turned to Christ.  Here is an excerpt and a link to read the PDF copy.

“Judaism appears to be righteous and godly, but anything that turns away from or hates Jesus and His wonderful work also turns away from, i.e. hates, God as well. Therefore, because the spirit of Judaism is so virulently set against Jesus and His work on the Cross, the God of Judaism cannot be the God of Mt. Sinai, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets or any god at all. That Judaism and practitioners of Judaism hate Jesus reveals something much deeper in the character of the religion and the practitioners thereof. He who hates Jesus, hates God and cannot be said to be in any way godly.

But there is a redeeming characteristic to normative Judaism. Zeal. The day will come when “all Israel will be saved”, and when that day comes it will be with great zeal. The knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and the prophets will be added to zeal, to the eagerness to serve God. Lying, legal (and other) fictions and manipulative mental gymnastics of the mind of man will be put aside. The eagerness to seek God — the readiness on the tongue to discuss Godly matters —will be added to the clear vision of the eyes of faith. But it is dishonest to say that that day has come. Normative Judaism is not a beautiful religion for those who mean to seek the very face of God as described in the New Testament.

This booklet is not written for Jews who have never known Jesus. They should enjoy their religion in good health. However, for believers in the shed blood of the Messiah, normative Judaism is nothing short of spiritual adultery. In Romans we are told that we were made to die to the Law in order to be joined to (married to) the Messiah.”  p. 10

“Our heritage is beautifully described in the sixteenth Psalm:

“The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; Thou dost support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.” Psalm
16:5, 6 (emphasis supplied)

When David the psalmist says, “my heritage is beautiful to me” we should know that our heritage as believers in Jesus is not our culture; our heritage as believers is God Himself in diametric contradistinction to what has been handed down to us from our fathers. “Thou wilt make known to me the paths of life. In Thy presence is fullness of joy. In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.” These three amazing things (knowing the paths of life, fullness of joy and pleasures forever) are not obtainable from
our fleshly fathers; not from rabbis and not from books or lectures. Only the inheritance that we have as sons of God through Jesus (John 1) can bring us this inheritance.”  p. 42

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What Went Wrnog with the Messianic Movement

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