The Apple Of God's Eye

March 2, 2010

The Meaning Of God's Tabernacle For Christ's Church Today

possessthevision.wordpress.coThe theme of God's tabernacle runs through the Bible like a continuous stream. The tabernacle, and its expanded form as the Temple, stands in the center of God's plan.

Anciently, God was very detailed in how He should be worshiped by ancient Israel, giving instructions for His tabernacle (Exod. 25-27 and 30). It sat in a courtyard (100 cubits long  x 50 cubits wide) enclosed by curtains (Exod. 27:9), with a gate 20 cubits wide at the front.

The courtyard contained an altar of 5 cubits x 5 cubits (Exod. 27:1-8), a laver (bronze basin where priests washed their hands and feet – Exod. 30:18-19).

It also contained a central tent (30 cubits long), which was divided into two sections by a veil, with the front section being the “holy place”(Exod. 26:33), and the section behind the veil called the most holy place, or the holiest of all (Heb. 9:3).

The most holy place represented God’s throne room in heaven. The ark of the covenant, with the wings of the cherubim spread overhead, was in this section (Exod. 25:10-22, 26:33-34).  Inside the ark were the tables of stone on which God had written the Ten Commandments. The lid of the ark, which was called the mercy seat, was where the Eternal – the One who later became Jesus Christ – manifested Himself.

Around the tabernacle was a section curtained off from the rest of the Israelite camp. No uncircumcised person was allowed to enter. The circumcised Israelites could enter and offer their sacrifices on the altar provided they were not ceremonially or spiritually unclean. (more…)

February 18, 2010

Seven Proofs Of God’s True Church, Part 4

Filed under: Church - God's — melchia @ 8:16 pm
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This Article Is Proof # 4 Of God’s True Church.

PROOF FOUR: GOD’S POWER

Man has the capability to produce awesome power. Explosion of an atomic bomb. Take the atomic bomb. Upon explosion, there is a brilliant flash, brighter than the morning sun, and an awesome, mushrooming cloud begins to form, instantly rising several thousand feet. Then, moments later, a huge rumbling, ear-splitting shock starts emanating outwards with physical force, just like a blow from some superhuman hand.

This type of atomic blast is only a tiny bomb though, a mere “pip” compared to the giant multimegaton hydrogen bombs of today. Actually, it takes the explosive force of an atom bomb to set off a hydrogen bomb. An atom bomb is just a “match” to ignite a hydrogen bomb.

Air Force planners have considered developing a “Trilloton” H-bomb, named for being equivalent in destructive force to one trillion tons of TNT. Do you grasp what a trillion tons of TNT really is? One million is a thousand thousand. But it takes one thousand million to make a billion. A trillion is one thousand billion!

If one hundred ten-ton trucks had been laboring mightily, dumping their maximum load of TNT once each minute since the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, over 1900 years ago, there would still not be a pile of TNT big enough to represent the destructive force contained in just this one bomb. (more…)

February 16, 2010

Is The Catholic Church the Original Church Of God?

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Jesus Christ did not found many denominations! Christ said, “I will build my Church.” He did built it! One Church, commissioned to preach and to publish His Gospel — the very Message He brought from God — to all the world!

But what do we find today? Hundreds of different and disagreeing sects, all founded by men, each professing to teach the truth, yet contradicting and disagreeing with all the others — a modern religious Babylon!

But what is a “sect”? According to Webster, it is “a group that has broken away from the established Church.” Who established the Church? — Christ! Today’s host of sects or denominations have broken away from that established parent Church — they teach different doctrines and observe different practices!

The religious sects of Jesus’ day were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, the Samaritans. They had broken away from the true parent Old Testament Church established by God through Moses. Jesus joined none of them. On the contrary, He called His disciples out of them! The Greek word “ecclesia,” translated “Church” in English, has the meaning of “called-out ones.” (more…)

February 15, 2010

Seven Proofs Of God's True Church, Part 3

This is part 3 of our seven part series of proving the true Church of God.

PROOF THREE: THE TRUTH ABOUT PAGAN DOCTRINES

Look at the superstitions around you. In the modern world, we seemingly take for granted the various bizarre “doctrines” and “beliefs” of the many religions. We’re not even especially alarmed at the almost fantastic varieties of “belief” held by the average passersby on the streets of our modern cities.

A Plethora of Paganism

Some believe in “going to heaven.” Others believe there is no God — that evolution is true. Still others believe in various interpretations of pantheism, polytheism, deism, dualism, theistic evolution, and, give or take a few hundred, about a thousand more shades and colorings of “belief.” Fast friends in many social circles believe widely different things about religion.

Sitting across from each other at the bridge table may be one person fully expecting to be “raptured” away secretly some day — while another believes there is no living Christ. One thinks only his body dies, and his “soul” goes off to heaven, while another believes he will reappear in the form of a gnat, or a mosquito. (more…)

Seven Proofs Of God's True Church, Part 2

Seven Proofs Of God’s True Church, Part 2

PROOF TWO: THREE DEFINITE SIGNS

This second major proof of God’s true Church is composed of three important sections.

1. Section one concerns the true name of the true Church
2. Section two is the understanding and observance of God’s seventh-day Sabbath
3. Section three is the understanding and observance of God’s annual Holy Days.

Section 1 — the True Name of God’s Church

Wherever Almighty God speaks of His true Church, identifying it by name — that name is almost always the same.

Jesus prayed, “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world [but not of the world], and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (John 17:11). Jesus prayed the Father to keep His own true people in and through a particular name! Jesus prayed that name would be the name of the Father. (more…)

February 13, 2010

Seven Proofs Of God's True Church, Part 1

Filed under: Church - God's — melchia @ 8:09 am

Jesus said, “I will build my church”! And He did build it! No one in the Christian world denies there is a true Church of which Jesus Christ is the Head somewhere on this earth right now! Many imagine that Church is to be found in the hearts and minds of multiple millions who may represent dozens of different “faiths.” Others claim it is one great organized and political body. Others may feel it is a tiny sect with heavy emphasis on charismatic practices. Many churches claim to be “number one,” meaning they claim to be the true Church! But can you prove which church is the true Church? This series of articles presents the seven major proofs which represent incontrovertible evidence of where God’s true Church, of which Jesus Christ is the literal living Head, is working on this earth today!

Jesus warned of a great deception to arise soon after His death and resurrection, but He also said, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18), and promised He would be with that Church always — it would never die out! (Matt. 28:20.) It doesn’t seem to enter the minds of most of the people of this world today, as they gullibly pursue the religion of their youth, that there really could be only one true religion — and that all others are false.

Jesus warned: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ [saying that Jesus is the Christ — not that ‘they’ are Christ]; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:4-5). (more…)

February 5, 2010

Why Religious Denominations Are Anti-Scriptural!

God's ONE true Church on earth is united under one covenant.

There are literally thousands of religious denominations claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ. Millions attending these denominational churches believe God approves of all the conflicting dogmas, doctrines, edicts and various confusions of interpretation. Yet most have never examined the word of God to determine if denominationalism is scriptural.

The word “denomination” signifies a part of a whole, a class, or division. When one searches the Scriptures he finds that no where is it suggested that the one true Church of God is made up of divisions. There are some very good reasons for this:

First, our Lord prayed for unity on the behalf of His followers, saying,  “that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” (Jn. 17:20-21). Nowhere does this prayer even remotely suggest a clutter of various groups at odds with each other and teaching conflicting doctrines under different names.

Second, Christ’s teachings advocate unity and condemn division, such as that among the Corinthians brethren (1Cor. 1:10-13). The Scriptures state Christ’s church is His body and that there is only “one body” (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4) . Yet the denominations say there are many religious bodies that make up the church. Either the bible is correct, or they are. Should we believe God or men?

True Christians are members of the ONE body of Christ, simply titled the “Church of God” throughout scripture. They serve, and worship God the way the early disciples did (Acts 2:41-42), keeping the law and governmental structure the way God intended.

August 30, 2009

What Is The True Name Of God's Church?

1The Bible gives the true name of God’s Church in 12 different places.

In five passages where the true name of the Church appears, the entire Body of Christ — the Church as a whole — is indicated. Thus when speaking of the entire Church, including all its individual members on earth, the name is “the Church of God.” Here are these five passages:

1.  Acts 20:28 — the elders were admonished to “shepherd the church of God.”

2.  I Corinthians 10:32: “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God.”

3.  I Corinthians 11:22: “Or do you despise the church of God…?”

4.  I Corinthians 15:9 — Paul wrote, “I persecuted the church of God.”

5.  Galatians 1:13 — here Paul repeats the statement he made to the Corinthians: “I persecuted the church of God.”

Nowhere is the true Church called after the name of some man or doctrine.

Where one specific local congregation is mentioned, the true Church is called “the Church of God,” often in connection with the place where the congregation was located. Here are four more passages:

6.  I Corinthians 1:2: “The church of God which is at Corinth.”

7.  II Corinthians 1:1: “The church of God which is at Corinth.”

8.  I Timothy 3:5 — in speaking of a local elder in a local congregation, Paul wrote Timothy, “For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?”

9.  I Timothy 3:15: “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God.”

In speaking of the local congregations collectively — not as one
general Body, but as the total of all local congregations — the Bible name is “the churches of God.” Here are the final three verses:

10.  I Corinthians 11:16: “We have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.”

11.  I Thessalonians 2:14: “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus.”

12.  II Thessalonians 1:4: “So that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God.”

These verses prove the name of the true Church. Denominations not bearing this name could not be God’s true Church. And of all the churches that do bear the name, only one could be the true Church of God — that one that obeys all the commandments of God and maintains the faith delivered once for all time. All others are counterfeit, even though some know about the true name.

Since Christ is the Head of the Church, Paul also called the various congregations “the churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16). But the actual name is “the Church of God.” It is kept in the name of the Father (John 17:11).

July 25, 2009

Ten Crucial Daily Questions For Spiritual Survival!

herbert_w_armstrong

These questions below are crucial for every true Christian to ask daily in their life of battling Satan, society and self. I strongly believe that Herbert W. Armstrong was spiritually inspired to pose these questions to the Church of God.

Source: by Herbert W. Armstrong, Co-Worker Bulletin, February 14, 1941.

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1.  Did I awake spiritual, in a happy, prayerful attitude, and was I watching to keep my mind from wandering this morning?

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2.  Have I, this day, kept my mind clean, my thoughts and contemplations on “the things above,” in continuous happy, positive, prayerful attitude?

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3.  Have , as a “babe in Christ,” partaken three times today of spiritual food by submissive Bible study and earnest prayer ALONE with God? Have I grown closer to God? Have I grown today in grace and knowledge?

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4.  Have I walked by faith, asking God for wisdom and guidance in all things, committing every little problem to Him, trusting Him with it?

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5.  Have I exercised self-discipline, denying impulse, doing what God’s word shows I aught to do instead of what I wanted to do?

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6.  Was my speech and conversation today kind, cheerful, soft?

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7.  Have I exercised patience today? Have I been charitable towards others, showing tolerance and love, or resentment, jealousy and anger?

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8.  Have I, while putting spiritual interests first, been diligent in performing regular material duties today, doing my very best?

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9.  Have I made the most of my time, or been weakened by unwatchfulness?

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10.  What have I done for God’s work and for others? Have I spent anything today to please myself that could have been saved for God’s cause?

June 21, 2009

Reincarnation: Myth Or Fact?

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Reincarnation is a concept which is common to many religious beliefs and spiritual practices. Those who believe in this theory teach that after death a person’s “soul” is reborn in a new body, which is sometimes referred to as the “transmigration of the soul” or metempsychosis.

The abundance of reincarnation myths around the world finds appeal in the idea that a fundamental part of themselves will live on after death, even though their bodies may decay.

The immortality of the soul doctrine (especially prevalent in the West) is basic to the belief in reincarnation. But, that doctrine is false! The classic inquiry “Who am I?” is being replaced by the puzzling question “Who was I?”. The Bible plainly shows that one’s soul is NOT immortal. Notice Genesis 3:19:

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust [not another body] shalt thou return.”

Also notice Ecclesiastes 3:19-20:

“For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast …. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”

Psalm 146:4 states that when a man dies “his breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts
perish.”

We can further this concept for those who say the body is irrelevant to the concept of reincarnation by quoting Heb. 9:27, which states that  a man “is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. In other words, he is NOT reborn to die over and over again.

So if this belief is not biblical, how did it start?

What is reincarnation?

“Reincarnation, literally “to be made flesh again”, is a doctrine or metaphysical belief that some essential part of a living being (in some variations only human beings) survives death to be reborn in a new body. This essential part is often referred to as the spirit or soul, the “higher” or “true” self, “divine spark”, or “I”. According to such beliefs, a new personality is developed during each life in the physical world, but some part of the self remains constant throughout the successive lives.” [wikipedia]

Answers.com terms reincarnation as rebirth of the soul in another body. Britannica Concise Encyclopedia terms it as the doctrine of the rebirth of the soul in one or more existences. Oxford University Press expresses it as existence of a soul that is periodically reincarnated in a body. And Columbia Encyclopedia references it as occupation by the soul of a new body after the death of the earlier body.

The teaching of reincarnation (a religion of the east) is making heavy inroads into Western society today. However, it is important to understand that it is in no way a scientific or religious truth.

Reincarnation in Hindu art

Reincarnation in Hindu art

The concept of this belief can be stated as follows: after death, the human soul leaves the body and passes into either 1) a plant body, an animal body, another human body, or even an extra-terrestrial body.

Belief in reincarnation has ancient roots. This doctrine is a central tenet within the majority of Indian religious traditions, such as Hinduism (including Yoga, Vaishnavism, and Shaivism).

It also appears in Jainism and Sikhism, two faiths that grew out of Hinduism and are still practiced in India. Jainism shares with Hinduism a belief in many gods. Sikhism, a monotheistic religion, combines some elements of Islam with Hinduism.

Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism all began in India, where the idea of rebirth first appears in texts dating from about 700 B.C. They share a belief in samsara—the wheel of birth and rebirth—and karma—the idea that an individual’s future incarnation depends on the way he or she lived. People who have done good deeds and led moral lives are reborn into higher social classes; those who have not are doomed to return as members of the lower classes or as animals. Only by achieving the highest state of spiritual development can a person escape samsara altogether. (Mythencyclopedia)

The idea was further entertained by some ancient Greek philosophers, the Egyptians and Greeks,  among the Celts and Druids, and in various “mystery religions” of the Near East. It spread somewhat among the Hebrews, before the time of Christ, and has survived among various Hasidic groups in the world today.

Many modern Neopagans also believe in it, as do some New Age movements, along with followers of Spiritism, practitioners of certain African traditions, and students of esoteric philosophies such as Kabbalah, and Gnostic and Esoteric Christianity. The Buddhist concept of Rebirth although often referred to as reincarnation differs significantly from the Hindu-based traditions and New Age movements in that there is no unchanging “soul” (or eternal self) to reincarnate.

People apart from ancient Israel had no concept of a personal God,  so  reincarnation took hold as a way of explaining many of the mysteries of this life. The perpetual state of karma (as a primitive form of retribution) supposedly helps to  “expiate’ the sins of previous incarnations.

Does the Bible mention reincarnation?

While the Bible does not mention the term reincarnation, it does condemn it in context in speaking of John the Baptist. In the Gospel of John, Christ is asked about a blind man: Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind? In other words, he must have done something wrong in a previous life, or he wouldn’t have been born with blindness. To which the Savior replied: Neither he nor his parents sinned…but that the works of God might be manifest in him (John 9:2-3r).Jesus Christ here clearly refuted the idea that the existence of evil can be explained by reincarnation. Why? Because reincarnation undercuts the gospel message in three ways.

  1. First, it assumes that God is impersonal and is therefore unknowable.
  2. Second, reincarnation denigrates the Atonement of Christ.
  3. Third, it denies the fact that Jesus physically resurrected from the dead.

You see, the law of karma is entirely incompatible with the teachings of the Bible. There is no mechanistic “wheel of re-birth” (as taught by Hindus, Buddhists, and their Western equivalents). Those who are now in the grave will NOT go to heaven, as “no one has gone up into Heaven, except He having come down out of Heaven, the Son of Man…., and neither will their consciousness leave the grave:

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28-29)

Esoteric foolishness

Still, many tell of crackpot esoteric experiences which seems real to them, but they conveniently throw out the Scriptures to go with their own impressions and subjective opinions. Such people are attracted by superficial and grandiose nonsense about hallucinatory “memories” of previous lifetimes-often gained through “regressive hypnosis.” That might make for some exciting storytelling, and if good enough, maybe even land them an appearance on Oprah and guaranteed a few book sales. But it doesn’t make for good reality.

...according to the idea of reincarnation, if one is “saved” at all it is only after many lifetimes of working out the consequences of one’s sins. This is the cold and dreary legalism of the pagan religions which was totally abolished by Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. (Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose): The Soul After Death)

The term “Christian” has been rendered nearly meaningless now with people of every bizarre belief and teaching claiming that their views can comport with Christianity. Ignoring the word of God and therefore avoiding being moved by the Spirit of God, such people circumvent the entire process of Christian growth. There is no spiritual maturity, because there is no growing where there is no knowing (II Pet. 3:18).

Christ told us that the way was narrow that leads to eternal life. Anyone who denies the clear teachings of Scripture about the afterlife denies Christ by his rejection of the Word of God.

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

The real nature of man is something few understand. The teaching of the immortality of the  soul is simply un-biblical and cannot be substantiated by scripture. Those who try do so with limited understanding or false pretenses.

June 18, 2009

Why Was Barnabas Called The Son Of Encouragement?

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The apostle Barnabas bent over the bloodied body, perplexed and distressed. At the first moan and stir of what had appeared to be a corpse, the little coterie of Christians gasped in disbelief. Then the short, stocky torso turned. Paul slowly sat up among the blood stained stones.

An ecstatic Barnabas helped Paul to his feet. Paul had survived a stoning. Astonished, the group heard Paul announce he was alright, and watched him turn back toward the city again (Acts 14:19-20).

Such was the character of the man God chose to get the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the known gentile world. But what of the character of his relieved and grateful partner? What was the role of Barnabas in the Work at that time? What value does his example hold for us today?

Some may be surprised to learn that Barnabas was the major human instrument God used to employ Paul in the ministry, and to get the gentile Work off the ground.

Barnabas’s unique qualities

Barnabas was genuinely humble. He was able to see the good in others. Because of this, he became a prime factor in the growth of the early Church. Cultivation of his qualities in our lives can enhance our impact as Christians today.
Scripture makes some unusual statements about Barnabas. One concerns the special name he was given by Church leaders — a name that seems to have characterized his ministry.

In the early weeks of the fledgling Church, the wealthier converts sold real estate and other possessions to share with the more needy brethren. Curiously, the only person named as an example of this generosity was a certain Joses. We are told that he “was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement)” (Acts 4:36).

The use of this name Encouragement is significant. The Greek word has also been translated “consolation” or “comfort.” John 14:26 uses a slightly different form of the Greek:

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things” (Authorized Version).

The name Barnabas, then, has essentially the same meaning as the word Jesus used to describe the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The personification of encouragement as the “father” of Barnabas is also significant. He must have manifested this trait in an outstanding way. This unique individual was a warm and encouraging person. He was positive and uplifting. He was able to see the best in people — to overlook the differences that could produce personal prejudice. This very virtue was used to open the possibility of membership in the early Church to converts of all nations.

Reaching the gentiles

Jesus Christ had shown His intent, just before His ascension to heaven, to ultimately reach all nations with the Gospel of the coming Kingdom of God (Matthew 28:19-20). After He provided His Church with sufficient human and material resources to evangelize foreign lands, Christ had a major hurdle to overcome. Many Jews were prejudiced against non-Israelites. Many felt superior, being the chosen of God, and harbored bias that would have weakened their willingness to reach out to gentiles.

God revealed first through the leading apostle, Peter, His will for the gentiles, through the incident of the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). Yet the Jews were still hesitant to admit that God must be dealing with gentiles (verse 28). There was some plain foot-dragging going on.

Whom would God use to get things going in the Work to the gentiles?

Enter Saul

Saul of Tarsus had been public enemy No. 1 to the Christians. He led a gestapo-like group of Jewish zealots on a crusade to completely eradicate the Christians (Acts 8:1). While on his way to Damascus, Saul was struck blind and brought to repentance by Christ Himself (Acts 9:1-22). Jesus made it clear He had chosen Saul to “bear My name before Gentiles” (verse 15).

After a narrow escape from would-be assassins at Damascus, Saul went to Jerusalem to join himself to the Christians there. But his reputation as their chief tormentor kept him on the outside looking in (verse 26). God began to use a certain man to champion the cause of suspect Saul.

Barnabas had perhaps believed Saul’s story, perceiving in him the Holy Spirit. Or he had heard of his conversion and powerful preaching in Damascus. He was able to put aside fear and bias to see the good in Saul. Barnabas stuck his neck out to help Saul win acceptance from the apostles (verse 27).

But Saul’s time had not yet come. After more threats on his life, Saul was sent home to Tarsus. God let a number of years go by while He further prepared His Church for the entrance of the gentiles. Growth continued, but no real effort was made to take the Gospel to gentile lands. Something did finally happen far up the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, in a gentile city called Antioch.

When the Church was scattered after the initial severe persecution, some of the believers journeyed as far as Antioch and took up residence in various gentile cities. These brethren witnessed to Jews only, until certain ones of them preached to some Greeks. God backed up their effort, and “a great number believed” (Acts 11:19-21).

When the Church leaders at headquarters in Jerusalem heard this news, they decided to investigate, and selected Barnabas for the trip (verse 22).  He arrived at Antioch and found that the Work of God among the Greeks was genuine. Being the positive, warm fellow he was, Barnabas was delighted. He “encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord” (verse 23). Unhampered by pride and preconceived notions, he could see the potential for good in gentiles. Barnabas lived up to his name, welcoming the new converts.

Another unusual statement is found in the following verse. Luke was so impressed with Barnabas that when he compiled the book of Acts, he stated, under inspiration, “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (verse 24). Barnabas was filled with the Holy Spirit, known also as the Comforter, which his name meant. He literally stands out for his special ability to see the good in others and encourage them.

Acts 11:24 ends with, “And a great many people were added to the Lord.” The growth was so rapid that Barnabas realized he was overextended. Assistance was needed to properly pastor the new brethren and allow additional growth. Barnabas was about to make a second major move that would ensure the great impact of Saul of Tarsus on the future of gentile Christians.

Remembering what had been prophecied about Saul, Barnabas realized that now was the time, and that Antioch was the place, to activate Saul’s ministry. So, “Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul” (verse 25). Together they returned to Antioch, staying there for a year. Saul probably acted as a kind of associate pastor, subject to the leadership of Barnabas. When the two are mentioned together, Barnabas is named first (verse 30).

Meanwhile, “The word of God grew and multiplied” (Acts 12:24). By the time chapter 13 opens, we find five ministers operating out of Antioch. God’s time had come to expand the Work into other parts of the world.

While the ministry there was fasting and praying about this matter, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit made it plain that God had set apart Barnabas and Saul for a special mission (Acts 13:2-3). A new phase of the preaching of the Gospel was about to unfold.

The pair took along young John Mark and set sail for Cyprus, Barnabas’ home country. It is ironic that a major change in the roles of Barnabas and Saul occurred on this very island. They preached the Word at Salamis on the eastern end, then crossed the entire island to the city of Paphos (verses 4-6). Here, the party encountered Elymas the sorcerer. It was through a confrontation with this false prophet that assistant Saul became leader Paul.

Paul emerges as leader

Elymas withstood the efforts of the missionaries to preach the word to an interested deputy of the country. “Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?’ ” (verses 9-10).

Paul, perhaps remembering the impact of his own bout with blindness on the road to Damascus, used God’s power to smite Elymas with blindness. On this occasion he stood out as a dynamic spokesman. But consider Barnabas’ position. He had been in charge over Paul. He had championed the cause of Saul and helped him into the fellowship of the Church. He was the one who dug Saul out of the woodwork at Tarsus and reactivated him. He was the pastor at Antioch. He was the leader of this evangelical tour.

What if Barnabas had dwelt on all these things?

Barnabas had to decide there at Paphos whether to humble himself and submit to God’s greater purpose. All we know is that verse 13 simply records, “Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga.” Previously it had always been “Barnabas and Saul.” Now it was “Paul and his party.” Paul was the leader. The entire focus of the rest of the book of Acts is on Paul. But let’s focus on the example of Barnabas.

Perhaps he was willing to admit that Paul had certain characteristics that were better suited for the job at hand. Barnabas was a warm and encouraging sort, which is a necessary quality of leadership. But he may have been of such a temperament that he tried to avoid confrontations. On the other hand, Paul was like a seething volcano, always ready to erupt with powerful, convicting preaching or debate, and never backing down from a battle.

Perhaps Barnabas realized this once and for all at Lystra, the city on that first missionary tour where Paul was stoned. Watching beleaguered Paul struggle to his feet and head right back into the city may have convinced Barnabas of the unique qualities Paul possessed.

At least it is safe to say that he had a similar attitude to that of John the Baptist. Submitting to the new leadership of Jesus Christ, John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Barnabas practiced what Paul later preached: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3).

Are you like Barnabas?

Barnabas’ humility is also seen in his freedom from feelings of prejudice. Had he been biased, perhaps Paul would not have gotten anywhere with those at Jerusalem. Barnabas was willing to welcome into the Church brethren of other nationalities and cultures. He didn’t let petty differences keep him from serving God’s people.

God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11). Barnabas manifested this same attitude by seeing the good in people. He dwelt on positives. He saw potential for the future. Exactly how much he had to do with Paul’s development, and therefore with the growth of the gentile Work, we don’t know at this time. We do know enough that we can benefit from his sterling example. What else, after all, would you expect from a man called the Son of Encouragement?

Source: The Good News, 1986

April 30, 2009

Worldwide Church Of God Morphs Into Grace Communion International

32Herbert W. Armstrong was the Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). Those studying the Bible with a critical eye recognized him as restoring long lost biblical truths. He stood against traditional Christianity’s error and taught the plain truth of the Bible. Now he’s dead and his successors have effectively dismantled any semblance to what was originally, and correctly, taught.

The final separation of the new WCG from “all things Armstrong” occurred recently with their official announcement that the church’s name will now become “Grace Communion International.” I’m not sure how much closer they could get it to sounding like the Amway of Evangelical Churches. 

The change was also picked up by another religious news source:

Worldwide Church of God Changes Name to Signal Inner Change: Religion News Service reports that the Worldwide Church of God, which re-examined and later rebuked the teachings of founder Herbert W. Armstrong after his death in 1986, has changed its name to Grace Communion International. “We are a church that God radically transformed,” said church president Joseph W. Tkach, who is a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals. “Our new name is consistent with the transformation and aptly describes what God has made of our fellowship.” Armstrong denied the Christian belief in the Trinity and took Old Testament law to heart and encouraged works of righteousness to earn salvation. The church lost half its members, 95 percent of its 1,000-person staff, millions of magazine readers and its college in Pasadena, Calif., when it officially repudiated Armstrong’s teachings and “prophetic speculation” in the mid 1990s.  http://www.crosswalk.com/news/religiontoday/11602619/

Changes in the WCG/GCI

WCG membership peaked in 1986, with about 150,000 members worldwide. However, the new leadership began systematically rejecting and destroying every teaching and tradition Mr. Armstrong established. Immediately, massive doctrinal changes swept the Church, initially concealed from the membership. 

In 1989, Gerrald Flurry and John Amos were disfellowshipped for adhering to the original doctrines of the WCG. The Philadelphia Church of God was then established to most accurately, among all WCG offshoots, preserve the teachings and legacy of its founder, Herbert W. Armstrong.

By 1990, numbers dropped to about 133,000, and in 1992, as income continued to decrease, a prominent minister and 3,000 members left to form the Global Church of God.

Perhaps the most traumatic change came in December 1994: Tkach announced that Christians do not have to keep old covenant laws. Many members did not accept these changes and in early 1995, hundreds of ministers and 12,000 members left to form the United Church of God

By 1996, attendance was approximately half  of 1990 numbers (67,000).  In the US, membership slid from 89,000 to 49,000. Thousands more stopped attending any church, and many congregations were left with only half the members they used to have. Church income dropped another 50 percent, and hundreds of employees were laid off. Now, the Worldwide Church of God is about half the size it used to be.

The television ministry, once one of the largest in America, is gone. Circulation of The Plain Truth fell from a peak of 8,000,000 down to less than 100,000. And as stated before, the number of employees in Pasadena fell from 1,000 to about 50, as reduced income forced them to remove some pastors from the payroll, and lay pastors were appointed for small congregations. Ambassador College/University was forced to close because the church could no longer subsidize it, and its properties have been sold. The church’s properties in Pasadena were also sold in 2004. An office building in Glendora was purchased, and all offices were relocated there in 2005. 

Grace Communion International now claims 42,000 members in 900 congregations worldwide, though those numbers are suspect.

April 23, 2009

Should True Christians Join Lodges Or Fraternal Orders?

Most lodges and fraternal based on the idea of the brotherhood of man and mutual cooperation among their members around the world. The idea is to make the world a better place in which to live. 

That is certainly a noble idea, but this question remains: Is there any hope of them attaining their goal? The hard truth is, the state of this world cannot be changed by the efforts of any lodge, club, or organization of human origin. Only God can change it. 

The idea of improving the world by human means is a misplaced one. Only Christ Himself, when He returns, will change the world and make it a happy place in which to live (Isa. 11:1-9). 

In addition, such lodges and fraternities embrace people of many religions, whether or not they are obeying God and His Word. Yet, God’s people are commanded not to be yoked together with unbelievers in such “brotherhoods” (II Cor. 6:14). 

Further, most of these groups will admit that many of their practices, ceremonies, and symbols originated in paganism. For further background information, I suggest consulting the article “Friendly Societies” in the eleventh edition of the “Encyclopaedia Britannica.” God’s Word, on the other hand, warns against adopting pagan ways of worship; please notice Deuteronomy 12:29-32, for example.

April 14, 2009

Use Your Talents: Don't Be An Unprofitable Servant

gmkidzone.blogspot.com

gmkidzone.blogspot.com

When Jesus Christ walked upon the earth as a human being, He was extremely urgent in doing the work of God.

“I must work the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).

The Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary says (his works)  all had a precise time and place, and a definite termination, so by letting any one service pass by its allotted time, the whole would be disarranged, marred, and driven beyond its destined period for completion.” In other words, all had to be completed in a precise time frame and if one part was left undone, the whole would not be complete.

And so it is today for true Christians. Matt. 25:14-15 shows there is a work to be done and Christ gives His true servants a portion of talents (Holy Spirit) by which to accomplish this purpose. These verses show it as a talent of money representing the ability to do work.

Luke 19:12-13 speaks of the same principle, except this time it uses the term “coins.” In this case, occupy means to do business or make a profit by trading.

So the more ability an individual Christian has, the more is expected of that person in supporting God’s work (Matt. 25:14-16). Others may have had greater ability (received more talents), but the talents were the same.

As previously pointed out, the terms “talents” or “coins” denote a portion of the Holy Spirit. It is this power which enables true Christians to not only properly understand the scriptures, but which gives the ability to do what God requires, rather than rely on human strength and power (Zech. 4:6). It also enables open doors and miracles to prosper His work.

The unprofitable servant

Matt. 25 points out that one man did nothing with his talent (or portion of the Holy Spirit). Verses 35-40 are not speaking of soup kitchens or the sick and hungry of the world. Christ said the poor we will always have with us. They actually have a two aprt meaning:

  1. These verses speak of helping the people of God – that part of the Church that exists with a specific need.
  2. They also speak of the work of God. The world is in deep deception and afflicted by lies. Offerings and tithes make great contributions to the work of God and the world, who receive the truth of God. THAT, is the work of God.

“Then the one who had received one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you haven’t planted and gathering where you haven’t scattered any seed. Being afraid, I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here, take what is yours! His master answered him, ‘You evil and lazy servant! So you knew that I harvested where I haven’t planted and gathered where I haven’t scattered any seed? (verses 24-27)

Christ clearly shows there is no spiritual bank. He would have accepted the smallest return, but this man brought Him nothing. He is unprofitable to God, which means useless and good for nothing. Jesus’ response was to give the lazy servants’ talent to the one who already has, and take away what little the lazy person had. The fate of this man is also to end up in the lake of fire. He could have been in the work of God, but wilfully refused to do it (verses 41-42).

Christ is not only concerned about those He is calling now, in this present time, but also the entire world. True Christians today live in times of greater impact to act upon the world – to reach the spiritually naked and hungry, for the truth of God.

March 17, 2009

What Is The True Definition Of The Temple Of God?

Paul told Gentile converts that they were the members of the house of God. He reminded them that the spiritual structure was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). This is reinforced in verse 22, where it says true Christians are a holy temple in God. Jesus Christ is not returning to a material temple, but to the spiritual, glorified temple of the living God.

In I Cor. 3:9, the term “God’s husbandry” – (γεώργιον  geōrgion); or “tillage” is entirely unique, as this word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly denotes a “tilled” or “cultivated field” (Albert Barnes’ Notes On The Bible). This shows we are also God’s produce, being harvested by Him.

But unlike what mainstream Christianity teaches, God requires something of us. Verse 13  shows our works (yes these are required) will be made plain. The time of judgment is just ahead of us and God will prove if His people (collectively the temple of God – verse 16) have been building  properly.

Why this requirement? Because the temple of God is Holy – it is where God dwells.  He wants to make sure the temple remains pure and He will not allow defilement, or sin, in this Holy place. This is probably a strange concept to many, because the prevailing thought is that a church is a building. But God clearly defines the Church as His people. It is where He dwells – in each believer.

Deut. 23:14  says wherever God is in the midst of, that place is Holy. Moses had to take off his shoes as God dwelled in the bush.

This is where God gets a little more insistent with His demands. In II Cor. 6:14, He tells true Christians they cannot dwell together with unbelievers. Who are these unbelievers? Again, contrary to popular opinion, there is no wider audience of Christians; there is only one Church of God. The remainder of supposed Christianity is deceived, bickering over pagan doctrines, beliefs and traditions of men. True Christians are to avoid anything that causes them to be mixed together with unrighteousness. When mixed, it is always the unrighteousness – the impurities –  which spread. These have to be eliminated so that the place of God`s residence remains Holy and pure.

Many in the world try to have it both ways, which is why God cannot  work with them. Verse 16 says either God dwells in true Christians or they are in the world. Only God dwelling in them makes them Holy. It is the body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, not the brain or mind. (I Cor. 6:19). Body = soma (# 4983 in Strong’s) = the physical structure.

Our bodies were created to be a temple, or sanctuary for the Holy Spirit. God knows the cleaner, healthier and purer our house is, the more we will be able to use the Holy Spirit. Spiritual growth is definitely, though not the only, factor to spiritual well being. Poor health also inhibits the ability to serve God.

The Corinthians had many vices – they said there was no evil in using what God gives. But just because we have a bodily appetite does not mean we  should use it. There is all kinds of sinful behaviour, even with that which is good and given by God. Sin is not the thing, but the wrong use of the thing.  I Cor. 6:12 says do not let anything master you or control you. The privilege carries with it the obligation of responsibility. There is a right and lawful use for everything, but we have to be careful of excess. The body is not created to serve those desires and be overpowered by them. Otherwise our god is our belly (Phil. 3:18).

We are joined to God in one Spirit (I Cor. 6:17). And since there are sins that affect the outside and sins that affect the inside, we are not free to do what we want with our body (verse 18). We are bought with a price – the body of Jesus Christ (verse 20) and we must glorify God in body and mind.

The first great commandment is to love God with heart, body and mind (Matt. 22:36-38). Then we are to love ourselves and others, which means we keep body and mind clean and pure (verse 39). That is hard in this world polluted by customs and trends of excess initiated by Satan (Eph. 2:2). It is he which  causes us to fulfill the desires of body and mind. Human nature involves mind and body.

We have to counter Satan by using the power of the Holy Spirit to lead moderate, balanced lives with fresh air, eating, exercise, and so on (Phil. 4:5). God does not want unclean things in our body. He is present and He wants to live in us, so the body has to be kept clean. Unless we are spiritually and physically fit, we cannot give service to God.

February 25, 2009

Why Are There So Many Denominations In This World?

This is one of my pet peeve topics. Why are there so many denominations today? Does anyone question the legitimacy of all these quarrelling and bickering sects founded by men? None agree with each other and most teach different things, yet all proclaim to teach the truth. Your mother can go to the Catholic church and your brother may attend a Protestant church down the road with his wife, even though he is Lutheran. Is this what Christ sanctioned when He started His Church? Did he found many denominations? Listen to His words: “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18).

He did exactly that built one true Church, which was commissioned to preach and to publish His Gospel — the Message He brought from God — to all the world!

How Was The Church To Grow?

Most people believe that God’s true Church is probably a huge, powerful organization, exerting powerful influence on the world. Nothing further could be true! Rather, Jesus called it the “little flock” (Luke 12:32).

In His final prayer, Jesus prayed for His Church, not for the world. In fact, He said that the world would hate those belonging to His Church (John 17:9-16). Members are described as being strangers and foreigners in this world — ambassadors, yet never being “of” the world! The true Church of God was to be persecuted and scattered (John 15:20, II Tim. 3:12).

That’s a hard concept to swallow in the civilized portions of the world that pride themselves on tolerance. But Jesus Christ said after He was smitten (crucified), the “sheep” — His Church — were to become scattered! (Mark 14:27, John 16:32).

This persecution and scattering began early in the Church’s tenure (Acts 8:1) and continued throughout history. Despised and scattered by the world — it was never separate and always spoke the same thing. It was never made up of many differing sects, a fact overlooked by historians because they never knew where to look for the true Church — for they didn’t even know what the true Church is.

Most Of The World Is Deceived

You might argue with my last point, but in the Bible, all the prophecies foretold apostasy, deception, and division. Christ himself said “…many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:4, 5.)

Did you notice that? It was the many who were to be deceived, and the few who were to become true Christians, not the other way around! This condition is again pictured by Christ saying, “”Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).

It’s not up to you to believe me, but if you’re a Christian, you had better believe your Bible. All humanity has become deceived by Satan (Rev. 12:9), the god of this world. He appears, not as a devil, but as an angel of light, proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ. “Believe on Jesus and you will be saved,” is the common altar call. But what about the Bible admonition of repentance, and being baptized for the remission of sins to be saved? (Acts 2:38). Why is this scripture lost on much of Christianity?

World’s Influence Into God’s Church Foretold

In Acts 20:29-30, Paul delivered to the elders (ministers) of the Church at Ephesus a final message. He told them that immediately after he left Ephesus, there would come within the local Church congregations false ministers to make a prey of Christians. And even from those elders already in the Church congregations some would pervert the doctrine of Jesus to secure a following for themselves. Peter also warned the churches about this problem (II Peter 2:2).

Although numerous deceivers, called Gnostics, left the Church, drawing away disciples after them, there was an even more dangerous apostasy which infiltrated the true Church. Paul told the Evangelist Timothy, that there would be congregations which would not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts” — would do what they please and elect ministers who for the sake of money would preach fables of mysticism and sun-worship that were engulfing the Roman Empire(II Timothy 4:2-4). The letters of Paul were twisted by them to give another meaning than intended (II Peter 3:15-16).

Here’s the odd part. Instead of leaving the local congregations and forming their own sects, as some Gentiles did at first, the false preachers remained within the congregations and soon began to expel the true Christians (III John 9 and 10), who alone comprised the true Church. They were being put out of the visible, organized congregations. They were the scattered ones of whom John said: “Therefore the world knoweth us not” (I John 3:1).

Where Historians Get Confused

After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and the deaths of the apostles, something incredible happens. The true Church almost disappears from history, and false churches arise! Historian Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, in his book The Story of the Christian Church, page 41, says: “We would like to read of the later work of such helpers of St. Paul as Timothy, Apollos and Titus, but all these… drop out of the record at his death. For fifty years after St. Paul’s life a curtain hangs over the church through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises, about 120 A.D., with the writings of the earliest church-fathers, we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of peter and Paul.”

So what happened to the true Church which was lost out of sight by most historians? It did not disappear, but continued to exist from the time of Christ until the present. This is a promise from Christ Himself: …I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

You can find it by looking for a small Sabbath keeping Church which keeps ALL of God’s commands, faithfully preaches about the Kingdom of God, as well as warning the world through prophetic vision. That should be no mystery, but yet it is!

February 24, 2009

What Is The Biblical Name For The True NT Church Of God?

Have you ever noticed that churches in this world are often named after men, a devised system, or a kind of church government? The name may even offer insight into a significant doctrine they emphasize, or what men hope to make it — all-encompassing, universal or catholic. But is this the correct way to identify the true Church of God? After all, there is only one true Church of God – not thousands comprising a babble of confusing religions, beliefs, or doctrines!

So what are we looking for? I mean, the Bible should help us identify the name of God’s Church, right? Of course it does! Wherever that one true Church is, it will be named the “Church of God.” Read Jesus’ prayer in John 17:11, 12: “…Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me…. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name.”

A person’s name is important. When one acts in another’s name, one acts in his stead — by his authority. The name designates the source of the authority — it designates who the person is for whom one acts. It’s clear from the scripture above that the true Church is to be kept in the name of the Father, which takes the authority of His name. Since the name of the Father is God, the Church is simply named the Church of God. You can see why it would be important not to name it after a man or any other man-devised idea.

Twelve times in the New Testament, the Church is named the Church of God. In five such passages where the true name of the Church appears, the entire Body of Christ — the Church as a whole — is indicated. Thus, when speaking of the entire Church, including all its individual members on earth, the name is “the Church of God.” Here are these five passages:

1. Acts 20:28: The admonition to the elders is to “feed the Church of God.”

2. I Corinthians 10:32: “Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God.”

3. I Corinthians 11:22: “…or despise ye the Church of God, and shame them that have not?”

4. I Corinthians 15:9: Paul wrote: “I persecuted the Church of God.”

5. Galatians 1:13: This verse repeats the one last given — “I persecuted the Church of God.”

Where one specific local congregation is mentioned, the true Church is called “the Church of God,” often in connection with the place or location. Here are four more passages:

6. I Corinthians 1:2: “The Church of God which is at Corinth.”

7. II Corinthians 1:1: “The Church of God which is at Corinth.”

8. I Timothy 3:5: In speaking of an elder in a local congregation, Paul wrote Timothy: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?”

9. I Timothy 3:15: “…Behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God.”

In speaking of the local congregations collectively, not as one general body, but as the total of all local congregations, the Bible name is “the Churches of God.” Here are the final three verses of the twelve which name the Church:

10. I Corinthians 11:16: “We have no such custom, neither the Churches of God.”

11. I Thessalonians 2:14: “For ye, brethren, became followers of the Churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus.”

12. II Thessalonians 1:4: “So that we ourselves glory in you in the Churches of God.”

In some New Testament instances, a descriptive adjective is added to the name, as the Church of God at Corinth, or the Churches of God in Judea. But that is not all. Many have appropriated God’s name (the Church of God), but are not proclaiming the true Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Neither are they teaching obedience to God’s Ten Commandments or repentance of transgressing that Law. They pervert nearly all of the doctrines found in the Bible to suit their own agendas, so by their fruits we understand that they are not representative of God.

While this is not an exhaustive study into the matter, it does provide oversight into the subject and gives a clear analysis from scripture into which direction we have to look in identifying His Church.

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