The fifth year of grace and trial of the Sabbath cycle is progressing, as we know it does. Many of our people are tested and tried and many are brought to severe heartache in this period. We often lose people in this period. Some are lost to death and fall asleep in the Lord, and some are handed to the adversary so that their life might be saved in the last days.
For those who die in the Lord, we should not be grieved but rather rejoice that they are resting for the resurrection. In the last days we will see many of the old taken from us. God has told us through the prophet Isaiah that: “The righteous perish and no one lays it to heart; and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come” (Isa 57:1). None of us is to grieve overly for those of us who fallen asleep. What we should be concerned about is the fact of our calling and the fact that we are under judgment while we live. I am the most miserable of sinners and sorely tried in the faith. All of us should be concerned as to how we are called and what we are called to do. Many of us do not count the cost and many fall short in the work of the Lord.
I am fascinated by the problems we have in the countries of Africa and India. The Trinitarian churches of the west have created a parasite mentality in both Africa and Asia among those who would embrace Christianity. We suffer from that legacy and it costs the people of those countries dearly as the people who wish to be shepherds among them come to us and seek to exploit their calling for money. When they are called to account and to be productive, they turn on us and accuse us. I have watched the Churches of God try to deal with groups in both Africa and India over recent years with serious results.
When we agree to serve the Lord, we agree to abide by the terms of the covenant and to serve our brethren. The stronger churches help the weaker and it has always been so. The headquarters Church at Jerusalem was so persecuted that they needed collections taken up for them. Paul instituted collections on the First Day of the week so that the Sabbath was kept and the next day put to use from the end of day after the Sabbath when people were gathered together after services.
I have watched churches established in states of India and nations of Africa where the leaders were simply out to get what they could from the churches in the USA, the Commonwealth, and the west generally. This year, God put a number of churches in different states and countries to the test and some leaders were removed due to misconduct. This is part of the trial process and the sifting out of the tares by the Holy Spirit among the Churches of God. It is called the Measuring of the Temple of God. The process has been examined in the paper Measuring the Temple (No. 137).
We have seen congregations in India go from Church of God to Church of God over the last few years in what appears to be a simple effort to extract as much money as possible from each one. They continue until they are exposed, and then move on to the next church. One has gone from WCG to UCG, to Hulme/Monrovia CG, to LCG; another through those links to CCG; and yet another has tried to join us. One of them has been receiving assistance from other independent ministries and non-aligned congregations in the mistaken belief, on the part of the one rendering assistance, that their assistance is to the Church of God and against organised structures. Groups have approached us for accreditation and assistance, while others have sought placement with us and have had to be removed due to blatant failure to comply with the directives of the Scriptures and the Church.
I have seen churches in Africa milking multiple congregations in the USA at the same time, and approaching us as well for funds. Sometimes they split the congregation up nominally, as seen in West Africa. The funds come to their wives and a subordinate from one church while they get help from another, or sometimes multiple others. Our checks often expose these impostors but not always and we have to sift them carefully. Some sins go before them but some come afterwards and are made manifest in time.
What does not help is the fact that the churches of the west compete for numbers and think that because someone says they are with you, that they actually are what they say.
Only by careful organisation and documentation can we keep ahead of these confidence tricksters. They learnt from the Trinitarian evangelists of the west. It seems that there is one born every minute as the great showman said. Most of the conversion tours there were for the benefit of the people back home who measured baptisms as “souls saved for the Lord”. They gave money to support this numbers game thinking that they did God a favour.
My wife was raised and educated in East Africa from a baby. We met in Asia. We have seen people baptised multiple times for tea, sugar, and other commodities. Hungry people will agree to anything for sustenance. The fact is that the baptism of adults in Africa and India today is no different now than it was then. Baptism is often for physical benefits and there is often no concept of sacrifice for salvation.
What fascinated me recently concerned a case of an evangelist, in charge of an African area, who called one of the ministry to account. He had been supported to establish a Church in East Central Africa. He failed to comply with directives of the Church and his assistance was stopped until he did. He failed to do that and then levelled racist accusations against the generous support structure that had supported him for some years. The Churches of God are approached and bled by these unscrupulous predators and because the Churches are not organised they are played off one against the other.
Because we communicate with the other Churches of God, we often know of the individuals concerned. South India and sub-Saharan Africa are endemic with these parasites. Remember, just because a person says they are Sabbath-keepers, it does not mean they are converted. Judas Iscariot was the first treasurer of the Church of God. Simon Magus wanted to buy the Holy Spirit to make money out of it. So too, these parasites work the faith to their advantage.
Unfortunately, there was a serious racist element in the western system. Often, racism prevented entry to the buildings of some of the South African and other denominations. Many of the nations themselves are tribalist and, what is in fact, tribalism is endemic in Africa, India, and elsewhere. Look to the example of the past. The greatest church of the early centuries was the Abyssinian Church. They took the faith through India to China (see the paper General Distribution of the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God (No. 122)).
What also fascinates me is the true multiculturalism of the Church of God in many nations. I am constantly encouraged by the work, and love, and sacrifice of the ministry in countries like Malaysia. There we have evangelists of Chinese and Indian backgrounds who are all working together as brothers. All selflessly devoted to the work, establishing the translation systems, and getting the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to all nations so that the end may come.
The real problem we all face is that when we are called, we are called to a lifelong devotion to a relationship with God that will see us through all trials. We are baptised into the body of Christ and organised as a Church in our nation state. We should not expect funds from other nations based on colour or privilege. We are the weak of the world and we are all struggling to make ends meet, to pay our tithes and support the work, and to help one another where we can help.
When you decide to be a member of the body of Christ, be prepared to be in it for the long haul. Do what you can for the Church and the Church will help where it can, but be prepared to help others as well. We give the benefit of the doubt and trust to all men until they breach the faith. So too does God give us that benefit knowing what we do and think.
What is happening at present is that we are being sorted out so that we can be built upon over the next Sabbath cycle. We should all be aware that the trials are hard, but we are not given a burden greater than we can bear. We are not tested beyond our endurance. When a trial comes, we are given a way of endurance. Our decision is by faith. By faith we attain the kingdom of God. Abraham and all the patriarchs and prophets endured by faith (cf. Heb. Ch 11; see the paper Faith and Works (No. 86)).
Often, we are given tests and lessons so that we can be prepared and strengthened for the next stage of the work. We cannot be given responsibility until we have been proven worthy. We are tested in little to prove faithful in little before we are given the opportunity to be in control of much. Both males and females are tested and strengthened, and support one another in the faith.
We come into the faith and are expected to work. Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” When you say you will do something, then do it. Do not be slack in the work of the Lord. The saying is that if you want something done, then give it to a busy man. So too it seems in the Church of God. The people who do the least are the ones with the least to do. Work hard for the faith and be shown to be trustworthy stewards. Do what is asked of you, not just what you wish to do.
Above all, do not be discouraged but be positive in your outlook. Discouragement is the weapon of the adversary. Always esteem others better than yourself. Look to the positive in all the brethren and encourage the brethren in all adversity.
If you are called to the faith in a poor country, then be content in the circumstances in which you find yourself and work for the continuance of the faith. Do not allow the thinking of the unconverted to corrupt the love that you should have for one another. If you live in India, do not allow the evils of the caste system to corrupt your view of each other, as has been the case in the Churches of God. If you wish to lead, then serve the brethren. Be steadfast in the tasks given to you and help others do their tasks. The brethren will see by what you do that you are worthy to lead. If you are given the task of coordinating a church, or a feast, or a group, then work to that end and do not forsake or leave the flock. Be there always for them and deal with them in justice and righteousness. You cannot be righteous without being just, as they are the same word in Hebrew, and that is zedek. The sons of Zadok are the sons of the righteous or the sons of the just. So must we be.
Do not let the adversary take you out of the Church this year. If you have offended your brother, go to him. If you are wrong, repent. Do not cut yourself off from the Church over pride. Above all, do not cause division and remove others from the Church through opportunism or self-seeking.
Remember that the faith is being developed in you over time. Others are called in through your efforts. You were called in through the efforts of others.
Do not bury your talent, as you will be judged for that fact.
Love one another and do what you can to help the faith grow in Jesus Christ.
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