This is not written for those who are comfortable with their experiences in the "church," nor is this for historical apologists. For those who are happy with their experiences I am providing a link to a national weather service, which I hope you will click to NOW National Weather Service Seattle, Washington.
This is being written for those who have been ravaged one way or another by an organization purporting to be doing the "Work of God." An organization whose real goal has been to acquire wealth, honor, worldly goods, carnal comforts, and an unbelievably generous retirement plan at your expense!
It has now been many years since the collapse of the Worldwide Church of God that many of us knew when we were baptized many years ago. Why, many ask, would anyone care to take time to reexamine the thoughts and precepts of men long dead? Good riddance, and let bygones be bygones, they say. Forgive and forget. Let's get on with our lives. Well, for the people who are equipped to get on with their lives, I say, go! But, for those of us who still suffer daily in one thousand different ways, this is for you.
Why, if it has been so long since you last attended weekly services, do you still hurt so much? You are being haunted by residual gut wrenching guilt and nameless fears. The reason is surprisingly simple: because, you are human. As humans, we all function pretty much the same way. Think of us as biological robots with computer like minds. We are creatures genetically engineered to function of many levels. When God created us, He literally placed into our brains programs that run our involuntary systems: heart, lungs, circulatory, etc. He also placed into our heads programs that collect data, sort it out, and use the information. This is called learning.
There are also programs that program. This is called "acquiring a habit." Habits are not a bad thing. Habits help us get things done without consuming an excessive amount of thought. It would be a mistake to underestimate the power of habit in our personal lives. We wash, dress, drive, speak, and yes, even think, by force of habit. Most of what we do, and think, is the product of habit that has been programmed into you by someone in your life. First your parents, then others took their hand at scripting the way you look at and respond to the world around you. After that, for the rest of your life, you will pretty much react to every situation the way you were programmed to by a script that is constantly running through your head. What makes you angry? What makes you sad? Happy? Worried? Under what circumstances will you lie? What do you consider a lie? For what are you willing to sacrifice? All your responses to stimulation have been preprogrammed into your head from childhood.
Now, the power of programming has not been lost on those who would use this natural human trait to their own advantage. Unscrupulous men have from the beginning of time used the power of scripting the mind to turn sincere, loyal, decent human beings into slaves to their own selfish purposes. But how? There are many ways they go about to accomplish this, and members of organized religions should recognize most of them.
Those who would go about re-scripting your mind to serve their own purposes all use the same tools. Hope and fear are the tools of the trade. Everything you hope for is promised to you if your behaviors fit into a prescribed framework. In the case of the Worldwide Church of God, we were taught to hope for the world tomorrow, to be a king and priest, to rule the people that are putting us down now, to receive the power to heal in the kingdom, to be an important part of rebuilding the glorious kingdom of God on earth in His millennial reign. All we had to do to be part of this grandeur would be to support His servants with our whole heart and mind, without questions or reservation. And who are these servants? Why, WE ARE, say the church leaders that have managed to catch your attention. (By the way, you will get the same answer if you are talking to the representatives of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventists, or any number of denominations.)
But what if you aren't interested in giving your wholehearted support to this One True Church. Well, then, everything you FEAR will be yours. You will suffer the GREAT TRIBULATION. Your children will no longer be sanctified! You will go straight to the third resurrection. Bad, bad things will happen if you fail to conform to the renewing of the mind being offered you. Keeping in mind, that our hopes and fears are also being scripted for us.
Mr. Armstrong said on many occasions that it takes ten times longer to unlearn something than it took to learn it. If you were a sincere member of Worldwide Church of God you listened to hundreds of sermons a year. You attended Bible studies, took the correspondence course, read every word of the Plain Truth, Worldwide News, Good News, and the Pastoral Report, if you could gets your hands on it.
After a while, everything you gave consideration to was being viewed through a filter of the world as seen through the inspiration of Herbert W. Armstrong. (This is the only instance in the English language when the letter "w" stands for "pretentious." Or perhaps it stands for "wants your money".) Is this right? Is that right? Am I being loyal to God? Am I being disloyal to God? Am I being selfish by buying my kids school clothes instead of making an extra offering? Am I doing enough? Did I just now eat a shrimp in that lettuce? What about the Place of Safety?
This is perhaps why you are still suffering now. In your head there are still hundreds and hundreds of subprograms placed by church leaders distilling everything that goes through your head to this very day.
How then, if this programming is so powerful, can you ever be free? One answer came to me in the strangest way. A few years back, when the Worldwide Church of God as we once knew it was breaking up into several factions, I happened to be chatting to a minister who would soon be leaving his ministerial post with Worldwide Church of God. He was angry about the doctrinal changes. (But remember, he was PROGRAMMED to reject any change that was not instituted by H. Armstrong.) I asked him what he would do if he were ever required to work on the Sabbath for any reason other than the ministry. Would he work on the Sabbath, I asked, to feed his family? "No," he answered, "I would let my family starve before I would work on the Sabbath."
Now that is an absolutely true and correct quote! Here was a Shepherd of the flock that would let his family die of starvation before he would risk not "getting into the kingdom!" I was immediately reminded of the scripture, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) As I was pondering this, another scripture came to mind, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." (Matt 16:25)
As I looked at that man, I saw someone who was engrossed in his own salvation to the exclusion of EVERYONE around him, even someone (his wife) who had devoted her entire life to him in loving service. Jesus Christ took upon himself the sins of the entire world and then trusted the MERCY of Almighty God to resurrect him. But not this guy! He had no faith whatsoever in the mercy of the Mercy Seat. He had faith only in strict obedience to the Law of God, and he was willing to let his family starve before requesting God's mercy.
As hard as this seems, we can begin to be free from this mind-bending programming when we finally believe with our whole heart that God really is merciful. At some point, we can stop being so afraid. And when we stop being so afraid to die, we will also stop being so afraid to live. We realize that, contrary to what has been drummed into our heads, it is OK to question authority. After all, who authorized their authority? Was it a lightning bolt from heaven?
At the moment Jesus Christ yielded up His Life for the sins of mankind, God Almighty ripped apart the curtain separating the common man from the Holy of Holies. This was done for a reason. It is now you and God. There is no one person or organization that represents you to God on this earth. You do. You alone. Anyone who claims to do that for you is a liar and a thief. The more fully we can grasp that, the more fully we will be free. Freedom.
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