Ask Norm!

By Norman S. Edwards

From SVM – Winter 2013-3

June 15, 2012

Dear Norman,

Here is my response to your response of my first letter [about a family that did not want to fellowship with her anymore after they found difficulties with a book written by their church leader]

I wouldn’t be thrilled with being published. I don’t want to hurt feelings and cause trouble, but our friends no longer call or respond since I told them we didn’t like the book, so apparently they are hurt, offended, etc. I am sure that God does everything according to the appointed time, but Acts 1:7 says it’s not for us to know and verse 11 says the same way they saw him go is the same way we’ll see him come again.

Page [number/name omitted] of the book says basically that Jesus will be coming like a second sun in the sky for over a year—people won’t know what it is and will get used to it, but suddenly it will suddenly come right over Jerusalem and turn into a sea of glass and people will think it’s aliens. That just sounds crazy. We’re just wondering if we’re the only ones that think so.

Whether something sounds crazy or not often has little to do with whether or not it is true. It sounds crazy for mankind to rebel against their own Creator and kill his Son, but it happened. When someone prophesies or interprets Bible prophecy, we must ask: “Is their inspiration from God, Satan or man?” Only the first is of any lasting value. Don’t look for someone who sounds logical in their interpretation; look for someone who has always been right about what they said in the past.

Also, when he says “Job is the epitome of hardhearted carnality, human stupidity and vanity against God.” How can he know so much, yet make such a statement? We are concerned because the New Testament epistles warn again and again of false teachers. The Shepherd’s Voice has a book review section. You guys should read and review this book. We would be interested to see that. A proper review may help a lot of people see that this goes beyond the scriptures. We can loan you our copy if you’d like.

M & JC

Dear M & J C

We are publishing your letter anyway because it is so important that our brethren understand it. We will leave out the name of the prophetic book and obscure other details so it is not clear who you are or where you are from. Everyone needs to understand why people who have very similar beliefs become so offended at other believers over one point of doctrinal or prophetic difference. This scenario occurs in church groups over and over again.

It is easy to have friends whose doctrinal beliefs are considerably different than ours. We do not feel threatened by their practices at all. For example, if they observe Easter, Halloween and Christmas, and we observe Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, we can be confident that we are observing days observed in the Scriptures. This is true no matter how often or seldom we have discussed the subject with them. We will not wake up in the middle of the night wondering if they are right and we are wrong.

But when someone else believes nearly all of the same Scriptural teachings we believe, but differs on a very few points, it can be unsettling. The thought that they might be right and we might be wrong crosses our mind. But on the other hand, we want to believe that we or our groups are following the scriptures to the best of our knowledge. If some other group or individual has more truth than we do, should we be in their group?

And because of this disconcerting feeling that comes about from someone we believe to be good, but has a few plausible but different beliefs than ours, there is a great tendency to stay away. Indeed, many church organizations command their members to stay away from such people— because they do not want to have to defend their teachings or risk losing members to such apparently good but differing people. This writer is aware of a religious college that accepted qualified students of any religious belief in the world—except students from church groups recently split off from theirs. Those students might have been able to effectively and legitimately question their teachings and practices, so they made an exception to their otherwise tolerant approach and said “no” just to them.

The solution to this problem is found in this scripture: “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous” (Romans 2:13, NIV). Belonging to the group with the most truth, or simply believing the most truth is not what makes us righteous. It is based on what we do. There are many commands in the Bible to avoid sins, but there are also many proactive commands to help others, both economically and spiritually. We cannot discuss them all in this short response, but here is one: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him” (Leviticus 19:17).

Yes, when others are sinning when we could help them, it is a sin not to help. Christ and the apostles were marvelous examples of obeying this simple command. Paul describes the condition of the spiritually mature here: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1) The spiritual believer is not one who avoids the most sinners, but the one who can be among sinners, correct them, and yet not be tempted to sin himself. Christ promises a judgment for every believer (Romans 14:10; Corinthians 5:10), which will not be based just on what we knew, but on what we did. Matthew 25 explains judgment in much more detail.

When we understand that our spiritual future is based upon what we, by the power of God, do with our lives, rather than a detailed doctrinal or prophetic understanding, then we do not have to be worried about whether someone has slightly or vastly different doctrines than we do. We can trust that Christ will judge righteously (Isaiah 11:1-4). If they edify us and provide good fellowship in many areas of life, we can be their friend.

Yes, the statement about Job is rather amazing compared to Ezekiel 14:14: “Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,” says the Lord GOD.” Would I, you, or the author of this book be delivered by our righteousness? I don’t know. I do believe that the author of this book has also written some good books. We would rather review one of those and encourage people to read it. I believe that our Father tests Bible teachers to see if they will surround themselves with good and honest helpers rather than men who will always say “yes” to their leader. When they allow others to appeal to their vanity, then they begin to write things that are not good, and there is nobody to correct them.

Your suggestion of a local ministry of some kind is something that I have thought about and pray to God about and will earnestly talk to God about some more. My husband is older than I am. He is a talented man [many details deleted about his technical skill but lesser abilities in writing and teaching the Bible]. I just want you to understand our situation. We read and study our bibles and are in complete agreement on God’s word. We don’t want to financially support fake teaching. [personal financial details deleted]. So we don’t have a lot of money. We’re not concerned about it. God has always taken care of us. Our treasure is in heaven, but the fact is we are very limited financially.

Acts 8:4 says: “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). This was not a high budget operation—they were refugees. I encourage you to pray for the Eternal to show you what you can do. It might be helping with someone else’s ministry to the poor, it might be inviting people to your home to read the Bible and answer questions. You mentioned your husband’s skill with cars and technical things. You might offer free auto maintenance to the poor (the people buy the parts) where people come and listen to a Bible study while they wait. Even if your husband cannot fix a given problem, an honest, competent opinion of the difficulty will help them greatly and is often not available free. In the process of asking questions to find out if they are poor enough to qualify for the service, you would find out about a lot of issues that you could offer to pray about or to teach biblical solutions. Congregations frequently grow up around ministries when they are successful. I don’t know what kind of congregation or ministry would be best for you, but God does. Pray. God is very interested in answering these kinds of prayers.

On another subject, i.e.: “Would Jesus Eat a Cheeseburger?” from SVM Spring/Summer 2011. We always thought Exodus 23:19 meant not to sacrifice a baby cow, sheep or goat, before the 8th day (Leviticus 22:27, Exodus 22:30, 1 Samuel 7:9).

I was raised on a farm and usually after about a week the babies are nibbling on wisps of hay, grass or grain from mom’s grain bucket as well as nursing. Veal is strictly milk fed meat and is disgusting in my opinion. The dairy farmers used to separate the calves after the first week, some even less and then continue to feed milk as well as solid food. You get more milk from the cow that way.  Most sacrifices were boiled it appears. So, you weren’t to seethe it i.e.: sacrifice it until at least the 8th day. I think it applies to more than just the firstborn. What do you think? (God’s sacrifices were seethed in water). So what’s milk got to do with it? A kid in its mother’s milk was less than 8 days old I think.

Dear M & J C

I had not put these Scriptures together before, but I think you are right. Our family had goats for a few years. We used the services of other’s Billy goats, so when we had our first baby male goats, we did not want to raise them. Our goat-mentor friends suggested they taste very good when they are young, but one of them told us about the scriptures of letting them stay with their mother for eight days. We have since read some physiological reasons why it is good for the mother and baby to be together for at least that long. Psychologically, it gives them time to establish a separate existence. Obviously, God would not want the Priests to violate the Scriptures you mention when sacrificing animals.

By contrast, I have read that Satanists (and probably other false religions) sacrifice babies as soon as they can get them. It has been my understanding that false religions had a practice of boiling a kid in its mother’s milk to assure economic prosperity. The three scriptures forbidding this practice all show Godly means of obtaining prosperity (Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21). I think these verses are forbidding the pagan practices of the day and are indeed in harmony with the verses you mention.