Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh

while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend

1 Corinthians 8:13

 

    This page contains a remarkable Email exchange between Martin Collins and John Ritenbaugh of the CGG and one of their members who had recently been persuaded to cease the practice of dining out on the Sabbath. This member had read A Sabbath Test and was deeply moved by its solid Biblical arguments. She repeatedly appealed to these church leaders to read it and then offer their rebuttal. However, they clearly were not interested.

    At one point these COG leaders acknowledged that others in their group shared this member's view. To remedy this problem they prohibited her from eating potlucks together and fellowshipping with them at the Feast of Tabernacles. These men actually commanded this member to dine in her room ALONE. They argued that they were doing this in the interest of unity. This approach stands in stark contrast to that of the apostle Paul when dealing with those he though were weak in the faith.

    The first of these exchanges begins with a note from Martin Collins, an elder in the CGG.

       

         

The First Exchange

                
Mr. Martin Collins:

Hi [Name],

                

    I hope you are doing well. We are a little wet from Hurricane Frances but we feel very blessed not to have had any damaging wind or rain. We had several tornado warnings and one tornado destroyed an empty turkey barn. No turkeys were hurt but the farmer was scheduled to receive 36,000 turkeys later this week. I guess he cancelled the order.

               

    The reason for this email is because of something I heard through the grapevine that concerned us regarding potlucks you may be having in your room at the Feast of Tabernacles to avoid eating out on the Sabbaths. If we have received wrong information regarding the potlucks please forgive me.

               

    Our concern is this: that you may believe that it is wrong to eat out on the Sabbath and so you maybe hosting potlucks in your room for others who feel the same way.

    We have to be very careful whose literature we read. We have to take into consideration the character, integrity, lifestyle and track record in conversion of the ones we allow to teach us through their literature. There are many, many false teachers writing their own ideas about what they think God wants. These false teachers have a common trait that is characteristic of many of them, they tend to go to extremes in their interpretation of Scripture. This is the case with the issue regarding eating out on the Sabbath.

Note From Blow the Trumpet

                

    I'm sure you have thoroughly researched this subject and are not just going on emotion. So it is not my intention to try to convince you that it is always good to eat out on the Sabbath. I don't believe it is ALWAYS good to eat out on the Sabbath. But I do believe it is fine OCCASIONALLY.

    The basic teaching of the Church of the Great God regarding eating out on the Sabbath follows Jesus' example. Jesus showed in Matthew 12 that there are indeed circumstances when there is liberty within God's law to do something on the Sabbath that is ordinarily forbidden. The situation is one that even uses food requiring some simple preparation and eating. Jesus also showed that there are emergency situations when even heavy work can be done to save life or property. We know of these as "ox in the ditch" situations.

Note From Blow the Trumpet

 

    The incident in Matthew 12 deals with principles of mercy, Jesus shows that there are times when God doesn't want us to have to make a sacrifice, such as not eating out on the Sabbath. This same principle holds true for the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feasts of the Lord are joyous times of fellowship in the setting of a meal. Important to that joy is the physical feasting on food as well as the spiritual feasting on God's spoken word. The one is a physical type of the spiritual eating we look forward to at the Feast.

Note From Blow the Trumpet

 

    The FOT is not a time for sacrifice. It is not a time of abstinence. Within the ceremonial laws the restrictions regarding food preparation on the Sabbath were lifted during festivals. Feasts of God are times of mercy.

Note From Blow the Trumpet

 

    It would be wrong to eat out on the Sabbath for the purpose of socializing. It is not wrong to OCCASIONALLY eat out on the Sabbath to enhance or promote spiritual fellowship. As I mentioned earlier correctly applying God's principles has an important element of balance. God's way of life is not given to extremes.

Note From Blow the Trumpet

 

    We have a personal responsibility to keep God's Sabbath (a day made for man not man for the Sabbath) properly for prayer and Bible study, worship of our God and fellowship with His church. Sometimes this may be enhanced by eating out. If eating out on the Sabbath is against your conscience, it would be a sin for you to do so. We respect that it is your decision for conscience sake to make that decision. But here is the potential problem. If you have decided to have potlucks at the Feast with other members who will not eat out on the Sabbath the issue becomes a divisive one. It needlessly creates factions within the congregation. It separates brethren into two camps. It alienates others causing a false witness of God's way of life. It gives the appearance that the Church is not unified. The underlying effect of this is uncertainty and confusion. Neither of these fruits are of God. We know that God is not the author of confusion.

Note from Blow the Trumpet
  

                                            
    So we ask two things of you in this situation: 1. Please reconsider this skewed interpretation of Scripture of NEVER eating out on the Sabbath and the background of those who promote it. And, 2. If you decide not to eat out on the Sabbaths at the Feast for conscience sake, please do it quietly and alone to avoid divisiveness and confusion. I would like to make it clear that it is against the teaching of the Church of the Great God to NEVER eat out at restaurants on the Sabbaths and Holy days.

    If I misunderstood your intentions please don't hesitate to reply. I intend no friction between us. Please take this in the kind spirit in which it is meant. I look forward to seeing you in Mesquite, TX for the Feast and I hope you have a safe trip.

Warm Regards,

Martin Collins

            
                
The Member's Response:
                           
Dear Martin,

    Yes, I am doing well.  After running the gauntlet of the medical profession with a broken arm and foot, I’m in massage therapy for lingering shoulder/arm pain. Actually totally off pain medication and almost pain free as long as I continue with the weekly massage therapy to break up scar tissue.
            
    Anyway, your letter was very interesting. Reminded me of numerous letters I got from brethren in other groups when I first began attending CGG. I was told to not get caught up in the CGG way of thinking. Had even more comments similar to yours when I shared the facts about how to count Pentecost in the off years. Even some within CGG membership thought me odd for my conviction that Wave Sheaf never falls on a Holy Day.

    Yes, rather odd, isn’t it? 

    You are now writing to me the same stuff I got from others who were trying to influence me. I even had a phone call last week from Warren Zehrung. We chitchat on the phone from time to time. By the way, Warren is the only minister that has the time to do that with me. Warren talked about how wonderful it was for he and his wife and other brethren to participate in purchasing meals at restaurants on the Sabbath. He said that he eats at buffets on the Sabbath because they would just toss out the food if they didn’t go there to eat it. We had a rather lively discussion, which left me even more convinced that one should NOT eat out on the Sabbath or Holy Days, even occasionally.

    The “occasionally” reasoning usually goes along the line of Christ came to make the Sabbath commandment easier to keep—more freedom in latter days. But what did He do with the commandments on murder and adultery? He made them even harder to keep.

    Strange isn’t it? Why the difference?

    Christ came to magnify the other Laws but give more freedom when keeping the Sabbath? All I can figure is that y’all went to the same school when it comes to Sabbath day reasoning. Those same ways of freedom thinking are what the world uses to justify Sunday worship, by the way. It’s an anti-law reasoning process. Your logic/scripture basis is very flawed and it would be good for you to just read the booklet (A Sabbath Test) and look up the scriptures for yourself.

    The main point is that when Christ ate some grain in a field, he didn’t pay someone to bring it to Him. He was gleaning what they ate at the moment while using “shoe leather express” to preach the gospel. He violated the Pharisee’s rules and now ministers say it’s okay to purchase meals in restaurants—one small step for a Pharisee, one giant leap into the ditch for modern mankind.

Note From Blow the Trumpet

 

    If one is walking in one’s garden, for example, on the Sabbath it’s okay to pick a few strawberries and eat them. But, it is NOT okay to have a servant/server whip up a strawberry short cake and pay them to serve you. Even if only done, occasionally. Christ never went to the local market on the Sabbath and purchased a few fishes, a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine that the Samaritans might have been selling.

             

    If Sabbath commerce were okay, He would have engaged in commerce on the Sabbath, “occasionally” for our example. Where did Paul or any of the apostles stop at a vendor on the Sabbath to purchase something to eat? If it were okay, would not there be at least one clear Biblical example of product and currency changing hands on the Sabbath? He did leave us the example of Nehemiah condemning the purchase of food and wares on the Sabbath.

             

    I realize many people have an intense dislike (hatred?) for Art Braidic and Dennis Fischer and therefore refuse to read anything with their name on it. But, put aside human prejudice and look up the scriptures in their booklet.

          

    As far as your grapevine goes, in the past 34 years I’ve eaten numerous meals in motel/hotel rooms and also in campsites at the Feast with numerous brethren who were in the same boat—we could not afford to buy restaurant food more than occasionally during the Feast. What is fondly remembered is the fellowship, not what we ate. 

          

    What rings so true about the Sabbath Test booklet is that the poor understand that it isn’t the restaurant setting or the prime rib that pictures the world to come. Rather, it is the sermons and fellowship. The rich seem to feel it just isn’t the Sabbath/Feast without the “freedom” to “occasionally” engage in commerce—buying what the unconverted are selling/serving.

           

    I became aware of this Truth about a month ago and I’m filled with joy because of it and will share that joy with others as the opportunity presents itself. I’ve also repented of breaking the Sabbath “occasionally” by purchasing food. It’s never divisive to speak of the Truth supported by scriptures. Rather, it’s divisive to try to manipulate brethren into silence on what is clearly found in scripture.

            

    When it comes to Truth, I will speak (and, email) openly and only death shall gain my silence.

Sincerely,

Name Withheld

 

The Second Exchange

 

Mr. Martin Collins:

 

Hi [Name],

           

    I'm glad to hear that the message therapy is helping to relieve your pain. Pain can be draining.
                
    Regarding your email: Where is Christ's desire for "mercy and not sacrifice" principle (Mat 12:7) in your reasoning? I suppose since your stance is not to spend any money for anything related to the Sabbath means that you will not be PAYING to stay in a motel on the Sabbaths during the Feast because if you do you will have hired the hotel staff to run the hotel during your stay. Will you be sleeping in your car on the Sabbaths?

Note From Blow the Trumpet

 

    My point is that you are not applying YOUR understanding consistently. You are picking and choosing the things that you have reasoned are convenient for you.  Your divisive approach saddens me because it exposes your true intent and it doesn't seem you care who you hurt in the process. My concern for you is more for your aggressive attitude than it is your misunderstanding of this simple biblical principle. If you are so appalled with us as is evident in your comments why are you attending the Feast with us? 

                  

    Your reasoning seems to be inconsistent and confused. (I understand that some people have broken off emailing you because they feel you have a confused militant approach in promoting these ideas. When brethren are repulsed by someone it is a good indication that that person has serious problems.) Please reconsider your disruptive behavior. If you do attend the Feast with us please leave your divisive attitude at home. We will not have separate discordant groups at the Feast. It is a time for unity; it is not a time for individual contrary beliefs and attitudes.

Sincerely,

Martin Collins

       

                 

The Member's Response:

To: Martin Collins

    If you would read the booklet, we would be able to discuss the matter a lot better. Your "strawman" approach, makes it very difficult for you to understand my answers. When you don't have the same subject background it is very easy to label me in a negative way, like you just did. Please respond back when you have had time to read the booklet and look up the scriptures. I would enjoy discussing the matter with you.

    As far as I know, nobody has refused to reply to my emails. My In Box is so full that it's hard to tell.  In fact, I've been totally surprised at the ones who have responded that they agree.  

    By the way, I forwarded your last letter to the ones who agreed so that they would know the official CGG point of view on the subject.

Name Withheld

                  

                                

The Third Exchange

 

Mr. Martin Collins:

To: [Name]

    Did you also forward your comments to me and my previous email, or did you only forward the last email taking me out of context?

    You have totally misunderstood the spirit of the law on this issue. The problem here is not as much your misunderstanding of scripture from a lack of knowledge as it is from your wrong attitude. It is your attitude that is blinding you. That's why I have not tried to convince you of your wrong interpretation. We will get nowhere by discussing disproofs and proofs until your attitude is right with God.

Sincerely,

Martin Collins

      

           

The Member's Response:

To: Martin Collins

    My attitude is right, finally.  I have repented of breaking the Sabbath by engaging in commerce on the Sabbath.  It is a very peaceful feeling. Again, if you think my position is wrong, the best way to convince me is by reading the booklet and looking up the scriptures.  You lack credibility when you can not see both sides of an issue.

    Or, are you afraid that you might be wrong?

Name Withheld

        

         

The Fourth Exchange

Mr. Ritenbaugh and Member

    

             

Mr. John Ritenbaugh:

Dear [Name],

    I have read the correspondence between Martin and you regarding eating out on the Sabbath. I find that we most certainly are not of the same mind. Martin has written you in kindness and you responded with belligerence and disrespect.  We were willing to abide with your different belief on this issue because church and secular experience have shown us that having perfect unity in every area of belief is impossible to expect. Therefore, as long as you did not promote what we know is a doctrinal and practical distortion of the Sabbath we were pleased to have you attend with us.

    You seem to think that this teaching you have accepted is something new to us.  It most certainly is not.  I first looked into it about 30 years ago and Mr. Armstrong had confronted it long before that.  This is because there are certain doctrinal perversions that cycle through the congregations from time to time, like the calendar issue, 14th or 15th Passover, the tongues question and this.  That booklet is not going to teach us anything new.  I know without looking at it what its basis will be because the Pharisees did much research long before you or me.  I also know what the answers are because Jesus laid out the principles.  They are in the Bible for those who judge righteously.  Jesus condemned the Pharisees calling them proud, hypocrites and blind guides who laid burdens on people nor allowed those converted to their way to enter the kingdom of God.

Note From Blow the Trumpet

 

             

    The real purpose of this letter is not to convert you to what we believe but to let you know that your own letters have told us that your mind is made up and unchangeable to the point of death.  Courageous words or foolish ones, which?  But those words have let us know there can not even be discussion. You have absolutely closed the door. I have responsibilities to Christ as a church pastor that includes protecting those taught by me from false doctrines.  Therefore, you are most certainly not welcome at our keeping of the Feast nor are you welcome to be on the phone hookup each Sabbath.  That conference call is supplied for the Sabbath benefit of the members of the Church of the Great God.  We no longer recognize you as a member. If you persist in being on it you will add stealing to your deception, belligerence and disrespect.

Note From Blow the Trumpet

 

    Please do not call to talk to me about this. If you want to communicate please write. This is because I want the evidence of what you said on file with those you have already written so in case anybody inquires of you we will be able to show them your own words.

With regret,

John Ritenbaugh

     

             

The Member's Response:

Dear John,

    My replies to Martin were meant to be challenging, not disrespectful.  Martin's email that I was to be silent and remain alone in my room at the Feast, was very disrespectful and a put-down.  

    When Paul had people who ate meat and others who didn't, Paul did not tell one group to remain silent and remain alone.  You say you were accepting, that is not true. Martin's letters demanded unity or, silence.  His emails were threatening and veiled with a cloak of "kindness".  

    Martin's intent was to silence me with intimidation and humiliation. For him to do that was rather shocking. You see, if Martin really believed that I was a lost sheep, he should have left the 99 and then began to seek that which was lost. He should have taken the booklet and gone page by page, word by word and proved to me that it was error. But, Martin had no intention of providing scriptures to prove me wrong, rather his intent was to silence me so as not to alert the other sheep to a scriptural problem with going to restaurants on the Sabbath.

    What kind of a shepherd is that?

    Last week you didn't call my name so I assume I was dropped prior to Martin's letter.  His letter was just a formality.  Yes, I was on the hook-up this past Sabbath and since you have made it clear that I'm not welcomed and that you have no intention of even trying to "save me" with scripture proofs, I will not dial in ever again.   

    It's also amazing that both of you will read secular books and use them in sermons but then refuse to read Art Bradic's booklet and show me what you believe to be his error.  The actual fact of the matter is that you and Martin and others at CGG actually hate Art Braidic.  Martin threw verbal stones at him. That, my friend, is the way of a Pharisee.  

    At least I have to give Warren Zehrung credit.  He took the time to talk to me by phone and we are still friends. We have agreed to disagree.  I know that if I were to go there for the Feast I would be welcomed and not told that I can not have potlucks in my motel room on Sabbath and Holydays. I doubt that he would even make mention of it.  I'm sure that if you called Warren he would tell you that we had a lively phone discussion and that at no time was I out of line with him.  

    One thing with emails, emotion is usually added by the recipient and usually reflects THEIR emotion, rather than, the content of the email. Martin called me "militant" because I challenged him to prove with scriptures that participating in buying & selling FOOD on the Sabbath was correct.  

    Was Loma Armstrong "militant" when she made Herbert Armstrong so mad that he began a six month study into the Sabbath?  Where would we be today if Loma had kept silent and stayed in her room?

    Also, if I remember correctly, Herbert Armstrong's sister-in-law challenged him to a study of evolution.  What if she, too, had kept silent and stayed in her room?  Do you think Herbert Armstrong would have been challenged by either of them if they used very sweet non-confrontational words?  (I doubt it.)
                      
     Martin's words to be silent and remain in my room was reducing me to the status of a child under his dominion.  It was not a minister who was willing to serve.

                

    You clearly see the vision Peter had about the animals and we all know that the vision was not about foodit was about acceptance of the Gentiles.

                

    You see Christ gleaning some grain on the Sabbath and now we pay people to wait on us in restaurants on the Sabbath? This was purported by Martin as an example of Christ's mercy so that we can eat in restaurants. Is it an act of mercy for the end time church to be out gathering manna on the Sabbath and the Church in the Wilderness stoned people for doing such?  

           

    Does God have one set of Sabbath commandments for some and not for others?  If he does, then the people in Nehemiah's day should have been allowed to buy food from the men of Tyre, who were non-believers.

            

    Funny, restaurants are a modern invention. Oh yes, there were way-stations for stage coaches. But, why does the end-time church seem to feel that restaurants are so vitally important to Sabbath keeping? Can't you see the giant leap here?  A leap into a ditch!!!

           

    But, you really do see, don't you.  The major problem is that you can't prove your position with clear and convincing scripture to the vast majority who WANT to buy on the Sabbath.  Therefore, it's necessary to demand silence from me to protect the party line.  They crave the buy-n-sell ritual on the Sabbath day and would leave CGG if they had to give it up.

              

    Martin says it's occasionally okay to buy on the Sabbath. Is it okay to occasionally have just a little graven imagemaybe just a tiny one. How about to covet, occasionally, that is, not all the time?  

         

    As I see my calling, I'm told to hang on to my crown and make sure that no man steals it.  That seems to indicate that a bit of emotion would be very prim and proper to make it v-e-r-y plain to a challenger that I intend to hang on v-e-r-y tight.

                                 

    I also find it interesting that in the past few years some of my emails with CGG brethren, who did NOT agree with your counting of Pentecost, are v-e-r-y similar to the emails between Martin and I. You enjoyed those emails.  In those emails I was defending you and citing scriptures. NOT ONCE during any of those emails did you give me the slightest hint that I should tip-toe around biblical subjects.  You even complimented me that I had the outline of the Pentecost counting issue even though you had never put it down on paper. How do you think I got that?  I study page by page, word by word what the ministry teaches.
                           
     I don't regret the time at CGG because I did learn a lot of things.  What I do regret is that I'm now a disposable commodity and not worth your time and trouble to "save". The rest of the sheep in your sheep-fold really need to know that fact and so this will be forwarded to them, as a courtesy.  Sheep need to know the shepherds who drive them.

               

Sincerely,

            

Name Withheld

      

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