“Why aren’t the preachers today telling their people the truth?” I heard blasting from my radio. I was on the way home after finishing my shift as a maintenance electrician at a well-known oil tool products plant when I was forever changed by those words.
In my less-than-completely-sober state, I remember shouting back at my radio, “Yeah, buddy! Let them have it!” And, just what was the topic over which the radio personality was lambasting preachers? It was the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy as stated in Exodus 20.
To be honest, the beginning of the change in my life happened when I was in the 7th grade at Good Shepherd School, a long-time Catholic educational facility in my hometown. It was some time during that year that the nun who taught the class explained to us how to look up scriptures in the Bible.
Of course, it was the Imprimatur version authorized by the Church in Rome, but it contained a reliable version of Exodus 20. “I want to show you how to find the commandments in the Bible” she had told the class. All of us were told to find the book of Exodus and then to find the 20th chapter.
As we read aloud in class, working our way through the scriptures, we came across the commandment that did not read the same as the Catholic catechism, which states that the 4th commandment was to keep the Lord’s Day holy. I spoke up in class, asking the obvious question, “Why does the bible say Sabbath Day instead of Lord’s Day like the catechism does?” The nun responded honestly stating, “The Sabbath Day is Saturday but our Holy Father has changed it to Sunday. We are still supposed to not work, except on Sunday now.”
I remember thinking to myself, “Who is a man that can change the law of God?” Even then I understood that it did not make sense that God would make a command, call failure to keep it “sin,” and then just let some man change it. It was then that I recognized the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, which I transferred to all other churches which kept that same day. It was almost immediately a consequence of that question that I was removed from being an altar boy at any service time, an honor that had become a symbol of the hypocrisy I was quickly coming to be disgusted over.
I managed to finish the 8 years at that school, but when given the opportunity to exit that system I jumped onto it.
My disdain for all churches continued until that fateful night in the spring of 1982 when I heard that voice from the radio lambasting today’s preachers. His topic, God’s Sabbath Day, grabbed my attention and when I arrived at our home, I sat in my car listening to his message. My wife, wondering why I had not come into the house, went out to find me sitting and listening. She joined me and it was then that we both began the changes in our lives leading us to today.
The initial change in our lives was the opening of our minds to understand that God was still present, and that He had His Church continuing to keep His Sabbath Days as He had commanded so long ago. I had long ago forgotten that day in the classroom when I first read about keeping the Sabbath holy, but now the memory came rushing back, reminding me that I’d seen the lie so long ago. It was with praise for God that I considered that I had been right so long ago, and yet with sadness that I further realized that I had also abandoned the rest of the admonitions of Exodus 20 in my disgust over the hypocrisy.
As I said, that was the beginning of the changes in our, my wife and myself, lives. As I learned more about the Way of God, it became clear that there was a lot more to obeying God than the letter of the law found in Exodus 20. One of the scriptures that stuck with me early on was in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” I had been laid off from that same job due to the oil crash of the early 80s. I needed a job and worried about how we would make ends meet, but that scripture told me where my priority should lie. We always were able to pay the bills and provide enough food for the family—and we were able to dive deeply into a course of study that led us to a greater understanding of God’s law.
Still, we had some understanding, but were continuing to do the things that we had been doing, except that we began trying to keep the commandments as best we could. One funny thing that we did, in our poor understanding of the command against idols, was to gather up bowling trophies, animal-image curios and even pictures in our Catholic bible (given to us by a well-meaning priest at our marriage) and then to destroy them. We laugh at that now, but it led to our greater understanding of this scripture, found in Acts 5:32, “And we are His witnesses of these things. And so also is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
We were obeying in a naïve way, but we were trying to obey—and God honored that, as He has done in so many other ways over the years, patiently waiting for us to come to a greater understanding and then to do that which is pleasing in His sight.
Eventually, I found a job. We were blessed in that my wife had a job that only required her presence during the normal work week. But, when I found a job, the Sabbath immediately became an issue. This new job was at a 7 day a week establishment. When I interviewed for the position, I was led to be honest about the fact that I would not be available from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset, but that I was willing to work any other hours that they wanted me to work. I was given a job and a location to which I was to report. I was doing the best possible job I could do when, after a few weeks, the management of that location decreed that I should work Friday night. After explaining that I’d explained during my interview that I could not work on God’s Sabbath, and when those hours were, it was reiterated to me that I was to work Friday night. God gave me the strength to say, “Then I guess I’m out of a job because I’m not going to work on the Sabbath.”
But, almost immediately the manager said “I guess you are serious about it then.” The schedule was changed and as long as I worked there the schedule no longer listed me for the hours of the Sabbath.
God has led us to greater and greater understanding as we have continued in His Church. One great trial in which He was faithful to keep us safe from deception was the collapse of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) due to the decision by the heretic Tkach father and son duo to adopt the idea that we are not actually required to keep God’s Sabbaths anymore. Knowing what you now know about my disgust for hypocrisy in churches, you can imagine our reaction to the Tkach announcements. God continued to lead us, this time out of the WCG and into the United Church of God (UCG). However, the seeds of mistrust were sown, and when it became clear that UCG intended to continue in some of the erroneous dogma of WCG, we bid that organization adieu, also.
Now, we pastor a small local congregation that remains faithful to the faith once delivered, and which studies to find that which is good, holding it fast.
Are we perfect even now in our understanding? I think not, but I’m content to study, meditate, pray and fast while God continues to open our understanding to ways to rightly divide the word of truth.
One thing we will not be is deceived by “ministers” who serve their own bellies first, or who deny the scriptures with their pretzel logic surrounding the sacrifice of Christ having done away with any of God’s Laws.
And, to think that this all started with God’s showing me His Sabbath so very long ago. Praise Him!