Conviction or Preference?

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Conviction or Preference?

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Ten years ago my good friend Randy Stiver sent me an e-mail message letting me know that he had just resigned from his job as pastor of several congregations in Oregon. His decision was based on biblical convictions that he simply wouldn’t compromise. As a Star Trek fan, he summarized his action as the Klingon character Worf might have put it: “It was a good day to die.” In the lead article for this issue, Randy uses the same concept in telling the story of Custer’s last stand.

The personal stand Randy took a decade ago was one that I and many fellow ministers were also taking. The reason was simple. The leadership of the church organization we were part of was forbidding us to teach what we had believed and taught for years. Although we tried to resolve our differences in a peaceful manner, in the end we had no choice but to compromise our long-held beliefs or resign.

It was time to apply the early apostles’ simple but profound declaration: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29 Acts 5:29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
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). We were being tested as to whether our beliefs were really convictions or only preferences.Based on our conviction to obey God, we left our former organization and continued the faith and work of the Church by founding the United Church of God, an International Association —publisher of Vertical Thought .

We began with no fiscal assets—only our convictions of the truth God had revealed to His people. Over the past 10 years it has been gratifying to see how God has steadily blessed our efforts. This magazine you are reading is a product of courage to hold onto one’s spiritual convictions and the subsequent blessing from God for doing so.

With this background in mind, our staff is especially pleased to focus this issue on the importance of holding fast to our spiritual convictions. We’ve had to stand up for ours—just as you will, too, if you are going to be a Christian. Accepting that Christians really are engaged in a spiritual battle is the first, foundational step. That’s what scriptures like Ephesians 6:12 Ephesians 6:12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
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tell us: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness …”

Regrettably, the idea of having to stand for something, and possibly even suffer for doing so, is undermined by the rejection of Satan as a real being who influences us negatively and by the false idea that there are many paths to salvation. As a vertical thinker, does it make sense to you that people can do whatever they want and still receive salvation? If so, why did Christ say, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21 Matthew 7:21Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
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At Vertical Thought , our desire is that readers learn to think vertically—that is, on things from above, on God. In this issue we continue that theme with encouragement to hold fast to the spiritual truths you learn. As you face your battles over spiritual principle, be courageous. Be strong. Stand firm. If need be, be willing to prove that your spiritual beliefs truly are convictions.

Finally, while taking an unpopular stand can be uncomfortable, we all know that God expects such principled decisions of those named after Christ. This action is a victory in the spiritual realm—the realm that really counts. Here’s to our godly convictions and the character to demonstrate their presence. VT

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