The Time of Jacob's Trouble
On Saturday, April 24, 2004, Dave Harris will be giving the sermon, titled, “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
Two Little Words
by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)
“Thank you!” Just two little words. But how often do we say them? Have we developed an attitude of gratitude — being grateful for all that we have and all that God and our fellow man may have given to us?
In more recent times, the Church critic has surfaced. He has always been there, of course, but today he seems to be more vocal. It seems to go with the territory both in the Church of God and the world at large. We live in a selfish and ungrateful society that does its own thing and feels that it has every right to do so, irrespective of the consequences, even when others are hurt. But we, as God’s people, should know better. My experience in the last decade is that there are those, claiming that they belong to “the church,” who are lurking out there just looking to pounce on anything that they may not quite agree 100% with. Instead of gently taking up a matter or issue with the person concerned, a critical and, in some cases, self-righteous approach is adopted. But we must remember that our approach shows our degree of conversion.
We have all heard sermonettes or sermons that may have meandered, gone on too long because of several repetitions of the same point, not been as structured as we would have liked, seemingly not been as carefully worked on as some others, or which have been presented in a somewhat boring way. But – the speaker may have taken many hours to prepare his message. Unfortunately, our first approach may be to severely criticize rather than to be grateful to the speaker for all the time and effort that such a message may have occasioned. The same may apply to an article or an editorial in the weekly Update. Rather than immediately voicing disagreement with a particular statement, perhaps even in a hostile way, we should carefully consider whether we might have misunderstood the statement, or whether we might have a wrong approach toward the issue — and then, after praying about it, we can gently take up the matter with the writer or the speaker. The same goes for other aspects of this worldwide work, be it our Websites, our Internet services, or other technical aspects. In sport, the spectator on the sidelines believes that he is always able to do better than the players themselves. The observer thinks that he can manage the local team better than the manager who is usually a professional and gets paid for doing the job.
There are many admonitions in the Bible to be appreciative, to dwell and meditate on the good, and to give thanks. In the various exhortations in 1 Thessalonians 5, verse 18 tells us: “in everything give thanks.” The words “thank you” to God are a must. He gives us everything we have. The words “thank you” to fellow man, where merited, uplift, edify and encourage. That should be the way that we conduct ourselves.
Should we be “yes” men or women? Of course not! But a “thank you” now and again is so very encouraging. We all receive these words of encouragement from time to time. And when others show their appreciation, we can say a quiet or spoken “thank you” for their thoughtfulness.
This Week in the News
DISCUSSIONS REGARDING US DRAFT
On Wednesday, April 21, 2004, an interesting, sobering and frightening interview was aired on NBC’s Today’s Show. Washington Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican member of the Foreign Relations Committee, stated that the public is not being told that the United States will have to spend 50 – 75 billion dollars in Iraq next year, just to sustain American troops there. This figure does not even include any costs for reconstruction. He stated that he is not proposing a draft per se, but some kind of “MANDATORY SERVICE for all American citizens.” Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, Democratic member of the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed, stating that Hagel’s “basic premise” is correct, and that we must establish “a shared burden” for all Americans. It was also pointed out that “privately all Republicans agree” that the American people are not being told how much money it will cost to stay in Iraq, “because of the election year.” It was also stressed that the US government is facing a terrible dilemma, when confronted with the issue who is to replace the 135,000 American troops, presently stationed in Iraq.
THE BUSH/SHARON-DEAL — SUCCESS OR FAILURE?
As AFP reported on April 16, 2004, President Bush, “reversing decades of US foreign policy, said after talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Wednesday that it was ‘unrealistic’ to expect Israel to pull out from all land captured in the 1967 war. And drawing more Arab outrage, Bush said Palestinian refugees should not be allowed to return to land lost to Israel in 1948, when the Jewish state was created.”
The world’s reaction about this American change in foreign policy was swift and fierce. Associated Press stated on April 16, 2004: “Eager not to be sidelined in the Middle East, the European Union said Friday it would try to SALVAGE the 2-year-old ‘road map’ peace plan and called for urgent talks this month with the United States, Russia and the United Nations. EU foreign ministers fear President Bush’s UNILATERAL EFFORTS to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians could backfire… They stressed the need to KEEP THE UNITED STATES COMMITTED TO THE ‘ROAD MAP’ drafted jointly by the European Union, Russia, United States and United Nations.”
Critical comments were also heard by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, in spite of last week’s “public show of unity” by President Bush and Tony Blair in Washington. Straw said that “Bush did not speak for the so-called ‘quartet’ of international mediators in the Middle East…. ‘He has to make his own judgments. We make our own.'”
Der Spiegel Online commented on April 16, 2004 that “Europe has been told once more by the Americans what an insignificant role they are playing in the Middle East.” It published a subsequent article, dated April 17, 2004, pointing out that former German Foreign Minister, Hans Dietrich Genscher, stressed the absolute need for Europe to play an important and DECISIVE ROLE in the Middle East Peace Process.”
Spiegel Online stated on April 16, 2004, that German papers complained that … “the Americans took the side of Israel, without any compelling reason, thereby disqualifying themselves as a neutral broker… Bush has killed the roadmap.” Der Spiegel Online responded, however, that “the United States were never neutral in the Middle East conflict, but they have always supported the power of Israel.” The magazine pointed out, too, that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder “indirectly criticized” President Bush’s announcements, and that Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was supporting a renewed zeal for the road map. It stated: “It is, however, a mystery, why there is any hope that this peace plan could work. It is doubtful that anything could be accomplished this year.” Still, as Die Welt reported, Europe has taken the official position that there is “no alternative” to the road map.
On April 19, 2004, Der Spiegel Online published another article, titled, “Straight to the Heart.” It stated: “Now that the pact of Washington has been concluded, the political battle on the home front begins for Israeli Prime Minister Sharon. US President Bush is paying a high price for his support… Bush thoughtlessly made it clear that he has written off the Arafat team as negotiating partners… Palestinians of even the most disparate factions agree that Bush’s most recent statement is one of their heaviest defeats… On the international front, Bush’s declaration of solidarity with Sharon has also triggered annoyance at the UN and the EU, the co-sponsors of the Middle East peace process. The pact with Sharon is certainly a risky unilateral step for Washington… The Palestinians, already consumed with hatred for America, are unlikely to be particularly accepting of future US mediation efforts.”
The magazine concluded its article with these interesting comments: “The smug manner in which the allies congratulated one another in Washington is deceiving, because both men are acting with limited authority. Bush’s disaster in Iraq could cost him the reelection. And Sharon’s career lies in the hands of the chief public prosecutor, who will soon decide whether to file corruption charges against Sharon.”
UNPRECEDENTED HATRED FOR U.S.
On April 16, 2004, Reuters reported about comments by Jordan’s King Abdullah, stating that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has created widespread animosity against the United States among ordinary citizens across the Middle East. He pointed out: “This has created for the first time that I have felt in the Middle East… some sort of animosity that I never felt or heard about toward the United States… The feeling that is being felt toward the United States around the region and around the world is NOT A HEALTHY ONE… As a friend of yours and as one who cares about many, many people in this country, I AM VERY, VERY WORRIED ABOUT THE PERCEPTION TOWARD AMERICA AND AMERICANS.”
On April 21, 2004, the Guardian published an article, titled, “Arab ally snubs Bush amid ‘unprecedented hatred’ for US.” The article stated:
“A growing rift between America and the Arab world was exposed yesterday when two Middle Eastern allies delivered damaging rebuffs to President George Bush’s policies in the region. King Abdullah of Jordan flew home from the US after abruptly canceling a meeting planned for today with the president in Washington. The king’s move came as the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, said there was more hatred of Americans in the Arab world today than ever before. King Abdullah and Mr. Mubarak are two of the most moderate leaders in the Middle East and the two normally closest to the US.
“King Abdullah’s cancellation was in retaliation for Mr. Bush’s support last week for a plan by the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, in which he offered to pull out of Gaza in return for US recognition of illegal settlements on the West Bank and an end of the right of 3.6 million Palestinians to return to Israel. Mr. Mubarak cited as reasons for the increased hatred Israel and the US occupation of Iraq. In an interview with Le Monde published yesterday, he said : ‘After what has happened in Iraq, there is an unprecedented hatred. What’s more – they [Arabs] see Sharon act as he wants, without the Americans saying anything.’
“The Jordanian government said yesterday it was seeking clarification of US intentions towards Israel and the Palestinians before agreeing to a new meeting with Mr. Bush… The Arab League, which represents all Arab countries, welcomed the king’s decision to cancel his meeting… Mr. Sharon secured his deal with Mr. Bush partly through brinkmanship, sitting at Ben Gurion airport for three hours last week and threatening to cancel his Washington visit. Mr. Bush caved in.
“But similar tactics by King Abdullah are unlikely to achieve the same result. The palace statement said the king had written to Mr. Bush before his meeting with Mr. Sharon saying the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza had to be part of an overall peace plan, not an alternative to it. But Mr. Bush ignored his plea.”
THE WORLD VS. ISRAEL
As Die Welt reported on April 19, 2004, “Israel threatens with liquidation in Syria.” The paper stated: “Following the planned killing of Hamas leader Abdelasis Rantisi in the Gaza strip, Israel threatened to kill the political Hamas leader, Chaled Messhaal, who resides in Syria…. Worldwide, the liquidation of the Hamas leader [Rantisi] was strongly condemned… The U.S. government voiced concern, but stressed [as did German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer] that Israel has the right to self-defense. They [as well as Fischer] asked the Israeli government to carefully consider the consequences of their actions…. The EU strongly criticized the planned killing of Rantisi… British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw labeled the action as ‘unlawful and counterproductive’; [Spain] spoke of ‘an execution without a trial…’ China, Russia and France also condemned the killing of the Hamas-leader.”
IRAQ — THE PROBLEMS MOUNT
As BBC News reported last week, “Europe’s weekend and Easter Monday papers [were] preoccupied with the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.” French papers added that “day after day, Iraq is plunged a bit deeper into CHAOS.” German papers reported that two Germans were killed in Iraq, and that, as a consequence, the German government issued an advisory to all Germans to leave Iraq.
Der Spiegel Online reported on April 14, 2004, that other countries have issued similar warnings and advisories to their citizens, including Russia and Japan. The paper stated, too, that Spain, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines were prepared to withdraw their troops from Iraq. In addition, citizens of South Korea were contemplating leaving Iraq, after seven missionaries from South Korea had been temporarily kidnapped.
Subsequently, Spain began withdrawing its 1,300 soldiers from Iraq and will have them home within six weeks, according to Reuters, dated April 19, 2004. The article continued, “President Bush expressed regret Monday… and warned Madrid against taking further actions… In Iraq, radical Shi’ite Moqtada al-Sadr called for a halt to attacks on Spanish troops in Iraq because they were pulling out… Romano Prodi, European Commission president… praised Spain’s decision… [Extremely controversial] Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has dispatched some 2,700 troops to Iraq, was dismayed by [Spain’s] decision.” Associated Press added that “72 percent of Spaniards want the troops withdrawn.” Spain’s decision to pull out their troops must also be seen in light of a REVERSAL of foreign policy. As Die Welt reported on April 17, 2004, the new leader of Spain “looks for his allies mainly within Europe.” The main European powers, France and Germany, have been opposed to military action in Iraq.
Following Spain, Honduras announced “the pullout of” troops “in the shortest time possible,” according to Associated Press. While it was reported on April 16, 2004, that Portugal may withdraw troops as well, it was stated on April 19, 2004, that the Portuguese government’s position “won’t change… despite any difficulties which may arise.”
The International Herald Tribune Online stated on April 10, 2004: “Germany and France’s options were also limited by the reality that it was no longer possible to justify countering American policy by the selective demonization of the Bush Administration. Just as John Kerry [who had, with the vast majority of Democrats, voted for the war with Iraq] had called on the new Socialist prime minister of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, to reconsider his pledge to bring Spanish forces home from Iraq, the Democratic candidate’s reaction on Thursday to the worsening military situation hardly let Europe off the hook from its faulty presumption that no unified American view existed on Europe’s ongoing share of Iraqi responsibilities. ‘No European country,’ said Kerry, ‘ is made safe by a failed Iraq, yet those countries are distinctly absent from the risk bearing.'”
Opposition to British forces in Iraq is also mounting, especially after the occurrence of several deadly attacks on British forces in Iraq. According to a report by Independent.co.uk, dated April 20, 2004, “British troops might have to stay in Iraq for up to 10 years to help local forces maintain security after the proposed hand-over of power to the Iraqi government on 30 June, the commanding officer of UK forces in Basra has warned.”
Some teach that God forgives our sins, even though we may not repent of them. They claim that Christ receives us "just the way we are." Isn't repentance one of the requirements for God's forgiveness?
The Bible proves that God only forgives us, if we meet certain conditions. One important condition is repentance. God does not forgive us, if we refuse to repent. Today, God has only called comparatively few and is not yet judging the rest of the world. This means, God has not yet forgiven the world, as they have not yet repented, but God does not hold them accountable at this point in time (This is not to say that sin does not have built-in penalties which a sinner will have to pay automatically). Those not called and not forgiven yet are described in Acts 17:30-31: “Truly, these times of ignorance God OVERLOOKED [not, forgave!], but now COMMANDS ALL MEN [those called] EVERYWHERE TO REPENT.” We have to REPENT of our sins before baptism (in addition to accepting Christ’s sacrifice as payment for our sins), even though we might have committed sins in ignorance (compare 1 Peter 1:13-15; Ephesians 4:17-18; 1 Timothy 1:12-13; Acts 3:17). God offers us the gift of repentance, when He calls us, but we must respond to it and accept it (2 Timothy 2:24-26; Romans 2:4).
When the people realized that they had killed Christ, the Son of God, they asked Peter what to do. His response was: “REPENT, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ FOR THE REMISSION [FORGIVENESS, see margin] OF SINS…” (Acts 2:38). Forgiveness of sins FOLLOWS repentance.
It is true that Christ prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Some have said that this Scripture proves that God forgives even though there is no repentance. This is false. Christ was not asking God to forgive them AT THAT MOMENT. Rather, He was stressing that they had not committed the unpardonable sin, when they killed Him. Surely they KNEW that they killed Christ. But they did not KNOW who Christ was. We need to note Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, explaining to them Christ’s identity. They did not willfully and maliciously kill Christ as the Son of God. When Peter explained to them what they had done, they “were cut to the heart” (v. 37). Peter told them that, UPON REPENTANCE AND BAPTISM, they would obtain forgiveness of their sins — not before then. He did not contradict Christ — they both agreed. Peter did not say, God has ALREADY forgiven you, since Christ had asked for your forgiveness. Rather, Peter understood what Christ had asked for. Christ, in essence, told the Father, “Don’t remember their sin forever. Once they come to repentance, forgive them.”
The same is true for Stephen’s prayer in Acts 7:60: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (NIV, RSV, REB, NAB, NJB). Moffat says, “Lord, let not this sin stand against them.” Stephen was saying, in essence, what Christ was saying, in effect: “Don’t treat this as the unpardonable sin, for which there is no forgiveness. Don’t let this sin stand against them forever. Once they come to repentance — a realization what they have done — forgive them.” Stephen and Christ did NOT ask God to forgive these people right there and then. Stephen had just told them, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you” (v. 51).
Stephen also told them, just as Peter had done, that they had become “the betrayers and murderers” of “the Just One” (v. 52). While Peter’s audience repented, Stephen’s audience did not. Rather, they added insult to injury by murdering Stephen. So, Stephen did not ask God to forgive them at that moment — people who were stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, always resisting the Holy Spirit. He asked God to forgive them, once they repented. Stephen did not contradict Peter either, who had required repentance BEFORE forgiveness.
In fact, we find numerous Scriptures where God has refused to grant forgiveness, as there was no repentance. Please note, too, that these examples include God’s dealing with Old Testament people to whom He had never offered the gift of the Holy Spirit. Compare Jeremiah 18:18-23; Joshua 24:19-20; Isaiah 2:9; Exodus 32:31-34.
On the other hand, we find that God forgives sin, once we repent (Psalm 32:5). When Solomon dedicated the temple, he asked God to forgive the people, when they would sin, REPENT, and ask God for forgiveness (1 Kings 8:33-40).
Notice God’s wish in Jeremiah 36:3, “It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the adversities which I purpose to bring upon them, THAT EVERYONE MAY TURN [i.e., repent] from his evil way, THAT I MAY FORGIVE their iniquity and their sin.” Again, no forgiveness without prior repentance. Notice also Daniel’s prayer, asking for forgiveness, following repentance, in Daniel 9:1-20.
God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, does not teach something different in New Testament times. In 1 John 1:9, we are promised forgiveness if we confess [or repent of] our sins. In Acts 26:18, forgiveness is predicated on turning from darkness to light. Compare, too, Peter’s admonition to Simon Magus, in Acts 8:22: “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.”
In conclusion, the Biblical teaching is very consistent and clear: God does not forgive us our sins, if we don’t repent of them.
Member Letter and Booklet
A new member letter was sent out this week. You can find a version of the letter at: _______________.
Our newest booklet on sickness and healing will be entering the second stage of the review cycle by this weekend. We have already received the following comment from one of our reviewers: “This is another fine and very thorough booklet, more thorough than any I have read in the past on the subject of healing. Thanks for your continued dedication in helping God’s people, and in getting the truth out to others.”
How This Work is Financed
This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank
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