Update 190


Rejoice Always!

Friday evening, April 22, 2005, is Passover. If you won’t be able to attend local services (which are being held in the USA in California, Colorado and Oregon, starting at 7:30 pm local time), and want to keep the Passover at home, please read the special announcements in this Update, under “Feasts.”

On Saturday, April 23, 2005, Norbert Link will give the sermon, titled, “Rejoice Always!”

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.

Saturday night, April 23, 2005, is the Night to Be Much Observed.

Sunday, April 24, 2005, is the First Day of Unleavened Bread. Rene Messier will give the sermon in the morning from Oregon. His sermon is titled, “The Anatomy of Sin.” Edwin Pope will give the sermon in the afternoon from San Diego. His sermon is titled, “We Must Walk Out of Egypt.”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 9:00 am and 1:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 11:00 am and 3:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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by Rene Messier (Canada)

Several years ago, I saw an interesting movie. Its real message wasn’t evident until the last three minutes. It involved a man with two sons who, over the years, because of major issues between the two sons, had drifted apart.

The man who lived on the west coast was the owner of an automobile on the east coast which needed to be driven to his new residence. This was no ordinary car. It was a beautiful fully restored older vehicle — I believe, a Cadillac — and it looked just like a new car. He asked his eldest son to pick up the car with his younger brother.

As the two young men drove five days across the nation, they got into all kinds of problems. They were bickering at first because of the animosity between them, but it slowly changed. By the third day, the younger brother got into a squabble with a few other men at a bar, and the older brother came to his rescue. They had to flee the scene with their dad’s car, and they were chased by the other men, resulting in damage to the car — scratches on the paint job and dents in the fender.

However, the brothers had finally developed a deep bond for each other. When they arrived at the west coast, the eldest brother went alone to deliver the car to his dad. He knocked at the door with a bit of fear and trepidation. The father came out, walked towards his car, and the son was very apologetic about the damage on the car. To his complete surprise the father said: “Never mind the car, how was the trip with your brother?” The eldest son indicated it went well and that although it started off a bit rough, they had bonded as brothers. The only reply from the father was: “That’s great, that’s just great.”

The father died from cancer three months later, and that’s when the eldest son realized why the father wasn’t concerned about his restored car as much as the relationship between the brothers. To the father, the relationship between the two of them was more important than the car, as he did not want to die while there were bad feelings between his sons.

This movie reminded me of Matthew 5:23-24, where we read: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

We are keeping the Passover on Friday night. How is our relationship with God and with our brethren? Have we reconciled with God, since it is His law that we transgress when we sin, and reconciliation is through the blood of His beloved Son Jesus Christ? Passages such as 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, and Romans 5:10-11 make this very clear.

Christ, as our elder brother, was willing to die for our sins so we could be reconciled to God. In this life we can get caught up in the physical things and get our focus on wrong and unimportant matters. However, we read what is really important, in 1 John 4:7-11:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born [better: begotten] of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

The Passover season is a time to get focused on the important things and to be truly reconciled to God and, as much as depends on us, to our brethren, with the realization that reconciliation through the sacrifice of Christ is far more important than anything else.

So let us keep this Passover with a deep feeling of appreciation for the sacrifice which Christ made for all of us.

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Turmoil at the Temple Mount

As WorldNetDaily reported on April 18, 2005, “A group that led a Jewish protest at the Temple Mount last weekend in hopes of reclaiming the site from its Islamic custodians told WorldNetDaily this morning it will hold monthly protests until Jewish sovereignty is restored, while over 100,000 Indonesian Muslims rallied yesterday for continued Islamic dominance over the Mount. ‘The police blocked most of the people we tried to bring to the Temple Mount last week, so we will continue every month until Jews have a right to pray again at our holiest site,’ said David Ha’ivri, director of Revava, a group with the stated mission of ‘restoring self-esteem to the state of Israel by restoring national pride and values.’

“Revava had announced plans to bring 10,000 Jews to the Mount April 10, prompting Palestinian groups, including Hamas and the Islamic Movement, to threaten violence if a large group of Jews ascended the holy site. Only about 200 Jewish protestors were allowed past intense security, which included over 3,500 Israeli police stationed at checkpoints and entrances throughout the Old City, the walled section of Jerusalem that houses the Temple Mount… Still, over 10,000 Palestinians, including a top Hamas terrorist, made it last week to the Al Aqsa Mosque, where Muslim leaders vowed violent confrontations with any Jews who ascended the Mount. Islamic Jihad issued a press release claiming Jews were planning to ‘attack’ the Mount, which they said would explode the entire region and open an unprecedented confrontation with the ‘Zionist entity.’ … ‘The situation is simply intolerable,’ said Ha’ivri. ‘This is a Jewish state. The Temple Mount is the most holy Jewish site. We’re not going away until Jews can once again pray there unrestricted.”

Haider’s New Party

As the BBC reported on April 17, 2005, “Far-right politician Joerg Haider has launched a new party in Austria after a split in the Freedom Party he once led which threatened the ruling coalition. The new Alliance for Austria’s Future elected Mr Haider as its leader in Salzburg, and it looks set to remain in office with the majority conservatives. All Freedom Party cabinet ministers have defected to the new party…. Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, leader of the conservative People’s Party, said he had received sufficient guarantees to work with the new Alliance.”

European Constitution

As the EUobserver reported on April 15, 2005, French president Jacques Chirac is facing opposition to the Constitution from within his own ranks, as well as fighting an uphill battle to win the sympathy of the French people. ‘If this Constitution wins, it is the end of Europe,’ Niclolas Dupont-Aignan, a French MP from Chirac’s own UMP party, declared in Copenhagen on Friday (15 April)…. ‘The system has been built without the will of the people and they will revolt within ten years if this [treaty] is passed. We see it already with the Bolkestein directive and with Turkey’s possible entry into the EU,’ he warned. ‘The EU must adapt to the new world. We don’t want a return to nationalism, but we need a Europe based on democracy.'”

The AFP reported on April 16, 2005, that “The European Union struggled to contain mounting alarm at signs that French voters could reject the EU constitution, in what would be a devastating blow for the expanding bloc… The constitution, which aims to streamline decision-making in the expanded 25-member European Union, must be ratified by all member states. A rejection in France, one of the EU’s largest countries, would effectively kill the treaty. French President Jacques Chirac, alarmed at a series of polls indicating a ‘no’ vote [on May 29], launched a personal effort to persuade voters this week, warning on television that France would be turned into the ‘black sheep’ of Europe.”

In the meantime, Greece ratified the EU Constitution on Wednesday. It was the fifth country to do so (following, for example, Italy and Hungary). Spain was the first country in which the Constitution was accepted via referendum, but the Parliament still has to ratify it. In Germany, the Parliament will vote on May 12, after it was argued that a referendum of the people was “unconstitutional.”

The New Pope

Cardinal Ratzinger (the German “Panzerkardinal,” who was in charge of the office formerly known as the Inquisition) was elected as the new pope. A German paper reportedly stated recently that if Ratzinger was elected, the Inquisition would start again. As reported in this article, Ratzinger talked on Monday about the worst enemies of the Catholic Church, listing “sects” as number 1. Ratzinger recently wrote a paper, stating that one must belong to the Catholic Church in order to be saved, and that all the Protestant “daughter” churches must return to the fold of the “mother church.” He also stated that the core issues of orthodox Christianity are the observance of Sunday and Christmas.

It is also noteworthy that Benedict XV was elected just prior to World War I. Ratzinger adopted the name of Benedict XVI. According to the Washington Post, he elected the name to honor “Saint Benedict, the patron saint of Europe, and Benedict XV, the pope who tried to stop the First World War.”

Also, the late pope, John Paul II, had recently stated, that Satan had been cast down from heaven, and that the Great Tribulation was about to begin.

As AFP had already reported, prior to the election, on April 16, 2005, “Vatican intrigue intensifies as conclave looms to elect new pope.” The article continued: “Ratzinger, who turned 78 on Saturday, was John Paul II’s prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — his theological ‘enforcer.’ He has come from behind in the sweepstakes as a potential new pope, despite his age, uncertain health and a bloc of cardinals, including fellow Germans, who consider him too conservative…The identity of the next pope is critical to the Church as it struggles to retain influence in an increasingly secular world. John Paul II took a strongly conservative position on issues ranging from abortion, divorce, contraception and euthanasia to the ordination of women. Many in the Church, however, want his successor to adopt a more liberal stance in line with changing social values, notably on contraception — particularly in the fight against AIDS — and women.”

The Associated Press had added on April 18, 2005: “German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, considered a top contender to be the next pope, lashed out Monday at what he called threats to the fundamental truths of the Roman Catholic Church as he sought to set a conservative tone for the conclave to elect a new pope…. It was a clear message that Ratzinger wanted his fellow 114 cardinal electors to pick a new pope who will hold fast to the strict doctrinal line that John Paul charted and that he upheld as the powerful prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Ratzinger ticked off the threats facing the church and the next pontiff: sects and ideologies like Marxism, liberalism, atheism and agnosticism, collectivism, and what he called ‘radical individualism’ and ‘vague religious mysticism.'”

Finally, on Tuesday, April 19, 2005, it was announced that Joseph Ratzinger had been elected the new pope. The Associated Press reported:

“Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, the Roman Catholic Church’s leading hard-liner, was elected the new pope Tuesday in the first conclave of the new millennium. He chose the name Benedict XVI and called himself ‘a simple, humble worker.’… Benedict XV, who reigned from 1914 to 1922, was a moderate following Pius X, who had implemented a sharp crackdown against doctrinal ‘modernism.’ He reigned during World War I and was credited with settling animosity between traditionalists and modernists, and dreamed of reunion with Orthodox Christians… Ratzinger served John Paul II since 1981 as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In that position, he has disciplined church dissidents and upheld church policy against attempts by liberals for reforms…It was one of the fastest elections in the past century: Pope Pius XII was elected in 1939 in three ballots on one day, while Pope John Paul I was elected in 1978 in four ballots in one day. The new pope was elected after either four or five ballots over two days. ‘It’s only been 24 hours, surprising how fast he was elected,’ Vatican Radio said.”

The Times on Line wrote on April 19, 2005:

“In 1981 he became Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly the Inquisition, where he earned the nickname ‘The Enforcer,’ and Dean of the College of Cardinals in 2002. He and the late Pope were referred to as ‘intellectual bedfellows.’ … Pope Benedict XVI is the eighth German pope. His accomplishments are many, he speaks ten languages and likes to play Beethoven on the piano. But it is in his enforcement of Church doctrine that he has made so many enemies around the world. He said it was ‘an enormous mistake’ to allow Turkey to join the European Union, has described rock music as a ‘vehicle of anti-religion’ and believes cloning is a more serious threat to humanity than weapons of mass destruction. He believes the ban on women priests is necessary to safeguard doctrine, is against multiculturalism and believes that the Church of England is not a proper church. Other religions he regards as deficient and homosexuality in his view is an ‘intrinsic moral evil.'”

In a related article of The Associated Press, it was pointed out:

“… opinion about [Ratzinger] remains deeply divided in Germany, a sharp contrast to John Paul, who was revered in his native Poland. A recent poll for Der Spiegel news weekly said Germans opposed to Ratzinger becoming pope outnumbered supporters 36 percent to 29 percent, with 17 percent having no preference… Many blame Ratzinger for decrees from Rome barring Catholic priests from counseling pregnant teens on their options and blocking German Catholics from sharing communion with their Lutheran brethren at a joint gathering in 2003…”

At the same time, as Bild Online reported, German political leaders welcomed the election of Ratzinger. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a Protestant, and Angela Merkel, Protestant leader of the CDU-opposition party, remarked that the fact that a German was elected pope “fills us with honor and pride,” and that it was “a great honor for our country.” The German tabloid Bild Online, originally very critical of Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote on the front page, in big letters: “We Are Pope!” According to Der Spiegel Online, American Catholics are not overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the election of Ratzinger (As a CNN report showed, the reasons can be seen in Ratzinger’s conservative position and his remarks of an alleged conspiracy within the US press regarding the recent U.S. sexual child abuse scandal, involving Catholic priests). In Russia, according to the magazine, they don’t like him, either. The magazine added that the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian-Orthodox Church is “chilly,” and that it will remain that way. In addition, the magazine wrote that many British papers are “fuming.”

The Independent in the UK wrote on April 20, 2005:

“… the softly spoken, courteous, Bavarian cardinal is the iron fist in Catholicism’s velvet glove. Nicknamed ‘God’s rottweiler’ and the ‘Panzerkardinal’ he takes the same unyielding stance on issues such as artificial contraception, abortion and homosexuality — which he has personally called ‘intrinsically evil.’ He called for pro-abortion politicians to be denied communion during the US election campaign. He has argued that Europe should be re-Christianized and that Turkey should not be admitted into the European Union.

“In many areas he is more hardline than his predecessor. He undermined Pope John Paul II’s attempts at reconciliation with the Orthodox churches. After the last pope visited Athens to apologize for the Great Schism of the 11th century, Cardinal Ratzinger issued a document insisting that the Catholic Church was the ‘mother’ of other Christian denominations as opposed to a ‘sister,’ the more common description in ecumenical circles. It wa
s typical of his stance as a more rigid outrider to the positions adopted by John Paul II.”

MSNBC stated on April 20: “The line between religion and politics isn’t clear, but the papacy of Benedict XVI could erase it altogether… If the denial of Communion — the central sacrament of Catholicism — was a weapon used only occasionally before,… it will be more widely used now. In his writings and interviews, the former Cardinal Ratzinger declared that politicians who support abortion rights should be turned away — and that it is a sin for Catholic voters to support a pro-choice candidate if their main reason for doing so is the candidate’s abortion views. We are eons away from the days when John Kennedy wanted to assure voters that the Vatican would hold no sway over his actions. Now everyone frankly acknowledges the Holy See’s role in the American public square. The question is: How will the electorate view the advent of a new Church Militant?”

Der Spiegel Online published an interesting article about the German popes — pointing out that none of Ratzinger’s predecessors were too fortunate on the Roman Catholic throne. Gregory V (996-999), the first German pope, had to flee from Rome naked and without financial means. Shortly after he returned, he died of Malaria. Clemens II (1046-1047) died of poisoning within a year. Damasus II (1048) died within 23 days of Malaria. Leo IX (1049-1054) was captured by the Normans, and under his rule, the Catholic Church split into the Eastern and Western Churches. Victor II (1055-1057) was compelled by the emperor to become pope, but he never gave up his office of bishop in Germany. Stephen IX (1057-1058) died within eight months, while traveling. Finally, Hadrian VI (1522-1523) was unable to prevent the Reformation under Martin Luther.

The future will show how close we have now come to the return of Jesus Christ. Surely, tumultuous and frightening times are ahead of us.

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What is the "root of bitterness," as mentioned in Hebrews 12:15?

The passage in question reads in full, beginning in verse 14:

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected… (verses 14-17).”

Paul gives us several examples to avoid, in order to make sure that we will inherit the blessing of the Kingdom of God. He tells us that if we don’t pursue peace with all people, but rather continue to live a contentious life style, we will not see or be accepted by Jesus Christ. The same is true when we don’t live holy or God-pleasing lives. He also explains that we won’t inherit the blessing either, when we allow a root of bitterness to spring up causing trouble; and finally, we won’t be accepted by God if we commit spiritual fornication by rejecting, through our words, thoughts and deeds, the gift of eternal life which God has in store for us.

Especially the term, “root of bitterness,” is very meaningful, as it can and will defile the bitter person, as well as others, if it is not immediately rooted out.

The Broadman Bible Commentary explains:

“It is interesting to observe that this… [phrase] (‘root of bitterness’) was used by Peter in his denunciation of Simon Magus, who tried to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit with money (Acts 8:23). The writer may be referring to the passage in Deuteronomy 29:18: ‘Beware… lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.’ Here the warning is against one who assures himself that he is in the covenant relationship, even though he continues to keep a stubborn heart.”

The Commentary continues to point out that Hebrews is referring to “those people who are like Esau, who value immediate gratification of sensual desire above the final approval of God.”

The Commentary on the Whole Bible, by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, explains that the root of bitterness “comprehends every person and every principle of doctrine or practice so radically corrupt as to spread corruption all around. The only safety is in rooting out such a root of bitterness… So long as it is hidden under the earth it cannot be remedied, but when it ‘springs up,’ it must be dealt with boldly.”

The New Bible Commentary:Revised adds that a person with a root of bitterness “can bring defilement on the whole congregation.” It refers in this context to the story of Achan, in Joshua 6:18; and 7:25.

When checking the Greek word for “bitterness,” i.e., pikria, it is defined, by W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, as “denot[ing] bitterness.” The Dictionary continues to point out that it “is used in Acts 8:23, metaphorically, of a condition of extreme wickedness, ‘gall of bitterness’ or ‘bitter gall’; in Rom. 3:14 of evil speaking; in Eph. 4:31, of bitter hatred; in Heb. 12:15, in the same sense, metaphorically, of a root of bitterness, producing bitter fruit.”

We can see, then, from the forgoing that the springing up of a root of bitterness must be avoided at all costs. This root does not suddenly appear, without having first been nurtured in the heart of a person. We see from the Biblical examples that the root of bitterness can be the result of wrong motives, thoughts, desires and actions. It is therefore important that we examine our hearts, to see whether Jesus Christ lives in us (compare 2 Corinthians 13:5), or whether we have a bitter, hateful, stubborn or hardened heart and a contentious spirit. If we do have such an arrogant heart (compare Isaiah 9:9), we must repent of it immediately, purify our hearts (James 4:8), and ask God to give us a humble and submissive heart (Matthew 11:29).

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

A StandingWatch program, titled, “Submitting to Authority,” was posted on the Web.

Our new booklet on the future of the USA and Great Britain has completed the first review cycle.

From the Philippines: “We received your booklets and tapes yesterday. We are very thankful and appreciate every material for spiritual growth you’ve given us. Most of the original booklets you sent us were distributed to old time members who also like to read them… I’m reading your booklet, ‘Should You Fight in War?‘ I plan to photocopy this after Passover. This is a very timely booklet and it coincides with the election of the new pope… Would you think he may be the last pope or may he serve as a transitional pope to pave the way for the last pope?”

Our comment: Both possibilities exist. The near future will tell for sure.

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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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