Update 336


The Church Does Not Have Perfect People

On March 22, 2008, Brian Gale will give the sermon, titled, “The Church Does Not Have Perfect People.”

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.

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Is Close Enough?

by Dave Harris

Close counts in playing marbles, horseshoes and for certain other games. As used in our daily conversation, close means to be near in space or time.

But just being close doesn’t count if we want to know and believe the truth!

False teachers come close to the truth. They may even say some things that are partially true, but this is done to promote what is untrue. Paul had to contend with this counterfeit element within the Church of God:

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

No created being was closer to God than Satan. He is identified as one of the original covering cherubs who were at the throne of God (Compare Ezekiel 28:14). But being close to God was not enough. Satan chose a course of life that drove him away from God. Jesus said this about Satan:

“‘…He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it’” (John 8:44).

Our Christianity faces constant assault from Satan, and he does it by his deceiving lies. His success has been all too pervasive, but not complete. John makes this contrast about us—if we are the true followers of Jesus Christ:

“We KNOW that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And we KNOW that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may KNOW Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 5:19-20).

Being called to the knowledge of the truth of God sets us free from the lies of Satan and from those who represent him (Compare John 8:32). For us to know the truth and to know to reject the lies, Jesus Christ, “…gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4).

Considering this, we must constantly examine what we believe and with what fervency we hold on to the truth we have received! Being just close, in this endeavor, is NOT enough!

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Iraq–After Five Years of American Occupation

On March 17, 2008, Der Spiegel Online reported the following:

“The situation in Iraq on the eve of the anniversary of ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ has both opponents and supporters of the American military campaign puzzled. The body of a Catholic archbishop is found near the northern city of Mosul, and yet the US embassy in Baghdad is holding a flea market as if it were peacetime. There has been a slight rise in the number of attacks again… The United States has been in Iraq longer than it fought in World War II. The conflict is getting long in the tooth… the war has already cost the country at least $3 trillion…
“How the country proceeds in Iraq will be decided, at least in part, by American voters this November. If they elect Republican John McCain as president, they may have to get used to a US presence in Iraq for another 100 years, as McCain has suggested. Meanwhile, the Democratic presidential candidates are urging a pullout of US troops. But neither side has thought of a peaceful way to resolve the political problems among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.”

The Associated Press commented on March 16:

“Sometime soon, the U.S. military will suffer the 4,000th death of the war in Iraq.

“When the 1,000th American died in September 2004, the insurgency was just gaining steam. The 2,000th death came as Iraq held its first elections in decades, in October 2005. The U.S. announced its 3,000th loss on the last day of 2006, at the end of a year rocked by sectarian violence. The 4,000th death will come with the war further out of the public eye, and replaced by other topics on the front burner of the U.S. presidential campaigns.

“Analysts say the 4,000 dead, while an arbitrary marker, could inject the war debate back into the campaign season, particularly with the war’s fifth anniversary on Thursday. Or, with overall violence lower in Iraq, the milestone could pass with far less public discussion than in past years. Last year was the deadliest for American troops in Iraq, with 901 troops killed. As of Sunday, at least 3,988 Americans have died in Iraq…

“The number killed in Iraq is far less than in other modern American wars. In Vietnam, the U.S. lost on average about 4,850 troops a year from 1963-75. In the Korean war, from 1950-53, the U.S. lost about 12,300 soldiers a year… Soldiers and analysts alike say the impact of the deaths in Iraq has been largely lost on many Americans who have no personal connection to the war.”

CBS News reported on March 18:

“One the eve of the five-year anniversary of the start of the war with Iraq, [64 percent of] Americans continue to think the results of the war have not been worth the loss of American lives and the other costs of attacking Iraq…”

NO WAR, fought by humans, is “worth it.” But WHEN will mankind learn this bitter lesson? For more information, please read our free booklet, “Should YOU Fight in WAR?”

Iraq War–Doubts about America’s Future

The Christian Science Monitor wrote on March 20:

“The Iraq war has been perhaps America’s bitterest lesson since Vietnam in the realities of war and geopolitics – profoundly altering ordinary citizens’ sense of their country, its essential abilities, and the overall role it plays in the world. Poll after poll shows that Americans are worried about US troops. They’re distressed at the war’s rising human and financial cost and are fully aware of the globe’s rising tide of anti-Americanism. Most of all, they may be confused – unsure of how the United States got here, uncertain about what to do next, and in doubt about how, and when, the conflict will end… The bottom line may be that today many in the US view the Iraq invasion as a mistake they don’t want to see repeated…”

Disastrous Conditions in Iraq

AFP reported on March 20:

“The US-led war on Iraq that toppled the brutal regime of dictator Saddam Hussein entered its sixth year on Thursday with millions of Iraqis still battling daily chaos and rampant bloodshed.

“On March 20, 2003, US planes dropped the first bombs on Baghdad. Within three weeks, invading troops toppled Saddam but left US forces battling a resentful and rebellious people… US President George W. Bush defended the war that has already cost his administration more than 400 billion dollars but admitted the human cost was high… The top UN official in Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, told AFP in an interview that time is running out for Iraqi leaders to resolve differences hampering the political progress… Hans Blix, the former chief UN weapons inspector, in an article for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, slammed the Iraq war as a ‘tragedy — for Iraq, for the US, for the UN, for truth and human dignity.’

“On the streets of Baghdad, fear of Saddam’s hated secret police has been replaced by a new terror. Americans ‘brought our way things we never knew like terrorism and the killings we see on the streets,’ [according to one Iraqi observer]… The International Committee of the Red Cross said the plight of millions of Iraqis who still have little or no access to clean water, sanitation or health care was the ‘most critical in the world.’… The economy, the main concern of Iraqis after security, is also a wreck. Unemployment is running at between 25 and 50 percent, according to government figures… public services as water and electricity have yet to be fully restored, despite billions of dollars having been spent on often badly managed reconstruction projects.”

Europe and the Iraq War

The EUObserver wrote on March 20:

“It has been five years since the United States began its military operation dubbed ‘Iraqi Freedom’. The war resulted in a deep rift in transatlantic relations, caused a split within the European Union and made Iraqis the single largest group seeking refuge in Europe… Several countries, led by France and Germany, were opposed to US-led invasion, while others took part. At the time, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld exacerbated the divisions by saying: ‘Germany has been a problem and France has been a problem.’ … Since 2003, a number of EU countries such as Italy, Lithuania, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia and the Netherlands have withdrawn their soldiers from the violence-torn country, mainly due to public opinion.  At the same time, troops from Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Romania and the Czech Republic remain deployed in Iraq…

“In general, it is estimated that six million people inside Iraq need urgent humanitarian assistance as a result of the conflict. Some 2.5 million are internally displaced, while an additional two million are hosted by neighbouring countries such as Syria and Jordan.”

Americans Have A Right to Own Guns

The Associated Press reported on March 18:

“Americans have a right to own guns, Supreme Court justices declared Tuesday in a historic and lively debate that could lead to the most significant interpretation of the Second Amendment since its ratification two centuries ago… a majority of justices appeared ready to say that Americans have a ‘right to keep and bear arms’ that goes beyond the amendment’s reference to service in a militia…

“The court has not conclusively interpreted the Second Amendment since its ratification in 1791. The amendment reads: ‘A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.’  The basic issue for the justices is whether the amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns no matter what, or whether that right is somehow tied to service in a state militia.

“A key justice, Anthony Kennedy, seemed to settle that question early on when he said the Second Amendment gives ‘a general right to bear arms.’ He is likely to be joined by Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – a majority of the nine-member court.”

And so, America’s fascination with guns will continue. And so will killing and death. Let us all pray that the day will soon arive when all people will recognize the utter uselessness of guns and weapons, and when they will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4).

Financial Crisis in the USA–Worst Since World War II

On March 16, The Financial Times published an article by Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, commenting on the present economic crisis in the USA. Even though his future predictions for a recovery are to be judged as being highly optimistic and unrealistic, his comments pertaining to the present disaster are worthwhile noticing:

“The current financial crisis in the US is likely to be judged in retrospect as the most wrenching since the end of the second world war… The American housing bubble peaked in early 2006, followed by an abrupt and rapid retreat over the past two years. Since summer 2006, hundreds of thousands of homeowners, many forced by foreclosure, have moved out of single-family homes into rental housing, creating an excess of approximately 600,000 vacant, largely investor-owned single-family units for sale. Homebuilders caught by the market’s rapid contraction have involuntarily added an additional 200,000 newly built homes to the ’empty-house-for-sale’ market…

“Single-family housing starts have declined by 60 per cent since early 2006, but have only recently fallen below single-family home demand… The pace of liquidation is likely to pick up even more as new-home construction falls further. The level of home prices will probably stabilise…That point, however, is still an indeterminate number of months in the future.

“The crisis will leave many casualties… In the current crisis, as in past crises, we can learn much, and policy in the future will be informed by these lessons. But we cannot hope to anticipate the specifics of future crises with any degree of confidence.”

Is the USA “On Top of the Situation”???

It would be reassuring to know–in light of such incredible and irresponsible financial debacle–that America is on “top of the situation.” If we could only believe it! This is what The Associated Press wrote on March 17:

“President Bush, trying to ease turmoil in financial markets, said Monday that his administration is ‘on top of the situation’ in dealing with the slumping economy. ‘One thing is for certain, we’re in challenging times,’ the president said after meeting with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and other senior economic advisers. ‘But another thing is for certain: we’ve taken strong decisive action.’ The president commended the Fed for its urgent actions over the weekend. He said that ‘we’ve shown the country and the world that the United States is on top of the situation.’… Repeating his reassurances to the country, the president said that in the long run, the economy is going to be fine. Bush spoke on a day of turmoil and plunging prices on global financial markets. Oil prices hit a record in Asian trading, U.S. stock index futures fell sharply and the dollar hit record lows.”

The Associated Press published this follow-up article on March 18:

“President Bush traveled a fair distance from Friday to Monday, and not just to New York and back to the White House. One day, he warned the economy could land ‘in a ditch’ if the government engaged in big bailout-type help for people losing their homes because they gambled, unwisely or unknowingly, on the now-collapsed subprime mortgage market. On the other, he endorsed the Federal Reserve’s move to provide $30 billion in backing for the rescue of one of Wall Street’s largest investment banks, needed because Bear Stearns Cos. risked too much in that very sector.

“Meanwhile, throughout the economy’s recent turbulent times — lost jobs, sky-high gasoline prices, plunging home values, a free-falling dollar, shaken consumer confidence, a growth slowdown and possibly even a recession — Bush has projected an air of unwavering optimism, even joviality. He is the nation’s biggest economic cheerleader at a time of deep uncertainty…

“It all has some people shaking their heads. Is there a disconnect here? Does the president get how this might feel to the little guy? Is there a different standard for the big financial community and the strapped homeowner facing foreclosure?…

“Democrats are struggling for the right note, too. They assumed the somewhat awkward position of criticizing Bush for going too far and not far enough at the same time. They want more direct help for homeowners, such as changing the bankruptcy code to allow judges to adjust mortgage rates… Bush rejects the bankruptcy plan and other ideas like it… Last month, he surprised some people by saying he was unaware that some analysts were predicting $4-a-gallon gasoline by summer.”

The Freefall of the U.S. Dollar

WorldNetDaily wrote on March 18:

“The European Union has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s No. 1 economy due to the continued dramatic fall of the dollar… The U.S. Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, for 2007 is officially estimated at $13,843,800 billion. The 2007 GDP for the 15 EU countries is estimated at 8,847,889 billion euros…  That means when the euro yesterday topped $1.56, the EU officially became the largest economy in the world… As the [Federal Reserve] continues to lower rates to stimulate the sagging economy, the dollar is increasingly abandoned, hitting new lows almost every day against other major currencies.”

Most Americans Think We Are in a Recession and Worry About a Depression

USA Today wrote on March 18:

“More than three in four Americans think the country is in a recession, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll over the weekend shows, reflecting a crisis of confidence that economists say could make the economy worse… Seventy-six percent of those polled said the economy is in recession, compared to 22% who said it’s not. Not since September 1992, two months before President George H.W. Bush lost re-election, have so many Americans said the economy was in such bad shape… Asked if the nation could slip into a depression lasting several years, 59% said it was likely, and 79% said they were worried about it. A recession is an economic downturn that usually lasts at least six months; a depression is longer, deeper and more broadly dispersed.”

Americans have every reason to worry about a depression. For more information, please read our free booklet, “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America.”

High Honors for Chancellor Merkel in Israel–But Why?

On March 17, Der Spiegel Online raised the question whether the high honors bestowed on Chancellor Merkel during her visit in Israel–and the good relationships between the two countries–are bought by Germany’s silence about Israeli excesses over the years. The magazine stated:

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel has become Israel’s staunchest ally in Europe. This week, the country has pulled out all the stops to welcome the German leader. Back home, though, many wish Merkel would finally speak up about Israeli excesses in the Gaza Strip…

“Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert personally met his guest at Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday — an honor that until now he has only bestowed on George W. Bush. Merkel then helicoptered down to the Negev Desert to visit the grave of David Ben Gurion, the father of modern Israel. There, she was hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres. On Monday, Olmert accompanied Merkel to the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, where foreign dignitaries normally lay a wreath alone. ‘The chancellor’s visit has the same status as a visit by the US president,’ Olmert’s chief of staff told an advance delegation…

“When the Israeli army attacked the Gaza Strip in early March and over 120 Palestinians died, Merkel said nothing. Even the pope called for both sides to immediately cease all hostilities. And Merkel made no comment when Olmert’s government announced two weeks ago — contrary to previous promises — that Israel would again begin expanding settlements in the occupied territories. Even a year and a half ago, the chancellor refrained from directly displaying any unease with Israel’s military operation in Lebanon. When the Israeli air force killed four UNIFIL soldiers, she merely expressed her ‘deep regret.’ Other European statesmen like France’s then President Jacques Chirac vehemently condemned the incident…

“Merkel’s policies remain controversial. Critics say that Germany is sacrificing its credibility among Arab countries. And even in Israel, Germany’s policy of unconditional solidarity has at times been viewed with astonishment. In Germany, it is primarily Merkel’s coalition partners who are muttering about her politics… Even members of Merkel’s own Christian Democratic Union and its sister party the Christian Social Union, warn of a growing sense of annoyance among the Arab states…

“It remains to be seen whether these exceptional close ties will eventually lead to a ‘normal’ relationship between the two countries, one that naturally includes both mutual criticism and solidarity. The new Israeli ambassador in Berlin, Yoram Ben-Zeev, recently experienced just how ill at ease Germans can be on the topic of Israel when he spoke with a group of journalists in Munich. During clashes with alleged terrorists in the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces had just killed 120 Palestinians, including many civilians, but none of the reporters asked any questions about the incident.”

Merkel in Israel–But Not Everyone Is Pleased…

AFP wrote on March 18:

“Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday pledged Germany’s unwavering support for Israel in a landmark address to parliament, as she wrapped up a visit 60 years after the Jewish state was founded in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust. ‘Germany will never abandon Israel but will remain a true friend and partner,’ said Merkel, the first German head of government to address the Knesset, an honour usually reserved for heads of state. ‘Germany and Israel are, and will always remain, linked in a special way through the memory of the Holocaust,” said Merkel… ‘The Holocaust fills us Germans with shame’…

“‘I say clearly and unequivocally: the Qassam (rocket) attacks by Hamas must stop,’ she said in reference to attacks on southern Israel by militants in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave run by the Islamist Hamas movement… The German visitor drew loud applause when she opened her address in Hebrew, saying: ‘I thank you for the honour of allowing me to address the Knesset.’ But the fact she delivered the rest of her speech in German ruffled feathers among MPs in a country where the memory of the Nazi murder of six million Jews still runs deep. Several lawmakers stayed away from the chamber in protest. ‘I know the last sounds heard by my grandparents and my uncles … were those of the German language,’ Arieh Eldad, an MP of the far-right National Union-National Religious Party said earlier in the day. Addressing the controversy, Merkel explicitly thanked the deputies for allowing her to speak in German…

“Merkel’s three-day visit was designed to reiterate support of Israel by its most important political and trading partner in Europe. On Monday, Hamas, which is pledged to Israel’s destruction, slammed the German leader for ignoring the ‘holocaust’ perpetrated by Israel in the impoverished territory. Merkel’s statements ‘reflect a moral degradation… by supporting without failure an entity that commits massacres against Palestinian children, women and the elderly,’ Hamas said in a statement. Earlier this month, an Israeli army blitz on Gaza, launched in response to rocket fire, killed more than 130 Palestinians, including several dozen children and other civilians. Five Israelis were also killed.”

The present unique friendly relationship between Germany and Israel will not continue. For more information, please read our free booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.”

“Merkel More One-Sided Than Bush in the Middle East”

This is the assessment of some German commentators, pertaining to Chancellor Merkel’s most recent trip to Israel. Der Spiegel Online reported on March 19:

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:… ‘The fact that Hamas’ rule in the Gaza Strip and the rocket attacks on Israeli towns are condemned by the European Union goes back in particular to… Germany’s EU presidency under Merkel. But Germany has to take pains not to repeat Bush’s capital mistake of acting on behalf of one side in the peace process. In her speech the Palestinians were hardly mentioned. Merkel has to protect her independence and criticize Israel for its occupation and settlement polices… The Israeli army is carrying out an asymmetrical war against the comparatively small groups, and as recently demonstrated in the Gaza Strip, applies disproportionate force. The pope has even called for an end to the violence, but Merkel stays silent and doesn’t want to interfere. But the majority of Palestinians are not terrorists and like the Israelis, want to live in peace. The creation of the two-state solution also belongs to Germany’s reason of state: a safe Israel and safe Palestine, without Jewish settlements’…

“The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes: ‘(Merkel) did not meet with a single Palestinian. This amount of ignorance about the Palestinian side is unusual. Merkel is acting even more one-sidedly than George W. Bush, who recently also met with President Mahmoud Abbas as a matter of course… True responsibility towards Israel and its own past would involve a policy that did not atone for its sins at the expense of the Palestinians, but instead exerted pressure on Israel to change its (self-) destructive policy.'”

Israel Prepares for War With Syria and Iran

The Jerusalem Post wrote on March 17:

“In the face of a possible escalation with Syria and Iran’s efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon, parts of the country will shut down next month in what security officials say will be the largest emergency exercise in Israel’s history. The drill, which is being organized by the newly-established National Emergency Authority, will take place over five days starting on Sunday, April 6.

“But first, on Tuesday, a first-of-its-kind hospital emergency exercise will take place to see how Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center would cope with a Grad missile hitting a five-story hospitalization building and an outpatient clinic’s laboratory filled with toxic chemicals and a fire breaking out, requiring patients to be lowered from the roof…

“On the first day of the drill [in April], Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will convene the cabinet in Jerusalem in response to an ‘enemy attack’ and to decide on an Israeli response… The rescue services will drill mass evacuations from ‘hit zones’ – including mock chemical and biological attacks – and hospitals will drill their ability to provide medical treatment to thousands of wounded… All government ministries will participate in the exercise and they will hold a drill on one day during which they will direct all of their personnel to enter bomb shelters. Civilians will be asked to locate the public bomb shelter closest to their homes.”

China’s Brutal Crackdown

Der Spiegel Online reported on March 17 about the most recent outbreak of violence in Tibet:

“Tanks in the street of Lhasa, burning cars on the Roof of the World and thousands of soldiers brandishing assault rifles, imposing peace at the barrel of a gun — it is as if China was an imploding banana republic. On top of that, there are unknown numbers of dead on both sides. This, surely, is not the new China — a gleaming economic powerhouse — that Beijing wanted to present to the world before its celebration of the century: the 2008 Olympic Games.

“In fact, the situation is turning into a nightmare. The horror is worst for the locals, who in the next few days will be dragged out of their homes and subjected to terrible punishments and torture. The promise that Beijing will uphold human rights in the run-up to the Olympic Games has now gone out the window..

“In reality, the Chinese government isn’t at all interested in an amicable solution to the conflict. Instead, Beijing is using the Chinese populace as its most potent weapon, in the form of a resettlement policy that has seen tens of thousands of ethnic Chinese relocated to Tibet in recent years — and the resulting assimilation of the region… The Dalai Lama, for his part, has unfortunately been unable to find an adequate political strategy to counter Beijing’s cultural imperialism. As a monk living in exile who is dedicated to non-violence, his options are limited…

“China sees Tibet as a ‘domestic affair’ and as such is not willing to listen to council from outside its borders. Furthermore, America’s human rights record of the last few years has made it easy for China to follow an aggressive course.”

AFP added on March 20:

 “Thousands of soldiers were seen in Lhasa on Thursday amid reports of a huge military build-up, as the Dalai Lama expressed fears China’s crackdown on Tibetan protesters had caused many casualties. Long military convoys were on the move in Tibet while troops also poured into nearby provinces, after a week of violent unrest against China’s rule of the Himalayan region…

“A week of protests against China’s 57-year rule of Tibet erupted into rioting in Lhasa last Friday. Demonstrations have since spilled over into nearby Chinese provinces with sizeable ethnic Tibetan populations… The unrest has been a public relations nightmare for China in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics in August, an event the nation’s communist rulers had hoped would showcase a harmonious country.

“While no government has called for a boycott of the Games, China has faced increasing international pressure to resolve the unrest peacefully and to hold talks with the Dalai Lama… China has banned foreign journalists from Lhasa and tried to block them from the nearby western provinces of China, where a spate of violent protests have taken place over the past week.”

New Violence in Kosovo

Der Spiegel Online reported on March 17:

“United Nations police and security forces clashed on Monday with Serb demonstrators in [Mitrovica in] Kosovo in the [worst] violence since Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence on Feb. 17… The European Commission urged restraint after the clashes…

“Mitrovica, which is divided into an ethnic Albanian part and an ethnic Serbian enclave, has been a center of ethnic tension since Kosovo’s secession from Serbia, and Serbs wanting to take control of UN-run institutions in Kosovo have protested daily outside the courthouse in recent weeks. Serb protestors have prevented ethnic Albanian judges from going to work at the court, which has been controlled by the UN since the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999. Kosovo Serbs also recently tried to take control of a railway line in northern Kosovo, where most of Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs live.

“Monday’s rioting… poses a serious challenge to the authority of NATO, the UN and the new European Union mission to Kosovo. Serbia considers Kosovo’s declaration of independence to be illegal under international law, a position which is supported by Russia. Most EU member states and the US, however, have recognized Kosovo’s independence.”

AFP added on March 17:

“UN police were forced to withdraw Monday from the Serb-populated part of this flashpoint Kosovo town after coming under attack as they stormed a court occupied by Serbs opposed to independence… Northern Kosovo has a 40,000-strong Serb population who are divided from the mainly ethnic Albanian south by the Ibar River, which passes through Mitrovica. The clashes came on the four-year anniversary of the March 2004 anti-Serb riots by ethnic Albanians in which 19 people were killed and dozens of mediaeval Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries were destroyed or damaged.”

Switzerland To Sign Huge Iran Gas Deal

The Jerusalem Post wrote on March 16:

“Swiss energy giant EGL is set to sign a 25-year deal in Teheran on Monday to buy 5.5 billion cubic meters of Iranian natural gas per year, starting in 2011, for a reported €18 billion. The contract will be the second largest European gas deal… In April, the Austrian energy company OMV signed letters of intent with Iran valued at €22 billion to supply Europe with gas, but that contract has yet to be finalized… Critics of the growing number of European-Iranian oil and gas deals argue that Teheran can use the profits for a nuclear weapons program… [All of this] comes at a sensitive time because a number of European Union countries and the US are trying to restrict trade with Iran’s energy and banking sectors.”

Homeschooling Debate in California Continues…

The San Diego Union Tribune wrote on March 17:

“Families who educate their children at home have been gaining a powerful band of supporters since a recent court decision that severely restricts most home schooling in the state. California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled Feb. 28 that it is illegal for parents without teaching credentials to home-school their children.

“Officials from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell have vowed to protect home schooling as a legitimate choice for families who want an alternative to traditional schools. California Assemblyman Joel Anderson, R-La Mesa, has introduced a resolution calling on the state Supreme Court to reverse the decision…

“The ruling caught the home-schooling community off guard because it was not the result of an organized campaign targeting them. The decision stemmed from a child-welfare dispute involving two children who were home-schooled – along with siblings – by their mother. The children were enrolled in independent-study programs at Sunland Christian School, a Los Angeles County school for home-schoolers.

“On Friday, the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative legal organization representing the school, filed a motion for rehearing with the courts. ‘If that is denied, then we will be filing an appeal with the state Supreme Court in the first week of April,’ said Brad Dacus, president of [the] institute…

“Although the state does not keep records on the number of students who are home-schooled, estimates indicate as many as 200,000 California children receive their education this way. Countywide, experts estimate that up to 4,000 students [in San Diego county] are home-schooled.”

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Should we eat a Passover meal in Church on Passover evening, before we partake of the New Testament Passover symbols of bread and wine?

We find that, in New Testament times, certain local congregations apparently had a Passover meal in Church before partaking of the Passover symbols of bread and wine, as can be seen in the passage in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 (Authorized Version):

“Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not…”

When discussing this passage, many commentaries conclude that at least some New Testament churches–like the one in Corinth–had a practice of eating a meal in Church on Passover eve, before partaking of the symbols of bread and wine. (Please note that many of the commentaries refer to the Passover with incorrect terms, such as, “Holy Communion” or “Eucharist.” An upcoming Q&A will also explain why the terminology of “Lord’s Supper” for the Passover today is misleading.)

The Broadman Bible Commentary states that “Verses 17-22 and 33-34 indicate that a meal was eaten at the time [when] the Lord’s Supper was observed… it appears that the Lord’s Supper is separate from the main meal and is taken after the meal has been eaten… “

The Ryrie Study Bible agrees: “The early Christians held a love feast in connection with the Lord’s Supper, during which they gathered for a fellowship meal.”

The New Bible Commentary: Revised adds: “In the early days the observance of the sacramental acts of the Holy Communion took place in connection with a common meal or ‘love feast’ (Jude 12) in imitation of the Last Supper.”

Commentaries are divided on the question whether local congregations should have observed the New Testament Passover in this way at all; that is, whether they should have had a meal in Church before partaking of the Passover symbols. When focusing on Paul’s statement, “This is not to eat the Lord’s Supper”, the commentary of Adam Clarke points out: “They did not come together to eat the Lord’s Supper exclusively, which they should have done, and not have made it a part of an ordinary meal.”

Other commentaries conclude that at least the way it was done in Corinth was wrong, so that Paul instructed them not to continue in that practice.

The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown writes:

“‘… there is no such thing as eating the Lord’s Supper; ‘it is not possible’ where each is greedily intent only on devouring ‘HIS OWN supper,’ and some are excluded altogether, not having been waited for, where some are ‘drunken,’ while others are ‘hungry’. The love-feast usually preceded the Lord’s Supper (as eating the Passover came before the Lord’s Supper at the first institution of the latter). It was a club-feast, where each brought his portion, and the rich, extra portions for the poor; from it the bread and wine were taken for the Eucharist; and it was at it that the excesses took place, which made a true celebration of the Lord’s Supper during or after it, with true discernment of its solemnity, out of the question.”

It adds: “‘at home.’ That is the place to satiate the appetite, not the assembly of the brethren.”
Matthew Henry’s Commentary agrees:

“In this passage the apostle sharply rebukes them for much greater disorders than the former, in their partaking of the Lord’s supper, which was commonly done in the first ages, as the ancients tell us, with a love-feast annexed, which gave occasion to the scandalous disorders which the apostle here reprehends.”

The People’s New Testament writes, commenting on 1 Corinthians 11:22: “‘What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?’ The practice is rebuked. The place to eat… was at home.”

So, we see that Paul PROHIBITED the brethren in Corinth to have a Passover meal in Church, before partaking of the Passover symbols. Paul told them to eat at home, before coming to Church to partake of the New Testament Passover symbols (compare verse 34, Authorized Version: “And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye may not come together unto condemnation.”). This fact alone should tell us that it is therefore not mandatory to have a Passover meal in Church prior to partaking of the Passover symbols; otherwise, Paul could not have told them to eat at home. He would have SINNED when telling them that; and God would not have inspired it to be written down as a command in the Bible–and He would not have preserved it for us today–IF God had required of His disciples to eat a Passover meal in Church prior to partaking of the New Testament Passover symbols.

The fact that some New Testament Church congregations might have had that practice does not prove that it had to be done in that way. For instance, the early New Testament Church still offered sacrifices until the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., although it was no longer necessary to do so. It was not sinful to offer sacrifices, nor was it sinful NOT to do so. Even though Paul had clearly explained that sacrifices were no longer necessary, he himself subsequently brought sacrifices for the sake of unbelieving Jews (compare Acts 21:20-26).

The same can be said about circumcision. The early New Testament Church made the administrative decision, during a ministerial conference, as reported in Acts 15, that circumcision was not necessary in order to become a Church member. At the same time, the practice of circumcision was not sinful–Paul circumcised Timothy for the sake of unbelieving Jews (compare Acts 16:1-3). However, he did NOT circumcise him because he felt that circumcision was in any way necessary for salvation. He made it very clear that it was not. In fact, he stated that if someone felt that it was, then Christ died in vain for such a person, and that Christ’s death profited him nothing (Galatians 5:2). As will be discussed, the same is true when we think it is necessary to have a Passover meal (including the prior killing and roasting and the subsequent eating of a Passover lamb), together with partaking of the New Testament Passover symbols of bread and wine.

We can also ascertain that in Old Testament times, New Moons were celebrated–even though the Bible does not command this. Therefore, it is of course not sinful NOT to celebrate New Moons.

When focusing on a Passover meal in Church, though, additional considerations must be taken into account. It is true that in Old Testament times, beginning with Moses and the Israelites in Egypt, one Passover lamb was slain for each household, and the Passover lamb was eaten at home, in individual houses, as part of a family meal. However, as can be seen from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, this was no longer true in New Testament times, when the Passover ceremony was observed by some in Church–not in private homes. Further, Christ did not only change the symbols of the Old Testament Passover (by introducing footwashing and the symbols of bread and wine, and replacing thereby the Passover lamb, see below), He also changed certain aspects of the Passover observance: He did NOT partake of the Passover with His family in the privacy of His home, but He observed it with His twelve apostles in a “rented” facility. Neither the wives nor family members of the twelve apostles were present, nor was Mary, the mother of Jesus, nor were any of His brothers and sisters and other relatives.

It has been said that Jesus observed the Passover only with His apostles, because He was away from home, perhaps on a missionary journey or a baptizing tour, while the rest of His disciples and family members were still at home, and not in Jerusalem, so that they could not have participated with Jesus at His last Passover. However, the Bible does not support this conclusion at all. We read that Christ was accompanied by many of His disciples (male and female) when He was on “missionary travels”; and we also read that His mother and other family members and disciples WERE present in Jerusalem to observe the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Please note that Mary and other relatives and disciples were assembled at the cross, or looking at it from afar, after the Passover evening and before the first day of Unleavened Bread began (Matthew 27:55-56; Luke 23:49; John 19:25-27). It specifically says in Mark 15:41 that many of His female disciples had come up with Him to Jerusalem. To claim that they only reached Jerusalem AFTER the Passover eve is contradicted by Scripture. Mary and Joseph, for instance, kept the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem, together with their children, as was their CUSTOM–and they arrived in Jerusalem before the Passover began, and they stayed in Jerusalem for all the DAYS of the Feast (compare Luke 2:41-43; Exodus 12:15).

Further, we read that we are to “eat” Jesus Christ–the New Testament Passover Lamb–by partaking of the SYMBOLS of bread and wine. There is no hint that we are still to kill and eat lambs, in addition (compare 1 Corinthians 5:7). As mentioned, if we were to insist that we ought to do that, then we would go backwards–as those Jews did in Galatia who insisted that Gentiles need to become circumcised. Paul said that with such an approach, Christ will profit us nothing (Galatians 5:2, 6; compare 1 Corinthians 7:19).

We should realize that at times, physical observances (“shadows of things to come”) may end, when the spiritual purpose has been completely achieved, which purpose was foreshadowed by the physical observance (compare Hebrews 10:1-10; Galatians 3:24-25, referring to the sacrificial law which foreshadowed things and events which by now HAVE come to pass). At the moment of the complete spiritual fulfillment, the necessity of the physical observance, foreshadowing that fulfillment, might have ceased. (However, this is not to imply, as some have erroneously concluded, that the Sabbath or the annual Holy Days are no longer to be observed, as, allegedly, the “spiritual reality” of the Sabbath, Jesus Christ, has come. Nowhere in Scripture do we find such an analogy. See discussion below.)

Jesus Christ–our Passover lamb–died for us; hence, it is no longer necessary to kill a lamb which foreshadowed THE Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ. By analogy, remember that Israelites placed blood on their doorposts in Egypt to be protected from the death angel; however, there is no evidence that they ever did so again during subsequent Passover celebrations [NOR, that they ever did so BEFORE the events in Egypt]. The purpose of the blood on the doorposts–protection from the death angel–was limited to that one spectacular event in Egypt and had been achieved during that first Passover night. Although we are commanded to keep today the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, partly as a memorial of what God did for Israel in Egypt, we are not commanded to place blood on the doorposts of our houses.

There is another important reason why it could be dangerous to eat a Passover meal while partaking of the bread and wine. That reason is that the Passover bread must be DISTINGUISHED from an ordinary meal–it must NOT be viewed as part of an ordinary meal. Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 not to eat the bread and drink the wine in an unworthy manner. Rather, we must examine ourselves and then partake of the Passover symbols in a worthy manner. We must “discern” the Lord’s body (verse 29), which is–in the context of that passage–symbolized by the bread. As we break and eat a small piece of unleavened bread, we meditate on the fact that Christ’s physical body was beaten for our transgressions–so that we can obtain healing from our physical sicknesses. In order to AVOID the danger NOT to discern the Lord’s body; NOT to reflect on the symbolic meaning of the piece of the Passover bread; NOT to just treat it as part of an ordinary meal; the apostle Paul tells us to eat at home first, if we are hungry (verse 34). We are NOT to eat the Passover bread to satisfy our hunger.

The commentary of Jamiesson, Fausset and Brown explains: “… not discerning-not duty judging: not distinguishing in judgment (so the Greek: the sin and its punishment thus being marked as corresponding) from common food…”

The Geneva Study Bible adds: “The supper of the Lord was instituted not to feed the belly, but to feed the soul with the communion of Christ, and therefore it ought to be separated from common banquets.”

It is therefore strongly recommended that we eat at home to satisfy our hunger BEFORE we come to Church services to partake of the New Testament Passover symbols of bread and wine. But as will become clear below, we should not prepare and eat a time-consuming elaborate meal at home, just prior to attending Passover services. [For further explanations on that important aspect of the Passover service, please read our free booklet, “The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days.”]

Ultimately, it all boils down to an administrative issue–to a question which needs to be decided by the Church, so that there is no confusion in the body of Christ. Paul said that it is the Church that must determine and “judge” how to keep the Sabbath and the Holy Days. Colossians 2:16-17 says, correctly translated from the Greek (compare the Authorized Version, which is close to the Greek, but not totally accurate): “Let no man therefore judge you in eating and drinking, or in respect of an holiday, or of a new moon, or of the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come, but the body of Christ.”

It is the body of Christ–the Church of God (Colossians 1:18)–which is to judge, HOW to keep the Sabbath and the Holy Days. Paul said: “Let no one judge you… but the body of Christ”; in other word, let the body of Christ–the Church–judge or determine this issue.

As we explain in more detail in our booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days,” and in our new booklet, “Is That in the Bible?–Man’s Holidays and God’s Holy Days,” the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days are still to be kept today. They are, in part, memorials of what God did in the past, and they are foreshadowing certain future events (the spiritual fulfillment of those “things” has not yet come–compare Hebrews 4:1-11). This is still true in respect to those who have been called today into God’s truth–and it is most certainly true for the vast majority of mankind, who will be called during the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:4-6, 11-12).

It was the Church–the “body of Christ”–that made the administrative decision, based on Scripture, that it was not wrong to eat and drink on the Sabbath and the Holy Days (with the exception of the Day of Atonement), even though some were judging the brethren in Colossae for doing so, wrongly insisting that they had to fast on all of those days.

It was the Church which made the administrative decision, in Acts 15, that Gentiles didn’t have to be circumcised.

And it was the Church which, through the apostle Paul, explained to the Jewish Christians, for instance in the book of Hebrews, that they did not have to offer sacrifices anymore, or participate in Temple worship and services.

The Church of the Eternal God and its international affiliates, the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada, and the Global Church of God in the UK, have made it clear from their inception that they will follow the teachings of Mr. Armstrong, as long as they are not contradicted by Scripture. Our Statement of Beliefs reads, under “Doctrinal Foundation”: “The major doctrines of the Church are those, which were taught by Herbert W. Armstrong, derived from the Biblical teachings as followed by God’s faithful servants, and originally established by Jesus Christ through the founding of His Church in the time of His chosen early apostles. Since we are to increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, we are committed to review and alter any of our teachings, if and when proven to be wrong by the Bible.”

Under Mr. Armstrong, the Church never had a “Passover meal” in services, combined with the partaking of the symbols of eating bread and drinking wine. Part of the reason for the Church’s practice and decision was Paul’s explicit prohibition of a Passover meal in Church prior to the solemn occasion of partaking of the New Testament Passover symbols.

Based on the foregoing discussion, we conclude that the practice of the Church, as established under Mr. Armstrong, is to be upheld.

The Passover evening is one when we reflect on the supreme Sacrifice of Jesus Christ and what He did for us; it also focuses on the terrible hours of His arrest, trial and subsequent death. The elaborate preparation and the eating of a “family” meal in Church [or even at home, see above] just prior to partaking of the Passover symbols does not seem to be appropriate for such a solemn, deeply meaningful and thought-provoking occasion. The preparation of an elaborate meal in Church [or at home] just prior to Passover would also mean added work and labor, especially for the ladies, forcing them to focus on physical matters such as time-consuming and elaborate cooking, thereby diverting their attention from the real spiritual meaning of the solemn New Testament Passover evening. As one lady said, “There would be no rest for the women and they would be so tired that the whole purpose would be in vain. We could not even reflect on the true meaning of the Passover night.”

In conclusion, the Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates continue to adhere to the decade-long practice of the Worldwide Church of God, which was established under Mr. Armstrong, to conduct a Church service, on Passover evening, during which we participate in the footwashing ceremony and during which we partake of the symbols of bread and wine. At that time, we reflect on the supreme love and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, rather than allowing ourselves to be detracted by a family meal in Church, which would be accompanied by inherent dangers, as the example of the Corinthian Church has shown.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

Our new booklet, “Is That in the Bible?–Man’s Holidays and God’s Holy Days” has been sent to the printer in Canada.

Several of Norbert Link’s video-taped sermons were posted this week on Google Video. They are:

“Bible Study–Pride Precedes Punishment” (March 15, 2008)

Bible Study — Why Is God Angry?” (May 21, 2005)

A new StandingWatch program (#161)  has been posted on StandingWatch, Google Video and YouTube. It is titled, “New Seven Mortal Sins.” In the program, Norbert Link discusses the British Telegraph’s report on the Vatican’s announcement that there are seven new mortal or deadly sins–one of which is to pollute the earth. The paper’s statement continued that if the faithful don’t confess these sins to their priest and obtain forgiveness, they will be tortured in hell for all eternity. But is this what the Bible teaches? Are there mortal and not-so-mortal sins; is forgiveness obtained through confession to a priest; and is an ever-burning hellfire the fate of unrepentant sinners? The answers from God’s Holy Scriptures might surprise and shock you.

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“It’s not up to them”

by Shelly Bruno

That’s a favorite saying of mine—one I use when I feel the appropriate moment arises. It’s my secret weapon. Something I find useful when I see a situation where someone is in doubt. It’s such a simple statement, but one that can wield a powerful impact. It can simply erase doubt.

I’ve been using it a lot on my husband lately. He’s interviewing for a new job and has experienced stress and consternation about it—worrying about what so-and-so might say or think, and doubting the outcome of the situation. “It’s not up to them,” I quickly submit. And I believe it. “They” aren’t in charge of the outcome, God is. And it’s easy for me to see that God will indeed control the results. I have no doubt.

That is, as long as the situation involves others.

Lately I’ve noticed that doubt is inserting itself into my own life. Creeping in here and there when I least expect it. Creating worries where there shouldn’t be any. And these worries, whether rational or not, have cast a serious shadow of doubt. How can I rid myself of it? What do I need to do? Is my secret weapon failing me?

Maybe I can’t really “do” anything. I can worry all day long but that won’t change a thing. I can, however, change where I put my faith. I can still believe “it’s not up to them,” but more importantly I should accept that it’s not entirely up to me, either. I have to let go of my own doubtfulness and turn my worries over to God.

So as I continue my crusade to erase doubt, I think I’ll change my secret weapon. “Me,” “them” or “they” don’t really matter, because ultimately, “it’s up to Him!”

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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

Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.

While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

United States: Church of the Eternal God, P.O. Box 270519, San Diego, CA 92198

Canada: Church of God, ACF, Box 1480, Summerland, B.C. V0H 1Z0

United Kingdom: Global Church of God, PO Box 44, MABLETHORPE, LN12 9AN, United Kingdom

©2024 Church of the Eternal God