|Live Services||The Mystery of Salvation|
|Editorial||How Quickly Things Can Change|
|Q&A||Are there ministerial ranks in the Church of God?|
|The Work||Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock|
The Mystery of Salvation
On Saturday, August 23, 2008, Norbert Link will give the sermon, titled, “The Mystery of Salvation.”
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.
How Quickly Things Can Change
by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)
Have you noticed how quickly things can change? On the world scene, after a long period of constant year-on-year increase, the financial markets have been in turmoil; oil prices have rocketed; and ever increasing house prices have quickly started to head in the opposite direction.
On a more mundane level, at a sports event, the supporters of the team that is winning are usually full of enthusiasm, but if the other team starts to get the upper hand, the previously enthusiastic support can, very quickly, turn to despair. And such events can change within minutes, with supporters going from one extreme to the other.
One moment we can be happy with life, but should we receive some bad news, our attitude can so quickly change, this time within seconds. Highs and lows can be something that we can experience within a short space of time.
And with some people, those whom we may consider close friends, our relationship may change quickly due to a certain set of circumstances. I have experienced those who have expressed gratitude for things that may have been done for them, or for friendship, only to find out that in a short space of time, all seems to count for nothing.
Fallible human beings are prone to third party influence, emotions, a change of circumstances or some other factors, to the extent that things can change quickly from one situation to another–“at a rate of knots,” as they say in Britain and Australia.
Those who may be approachable one day may not be so approachable another day, either because of a change in their circumstances, their attitude or demeanor. The same may, of course, apply to us.
However, we should be very thankful that the great God is utterly reliable and is not prone to mood swings and changeability. Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God is constant, as shown in James 1:17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” Malachi 3:6 also endorses this same theme: “For I am the LORD, I do not change.”
When God’s faithful and dedicated people go to Him in prayer, He will hear them. He is not subject to our human failings, changes in behavior or wrong temperament. We should be deeply grateful for God being perfect and approachable, and we know that at least with Him, unlike human beings, things will not be subject to swift changes. He is constant and perfect, and we should strive to be more like Him as each day passes.
This Week in the News
The US Fiddled While Georgia Burned
On August 15, The Telegraph published the following article by John R Bolton:
“Russia’s invasion across an internationally recognised border, its thrashing of the Georgian military, and its smug satisfaction in humbling one of its former fiefdoms represents only the visible damage.
“As bad as the bloodying of Georgia is, the broader consequences are worse. The United States fiddled while Georgia burned, not even reaching the right rhetorical level in its public statements until three days after the Russian invasion began, and not, at least to date, matching its rhetoric with anything even approximating decisive action. This pattern is the very definition of a paper tiger. Sending Secretary of State [Condoleezza] Rice to Tbilisi is touching, but hardly reassuring; dispatching humanitarian assistance is nothing more than we would have done if Georgia had been hit by a natural rather than a man-made disaster.
“The European Union took the lead in diplomacy, with results approaching Neville Chamberlain’s moment in the spotlight at Munich: a ceasefire that failed to mention Georgia’s territorial integrity, and that all but gave Russia permission to continue its military operations as a ‘peacekeeping’ force anywhere in Georgia. More troubling, over the long term, was that the EU saw its task as being mediator – its favourite role in the world – between Georgia and Russia, rather than an advocate for the victim of aggression.
“Even this dismal performance was enough to relegate [NATO] to an entirely backstage role, while Russian tanks and planes slammed into a ‘faraway country’, as Chamberlain once observed so thoughtfully. In New York, paralysed by the prospect of a Russian veto, the UN Security Council, that Temple of the High-Minded, was as useless as it was during the Cold War…
“The West, collectively, failed in this crisis. Georgia wasted its dime making that famous 3am telephone call to the White House… Moreover, the blood on the Bear’s claws did not go unobserved in other states that were once part of the Soviet Union. Russia demonstrated unambiguously that it could have marched directly to Tbilisi and installed a puppet government before any Western leader was able to turn away from the Olympic Games. It could, presumably, do the same to them…”
Germany’s “Balanced” Shameful Approach!
Deutsche Welle reported on August 14 about Germany’s dubious role in the Russia-Georgia affair:
“Germany’s foreign minister [Steinmeier] urged the EU to take a balanced… [and] even-handed approach to the conflict between Russia and Georgia if it wanted to play a constructive role in forging long-lasting peace in the Caucasus… ‘We should also pursue a policy which is sensible and realistic,’ Steinmeier said on German television…
“But divisions have emerged in the European Union over the best way to deal with Moscow… Many new EU members have condemned Russia’s violent push into Georgia… The United States, a strong backer of Georgia, and Britain have slammed Russia’s military campaign against Georgia…
“Steinmeier’s comments, however, reflect a more nuanced attitude in Germany towards Moscow in the current conflict. German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have carefully avoided assigning blame in the conflict. The country, which is heavily dependant on Russian energy supplies, is a strong advocate of closer ties with Moscow. Earlier this year, Germany led European resistance to plans, pushed by the US, to put Georgia on the track to NATO membership…
“Ruprecht Polenz, a veteran member of Merkel’s conservative party and head of the foreign policy committee of the German parliament… told news agency Reuters the EU should bind Russia closer to the bloc… [and] consider offering Moscow a ‘privileged partnership’ if it shows a willingness to adopt European values… adding it would be a mistake to scrap ongoing partnership talks with Russia because of its conflict with Georgia.”
Russia Returns to Its Past
The Wall Street Journal wrote on August 19:
“The sight of Russian tanks rolling through Georgia was shocking yet familiar. Images flash back of Chechnya in 1994 and ’99, Vilnius ’91, Afghanistan ’79, Prague ’68, Hungary ’56. Before that the Soviet invasions, courtesy of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, of Poland and the Baltics in ’39 and ’40. Kazaks, Azeris, Tajiks, Ukrainians remember — from family stories and national lore — their own subjugation to Russian rule… Vladimir Putin… doesn’t give the impression he ever believed in… partnership with the West and freedom at home.”
Russia Threatens Poland
The British tabloid, The Sun, wrote on August 16:
“RUSSIA threatened to NUKE Poland yesterday as the world faced the prospect of a terrifying new Cold War. The chilling threat was issued by a top general of Vladimir Putin amid mounting tensions over the war in Georgia. Gen Anatoly Nogovitsy lashed out after Poland agreed to help the US create a ‘missile shield’ over Europe. He said: ‘Poland is making itself a target. Such targets are destroyed as a first priority.’ Gen Nogovitsy stressed Moscow was ready to use nuclear weapons ‘against allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them’. Russia is furious [that] Poland has said the US can put an interceptor base and a battery of Patriot missiles on its territory…”
ABC News reported on August 20:
“Russia’s foreign ministry today threatened to go beyond diplomatic protests in response to the signing of a U.S.-Polish deal to base part of an American missile defense system in Poland, which borders part of Russia. The latest threat came after a top Russian general said Poland would risk a military strike if it allowed the base and as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed Russia’s saber rattling, saying the threats ‘border on the bizarre. When you threaten Poland, you perhaps forget that it is not 1988,’ Rice said… ‘It’s 2008 and the United States has a … firm treaty guarantee to defend Poland’s territory as if it was the territory of the United States. So it’s probably not wise to throw these threats around.’
“But in addition to the threats, Russia may be making a more concrete move. Norway’s defense ministry claims Russia has told it that it plans to cut all military ties with NATO… Today, Russia’s foreign ministry issued a new threat — implying that Russia was the target of the new missile base and not some ‘imaginary Iranian danger. Russia in this case will have to react, and not only through diplomatic protests,’ said a statement from the ministry… The statement described the missile shield as ‘one of the instruments in an extremely dangerous bundle of American military projects involving the one-sided development of a global missile shield system.’… In today’s pact, the United States and Poland agreed to a ‘mutual commitment’ to come to each other’s assistance ‘in case of military or other threats.’…
“Marek Ostrowsk, an analyst for the Polityka weekly, told ABC News that Poland traditionally has more confidence in the United States than its European alliances. ‘Traditionally and historically, we think America is more reliable than Europe,’ Ostrowsk said. ‘In 1918, we regained independence thanks to the U.S. When World War II began in 1939, we were let down by our allies, Britain and France. But the U.S. has never failed us.'”
Poles Fear Russian Attack from “Adolf Putin”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on August 19:
“A recent opinion poll shows that one in two Poles fears that their country will be the target of a Russian attack. The poll was published in news magazine Wprost which this week featured a drawing of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on its front cover with a Hitler moustache and the headline: ‘Adolf Putin.’ Some 40 percent of respondents said they regarded Russia as Poland’s biggest enemy…”
Ukraine on Russia’s Nuclear Hitlist?
The Telegraph reported on August 18:
“Ukraine offers satellite defence co-operation with Europe and US… The proposal, made amid growing outrage among Russia’s neighbours over its military campaign in Georgia, could see Ukraine added to Moscow’s nuclear hitlist. A Russian general declared Poland a target for its arsenal after Warsaw signed a deal with Washington to host interceptor missiles for America’s anti-nuclear shield…”
Russian Atrocities in Georgia
The Telegraph wrote on August 18:
“Just hours before Mr Medvedev put his signature to the ceasefire deal, Russian forces blew up a Georgian railway bridge on the main line west of the capital, Tbilisi, an act that critics interpreted as a [malicious] attempt to cripple the country’s infrastructure. Moscow at first issued a denial, but television footage shot by the Reuters news agency clearly showed the bridge’s twisted remains…
“Meanwhile, disturbing reports of abuse of ethnic Georgians in captured parts of the disputed region emerged. A group of captive soldiers were paraded in the streets of the South Ossetian capital, Tskinvali, and the bodies of at least 40 dead troops rotted in the sun. Teams of ethnic Georgians, some under armed guard, were forced to clean the streets. It was the first apparent evidence of humiliation or abuse of Georgians in the Russian-controlled breakaway republic.”
Russia Moves Missile Launchers into South Ossetia
The Associated Press reported on August 18:
“The New York Times, citing anonymous U.S. officials who were familiar with intelligence reports, reported Sunday that the Russian military moved missile launchers into South Ossetia on Friday.
“The U.S. officials told the Times that Russia deployed several SS-21 missile launchers to positions north of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital. That would put the missiles within range of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, the Times reported on its Web site. ‘There’s no doubt there will be further consequences,’ said [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice…”
Russia Threatens Europe with Nuclear Confrontation
The Sunday Times wrote on August 17, under the headline: “Russia’s new nuclear challenge to Europe”:
“Russia is considering arming its Baltic fleet with nuclear warheads for the first time since the cold war, senior military sources warned last night. The move, in response to American plans for a missile defence shield in Europe, would heighten tensions raised by the advance of Russian forces to within 20 miles of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, yesterday.
“Under the Russian plans, nuclear warheads could be supplied to submarines, cruisers and fighter bombers of the Baltic fleet based in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between the European Union countries of Poland and Lithuania… The Russians have already indicated that they may point nuclear missiles at western Europe from bases in Kaliningrad and Belarus. They are also said to be thinking of reviving a military presence in Cuba.”
Will Russia’s Imperialism Motivate Europe to Unite?
Der Spiegel Online wrote on August 18:
“The war in the Caucasus has shattered relations with Russia and sparked disagreements within the EU — and with the United States… This is the most serious foreign policy crisis ever faced by the head of the German government. At stake here is more than just reinstating peace in the Caucasus. German foreign policy has been deeply shaken on virtually all fronts. Germany’s delicate relations with Russia have become even more delicate, the war in the Caucasus has plunged the EU into a severe crisis, and relations with the US are weighed down by new tensions that may even extend beyond George W. Bush’s term of office…
“The German government has shown that it can act in this crisis — but the sobering reality is that the Germans alone cannot resolve the situation. A German political consensus is not enough to counter the Russians. That would require, at the very least, a united European front. But that does not exist. Once again it becomes clear that German political policies cannot influence global politics when they do not reflect a united European position. It is already apparent in the committee sessions of NATO and the EU that Russia has successfully divided the rest of the continent into two parts.
“The Eastern Europeans, Swedes and Britons constitute the core of Russia’s critics. Germans, French and Italians, on the other hand, are pushing for an approach that would maintain dialogue with the superpower. In the cabinet session, Merkel said that the EU cannot afford to send such mixed messages…
“Currently, Germany and France are not working together to create a strong backbone for European foreign policy. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proven unreliable and no effective partnership can be forged with him. Recently, the French magazine Le Point quoted him as saying: ‘There are not many who are running the show. Bush’s time is up, Blair is no longer there. Merkel, no, that’s not it either. Actually, there is only me.’
“Such statements do not go over well in the chancellery in Berlin, especially since the inimitable Sarkozy, who currently heads the EU Council Presidency, did a slipshod job of negotiating the ceasefire between Georgia and Russia. He allowed the Russians to cruise their tanks through Georgia. In any case, Sarkozy has failed to gain the trust of Eastern European countries…
“Sarkozy has announced that he will ‘examine’ a military mission for the European Union. At a meeting with EU colleagues in Brussels, German Foreign Minister Steinmeier found an amazing amount of willingness to embark on such a course. Since then his ministry has begun to map out scenarios for deploying EU troops. The question is whether police officers, soldiers or civilian observers should be sent to Georgia…
“Nevertheless, during her Sunday visit to Tbilisi, Merkel repeated her claim that eventually Georgia would become a member of NATO. Speaking at a press conference she said ‘Georgia will become a member of NATO if it wants to — and it does want to.’
“Eastern Europeans see the situation somewhat differently — they would like to see Georgia already firmly on the path to NATO membership — as does the US administration, represented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Strong criticism has also emerged from the American election campaign. US presidential candidate John McCain has warned that withholding fast-track membership for Georgia might have been viewed ‘as a green light by Russia for attacks on Georgia.’ He said: ‘I urge NATO to reconsider its decision.’
“Somehow this makes Germany partly responsible for the war in the Caucasus, at least in McCain’s eyes, and that does not bode well for Germany should the Republican be elected president in November. Berlin actually had hoped that it only had to get through the last few months of the Bush administration, and then everything would get better. But, no matter who is president, Germany’s relationship with the US promises to be fraught with tension should America allow itself to be provoked by Russia…
“Where to from here? There is no recipe for dealing with an imperial Russian superpower, not even a concept. Only one thing remains certain: ‘It will definitely be difficult,’ said German Foreign Minister Steinmeier last week as he met with reporters over a cup of coffee — and gazed rather helplessly into the distance.”
For more information about what IS going to happen soon on the world scene, make sure to read the following free booklets: “Europe in Prophecy,” “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America,” and “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.”
Would the Lisbon Treaty Have Helped Georgia?
The EUObserver wrote on August 18:
“French president Nicolas Sarkozy has used the ongoing crisis between Russia and Georgia to put the case for the EU’s new treaty, currently facing ratification difficulties… ‘It is notable that had the Lisbon Treaty, which is in the process of being ratified, already been in force, the European Union would have had the institutions it needs to cope with international crises.’…
“The short pitch for the Lisbon Treaty also revealed a little how the French president views the role of the EU’s first longterm president of the EU – a post that can be held for up to five years… [Mr Sarkozy] suggests that the president’s position in such crises as the Russia-Georgia one would be one of ‘acting in close consultation with the heads of state and government most affected.’
“This would very much put the President in the foreign policy field. It would also foresee a formal hierarchy among member states as it would give priority to those considered most affected. This kind of scenario has been predicted by some smaller member states who fear that the president would have an all-powerful role, reducing the say of certain governments… But Mr Sarkozy’s words of support for the Lisbon Treaty come amid doubt that it will ever come into force. Although ratified by the vast majority of national parliaments, it was rejected by Irish voters in a referendum in June.”
NATO’s Half-Hearted “Measures” Against Russia
The Los Angeles Times wrote on August 19:
“The Western military alliance today criticized Moscow for its ‘disproportionate’ military action in Georgia and vowed that relations with Russia would change because of it. But the North Atlantic Treaty Organization gathering stopped short in an emergency meeting of agreeing to rearm the beleaguered state as Russian troops continued potentially provocative military operations throughout Georgia and showed little signs of abiding by an agreement signed in Moscow over the weekend to withdraw from the country.
“Russian reaction to the NATO summit was harsh. Russia’s foreign minister blasted the statement as ‘un-objective and biased,’ while Dmitry Rogozin, Moscow’s envoy to NATO, dismissed it as irrelevant…
“Foreign ministers of the NATO issued a statement calling for Russia to withdraw forces to positions before the Aug. 7 outbreak of hostilities between the two countries and expressed their support for the sovereignty of Georgia. They said they would hold no meetings of a NATO-Russia coordinating group until Russian troops withdrew, and they threatened unspecified further steps.”
Reuters added the following on August 19:
“NATO… stopped short of accelerating [Georgia’s] efforts to join NATO, an ambition which had enraged Russia even before the two-week-old conflict over Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia region…
“The statement did not explicitly refer to a U.S. demand to suspend contacts within the six-year-old NATO-Russia Council (NRC), but NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said it was clear such contacts could not take place at present. ‘As long as Russian forces are basically occupying a large part of Georgia I cannot see a NATO-Russia Council convening at whatever level,’ he told a news conference. ‘But I should add that we certainly do not have the intention to close all doors in our communication with Russia,’ he said, after several European allies including Britain and Germany expressed doubts about cutting off links with Moscow.
“The NATO statement drew sharp condemnation from Moscow, where Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the alliance of bias and wanting to support a ‘criminal regime’ in Tbilisi. ‘Certainly there will be a lot of changes in our cooperation with NATO and we will have changes in the volume, the quality and the timeframe in our consultations and meetings,’ Russian ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said in Brussels.”
Der Spiegel Online reported on August 20:
“Under the headline ‘NATO Is at a Loss,’ conservative daily Die Welt writes: Tuesday’s statement from NATO ‘is the absolute minimum that could be expected in reaction to Russia’s cynical disregard of Georgian sovereignty. Moscow cannot have been overawed. It confirms the impression of Putin and Co. that NATO is a paper tiger at the moment, at odds with itself and unassertive.’…
“Germany’s… financial daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘The realization has come slowly — but surely: The political partnership with Russia was an illusion. In reality, the country under the double leadership of (Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin and (President Dmitry) Medvedev is a difficult comrade. Day after day, Moscow refuses to withdraw its troops from Georgia as promised… In the beginning, the Kremlin spin doctors managed to push through their interpretation that Georgia was the aggressor and that Russia was merely protecting its own citizens. But in the meantime it has become apparent that Putin had planned this war long before, prepared for it, and lured Georgia into a trap. South Ossetia and Abkhazia have already been swallowed up and Tbilisi has been humiliated. Now, Moscow is destroying Georgia’s economy — with little regard for the EU peace plan and the warnings from the West. Europeans and Americans are watching seemingly powerlessly…'”
The Wall Street Journal wrote on August 20:
“‘Empty words.’ That’s how Moscow glibly dismissed NATO’s criticism yesterday of Russia’s continued occupation of Georgia. The Russians may be bullies, but like all bullies they know weakness when they see it. The most NATO ministers could muster at their meeting in Brussels was a statement that they ‘cannot continue with business as usual’ with Russia. There was no move to fast-track Georgia’s bid to join NATO, nor a pledge to help the battered democracy rebuild its defenses… NATO leaders also failed to mention Ukraine, another applicant for NATO membership that has angered Moscow in recent years and could become its next target. Also missing was any indication that the alliance would begin making long-delayed plans for defending the Baltic member states and other countries on its eastern flank in case of attack…”
Don’t Forget Russia’s Friend Iran…
AFP reported on August 17:
“Iran said it had sent a rocket carrying a dummy satellite into space on Sunday, triggering fresh concern in Washington that the technology could be diverted to ballistic missiles. The launch is likely to further exacerbate tensions with the West over its nuclear drive, which Iran’s arch-foe Washington and its allies claim is a cover for atomic weapons ambitions…
“Sunday’s development comes amid an international standoff over Tehran’s long-standing refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, a process which makes nuclear fuel but also the core of an atomic bomb. Israel and its staunch ally the United States have never ruled out a military strike against Iran’s nuclear sites… On Sunday, Iran’s air force commander said its fighter jets have been upgraded to allow them to fly 3,000 kilometres (1,860 miles) without refuelling which would put Israel easily within reach… Sunday’s launch came on the birth anniversary of eighth century Imam Mahdi, who vanished as a boy and who Shiites believe will return one day as the messiah.”
Subsequently, AFP reported on August 19 that “An Iranian missile test aimed at putting a dummy satellite into orbit failed, a US defense official said Tuesday. ‘We detected a missile launch from Iran on August 16 and our reports indicated it was unsuccessful,’ said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.”
The Associated Press reported on August 19:
“Iran’s official news agency says the country is preparing to build more nuclear power plants… The country is building its first nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr with the help of Russia. It is expected to go on line later this year.”
For more information, please watch our StandingWatch program, “Is War With Iran Coming Soon?”
… and Russia’s Friend Syria
Times On Line wrote on August 20:
“Syrian President Bashar al-Assad headed to Moscow today to discuss an expansion of his pariah state’s military cooperation with Russia. The trip is raising fears that the new Cold War that has erupted in the Caucasus will spill over into the Middle East, long a battleground between East and West, and crush tentative hopes for peace… with Israel and the US providing military backing to Georgia, Russia appears set to respond in kind by supporting Syria.
“Already, Israeli observers worry that the chaos in the Caucasus may disrupt gas supplies to Europe and Turkey from the Caspian Sea region, creating a greater energy reliance on Iran and its vast reserves. The crisis could in turn allow Tehran to exploit splits in the international community and use Russia as a powerful backer to advance its controversial nuclear programme. In a sign of warming ties, Mr al-Assad… said he fully backed Russia’s pursuit of its ‘legal interests’ in its fight with Georgia…
“Some Israeli analysts… fear [close ties with Russia] could encourage Syria to try to take back the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967, by force. Moscow is expected to propose a revival of its Cold War era naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean, with some Russian reports even saying Moscow is already deepening it to accommodate a fleet of war ships. Russia may have similar ambitions for the port of Latakia…”
Control of Nuclear Weapons in Pakistan–Safe or Not?
The Associated Press reported on August 19 on the control of nuclear weapons in Pakistan, after Pervez Musharraf’s announcement of his resignation earlier this week:
“Pervez Musharraf’s departure from the presidency is unlikely to have a significant impact on how Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are controlled. Experts say a 10-member committee, and not just the president, makes decisions on how to use them and only a complete meltdown in governance… could put the atomic bomb in the hands of extremists… While experts say Pakistan’s nuclear assets will stay in safe hands for now, fears persist about the potential for an Islamist takeover.”
The German daily, Die Welt, wrote on August 19: “Pakistan is more important than it seems: a nuclear-armed state, not tied in to arms control, with conflicts on both sides, fragile internally, on the new frontline between the East and the West. Pakistan after Musharraf is the cause for much worry in global politics.”
The Associated Press reported on August 19 that “Just a day after Pervez Musharraf’s resignation, Pakistan’s governing coalition fell into wrangling Tuesday over restoring the judges he fired, exposing troublesome divisions that could disrupt picking his successor as president.”
The German tabloid, Bild, wrote on August 19:
“Since Monday, Pakistan is without a President and without strong leadership. And only one day after Pervez Musharraf’s resignation, violence rules in the region. 20 people died during an attack on a hospital in the northwestern region of Pakistan. During attacks in Afghanistan, [insurgents killed] 10 French soldiers in a mountain ambush and then [sent] a squad of suicide bombers in a failed assault on a U.S. base near the Pakistan border. The actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan show that without strong leadership, Pakistan and the entire region will descent into chaos.”
Obama and Catholics At Odds Over Abortion
On August 12, Pat Buchanan wrote the following on Human Events.com:
“In the Pennsylvania primary, Barack Obama rolled up more than 90 percent of the African-American vote. Among Catholics, he lost by 40 points… But if Barack had a problem with Catholics then, he has a far higher hurdle to surmount in the fall…
“He supports the late-term procedure known as partial-birth abortion, where the baby’s skull is stabbed with scissors in the birth canal and the brains are sucked out to end its life swiftly and ease passage of the corpse into the pan… Yet, when Congress was voting to ban this terrible form of death for a mature fetus, Michelle Obama was signing fundraising letters pledging that, if elected, Barack would be ‘tireless’ in keeping legal this ‘legitimate medical procedure.’ … When the Supreme Court upheld the congressional ban on this barbaric procedure, Barack denounced the court for denying ‘equal rights for women.’
“As David Freddoso reports in his new best-seller, ‘The Case Against Barack Obama,’ the Illinois senator goes further than any U.S. senator has dared go in defending what John Paul II called the ‘culture of death.’ Thrice in the Illinois legislature, Obama helped block a bill that was designed solely to protect the life of infants already born, and outside the womb, who had miraculously survived the attempt to kill them during an abortion. Thrice, Obama voted to let doctors and nurses allow these tiny human beings die of neglect and be tossed out with the medical waste… If, as its advocates contend, abortion has to remain legal to protect the life and health, mental and physical, of the mother, how is a mother’s life or health in the least threatened by a baby no longer inside her — but lying on a table or in a pan fighting for life and breath?…
“In 2007, Barack pledged that, in his first act as president, he will sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would cancel every federal, state or local regulation or restriction on abortion… What we once called God’s Country would become the nation on earth most zealously committed to an unrestricted right of abortion from conception to birth… if, as Catholics believe, abortion is the killing of an unborn child, and participation in an abortion entails automatic excommunication, how can a good Catholic support a candidate who will appoint justices to make Roe v. Wade eternal and eliminate all restrictions on a practice Catholics legislators have fought for three decades to curtail? And which Catholic priests and prelates will it be who give invocations at Obama rallies, even as Mother Church fights to save the lives of unborn children whom Obama believes have no right to life and no rights at all?”
For more information, please watch our StandingWatch program, “Abortion–Right or Wrong?”
“Global Recession–Eat Sweets, Drink Alcohol, Smoke and Be Merry”
The Associated Press wrote on August 12:
“As a global recession looms, what better way to cope than to eat, drink and be merry? Even as consumers face soaring energy costs, rising food prices and higher mortgages or rent, it seems clear they’re not prepared to forgo many of life’s little treats — alcohol, cigarette and candy makers are all reporting healthy sales amid the gloom…
“Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., the biggest brewer in the United States, turned a profit in the most recent quarter despite fears that rising costs for raw materials like glass, barley and wheat and fuel would cut into The King Of Beers’ bottom line. The company is so confident that consumers won’t abandon the beer that it plans to increase prices for popular brands like Budweiser and Bud Light to stay ahead of the higher costs.
“Similarly, Denmark’s Carlsberg A/S reported a 36 percent rise in second-quarter net profit, saying stronger sales, particularly in eastern Europe and Asia, helped offset rising costs… London-based Diageo expects its Scotch whisky business to continue to grow at least 8 percent to 9 percent annually, amid growing demand from emerging markets in Asia and Latin America…
“But much of the demand is also still coming from the United States and Europe, which have been hardest hit by the credit squeeze, with price rises not dissuading many consumers in those regions — Constellation Brands Inc., the world’s largest wine company by volume, posted a 35 percent rise in branded wine sales in North America in the first quarter…
“And while people can’t smoke at the bar because of spreading smoking bans, tobacco companies are doing just fine. Philip Morris International said its earnings rose 23 percent in the second quarter and it raised its earnings forecast for this year… British American Tobacco PLC posted a 15 percent rise in its first-half profits with help from higher prices and increased sales of premium brands. Sales of BAT’s most expensive brands, such as Dunhill and Lucky Strike, grew 7 percent…
“Cadbury PLC, the world’s biggest confectionary company, reported a 7.3 percent rise in first-half sales in its first results since spinning off its U.S. drinks business. Among the big sellers in its candy store was Dairy Milk chocolate, rising 9 percent. In the United States, the Hershey Co. reported dramatically higher second-quarter sales and profit and reaffirmed its 2008 guidance of sales growth of 3 percent to 4 percent.”
Failing U.S. Economy
The Wall Street Journal wrote on August 19:
“U.S. producer prices unexpectedly soared at their highest annual rate in 27 years last month as rising wholesale prices for energy spread to a variety of products including automobiles, prescription drugs and capital equipment… it will be difficult for Federal Reserve officials to look past this latest report, which comes on the heels of a 17-year-high rise in consumer prices.”
“The Worst Is To Come”–Large US Banks May Go Under
Times On Line wrote on August 19:
“Professor Kenneth Rogoff, a leading academic economist, said there was yet worse news to come from the worldwide credit crunch and financial turmoil, particularly in the United States, and that a high-profile casualty among American banks was highly likely.
“’The US is not out of the woods. I think the financial crisis is at the halfway point, perhaps. I would even go further to say the worst is to come,’ Prof Rogoff said at a conference in Singapore. In an ominous warning, he added: “We’re not just going to see mid-sized banks go under in the next few months, we’re going to see a whopper, we’re going to see a big one — one of the big investment banks or big banks,’ he said. Rising anxieties over ‘worse to come’ in the credit crisis sent shares tumbling in Europe and Asia…
“[Rogoff] also suggested that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the struggling US secondary mortgage lending giants, were likely to cease to exist in their present form within a few years. His prediction over the fate of Fannie and Freddie came after investors dumped the two groups’ shares on Monday after reports suggested that the US Treasury may have no choice but to effectively nationalise them.
“The professor also sounded a warning over rising US inflation, which rose last month to its highest since 1991, and criticised the Federal Reserve for having cut American interest rates too drastically. ‘Cutting interest rates is going to lead to a lot of inflation in the next few years in the United States,’ he said.”
Recession Fear in Britain
Der Spiegel Online wrote on August 19:
“For 30 years, the British economy has been on a steady climb skyward. Now it’s being hit with a credit crisis that resembles the American subprime disaster. And just like across the pond, the victims are those who can least afford it… Between March and June alone, 37,740 British homeowners had to turn their property back over to the banks. By the end of the year it’s likely to be 75,000.
“More than a million people in Britain will have difficulties paying off their debt. After 15 years of economic boom, a word is on their lips again that the country thought it had struck from its vocabulary entirely: recession.”
Are there ministerial ranks in the Church of God?
The short answer is, “Yes.” Before discussing this biblical fact in more detail, let us just emphasize that there is hierarchy in God’s Church. This is more fully explained in our Q&A on “hierarchical government.” God has decreed that His Church be led or “governed” by His true and faithful ministry, as discussed in our Q&A on “ministerial authority.”
With that background, let us answer the question regarding ranks within the ministry.
Especially two Scriptures, i.e. Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:28, show that God has ordained ministerial “ranks” within His Church. These passages read as follows:
“And He Himself [Jesus Christ] gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints…for the edifying of the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the faith…” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
“And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:28-30).
Especially those commentaries that advocate democratic government by all Church members feel that these Scriptures describe only ministerial functions, independent of ranks. The truth is that these passages address BOTH. Function and rank are not mutually exclusive. We read that Paul referred to himself as an apostle and a preacher and a teacher (1 Timothy 2:7). He is also described as a prophet and a teacher in Acts 13:1. He even clarified that there were “ranks” and different functions within the office of “apostle,” calling some of the apostles “chiefest apostles” (Authorized Version) or “most eminent apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11). These would have included Peter and James, the half-brother of Jesus (compare Galatians 1:18-19). We read that the gospel to the uncircumcision [non-Israelite nations] was entrusted to Paul, while the gospel of the circumcision [Israelite nations] was entrusted to Peter (Galatians 2:7-8).
Note how some commentaries explain the passages in Ephesians and 1 Corinthians:
John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible states:
“[Ephesians] 4:11 – And he gave some apostles…. That is, he gave them gifts by which they were qualified to be apostles… this was the first and chief office in the church… evangelists… were below the apostles, and yet above pastors and teachers… from the whole it may be observed, that as there have been various officers and offices in the Gospel dispensation, various gifts have been bestowed; and these are the gifts of Christ, which he has received for men, and gives unto them; and hence it appears that the work of the ministry is not an human invention, but the appointment of Christ, for which he fits and qualifies, and therefore to be regarded; and that they only are the ministers of Christ, whom he makes ministers of the New Testament, and not whom men or themselves make and appoint…
“[1 Corinthians] 12:29 – Are all apostles?…. No; some are prophets, as distinct from apostles; and some are teachers, as distinct from them both, and some are neither: are all prophets? no; some are apostles, above them, and some are teachers, inferior to them… are all teachers? no; the far greater part of the members of churches are hearers, or persons that are taught in the word; are neither in the office of teaching, nor have they the qualifications for it.”
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible points out:
“[Ephesians] 4:2-16 – … And ministers have their various gifts, which are all given them by the Lord Jesus. The officers which Christ gave to his church were of two sorts – extraordinary ones advanced to a higher office in the church: such were apostles, prophets, and evangelists. The apostles were chief… And then there are ordinary ministers, employed in a lower and narrower sphere; as pastors and teachers… We see here that it is Christ’s prerogative to appoint what officers and offices he pleases in his church.”
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible (to 1 Corinthians 11:28) explains:
“First, apostles – In the first rank or order; or as superior in honor and in office. He has given them the highest authority in the church; he has more signally endowed them and qualified them than he has others. Secondarily, prophets – As second in regard to endowments and importance… Thirdly, teachers – As occupying the third station in point of importance and valuable endowments… It is not possible, perhaps, to determine the precise meaning of the word [“helps”], or the nature of the office which they discharged; but the word means, in general, those who in any way aided or rendered assistance in the church, and may refer to the temporal affairs of the church, to the care of the poor…
“Governments… It is not easy to determine what particular office or function is here intended… There is no reason to think that the terms here used referred to permanent and established ranks and orders in the ministry and in the church; or in permanent offices which were to continue to all times as an essential part of its organization… The simple idea, however, is that of ruling, or exercising government… All that is clear is, that there were those who administered government in the church… There can be little doubt that the… governments… refer to offices of rule and authority in the church. Two things, therefore, are plain from this text: 1. That in the primitive church there were rulers distinct from the people or church members, to whom these were bound to yield obedience. 2. That these rulers were appointed of God…”
That ranks and functions are described in these passages is supported by other Scriptures, showing that Peter and Paul gave “orders” to other ministers (compare 1 Peter 5:1-4; 2 Timothy 4:1-5). This does not mean that all of these ranks and functions must be present within the Church of God at all times, but some most certainly will be. For instance, in this present day and age, we do not find that the ranks and functions of “apostle” and “prophet” are occupied (notwithstanding the fact that some incorrectly claim that they are apostles or prophets). This is not to say that in the future, prior to Christ’s return, some won’t be appointed by God to hold these offices. It is very likely that the “two witnesses,” for example, will hold the rank, office and function of apostle and prophet (compare Revelation 11:3-6).
The Church of God, under its late human leader, Herbert W. Armstrong, taught that there are ministerial ranks and functions. We believe that Herbert Armstrong had the spiritual rank, office and function of an apostle, but we don’t believe, as mentioned, that God gave that same rank and office to anyone after Mr. Armstrong’s death. We would like to quote from a member letter which Mr. Armstrong wrote on May 2, 1974, explaining the Church’s understanding regarding ministerial ranks and functions:
“… notice Titus 1:4-5 and 2:15 — Paul wrote to Titus (UNDER PAUL), ‘To Titus, mine own son after the common faith … from God the Father (first in rank) and the Lord Jesus Christ (second in rank) our Savior. For this cause left I (next in rank — to Gentiles — under Christ) thee (under Paul’s authority in the Work) in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders (under Titus who is under Paul, who is under Christ) in every city as I had appointed thee.’ …
“Now notice I Corinthians 12: In this chapter God is showing that in THE WORK of the Church — proclaiming the Gospel to the world, and feeding the flock, there are different ADMINISTRATIONS, different OPERATIONS, in the Church, and for these, God has given various spiritual GIFTS, or empowerments, by His Holy Spirit. ADMINISTRATORS refer to performance of executive duties, MANAGERIAL responsibilities, rather than policy-making… The exact pattern or STRUCTURE may vary according to conditions, need etc., but the PRINCIPLE of the organization MUST BE THAT OF GOD’S GOVERNMENT, from the TOP, God, then Christ, on down, as CHRIST has directed and chosen. OPERATIONS, refers to functioning — a doing or performing of what involves practical application of principle or process…
“The very fact that God has endowed different members in His Church with additional spiritual gifts, added to their own natural talents and abilities, in itself shows emphatically that there is definite ORGANIZATION in His Church, and that the ORGANIZATION must flow from a chain of authority, according to the PRINCIPLE which GOD… has set — that is, AUTHORITY FROM THE TOP DOWN… Because of these various administrations, and operations, God shows in this chapter that He has bestowed VARIOUS spiritual gifts added to the natural talents and abilities of various ones to perform the many DIFFERENT functions required for the ORGANIZED Work of God…
“‘And GOD hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues (languages)’ (I Cor. 12:28). That is the rank in which GOD set them… GOD SAYS, first, secondly, thirdly…
“The parallel instruction on the RANK of authority in the Church is in Ephesians 4, beginning with verse 11: ‘And he (Christ) gave some, …’ The RSV translates it more clearly: ‘And His gifts were that some should be apostles,’ etc. Continue, ‘some prophets, and some evangelists, and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for THE WORK of the ministry (proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom to all the world), for the edifying of the body of Christ …’ God’s Church today is organized on THAT DIVINE PATTERN…”
In conclusion, we believe that God wants His Church to be organized in the way as described above. We believe in hierarchical government and in organization, including ministerial ranks, offices and functions within the body of Christ, so that “we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the TRUTH IN LOVE, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ–from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:14-16).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
A new StandingWatch program was posted on StandingWatch and Google Video. It is titled, “Georgia Burns, While the West Fiddles.” In the program, Norbert Link points out that while our political leaders seem to be unwilling to respond in a meaningful way to the new-found imperialism of “Vladimir Bonaparte,” the Russian Bear, under Putin, continues with its aggressions. “Mother Russia” claims that Georgia has lost its territorial integrity, and threatens Poland with a nuclear attack. As Britain’s The Telegraph wrote on August 15, the West, collectively, including the EU and the USA, failed in this crisis. But very soon, according to the Bible, things WILL change.
The following sermons by Norbert Link have been posted on Google Video:
“Bible Study–Trials and Temptations” (April 15, 2006)
“Bible Study–The Mysteries of the Bible” (October 22, 2005)
As announced last week, an advertisement for our free Public Bible Lecture in Fort Collins, Colorado, on September 7 has been posted on the Internet. The ad is targeted for the Fort Collins area. Please continue to pray for the success of this ad and the lecture.
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