On Saturday, January 3, 2009, Bill Grams will give a sermon, titled, respectively, “Cosigning Pitfalls.”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
What To Look For…
by Rene Messier (Canada)
I am writing this editorial on “Christmas day,” as I was pondering if there is really joy in the world at this time? I hardly think so.
There has been a real economic downturn this past year, affecting most of us. The US government finally admitted what we already knew–that the USA has been in a recession for the last year. Wall Street is bankrupt, corruption and overspending are rampant, and the US government pumps hundreds of billions of dollars into financial institutions and the auto industry that were making bad and irresponsible decisions for their clients. Our financial experts have seemingly not learned the lesson of history that we cannot spend our way out of debt.
Can you imagine what you would have to face if you were in a situation many banks and the auto industry are in? If you were to go to a bank to ask for a bailout for your stupidity, they would laugh themselves into a frenzy and that is just before throwing you out. We cannot break all the financial laws of economics and expect a good result in the end.
Billions have been lost in the value of stocks, and many have been totally wiped out financially by the recent fifty billion dollars scam on Wall Street. This was the deed of an unscrupulous trader affecting both the investments of individuals and corporations.
The price of oil is down over a hundred dollars a barrel from just over six months ago, because of lower demands and higher unemployment figures.
If there is even a road to recovery, especially for the USA, Great Britain and Canada, it would be very slow, with some analysts predicting it will not happen, if at all, until 2010 or much later.
These are just some few issues dealing with the economy. I have not even touched on the hundreds or thousands of additional problems which threaten and plague humanity.
What does all of this mean for Christians, living in this world? It means we have to be careful that we don’t get ourselves in over our heads financially. This is also true for the Church. The Church still has the responsibility of preaching and publishing the gospel–the good news of the soon-coming Kingdom of God–and to feed the flock (compare Matthew 24:14, Mark 13:10 and John 21:17). We do so, as the Church, by using the generous tithes and offerings of brethren and co-workers in a responsible manner, in walking through doors which God opens for us, spending what we have, but not, what we don’t have.
Individually, we must apply the same caution. Most importantly, we are to continue to grow in grace and knowledge (compare 2 Peter 3:18). We grow the most on our knees, while our heart is in the Work of God, realizing that nothing could be more crucial than to help hastening the coming of the Lord. We accomplish this through God’s Spirit, using the tools of prayer, Bible study, fasting and meditation.
Just what will 2009 bring? Joy, happiness and a sense of well being for mankind? I hardly think so. 2009 will bring, in all likelihood, more of the same problems we faced in 2008, with increasing intensity, and with no viable human solution in sight. In all of this, we must not lose heart, knowing that our salvation is nearer than when we came to the faith. We are one year closer to the real solution of all of the world’s problems, as well as our own, and that is the return of Christ. We have to put our shoulders to the wheel and push forward, and not look back.
In the end we win, yet there is no promise that we won’t have trials and difficulties. But it’s all worth the effort. Like a woman who was in travail prior to giving birth, her pain is forgotten for the joy of bringing another human being into the world. We must look to the future when there will be great joy, true happiness and fulfillment in God’s Kingdom–when we will be Spirit beings–born-again sons and daughters in God’s very Family.
That is a goal worth waiting for and worth working towards. It is the only hope for all of our problems and trials.
This Week in the News
WAR in the Middle East
Deutsche Welle reported on December 28, 2008:
“Ruprecht Polenz, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and the chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the German parliament called on Barack Obama to place the Middle East high on his agenda when he takes office on Jan. 20. ‘Obama can’t allow himself to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors Bush and Clinton who both paid attention to Israel and Palestine only towards the end of their respective terms,’ Polenz told the Rheinische Post… But Obama gave no hint of future US policy on the Mideast conflict. His national security spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson told the Guardian newspaper Obama would make no comment, saying he was sticking to the formula that there should be ‘one president at a time’…
“The latest violence has stoked fears in the European Union, one of Israel’s most important foreign partners as well as the largest donor of aid to the Palestinian territories… EU High Representative Javier Solana on Saturday condemned as ‘unacceptable’ the death of Palestinian civilians in the Israeli air strikes and called for an immediate end to the violence…
“The deadly Israeli air strikes have triggered sharp condemnation around the world with bodies such as the United Nations and Amnesty International calling on armed Palestinians groups and Israeli forces to immediately end their fighting. The violence has also prompted rallies across the Middle East to protest Israel’s airstrikes on the Gaza Strip and to show support for Palestinians caught in the attacks.”
Welt-On-Line added on December 28 that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “blamed Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip from Fatah in 2007, for triggering Israel’s raids by not extending the ceasefire that Egypt brokered in June…”
War in the Middle East–Iran Gets Officially Involved
Haaretz.com stated on December 28:
“Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious decree to Muslims around the world on Sunday, ordering them to defend Palestinians against Israel’s attacks on Gaza, state television said. ‘All Palestinian combatants and all the Islamic world’s pious people are obliged to defend the defenceless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible. Whoever is killed in this legitimate defense is considered a martyr,’ state television quoted Khamenei as saying in a statement… Khamenei also criticized some Arab governments for their ‘encouraging silence’ towards the Israel’s raids on Gaza…
“In Damascus, Syria, Hamas’ top leader, Khaled Meshal, called on Palestinians to rekindle their fight against Israel and renew suicide bombings against Israeli targets. ‘This is the time for a third Intifada,’ he said…”
War in the Middle East–“Don’t Forget the Iranian Connection”
The Jerusalem Post wrote on December 29:
“Hizbullah is an Iranian creation. Hamas is not. But it has drawn itself increasingly into Iran’s orbit. Much of its imported weaponry, and the expertise with which it now produces and refines its own rockets, have been provided by Iran. Dozens of its commanders have been trained in Iran in recent years, coming home and disseminating that ‘education’ as Hamas has built an army in Gaza. And, increasingly too, Hamas has come to act in the service of Iran’s aims… Iran is inspiring, funding, arming and training Hamas. Iran is avowedly committed to Israel’s destruction, and regards Hamas as a tool toward this goal.
“The same Iran, via an emboldened Hizbullah, is now most of the way to achieving proxy control not merely of southern Lebanon, but all of Lebanon. The same Iran, already armed with missiles that can reach Israel, is extending its missile range to Europe and, it hopes, ultimately to North America… And that same Iran is moving ever closer to the nuclear capability it intends to use in the service of its goals.”
War in the Middle East–Hamas’ and Iran’s Fight Against Christianity
The Jerusalem Post wrote on December 25:
“Both Iran and its Hamas proxy in Gaza have been busy this Christmas week showing Christendom just what they think of it. But no one seems to have noticed. On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari’a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.
“Hamas’s endorsement of nailing enemies of Islam to crosses came at the same time it renewed its jihad. Here, too, Hamas wanted to make sure that Christians didn’t feel neglected as its fighters launched missiles at Jewish day care centers and schools. So on Wednesday, Hamas lobbed a mortar shell at the Erez crossing point into Israel just as a group of Gazan Christians were standing on line waiting to travel to Bethlehem for Christmas.
“While Hamas joyously renewed its jihad against Jews and Christians, its overlords in Iran also basked in jihadist triumphalism. The source of Teheran’s sense of ascendancy this week was Britain’s Channel 4 network’s decision to request that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad give a special Christmas Day address to the British people. Ahmadinejad’s speech was supposed to be a response to Queen Elizabeth II’s traditional Christmas Day address to her subjects. That is, Channel 4 presented his message as a reasonable counterpoint to the Christmas greetings of the head of the Church of England…
“The reason that the West remains ignorant of the views and goals of the likes of Hamas and Iran is not that the latter have hidden their views and goals. It is because the leading political leaders and foreign policy practitioners in the West refuse to listen to them and deny the significance of their actions… The fact that Hamas itself is wholly dedicated to Israel’s destruction and Islamic global domination is irrelevant [to them]…
“MUSLIMS AREN’T the only ones whose views and actions are dismissed as irrelevant by these foreign policy wise men… Take Iran’s principal Asian ally, North Korea, for example. This week North Korea’s official news agency threatened to destroy South Korea in a ‘sea of fire,’ and ‘reduce everything treacherous and anti-reunification to debris and build an independent, reunified country on it,’ if any country dares to attack its nuclear installations. North Korea made its threat two weeks after Kim Jung Il’s regime disengaged from its fraudulent disarmament talks with the Bush administration.
“After Pyongyang agreed in February 2007 to eventually come clean on its plutonium installations (but not its uranium enrichment programs), and to account for its nuclear arsenal (but not for its proliferation activities), Rice convinced President Bush to remove North Korea from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror and to end its subjection to the US’s Trading with the Enemy Act this past October. And then, after securing those massive US concessions, on December 11 Pyongyang renounced its commitments, walked away from the table and now threatens to destroy South Korea if anyone takes any action against it.”
War in the Middle East–Israel’s Big Gamble
The New York Times wrote on December 28:
“The risk to Israel in Gaza [seems to be] that if the operation fails or leaves Hamas in the position of scrappy survivor or even somehow perceived victor, it could then dominate Palestinian politics… Since Hamas, like Hezbollah, is committed to Israel’s destruction, that could pose a formidable strategic challenge. And despite unwavering expressions of support for Israel from President-elect Barack Obama during his campaign, Israel is also gambling that its aggressive military posture will not alienate the new administration…
“[On] the Jewish Sabbath and the first day of the Arab workweek, Israel struck… Few have focused on the fact that at this stage in the 2006 Lebanon war, there was the same satisfaction — before things turned disastrous.”
War in the Middle East–“‘The World’ Must Bring Peace!”
Deutsche Welle reported on December 28:
“Hamas and Israel are making the same old mistakes all over again because the latest attacks won’t solve anything… Unless there’s a miracle, this is the perfect situation for a further escalation which would have unforeseen consequences…
“Israel is committing a cardinal mistake by believing it can wipe out Hamas with a military operation. Just as it thought it could disarm Hezbollah two and a half years ago. The massive attack on Lebanon at the time instead bombed Hezbollah into the government and the same thing could happen with Hamas in Palestine…
“But the frustrated and battered Palestinians as well as Hamas are making a huge mistake too by hoping that Hamas’ uncompromising stance will lead to a solution or deliverance. Hamas’ vehement rejection of Israel’s right to exist cannot be a foundation for peace…
“The world can no longer afford to sit back and watch. If international troops can be mobilized for the fight against terrorists and pirates, then the world should be able to do more in Palestine than simply pay lip service. At least in order to prevent the worst if not to bring peace.”
War in the Middle East–European Reactions
Deutsche Welle reported on December 28:
“European newspapers criticized both Hamas and Israel for the eruption of violence… there was general agreement that the recent attacks will do nothing to further peace in the Middle East… The Salzburger Nachrichten doubted that Israel’s military action would provide some type of resolution to the conflict in the Middle East… Luxembourg’s Wort newspaper… saw the swift attacks as sending a signal to Iran about Israel’s strength. ‘While both movements are politically and logistically supported by Teheran, Israel’s action on Sabbath was a clear signal to Iran. In less than three minutes, 200 Hamas installations had been damaged…'”
War in the Middle East–Germany Willing to Help Find Peace
Deutsche Welle reported on December 31:
“In her New Year’s address, Chancellor Angela Merkel blamed the radical Palestinian movement Hamas for the latest flare-up with Israel and said Germany would do all it could to promote peace in the Middle East… In her address, Merkel said that ‘the terror perpetrated by Hamas is unacceptable.'”
War in the Middle East… Continuing…
The Associated Press reported on December 31:
“Israel rejected international pressure to suspend its air offensive against Palestinian militants whose rocket barrages are striking close to the Israeli heartland, sending warplanes Wednesday to demolish smuggling tunnels that are the lifeline of Gaza’s Islamic Hamas rulers… Calls for an immediate cease-fire have also come from the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia… Underlying the Israeli decision to keep fighting are the mightier weapons that Hamas has smuggled into Gaza through underground tunnels along the border with Egypt.”
War in the Middle East–Escalating…
The Associated Press reported on January 1, 2009:
“Israel dropped a one-ton bomb on the home of a Hamas strongman Thursday, killing him along with two wives and four children in the first attack on the top leadership of Gaza’s rulers. As the aerial bombardment escalated, the army said it was also poised to launch a ground invasion…
“Israel has made clear that no one in Hamas is immune in this offensive… Israeli warplanes have carried out some 500 sorties against Hamas targets, and helicopters have flown hundreds more combat missions… More than 400 Gazans have been killed and some 1,700 have been wounded… The U.N. says the death toll includes more than 60 civilians, 34 of them children.
“Three Israeli civilians and one soldier have also died in rocket attacks that have reached deeper into Israel than ever before, bringing one-eighth of the population within rocket range.
“Throughout the day, huge blasts had rocked cities and towns across Gaza as Israeli warplanes went after Gaza’s parliament building, militant field operatives, police and cars… So far, the campaign to crush rocket fire on southern Israel has been conducted largely from the air. But military spokeswoman Maj. Avital Leibovich said preparations for a ground operation were complete…
“Thousands of soldiers were massed along the border with Gaza, backed by tanks and artillery… Israeli Cabinet ministers have been unswayed by international calls to end the violence… Instead, they authorized the military to push ahead with its campaign against militants… Ordinary Israelis are not eager to see the operation expand beyond the air-based campaign, a poll Thursday showed…”
War in the Middle East–Has Israel Failed to Learn from History?
Der Spiegel Online wrote on December 31:
“Israel has promised a ‘war to the bitter end.’ Yet history is full of examples showing that battling an organization like Hamas is almost futile…
“Planes have targeted mosques because Israel thinks they are being used to cache weapons; apartment blocks where high-ranking Hamas members live have been destroyed, almost guaranteeing civilian casualties. The university was destroyed because it espoused the Hamas ideology. Each one of these targets presents a dilemma — and the images they create are unhelpful to Israel…
“It is also unclear that the offensive brings Israel a single step closer to its ultimate goal of eliminating Hamas entirely. Indeed, the more intense the Israeli bombing campaign has become, the more Palestinian rockets have flown across the border into Israel. Hamas may be briefly weakened as its commanders are knocked off and its weapons depots destroyed. But, in the long run, it is difficult to see Hamas not benefiting the same way Hezbollah benefited from the 2006 war. Their aura as resistance fighters can only be strengthened.
“… in 2006, one of the primary criticisms was that Israel had not sufficiently defined its war aims before marching into southern Lebanon. ‘War to the bitter end,’ certainly doesn’t sound any more precise.”
War in the Middle East–“Israel Has Left the Peace Process in Ruins”
The Telegraph wrote on December 31:
“All… changed on Saturday when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead. The name refers to a lead spinning top played with by children during the Jewish winter festival of Hannukah, but there was nothing playful about the military assault… This was not a strike solely against the infrastructure of Hamas… Operation Cast Lead was intended to kill as many Hamas members as possible, which is why it was ordered in the middle of a working day…
“Why send in the bombers in December 2008, when rockets have been landing in Israel for eight years? It had been six months since the last Israeli fatality. What led the Israeli military-political elite to choose this month to order a sustained attack? The answer is quite simple. Israelis go to the polls in February and it is this that is driving this operation… Israeli voters like strong leaders…
“Talks between Syria and Israel, brokered by Turkey, have now been called off… It is hard to exaggerate how disappointing this is. Britain has long argued that the key to peace in the Holy Land lies on the road to Damascus. Syria is a key sponsor not just of Hamas but of Hizbollah…
“One of President Bush’s more clumsy foreign policy decisions was to isolate Syria for most of his presidency, but in the past two years he has given the green light for rapprochement. From that decision have flowed delicate talks and the hope that Damascus could be persuaded to deal a mortal blow to both Hizbollah and Hamas by turning off the funds, arms and support it has provided them with for years.
“As the smoke continues to rise over Gaza, the tragic truth is that the hopes of wider peace in the Middle East also now lie in ashes.”
War Between India and Pakistan “Cannot Be Ruled Out”
World-On-Line wrote on December 27:
“War between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan over last month’s militant attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai is seen as highly unlikely. Nevertheless, with tension rising and troops moving to the border, conflict between the neighbours who have fought three wars since 1947 cannot be ruled out… Experts say millions of people would be killed on both sides in exchanges of nuclear weapons.”
For the First Time–Army Phone Hotline Between Russia and China
BBC News reported on December 29:
“A new military hotline between Beijing and Moscow has been used for the first time, according to reports in the Chinese state media… The phone link is designed for ‘timely communication on significant issues’. Efforts to set up a similar hotline, mainly for use during crises, between Beijing and Washington appear to have stalled, correspondents say…
“Put simply, the Chinese can now pick up the phone when there is a crisis and ask the Russians what is going on and what they are doing about it.”
2008–The Year We’d Like to Forget–But Won’t
The British paper, The Daily Mail, wrote on December 31:
“Some years are infinitely forgettable… no one will fail to remember 2008. It will be a year to tell your grandchildren about…
“The year began – and ended – with President Mugabe of Zimbabwe still in power, despite having lost an election. Ever since, he has achieved the apparently impossible feat of deepening his people’s misery, starvation and oppression…
“There is still no sign that Iraq’s own politicians are willing to make common cause. As the Westerners leave, it seems most likely that Kurds, Sunnis and Shi’ites will each govern their own areas in their own way. It will be a miracle if they set about doing so without fighting a civil war…
“The British in Afghanistan lost faith in President Hamid Karzai, and in American policy based on support for his regime. The British Army’s casualties in Helmand province rose steadily…
“In Russia… Putin continues to pull all the levers, and to direct his country for the advantage of a handful of gangster oligarchs, of whom he is the richest. Little Georgia, next door, paid a savage price for seeming to challenge Moscow’s hegemony over a vast region…
“Iran continued building its own nuclear weapons, and North Korea seems to have weaved its way to keep doing the same. China savagely suppressed anti-government demonstrations in Tibet a few weeks before the Olympics.
“… this [was] the year in which the world’s great Money Madness has been catastrophically exposed. Trillions of pounds of supposed global wealth disappeared into an abyss, as surely as if they had vanished into the Bermuda Triangle… Today, the entire British banking system is in crisis… The British economy has entered a recession which threatens to prove the worst of modern times… The pound has fallen in value by more than a quarter against almost every other currency and is virtually equal with the much derided Euro.”
More Economic Pain in 2009
Reuters reported on December 31:
“More pain is expected in the near-term as bleak economic reports roll in, flagging more bankruptcies, bad debts and layoffs through at least early 2009, and more sleepless nights for everyone from central bankers to consumers struggling to pay off mortgages and credit card bills.
“The biggest financial crisis in 80 years, sparked by a U.S. mortgage meltdown, made this year one of the worst ever for investors as recession stalked the global economy.”
The Strength of the Euro
Deutsche Welle reported on December 29:
“The European single currency has acted as a windbreaker against the global financial storm for euro zone businesses and citizens… Consensus is widespread that the strength of the currency has done for some European countries what would have been impossible had they kept their original monies.
“The assessment came a few days ahead of the 10th anniversary of the euro being used as a virtual currency in accounting and financial transactions in the euro zone. Euro banknotes and coins were not introduced until Jan. 1, 2002. Former German central bank president Hans Tietmeyer said the 16 euro zone member states had so far escaped foreign exchange turmoil because of the single currency…
“Tietmeyer said the euro zone’s stable position has been underpinned by the creation of the Frankfurt-based European Central Bank (ECB) in 1998. ‘As a result, the single currency has without doubt benefited the people and the economy of Europe,’ he said…
“Having boosted trade among its members and created at least 16 million jobs since its inception, the euro has begun to firm as a premier globally reliable currency. The euro zone is responsible for 16.5 percent of global economic activity, while the euro currency accounts for over a quarter of the world’s official foreign reserves, up from 18 percent in 1998. This has led many Europeans to feel their currency will supplant the US dollar in global importance within the next five years…
“Tietmeyer said he expected the euro zone to weather the current storm… Euro zone membership is now obligatory for all new EU member states, while Britain, Denmark and Sweden have a right to maintain their traditional currencies… Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, the Baltic countries and Romania are all aiming to take up the euro within the next six years…”
Euro at New Record High Against British Pound
Reuters reported on December 31:
“The euro hit a fresh record high against sterling on Tuesday, extending a broad rally against most major currencies. The euro traded as high as 98.05 pence… up about 1.5 percent from late on Monday. Against the dollar, the euro was 1 percent higher at $1.4125.”
“EU to Take over US East Coast”
On December 31, the EUObserver reported:
“The east coast of the US – from South Carolina to Maine – will fall under EU influence as the US splits up in 2010 following an economic meltdown, Russian analyst Igor Panarin has predicted in a report. Canada, China and Mexico will take over the north, eastern and southern sections for their parts.”
Chicago–Politics, Politics… and More Politics…
On December 30, cbs2.chicago.com reported the following:
“A defiant Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday appointed a black political trailblazer in Illinois to Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat, a surprise move that put race front and center in the ongoing drama surrounding the scandal-tarred governor. The decision put his opponents in the uncomfortable position of vowing not to seat a veteran politician who would become the Senate’s only black member…”
cbs2chicago.com stated in a related article, on December 30:
“If Gov. Rod Blagojevich thought that he was regaining the political high ground, or at least a little credibility, with fellow Democrats by appointing former Attorney General Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate, he was apparently mistaken… Sources on Capitol Hill tell CBS 2 Tuesday night the Senate will refuse to seat Burris… Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who must formally approve the appointment, says he won’t do it…
“That alone prevents the Senate from swearing in Burris on January 5. But what if White changes his mind, or if Burris tries to force a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate? More drama. A sergeant at arms would physically bar Burris from entering, sources say. This happened once before, for a week, back in the late 19th Century.
“What’s most likely to occur in the Senate is a vote to halt Burris’ seating ‘pending the outcome of an investigation into the propriety of his appointment’ by the Senate Rules Committee. That investigation will likely have a 60-day period limit…
“The coup de grace to this scheme may have come from President-elect Barack Obama. While praising Roland Burris, Obama also said he agreed with the Senate Democrats who are pledging to refuse to seat anybody appointed by the governor. Sources say leaders in Springfield have assured Senate leaders that Blagojevich will be impeached and out of office by Valentine’s Day. The Senate can then label the Burris pick null and void, leaving Illinois’ next governor, Lt. Gov. Quinn, to select Obama’s replacement. Sources say that person would be sworn in immediately.
“Constitutional law professor Dawn Clark Netsch tells CBS 2 this appointment could likely be the subject of many lawsuits, one arguing the governor had to appoint a senator thus mandating Jesse White certify the appointment, and others questioning the U.S. Senate’s grounds for refusing to seat Burris… What remains to be seen, however, is whether Blagojevich is ready to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.”
Global Warming–Worse Than Assumed?
Deutsche Welle reported on December 29:
“Climate change is happening more rapidly than anyone thought possible, the German government’s expert, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, warned… Schellnhuber warns that previous predictions about climate change and its catastrophic effects were too cautious and optimistic. ‘In nearly all areas, the developments are occurring more quickly than it has been assumed up until now,’ Schellnhuber [said]…
“The Arctic sea ice is melting more quickly than expected. There are also signs that the entire climate pattern at the North Poll has been disrupted to the extent of causing irreversible change. For the Arctic, the global warming which has already occurred of 0.8 degrees Celsius has already stepped over the line, Schellnhuber said. If Greenland’s ice cap ice melts completely, water levels will rise by seven meters (23 feet). ‘The current coastline will no longer exist, and that includes in Germany,’ he said.”
Global Warming–Responsible for Natural Catastrophes in 2008…?
AFP wrote on December 29:
“Natural disasters killed over 220,000 people in 2008, making it one of the most devastating years on record… Although the number of natural disasters was lower than in 2007, the catastrophes that occurred proved to be more destructive in terms of the number of victims and the financial cost of the damage caused, Germany-based Munich Re said in its annual assessment.
“‘This continues the long-term trend we have been observing. Climate change has already started and is very probably contributing to increasingly frequent weather extremes and ensuing natural catastrophes,’ Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek said. Most devastating in terms of human fatalities was Cyclone Nargis, which lashed Myanmar on May 2-3 to kill more than 135,000 people and leave more than one million homeless.
“Just days later an earthquake shook China’s Sichuan province, leaving 70,000 dead, 18,000 missing and almost five million homeless… Around 1,000 people died in a severe cold snap in January in Afghanistan, Kyrgystan and Tajikistan, while 635 perished in August and September in floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Typhoon Fengshen killed 557 people in China and the Philippines in June, while earthquakes in Pakistan in October left 300 dead.
“Six tropical cyclones also slammed into the southern United States, including Ike which, with insured losses of 10 billion dollars, was the industry’s costliest catastrophe of the year. In Europe, an intense low-pressure system called Emma caused two billion dollars worth of damage in March, while a storm dubbed Hilal in late May and early June left 1.1 billion dollars’ worth.
“The earthquake in Sichuan province was the most expensive overall single catastrophe of 2008, causing around 85 billion dollars worth of damage, helping to make the year the third most expensive on record, Munich Re said. With 200 billion dollars’ worth of damage, only 2005, when a large number of hurricanes slammed into the southern United States, and 1995, year of the Kobe earthquake in Japan, wreaked more destruction since records began in 1900.
“According to provisional estimates from the World Meteorological Organization, 2008 was the tenth warmest year since the beginning of routine temperature recording and the eighth warmest in the northern hemisphere. This means that the ten warmest years ever recorded have all occurred in the last 12 years, Munich Re said. ‘It is now very probable that the progressive warming of the atmosphere is due to the greenhouse gases emitted by human activity. The weather machine is running in top gear, bringing more intense severe weather events,’ it said.
“The number of tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic in 2008 was much higher than the long-term average, and in terms of both the total number of storms and the number of major hurricanes, 2008 was the fourth most severe hurricane season since reliable data have been available, it said. The world needed ‘effective and binding rules on CO2 emissions, so that climate change is curbed and future generations do not have to live with weather scenarios that are difficult to control,’ board member Jeworrek said…”
The Telegraph wrote on December 29 that “2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved.”
“Easily one of the most important stories of 2008 has been all the evidence suggesting that this may be looked back on as the year when there was a turning point in the great worldwide panic over man-made global warming. Just when politicians in Europe and America have been adopting the most costly and damaging measures politicians have ever proposed, to combat this supposed menace, the tide has turned in three significant respects.
“First, all over the world, temperatures have been dropping in a way wholly unpredicted by all those computer models which have been used as the main drivers of the scare. Last winter, as temperatures plummeted, many parts of the world had snowfalls on a scale not seen for decades. This winter, with the whole of Canada and half the US under snow, looks likely to be even worse. After several years flatlining, global temperatures have dropped sharply enough to cancel out much of their net rise in the 20th century.
“Ever shriller and more frantic has become the insistence of the warmists… that the last 10 years have been the ‘hottest in history’ and that the North Pole would soon be ice-free – as the poles remain defiantly icebound and those polar bears fail to drown. All those hysterical predictions that we are seeing more droughts and hurricanes than ever before have infuriatingly failed to materialise.
“Even the more cautious scientific acolytes of the official orthodoxy now admit that, thanks to ‘natural factors’ such as ocean currents, temperatures have failed to rise as predicted…
“Secondly, 2008 was the year when any pretence that there was a ‘scientific consensus’ in favour of man-made global warming collapsed. At long last, as in the Manhattan Declaration last March, hundreds of proper scientists, including many of the world’s most eminent climate experts, have been rallying to pour scorn on that ‘consensus’ which was only a politically engineered artefact, based on ever more blatantly manipulated data and computer models programmed to produce no more than convenient fictions.
“Thirdly, as banks collapsed and the global economy plunged into its worst recession for decades, harsh reality at last began to break in on those self-deluding dreams which have for so long possessed almost every politician in the western world…
“Suddenly it has become rather less appealing that we should divert trillions of dollars, pounds and euros into the fantasy that we could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 80 per cent. All those grandiose projects for ’emissions trading’, ‘carbon capture’, building tens of thousands more useless wind turbines, switching vast areas of farmland from producing food to ‘biofuels’, are being exposed as no more than enormously damaging and futile gestures, costing astronomic sums we no longer possess.
“As 2009 dawns, it is time we in Britain faced up to the genuine crisis now fast approaching from the fact that – unless we get on very soon with building enough proper power stations to fill our looming ‘energy gap’ – within a few years our lights will go out and what remains of our economy will judder to a halt…”
“Scientists Eye Swarm of Yellowstone Quakes”
The Associated Press reported on December 29:
“Yellowstone National Park was jostled by a host of small earthquakes for a third straight day Monday, and scientists watched closely to see whether the more than 250 tremors were a sign of something bigger to come. Swarms of small earthquakes happen frequently in Yellowstone, but it’s very unusual for so many earthquakes to happen over several days, said Robert Smith, a professor of geophysics at the University of Utah. ‘They’re certainly not normal,’ Smith said. ‘We haven’t had earthquakes in this energy or extent in many years… This is an active volcanic and tectonic area, and these are the kinds of things we have to pay attention to,’ Smith said…
“He said Yellowstone remains very geologically active — and its famous geysers and hot springs are a reminder that a pool of magma still exists five to 10 miles underground. ‘That’s just the surface manifestation of the enormous amount of heat that’s being released through the system,’ he said. Yellowstone has had significant earthquakes as well as minor ones in recent decades. In 1959, a magnitude 7.5 quake near Hebgen Lake just west of the park triggered a landslide that killed 28 people.”
When reading the book of Zechariah, we find that God will bring terrible punishment on the modern descendants of the ancient houses of Israel and Judah. Why is God so angry with them?
As it is rightly pointed out in the question, the punishment, as described in the book of Zechariah, deals foremost with the MODERN descendants of the ancient houses of Israel and Judah. It will be inflicted on them just prior to the return of Jesus Christ.
We understand that the modern descendants of the houses of Israel and Judah include the peoples of the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as the modern Jews (who live inside and outside the state of Israel). For more information, please read our free booklet, “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America.”
The Bible contains many prophecies dealing with the sins and punishment of these nations. However, in this answer, we want to limit the discussion to the book of Zechariah.
When God challenged ancient Judah at the time of Zechariah, to get involved in the work of God, He explained to them that they were suffering at that time because of their SINS. God’s values have not changed–therefore, His anger towards ancient Judah and Israel because of their sins applies equally to modern Israel and Judah of our day, as they are engaged in the same kinds of sins and transgressions.
God spoke through Zechariah to ancient Israel and Judah, saying that He had been very angry with their fathers. He cautioned them not to be like their fathers, to whom the former prophets preached, encouraging them, without success, to repent. God also stated that His laws and commandments “overtook” them (compare Zechariah 1:2-6).
Amazingly, ancient Judah did finally repent in response to that challenge (verse 6, second half), even though their repentance was short-lived. It is to be hoped–but it is very unlikely–that MODERN Israel and Judah will also repent of their evil ways when they hear the Word of God proclaimed through God’s modern-day servants.
God also explained that when He was “a little angry” with Zion and Jerusalem, nations “helped–but with evil intent,” so that God became “exceedingly angry” with those nations (verse 15). Again, this prophecy is certainly dual and applies to our day and age as well.
God explained very clearly–in Zechariah 7:4-14–WHY He was angry with ancient Israel and Judah–and He tells us at the same time WHY He is angry with the modern descendants of these ancient houses:
“(4) Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, (5) ‘Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: “When you fasted and mourned… did you really fast for Me–for Me? (6) When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves? (7) Should you not have obeyed the words which the LORD proclaimed through the former prophets when Jerusalem and the cities around it were inhabited and prosperous… (9) Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion Everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, The alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother. (11) But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. (12) Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. (13) Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen, says the LORD of hosts. (14) But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land became desolate after them, so that no one passed through or returned; for they made the pleasant land desolate.”‘”
Again, this prophecy is dual. As it applied to ancient Israel and Judah, so it applies to us today. As God scattered ancient Israel and Judah “with a whirlwind”–that is, through invasion and war–“among all the nations,” so God will scatter the modern houses of Israel and Judah.
In speaking of OUR day, God tells us that the modern nations of Israel and Judah WILL repent, but only AFTER they have been held captive by foreign invaders. We read in Zechariah 8:7-15:
“(7) Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Behold, I will save My people from the land of the east And from the land of the west; (8) I will bring them back, And they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. They shall be My people, And I will be their God, In truth and righteousness… (10) For before these days… There was no peace from the enemy for whoever went out or came in; For I set all men, everyone, against his neighbor… (13)… just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, So I will save you, and you shall be a blessing… (14) Just as I determined to punish you When your fathers provoked Me to wrath… And I would not relent, (15) So again in these days I am determined to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah… (16) These are the things you shall do; Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; (17) Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate…'”
Another aspect of God’s anger today over sinful Israel and Judah is their willingness and eagerness to fight wars, which are not approved of or endorsed by God. But God says that this will be changed, and this will be accomplished by Jesus Christ: “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim [Great Britain] And the horse [symbolic for war machines like tanks] from Jerusalem [the state of Israel]; The battle bow shall be cut off” (Zechariah 9:10).
God also pronounces His punishment against the religious leaders of ancient and modern Israel and Judah, in Zechariah 10:3: “My anger is kindled against the shepherds, And I will punish the goatherds [leaders]… ” The context with verse 2 indicates that those religious leaders were engaged in (and that they approved of) idolatry, divination and the preaching of a false hope.
God continues to explain that He allowed His people to be defeated in war and become captives of war. This prophecy is most certainly dual and refers also to our time and age, as God points out that He will free them from their captivity and bring them back to the Promised Land. This did NOT happen in history, as the tribe of “Joseph” never returned. Notice Zechariah 10:6-10:
“(6) I will strengthen the house of Judah, And I will save the house of Joseph [the modern English-speaking nations of the USA and the British Commonwealth]. I will bring them back [out of captivity and slavery], Because I have mercy on them. They shall be as though I had not cast them aside… (9) I will sow them among the peoples, And they shall remember Me in far countries; they shall live together with their children, And they shall return. (10) I will also bring them back from the land of Egypt And gather them from Assyria [modern German-speaking peoples]… (11) Then the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, And the scepter of Egypt shall depart.”
Another remarkable prophecy for our time, which is directed against the modern English-speaking nations (and the religious and political leaders) of the USA and the British Commonwealth, and their future captivity and slavery, can be found in Zechariah 11, beginning with verse 4:
“Thus says the LORD my God, ‘Feed the flock for slaughter, (5) whose owners slaughter them and feel no guilt; those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the LORD, for I am rich; and their shepherds do not pity them. (6) For I will no longer pity the inhabitants of the land, says the LORD. But indeed I will give everyone into his neighbor’s hand and into the hand of his king. They shall attack the land, and I will not deliver them from their hand.'”
Notice that this is written in a future tense and for a future time. It pronounces events which will still occur, and it was written AFTER both ancient Israel and Judah had already gone into captivity, and AFTER the tribe of Judah had already returned to Jerusalem and had begun to build the temple.
Notice the continuation of this prophecy, beginning in verse 8, referring to three powerful religious and/or political leaders:
“(8) ‘I dismissed the three shepherds in one month. My soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me…’ (14) Then I cut in two my other staff… that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.”
This indicates that in the times just ahead of us, the close relationship between the USA and Britain on the one hand, and the state of Israel on the other hand, will cease. The future will have to show who the three shepherds will be who will be “dismissed” “in one month.”
God continues to prophesy that a worthless shepherd–a political or religious leader–will arise apparently just after the dismissal of the three shepherds and just prior to Christ’s return. This worthless shepherd will only care for himself. We read, beginning in verse 16:
“(16) For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces. (17) Woe to the worthless shepherd, Who leaves the flock! A sword shall be against his arm And against his right eye; His arm shall completely wither, And his right eye shall be totally blinded.”
When God intervenes, He will cleanse the inhabitants of Jerusalem from their sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1). He will wipe out idolatry and cause the false prophets and their evil demonic spirits to depart from the land (verse 2). This shows the depth of deprivation which will have overtaken the land prior to Christ’s return. That is WHY God made the following terrible pronouncement for our time and age:
“(8) And it shall come to pass in all the land, Says the LORD, That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one-third shall be left in it: (9) I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined and test them as gold is tested.”
Continuing in Zechariah 14:2: “For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity.”
But then, so we are told, beginning in verse 3, God will intervene and fight for the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the modern peoples of Israel and Judah who have been brought into slavery and captivity, because of their terrible sins which cry to high heaven. God’s warnings are sure and certain, and they will come upon all of us very soon–unless we repent.
And even though the modern nations of Israel and Judah will–in all probability–not repent in time to prevent defeat in war and captivity, individuals can be spared. Those who turn to God and are willing to follow His direction in obedience to His law, have been promised protection from the evil and terrible times to come. And we DON’T mean some kind of supernatural secret rapture to heaven–a concept which the Bible does NOT teach. For more information, please read our free booklets, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord,” and,”Is That in the Bible?–The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation!”
It is up to each and every one of us to heed God’s warning and to act accordingly, so that we can be “counted worthy to escape all these things that WILL come to pass” (Luke 21:36).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
New StandingWatch program and German Sermon
A new StandingWatch program was posted on StandingWatch, GoogleVideo and YouTube. It is titled, “Is Homosexual Conduct Sinful?” In the program, Norbert Link pointed out that Pope Benedict declared this week that saving humanity from homosexual behavior was just as important as saving the rainforest. The reaction of portions of the gay community was swift and predictable. The Pope’s words were characterized as “agitating,” “threatening,” “totally irresponsible” or “absurd.” What does the New Testament say about this question? Many have misunderstood the biblical teaching in this regard.
Norbert Link recorded a sermon in German (“Gedenke des Sabbattages…”), which was posted on Google Video and on our German Website, AufPostenStehen. The sermon discusses the Sabbath in general and especially the Sabbath covenant in Exodus 31; the creation of the Sabbath for man; the reinforcement of the Sabbath in relationship with the giving of the Manna; and the pronouncement of the Ten Commandments; and it quotes many admissions from Catholic and Protestant commentators to the effect that the Sabbath was not abrogated in the Bible, and that Hebrews 4:9 enjoins it for Christians today.
Recent Comments from our StandingWatch Viewers
Program on “Is Homosexual Conduct Sinful?”:
— A truly balanced presentation with real answers and hope.
— To be homosexual is NOT a sin. It is mentioned less than 5 times in the Old Testament – and these are injunctions against male prostitution/concubines/gross hedonism. Jesus DID NOT condemn or even mention gays! Yet – there are hundreds of biblical injunctions against RAPE, ADULTERY, DIVORCE, INCEST, and hetero hedonism. Which is the more serious problem? The answer becomes obvious – and obvious that the church has persecuted gays unjustly!
— The view presented is not a popular one in today’s world where continued acceptance and tolerance is the norm. If the Bible only said once that being homosexual was wrong, that would be enough for me.
— God did not make anyone homosexual anymore than He made someone a thief, or an adulterer, this is why we need to repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord the Bible says for the remission of sins, if you do not believe that then stop pretending to believe the Bible.
— It is good to hear the truth of God’s words from the Bible, it is the only real guide to making the changes in our lives that will lead us in to the coming kingdom of God. Keep proclaiming the Bible truths.
— It’s clear to me how God views homosexuality. Marriage is meant for a man and a woman, and His creation is beautiful.
— The views of the Pope is that of an uneducated person who comes from the middle ages. The Bible is NOT written by God. It is written by man for those (the masses) who had no formal education. It guided the people at the time however we have since moved on. I am an Atheist!
— You handled the latest Standing Watch in a gentle, delicate and restrained manner. You will get criticized no matter what you speak on since man is hostile towards God’s laws.
Program on “Our Terrible Healthcare System“:
— Thanks again for another “tell it like it is” video! We truly are sick from the head down. Until we repent and turn to the True God and begin to obey Him we will only continue to spiral down to our demise. He alone is the only One who can heal us physically and spiritiually! Keep telling it like it is! Maybe someone will get the message.
Program on “No Christmas in the Early Church”:
— Thanks again for another great program of telling the truth the way it is. It is absolutely amazing how this particular holiday has become a worldwide celebration – in all it’s different forms. Guess we know who is behind that, eh? Anything to get man to take their eyes away from the True God and what He has decreed to be His True Holy Days. Thanks again!
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:
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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