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The Disintegration of the Family
by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)
Earlier this year, my wife and I visited our son and his wife in Thailand. We saw our 5th grandchild, Austin, for the first time. He is just 10 months old. This got me to thinking about the ways that families can now be a group of geographically separate and disparate groups that may often be only connected by the family name. Social mobility occasioned by economic factors, job prospects, marrying someone from another country, preferring the climate of another land or simply being disillusioned by current circumstances are often the cause for people moving and for families seeing little of each other. That was not necessarily the case that much half a century ago, when travel was not a highly marketable commodity, nor did families, generally, think of leaving the area in which they were born and brought up.
In his book “Family Britain 1951-1957”, David Kynaston wrote the following: “Sociologist Michael Young conducted research in London’s Bethnal Green. Here he describes a widow in her 60’s living alone save for a dog and a budgie. She is infirm and rarely goes out. A married daughter lives two minutes’ walk away with her five children. One grandson does her shopping, another collects and returns the washing which is done by the married daughter living ten minutes’ walk away. A young grandson often stays a night. The grandchildren fetch her papers, chop her firewood and take the dog out. Her second daughter collects her pension and her mother spends every Sunday at her home. A son with a market stall brings vegetables every morning and give her ten shillings a week. He lives five minutes walk away with his wife and child. A second son lives in Norwich and that is where the widow spends a fortnight’s (two weeks) holiday every summer. Fifteen relatives are seen at least once a week, several every day.”
It can often be deceptive to just look at everything from yesteryear through rose coloured glasses, but there is no doubt that there was much more genuine social cohesion and care for one another in families, and society, that seems to be missing in so many lives today.
But we have to accept that moving within one’s own country, or abroad, may be a necessity in many cases, as jobs become scarcer, prospects limited and financial pressures build up. But that can impact on the support that families can give to each other at critical times and on an ongoing basis. And, of course, those who have been and are involved in the Work of God have, in many cases, moved a number of times to different parts of the world to carry out those responsibilities that God has given them. The New Testament gives a clear indication that the early apostles were “socially mobile” as was Jesus Himself. But it is incumbent on us, as “ambassadors for Christ” to do the best we can for our families irrespective of our geographical situation. Of course, the other extreme may be that family members can be “smothered” by them not being left to get on with their own lives and make their own decisions (always with input from family members if required). As usual, balance is the key.
When we look at the meltdown in morals, behaviour and the acceptance of “alternative life styles,” this should clearly show us why our society is in such a mess. And all of this has been fostered by a liberal elite with an agenda to shape society in a different way and undermine much of the good that went before it. This has been ably aided and abetted by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) who is the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2).
According to the perceived wisdom of our rulers regarding the definition of a family, it seems that any combination of people will do. One leading politician in the UK stated over a year ago that he believed in marriage. But then he added – marriage between a man and a woman, a man and a man and a woman and a woman! The old “nuclear family” of a husband and wife and two children is no longer the best game in town. Without going through a great catalogue of what now constitutes a family in the eyes of those in power, suffice to say that any grouping today seems to fit the bill.
God’s definition is simple and clearly defined: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). And then they were told to have children, to be “fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).
In the soon coming Kingdom, the ways of God will be practiced. And families–properly constituted Godly families–will once again be the bedrock of society. That will be a time when the disintegration of the family will be left well behind and society will benefit enormously when God imposes His rules which will be, as always, for the benefit of all of mankind.
During the last two weeks, this world was introduced to the concept of man’s creation of artificial life. Upon further analysis, it is not REALLY such a creation, but close enough to send shivers down the spine of any thinking person. Arrogant scientists are playing God, and they are fooling themselves and others as to their Frankenstein monsters which might soon become a frightening reality. Sadly, as American scientists have the dubious honor of having created the atomic and hydrogen bomb, so it is again American scientists who have created this latest artificial “bomb” of potentially horrible and devastating consequences.
The ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico should have told greedy, exploring man what catastrophes he is capable of creating. But man’s deceitful and rotten heart seems to be incapable of heeding the warnings.
Britain is facing an uncertain future as well. Deep spending cuts were announced by the queen and the new government, while Mr. Cameron postulated that Britain will not become a part of the eurozone. This is not a surprise, as we have proclaimed for decades that Britain will in all likelihood not be a part of core Europe. At the same time, Italy announced budget cuts to defend the euro.
Even though the euro is falling against the U.S. dollar, this does not mean that Europe is facing inflation. In fact, according to articles in Der Spiegel Online and Bild Online, dated May 22, 2010, the weak euro has already saved 80,000 jobs in the German industry, due to higher export possibilities.
While many uninformed voices speak of a demise of the EU and the “European project,” Horst Seehofer, state premier in Bavaria and coalition partner of Angela Merkel, said that TOO MUCH POWER had been shifted to Europe at the expense of the German Parliament, and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said he is looking to establish a clearer “HIERARCHY” among the EU institutions and member states.
There are fears that a war will break out involving North and South Korea, and according to some press releases, Egypt and Israel are preparing for war as well. While Angela Merkel, Guido Westerwelle and other German officials and top managers are visiting key Arab countries to improve their prosperous economic relationships, reports suggest an increasing anti-Israel stance of European nations, including Germany.
The low-enriched uranium deal between Iran and Turkey, which was brokered by Brazil, shows the close alliance between these three countries against western nations and especially the USA. The Washington Post wrote that this “is not just an America in decline. This is an America in retreat — accepting, ratifying and declaring its decline, and inviting rising powers to fill the vacuum… This is retreat by design and, indeed, on principle.”
Our two remaining articles deal with the Catholic Church, the immunity of the pope and the trouble and hypocrisy caused by enforced celibacy. Deutsche Welle explains that “a life of celibacy cannot be regarded as a commandment from God, since it is not specifically called for in the Bible. It was probably economic considerations which lay behind the decision to make celibacy obligatory in the 12th century; priests were thus unable to pass on church property to their descendants.”
And so, the Catholic Church grew in wealth and riches; it is said that the Vatican State is perhaps the richest “state” in the world.
This Week in the News
The Horror of Artificial “Life”
The Economist wrote on May 20:
“Artificial life, the stuff of dreams and nightmares, has arrived…
“Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith, the two American biologists who unravelled the first DNA sequence of a living organism (a bacterium) in 1995, have made a bacterium that has an artificial genome—creating a living creature with no ancestor… Pedants may quibble that only the DNA of the new beast was actually manufactured in a laboratory; the researchers had to use the shell of an existing bug to get that DNA to do its stuff. Nevertheless, a Rubicon has been crossed. It is now possible to conceive of a world in which new bacteria (and eventually, new animals and plants) are designed on a computer and then grown to order.
“That ability would prove mankind’s mastery over nature in a way more profound than even the detonation of the first atomic bomb. The bomb… was purely destructive… artificial life looks like a wonderful thing. Yet that is not how many will view the announcement. For them, a better word than ‘creation’ is ‘tampering’… What horrors will come creeping out of the flask on the laboratory bench?
“Such questions are not misplaced—and should give pause even to those… who normally embrace advances in science with enthusiasm. The new biological science does have the potential to do great harm, as well as good… It will be a while, yet, before lifeforms are routinely designed on a laptop. But this will come… Databases are filling up with the genomes of everything from the tiniest virus to the tallest tree.
“The risk of accidentally creating something bad is probably low… Creating something bad deliberately, whether the creator is a teenage hacker, a terrorist or a rogue state, is a different matter. No one now knows how easy it would be to turbo-charge an existing human pathogen, or take one that infects another type of animal and assist its passage over the species barrier…”
Venter–“One of the Most Controversial Scientists”
Bild Online wrote on May 25:
“US researcher Craig Venter (63) succeeded with the ‘divine experiment’, leading the scientific world to celebrate its heroes while the Catholic Church lurches between elation and horror… The reaction of the Vatican varied wildly between joy and shock. ‘A very great success,’ said Nicola Cabibbo, President of Pontifical Academy of Sciences, welcoming a breakthrough in genetic engineering. ‘Admiration for the capabilities of human intelligence,’ declared Archbishop Bruno Forte of the Pontifical Theological Commission…
“More critical was the legal expert of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Domenico Mogavero, in the ‘La Stampa’ newspaper. He called Venter’s discovery a ‘potential time bomb, a dangerous double-edged sword’ with possibilities which could not yet be assessed or predicted…
“Craig Venter was awarded the World Health Award in 2002 in Vienna. In 2009, President Barack Obama presented him with the National Medal of Science, the highest science award in the US. Venter may be one of the most successful scientists, but he is also one of the most controversial.
“Research colleagues tell him he lacks morals, and his many successes in the field of genetic research led to his reputation of wanting to play God. The latest research will once again stoke the debate on the ethical implications of his work.”
Man, following and embracing the “god” of science, will get to the brink of utter destruction. Only the returning Jesus Christ will be able to rescue man from man.
The Ongoing Oil Spill Disaster
Der Spiegel Online reported on May 25:
“Politicians in Washington are getting nervous. With attempt after attempt to seal the leaking BP oil well on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico having failed, a number of government officials ramped up the rhetoric over the weekend in an effort to up the pressure on the oil giant… Frustration is growing overseas as well. Cem Özdemir, head of the German Green Party, called for a boycott of BP in a newspaper interview published on Tuesday… He accused BP of disinformation and of trying to play down the damage caused by the ongoing oil leak…
“Over the weekend, more heavy oil washed into the marshlands of the Mississippi River delta, threatening the fragile ecosystem as well as the jobs of thousands of Gulf Coast residents who depend on the region’s fishery. On Monday, the US declared a ‘fishery disaster’ in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as a result of the pollution…
“Conservative daily Die Welt writes: ‘Washington’s oversight of the oil industry has failed. That is not surprising — it’s like a junkie trying to control his dealer. It has been said that the US Environmental Protection Agency is considering withdrawing all government contracts, drilling licenses and leases from BP. The oil giant has 22,000 oil and gas wells in the US worth $16 billion (€13 billion) — almost 40 percent of BP’s entire turnover. Such a move would be crushing. And it would be almost impossible to push through. BP is also one of the most important fuel suppliers of the US military…'”
The man-caused oil spill shows man’s utter helplessness in the face of his greed for passing and destructive riches.
President Obama Takes the Blame–Well, Not Really…
USA Today reported on May 27:
“The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has spewed more oil than originally estimated, surpassing the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in 1989 in Alaska to become the biggest oil disaster in U.S. history, federal scientists said Thursday.
“Meantime, President Obama issued tough words during a news conference, also on Thursday. He addressed questions by critics as to why the United States did not play a stronger role in facilitating an end to the spill triggered by an April 20 explosion on a rig leased by British energy giant BP. ‘From the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort,’ Obama told reporters at the White House. ‘As far as I’m concerned, BP is responsible for this horrific disaster’…
“Thursday, BP engineers continued to pump hundreds of thousands of gallons of heavy mud into a massive device atop the runaway well in the latest attempt to stem the flow. The procedure — known as a ‘top kill’ — started Wednesday afternoon and continued through the night…
“BP and federal officials have come under increased pressure for failing to plug the gushing well and keep oil out of coastal marshes and beaches. The oil has impacted more than 100 miles of Louisiana’s coast, including 35 acres of fragile marshland… BP officials will monitor the top kill operation for at least 24 hours, gauging pressure coming from the well.
“More than 7,000 barrels — or 294,000 gallons — of the heavy drilling mud has been jammed into the damaged blowout preventer… About 50,000 barrels of the mud sits on a supply vessel on the surface, ready to be pumped into the device.
“If the mud stems the flow, engineers will pump cement to seal the well. Two relief wells being drilled simultaneously will permanently seal the well… Those wells will not be completed until August.”
The Los Angeles Times added on May 27:
“President Obama on Thursday insisted his administration was ‘in charge’ and ‘on top of’ the effort to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, batting away suggestions that the federal response had been lackluster and that BP executives were actually calling some of the shots. Speaking to reporters hours after BP launched its latest attempt to plug the hole on the ocean floor, Obama said federal officials specifically ordered the company to drill two holes as part of that effort instead of the single one executives had proposed.
“‘BP is operating at our direction,’ Obama said. ‘Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance,’ adding that, if the Coast Guard ordered BP to do something, ‘they are legally bound to do it.’
“Obama said he was ‘angry and frustrated’ about the spill as it entered its sixth week but argued that the best experts were being deployed to ‘get this fixed as quickly as possible.’ …
“Obama blamed practices of the previous administration for poor regulation, citing a ‘cozy and sometimes corrupt relationship’ between oil companies and regulators.”
So, if President Obama and Washington are “in charge” and “on top of” the efforts to stop the oil spill, then they SHOULD take the blame for the ongoing disaster! To blame BP or the prior administration would not be fair or logical.
Painful Spending Cuts in Britain
BBC News wrote on May 23:
“Imminent spending cuts [of £6bn this year] will be ‘painful and controversial’, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has admitted… the business department’s budget will fall by £700m… a further £500m… come from trimming or axing public bodies… The government, which will hold an ’emergency Budget’ on 22 June, has said frontline services will be protected from cuts in spending… But with the deficit standing at £156bn, there are far more painful cuts to come… Labour have said budget cuts of this size will inevitably hit frontline services and threaten jobs.”
The Queen Announces Budget Cuts
Deutsche Welle reported on May 25:
“The new session of the British parliament was opened by the queen, surrounded by the regalia of ancient tradition. However, the message from her new government is one of future budget cuts… It was the monarch’s 57th Queen’s Speech… [She] announced her government’s ‘first priority’ would be to tackle the massive public sector deficit of an estimated 156 billion pounds (182 billion euros, $223 billion)…
“As the queen is Britain’s head of state, she has the formal power of inviting a prime minister to form a government and of opening each session of parliament. The ceremony is a traditional one, where Queen Elizabeth II, dressed in full royal regalia, addresses her government and subjects. In the speech written for her by the new Prime Minister David Cameron, the queen announced the most important issue was ‘to reduce the deficit and restore economic growth.’
“Areas of focus for the new government also include proposals for changing the British electoral system… The queen also confirmed the new government’s plans to limit the number of non-EU nationals entering Britain… A multi-billion-pound scheme to introduce ID cards in Britain will be scrapped, and the widespread use of surveillance cameras is to be more closely regulated.”
It remains to be seen how quickly the British people will have enough of their new government of “change.”
Britain Opposed to Agreement Supporting Euro
BBC News wrote on May 21:
“At a press conference in the German capital, Mr Cameron said the UK would not agree to the transfer of any sovereignty from Westminster to Brussels as part of any future reforms to EU institutions aimed at protecting the single currency area from economic instability… The Conservative leader has said any such transfer of powers would have to be approved by the British people in a referendum and has talked of repatriating EU powers in certain areas to the UK Parliament…
“‘Britain is not a member of the euro, nor are we likely to become a member, but we want a strong and stable eurozone. That is where 50% of our trade goes and it’s our interest that that takes place.’ But he insisted: ‘Britain would not be agreeing to any agreement or treaty that drew us further into supporting the euro area. It goes without saying that any treaty, even one that just applied to the euro area, needs unanimous agreement of all 27 EU states including the UK, which of course has a veto.'”
Whether this is a politically and economically wise or foolish position, it is in line with the biblical prophecies strongly indicating that Great Britain will not be a part of the eurozone and a member of core European nations.
Italy Defends Euro by Slashing Public Spending
Der Spiegel Online wrote on May 25:
“The Italian government has joined a European movement to slash public spending — to the surprise of many Italians. Until recently, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had promised to avoid big budget cuts. But the euro must be defended, say Italian officials.
“Italy’s government approved a €24 billion ($30 billion) austerity package Tuesday evening… The package aims to reduce the nation’s budget deficit — which last year stood at 5.3 percent of its gross domestic product — to within the euro zone limit of 3 percent by 2012. It’s also meant to tame Italy’s public debt, which at 115.8 percent of GDP is the highest in the 16-nation euro zone.
“About half the cuts involve a sharp reduction in funds paid by the central government to Italy’s regions and cities. Wage freezes and cuts for public-sector workers will save some €6 billion. Salaries for government ministers and parliamentarians will take a 10 percent shave, and the government will slow its hiring. Only one in every five government positions that come open between 2011 and 2013 will be filled, according to the Reuters news agency.
“Average Italians won’t see their taxes rise, though taxes on stock options and private-sector executive bonuses will increase. The government will crack down on tax evasion, and introduce a measure called ‘construction amnesty’ — a grace period for Italians who have built houses without proper zoning approval. The amnesty allows homeowners to pay a fine lower than the taxes owed on their property…
“A deficit of 5.3 percent of GDP is… not outrageous compared to other euro-zone nations. It’s modest compared to Greece’s 12.7 percent deficit, for example, and less than half the deficit levels in Ireland and Spain…
“The cuts follow similar austerity measures in Spain, Portugal, and Great Britain. Germany, after backing a massive €750 billion package of loans to ensure other EU governments can meet their debt payments, will have to decide in June how to slash €3 billion from its own budget.
“The aim is to save the euro’s currency union from breaking apart despite pressure from financial traders skeptical of debt and deficit levels in Europe. ‘It’s absolutely necessary to do our part for Europe; to contribute to the financial stability of monetary union and to economic growth,’ Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said on Tuesday in Washington… early reaction from economists was positive.”
No Fertile Ground for Inflation in Europe
Deutsche Welle wrote on May 21:
“How real is the risk of inflation in the eurozone?… German Central Bank president Axel Weber… argues that the ECB is fully committed to controlling inflation in the eurozone. ‘The euro system will not budge a centimeter from its goal of maintaining price stability,’ said Weber… Even during these difficult times, he said, the ECB promises to ensure price stability…
“The employer-friendly Institute of German Business (IW) in Cologne maintains that European central bankers are well armed to fight inflation; it also doesn’t expect prices to explode anytime soon…
“Gustav Horn, director of the Institute for Macroeconomics and Economic Research (IMK)… has a plausible explanation why Europe is unlikely to fall into such an inflationary cycle in the near future… ‘The level of production in Europe is still far below the pre-crisis level. There is plenty of capacity, and unemployment is high. In such a situation, companies will be unable to push through higher prices and the same applies to unions seeking higher wages. So, to put it simply, inflation lacks fertile ground to grow.’”
Too Much Power for Europe?
The New York Times wrote on May 21:
“Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany narrowly pushed the country’s share of the nearly $1 trillion stabilization package for the euro through Parliament on Friday in the face of significant public opposition. It was an uncomfortably close call for Mrs. Merkel. The bill passed by a margin of just seven votes, with half a dozen members of her conservative coalition voting against it. The left-wing opposition parties refused to support the deal, either abstaining or voting against it.
“The vote answered the question… of whether Germany is committed to seeking European solutions to the fiscal crisis facing the continent. It came at the end of a week that saw sharp divisions emerge over the German government’s decision to introduce unilateral measures to dampen financial-market speculation, and to do so without consulting its European partners…
“Mrs. Merkel’s leadership was called into question not only by leading opposition politicians but also by members of her own bloc. Horst Seehofer, state premier in Bavaria… [said] that too much power had been shifted to Europe at the expense of the German Parliament…
“Mr. Seehofer… used the debate over the rescue plan to distance [himself] from a chancellor in trouble… Germans are angered at the prospect of paying the debts of what they see as profligate states like Greece…”
This and the next article show what is really beginning to happen in Europe in light of the economic crisis–rather than falling apart, Europe is becoming more and more a hierarchical powerful dictatorship.
Clearer Hierarchy in Europe?
The EUObserver wrote on May 25:
“European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has said he is looking to establish a clearer ‘hierarchy’ among the EU institutions and member states to make it easier to deal with any future crises in the eurozone… Germany, angry at paying the lion’s share of the Greek bail-out – a move that is extremely unpopular among ordinary Germans – is leading the calls for a rules change, including a modification of the [Lisbon] treaty.
“But Mr Van Rompuy spoke out against opening a new treaty discussion… He is the second EU figure to speak out against treaty change after [European Commission President Jose Manuel] Barroso forcefully rejected the idea in a newspaper interview… Mr Van Rompuy… pointed out that the recession lasted only 12 months in most EU states… But the Belgian politician noted that ‘serious errors’ had been made in the last decade, including letting countries go unpunished for breaching the eurozone rules, ignoring the huge economic divergences between euro states and not acting even though weaker economies had been already showing balance-of-payment problems for several years.”
New War Between South and North Korea?
The Wall Street Journal reported on May 25:
“North Korea said Tuesday it will cut off all ties to South Korea, going well beyond the penalties that Seoul imposed on it a day earlier for its apparent role in the sinking of a South Korean warship two months ago… The decision sharply escalates the tensions between the two countries…
“North Korea said it would expel all South Koreans from a joint industrial complex just inside the North where about 120 South Korean companies employ about 40,000 North Koreans. The statement also said Pyongyang will ‘totally abrogate the agreement on nonaggression between the north and the south and completely halt the inter-Korean cooperation’…
“North Korea also said it would ban South Korean ships and planes from its territorial waters and airspace, though that step means little since South Korean planes avoid the country and only ships involved in commerce with the North travel there…
“Secretary of State Clinton promised military support for South Korea after Seoul laid down stiff penalties against North Korea. But China, a key ally of the North, declined to publicly criticize Pyongyang…
“North Korea’s state media said ‘dozens’ of South Korea warships crossed the inter-Korean maritime border in the Yellow Sea over the past 10 days. The area, near where the South Korean patrol boat Cheonan sank on March 26, has long been disputed by North Korea… In the announcement, North Korea warned of further, unspecified military action in the Yellow Sea. It didn’t refer to the Cheonan sinking in the announcement.”
Bild Online added on May 25:
“North Korea’s mad dictator has put his country’s military on alert. The order was given by a senior military official in the capital Pyongyang, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap who quoted observers of the communist state.”
Christ prophesied that wars and rumors of wars indicate the beginning of sorrows. There have always been wars, of course, but in light of other signs which are being fulfilled in front of our eyes, we should also take heed of potential future wars–as many of these could affect and involve other countries and could ultimately throw this world into utter destruction. Let us never forget that World War I began with just one shot in Sarajevo.
Egypt and Israel Prepare for War
Israel National News reported on May 25, 2010 (Sivan 12, 5770):
“The Egyptian military completed large scale training maneuvers in the Sinai Peninsula on Sunday. The official Middle East News Agency said the weeklong maneuvers… included an exercise to cross the Suez Canal as well as a simulation of an offensive thrust deep into what is termed as ‘enemy’- i.e. Israeli- territory.
“MENA further reported that helicopters, fighter jets, armored units, paratroopers and special shock troops participated in the military exercises and that similar drills were held in Sinai a week earlier… Egypt currently receives massive amounts of United States military aid and is considered to be the second biggest recipient of American weapons in the Middle East. Despite the country’s ostensible peace agreement with Israel, Egypt’s government remains a leader in the production of anti-Zionist propaganda.
“Israel is holding civil defense drills this week designed to prepare the country and its defense forces for various modes of possible attack on civilian areas.”
The Bible says that war will break out in the Middle East, and that the state of Israel will be isolated and overrun by their enemies. Rather than a treaty between Europe and Israel, there will be a confederation of European and Arab states against Israel. In this light, the next two articles are of special interest.
Germany’s Dealings with the Arab World
On May 22, Deutsche Welle published an article with the following headline: “Prime Minister Hariri calls on German troops to stay in Lebanon.”
The article continued:
“Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle… held a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Beirut. There, he told reporters that peace in the Middle East is important for the entire world, not just those in the region… During his talks with Westerwelle, Hariri made it clear that he hoped the UNIFIL mission would be extended. He added that security, peace and stability in the region were in the best interests of Germany. Later on Saturday, Westerwelle travels to Cairo to meet with the General Secretary of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, as well as the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. His final visits are to Jordan and Syria on Sunday before his return to Berlin on Monday. A peaceful resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is to be an important topic of discussion on the trip…”
Deutsche Welle reported on May 25:
“On the second day of a four-day tour of the Gulf region, German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a visit to Masdar City, a prestigious project that aims to become the world’s first carbon-neutral city. On Monday, Merkel wrapped up talks in Abu Dhabi with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Minister for Economic Affairs… Abu Dhabi is the capital and richest of the United Arab Emirates’ seven members… Germany is the UAE’S largest European trading partner, a position Merkel said she hoped to ‘solidify and of course expand.’
“Accompanied by a delegation of German business leaders, Merkel sealed contracts for plastic production and a natural gas service during her first stopover in Abu Dhabi, one of the most important economic partners for Germany in the Middle East. The list of top managers on the trip reads like a Who’s Who of Germany industry: Siemens chief Peter Loescher, Deutsche Bahn CEO Ruediger Grube, Linde CEO Wolfgang Reitzle and Eon-Ruhrgas Manager Bernhard Reutersberg.
“The German Chamber of Industry and Commerce estimates that current projects in the Gulf are worth around 2.8 billion euros ($3.5 billion)…”
On May 27, Deutsche Welle reported:
“While in Qatar on the last day of her tour of the Gulf, Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday said Germany should do more to build business ties with the region… ‘We are definitely not moving fast enough,’ she said. ‘We have to exert ourselves.’
“Merkel said that, in an effort to rival the Asian competition, she would push for the introduction of a free trade agreement with Gulf States when she meets with EU leaders at a bloc summit in June… Merkel also said Europe had to work more closely with the Gulf States to foster a stronger mutual understanding of each other’s cultures…
“Earlier, in Saudi Arabia, Merkel addressed Gulf concerns over the ongoing economic crisis in the eurozone… ‘I want to (make) a very clear statement,’ she told a gathering of German and Saudi businessmen in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah, ‘Germany as the largest exporting nation, the largest economy in the European Union, has strongly benefited from the euro in the past … therefore, we will work with all our strength for a strong euro.'”
Europe’s Anti-Israel Propaganda Mission
A-7 News reported on May 21:
“Italian Member of European Parliament Gabriele Albertini, a senior foreign relations official, has stepped out of a delegation to Israel, calling the delegation’s planned trip an ‘anti-Israel propaganda mission.’… ‘Out of the 25 deputies who are to take part in the mission, there are fewer colleagues than the fingers on one hand whom you could define as pro-Israeli or even neutral,’ Albertini [wrote]. ‘Rather than a peace-keeping mission, it looks like an anti-Israel propaganda mission is being prepared!’
“The email followed a disagreement between Albertini and his fellow delegates after Israel refused to authorize the group to enter Gaza from Israel. While Albertini believed the delegation should alter its itinerary to allay Israel’s concerns, other delegates voted to circumvent Israel’s decision by entering Gaza through Egypt, and to show their displeasure by canceling a meeting with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
“According to Albertini one delegate, German MEP Hans-Gert Poettering, wanted to hold a press conference criticizing Israel before the mission even began. Poettering’s idea earned applause from his fellow delegates, he added. Israel turned down the delegates’ request to enter Gaza due to concern that diplomatic missions to Gaza give moral support to Hamas. Israeli officials also noted that the EU delegation planned to ‘concentrate its program around interlocutors representing the views of only one side of the conflict.’”
Iran’s “Deal” With Turkey!
CNN reported on May 22:
“The deal, which was reached Sunday after 18 hours of negotiations between the foreign ministers of Iran, Brazil and Turkey, calls for Iran to hand over nearly half of its estimated supply of low-enriched uranium to Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called this week’s agreement for an Iranian nuclear swap one of the most important diplomatic decisions in the 30-year history of the Islamic Republic of Iran…
“The deal has not swayed the United States and its international partners, who this week drafted a fresh set of tough sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program… Ali Akbar Javanfekr, an adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told CNN that Clinton’s statement that key nations had reached agreement on a strong U.N. resolution would not hurt Iran, but instead would alienate the United States. ‘Mrs. Clinton can have her opinions, but every day that passes the position of the Islamic Republic gains more support in the world while America is losing its allies because of its illogical position,’ Javanfekr said.”
Will the Security Council adopt “tough sanctions” against Iran, as CNN suggests? This is very unlikely, states Charles Krauthammer in the next article. But Javanfekr’s reflection, as quoted above, is noteworthy, saying that Iran’s political position grows stronger, while the USA is losing its allies.
Brazil, Turkey and Iran vs. the USA
On May 21, Charles Krauthammer wrote in the Washington Post:
“It is perfectly obvious that Iran’s latest uranium maneuver, brokered by Brazil and Turkey, is a ruse. Iran retains more than enough enriched uranium to make a bomb. And it continues enriching at an accelerated pace and to a greater purity (20 percent). Which is why the French foreign ministry immediately declared that the trumpeted temporary shipping of some Iranian uranium to Turkey will do nothing to halt Iran’s nuclear program.
“It will, however, make meaningful sanctions more difficult. America’s proposed Security Council resolution is already laughably weak — no blacklisting of Iran’s central bank, no sanctions against Iran’s oil and gas industry, no nonconsensual inspections on the high seas. Yet Turkey and Brazil — both current members of the Security Council — are so opposed to sanctions that they will not even discuss the resolution. And China will now have a new excuse to weaken it further.
“But the deeper meaning of the uranium-export stunt is the brazenness with which Brazil and Turkey gave cover to the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions and deliberately undermined U.S. efforts to curb Iran’s program. The real news is that already notorious photo: the president of Brazil, our largest ally in Latin America, and the prime minister of Turkey, for more than half a century the Muslim anchor of NATO, raising hands together with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the most virulently anti-American leader in the world.
“That picture… is a crushing verdict on the Obama foreign policy. It demonstrates how rising powers, traditional American allies, having watched this administration in action, have decided that there’s no cost in lining up with America’s enemies and no profit in lining up with a U.S. president given to apologies and appeasement.
“They’ve watched President Obama’s humiliating attempts to appease Iran… They’ve watched America acquiesce to Russia’s re-exerting sway over Eastern Europe, over Ukraine (pressured by Russia last month into extending for 25 years its lease of the Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol) and over Georgia (Russia’s de facto annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is no longer an issue under the Obama ‘reset’ policy).
“They’ve watched our appeasement of Syria, Iran’s agent in the Arab Levant — sending our ambassador back to Syria even as it tightens its grip on Lebanon, supplies Hezbollah with Scuds and intensifies its role as the pivot of the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance…
“They’ve observed the administration’s gratuitous slap at Britain over the Falklands, its contemptuous treatment of Israel, its undercutting of the Czech Republic and Poland, and its indifference to Lebanon and Georgia. And in Latin America, they see not just U.S. passivity as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez organizes his anti-American ‘Bolivarian’ coalition while deepening military and commercial ties with Iran and Russia. They saw active U.S. support in Honduras for a pro-Chávez would-be dictator seeking unconstitutional powers in defiance of the democratic institutions of that country.
“This is not just an America in decline. This is an America in retreat — accepting, ratifying and declaring its decline, and inviting rising powers to fill the vacuum… This is retreat by design and, indeed, on principle. It’s the perfect fulfillment of Obama’s adopted Third World narrative of American misdeeds, disrespect and domination from which he has come to redeem us and the world…
“Given Obama’s policies and principles, Turkey and Brazil are acting rationally… There’s nothing to fear from Obama, and everything to gain by ingratiating yourself with America’s rising adversaries…”
Indeed, America’s weak leadership is creating a vacuum, which will be filled. But this vacuum will not be filled, foremost, by countries such as Turkey or Iran or Brazil, but by a most powerful United States of Europe.
President Obama Supports Pope’s Immunity
AFP wrote on May 25:
“The Obama administration in a brief to the Supreme Court has backed the Vatican’s claim of immunity from lawsuits arising from cases of sexual abuse by priests in the United States. The Supreme Court is considering an appeal by the Vatican of an appellate court ruling that lifted its immunity in the case of an alleged pedophile priest from Oregon.
“In a filing on Friday, the solicitor general’s office argued that the Ninth Circuit court of appeals erred in allowing the lawsuit brought by a man who claims he was sexually abused in the 1960s by the Oregon priest. The unnamed plaintiff, who cited the Holy See and several other parties as defendants, argued the Vatican should be held responsible for transferring the priest to Oregon and letting him serve there despite previous accusations he had abused children in Chicago and in Ireland.
“The solicitor general’s office, which defends the position of President Barack Obama’s administration before the Supreme Court, said the Ninth Circuit improperly found the case to be an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a 1976 federal law that sets limits on when other countries can face lawsuits in US courts.”
This world, including the USA, accepts the pope as a political leader and sovereign head of a state–even though the Bible strongly condemns religious alliances with political powers. The true Church of God does not involve itself with the politics of this world, heeding Christ’s admonition that His kingdom is NOT of this world.
Celibacy in the Catholic Church
Deutsche Welle wrote on May 25:
“For about 900 years, the Catholic Church has required that its priests stay celibate. But what happens if a priest falls in love?… Since the vow of celibacy for clergy is an iron law in the Roman Catholic Church, it is an absolute requirement for young men wishing to become ordained as priests. However, a life of celibacy cannot be regarded as a commandment from God, since it is not specifically called for in the Bible. It was probably economic considerations which lay behind the decision to make celibacy obligatory in the 12th century; priests were thus unable to pass on church property to their descendants…
“A group made up of Catholic priests and their wives has been fighting against celibacy in Germany for over 25 years. Members estimate that not even 50 percent of priests in the country stay celibate… Abandoning the ministry does not come into question for many priests, and there is also a fear of social fallout. Priests are not insured against unemployment and only have minimal pension rights. They also lack experience with the working world outside the church… As a result, many priests have kept their relationships and children hidden…”
The concept of enforced celibacy is unbiblical and produces wrong fruits. It is interesting that it was apparently created by the Catholic Church because of greed for wealth and riches.
What is known about the biblical "Urim and Thummim"?
The first time that the Bible mentions “Urim and Thummim” is in Exodus 28:30, in connection with the garments for the high priest; especially, the “ephod” and the “breastplate of judgment.” The breastplate was to be placed on the ephod (Exodus 28:28), and verse 30 reads: “And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the LORD.” A similar statement can be found in Leviticus 8:8.
In Numbers 27:21, only the Urim is mentioned [but it has been understood that it included the Thummim as well–“Urim” is used here as a summary term for both]. On this occasion, God asked Moses to transfer some of his authority to Joshua. Verse 21 reads: “He [Joshua] shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire before the LORD for him by the judgment of the Urim–at his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in…”
When the high priest was to inquire for the civil leader of God’s people, he was to be dressed in his official garments, containing the Urim and the Thummim.
In Deuteronomy 33:8, the Urim and the Thummim are mentioned in reverse order [showing that both were equally important], relating to the blessing with which “Moses, the man of God,” blessed Levi: “And of Levi he said: ‘Let Your Thummim and Your Urim be with Your holy one [Lit., Your pious man]…'” In other words, God decreed that the Urim and the Thummim should be with the Levites; in particular, based on Exodus 28:30 and Numbers 27:21, with the high priest who had to be from the tribe of Levi.
In 1 Samuel 28:6, only the Urim is mentioned [but by implication, it included the Thummim]: “And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.” We see here that somewhat of a distinction is made between dreams and prophets, and the Urim. At the same time, some kind of prophetic revelation was involved when using the Urim and the Thummim–but it occurred through the high priest, not through dreams or prophets.
We find another direct reference to both the Urim and the Thummim in the book of Ezra, describing the time after the destruction of the first temple and before the erection and completion of the second temple. The names of several of the Jews who had returned from Babylon were not found in the registry of priests, and we read in Ezra 2:62-63:
“These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled. And the governor said to them that they should not eat of the most holy things till a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummim.” We find a repetition of this passage in Nehemiah 7:64-65. These passages might imply that at that time, no priest was able to reveal God’s Will through the Urim and the Thummim.
We might also note that the Septuagint refers to the Urim and the Thummim in its translation of 1 Samuel 14:41: “Then Saul said, ‘O Lord, God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant this day? If the guilt is in me or in Jonathan my son, O Lord, God of Israel, give Urim; and if you indicate that it is in the people of Israel, give Thummim.’ And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped.”
However, this text is highly suspect. The New King James Bible, which is based on the Masoretic Text, simply states: “Therefore Saul said to the LORD God of Israel, ‘Give a perfect lot.’ So Saul and Jonathan were taken, but the people escaped.”
On the other hand, there IS general agreement that the previous inquiry of God (compare verses 36-37) through the high priest Ahijah, who was wearing the ephod (compare verse 3), did occur with the help of the Urim and the Thummim. Considering the close connection between the high priest’s ephod and the Urim and Thummim, it is reasonable to conclude that Saul’s inquiry involved the use of the Urim and the Thummim. But apparently, verse 41 does not refer to such kind of inquiry, but strictly and only to the casting of lots, as God had not answered Saul before through the Urim and the Thummim.
Another indirect reference to the Urim and the Thummim can be found in 1 Samuel 23:6, 9-12, when David inquired of the LORD after the high priest Abiathar arrived with the ephod (verse 6). David specifically asked for the ephod to be brought to him (verse 9).
A similar episode is described in 1 Samuel 30:7-8. In this case, the inquiry resulted not only in a specific answer to a specific question, but in additional statements from the LORD, showing that the use of the Urim and the Thummim might have involved more than (just) the casting of lots.
It is true, however, that most believe that the Urim and Thummim was a “lot” oracle, but this concept is not without problems, as we have seen. Realizing the uncertainties, the Good News Bible includes the following annotation to the description of the Urim and the Thummim: “Two objects used by the priest to determine God’s will; it is not known precisely how they are used.”
We are not told in Scripture what, exactly, the Urim and Thummim were, nor how they were used, but we are told that they were in existence at the time of Moses; that they were known at the time of Saul and apparently David; and that they were referred to in some way at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Since the Bible does not describe the nature of the Urim and the Thummim, nor their physical appearance, there have been many speculative attempts to visualize and identify them.
Flavius Josephus seemed to describe the Urim and the Thummim as the twelve stones or gems of the breastplate on the ephod of the high priest (arranged in rows and engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel), and possibly also with two sardonyx stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, saying that light flashed from them to show the presence of God. He also wrote that when the light ceased flashing, God showed His displeasure.
Another Jewish tradition has it that when one stone on the breastplate did not shine, while the others were, this phenomenon identified the guilty tribe.
When attempts are made to translate the terms “Urim” and “Thummim,” the most common renditions are “revelation and truth,” “manifestations and truth,” and “lights and perfections.” The Jerusalem Talmud writes: “Urim… illuminated Israel and Thummim… perfected the way before them.” Luther referred to them as “light and fullness,” or “light and justice.”
There is no consensus as to when God ceased to reveal His Will through the Urim and the Thummim. Josephus stated that their cessation took place about 105 B.C. The Mishna stated that the cessation took place when the first prophets died. Some refer to the first prophets as David, Samuel and Solomon, others as all the prophets except Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, saying that the cessation took place when the first temple was destroyed. Others stated that the cessation took place when the second temple was destroyed, in 70 A.D. However, many commentaries state that the Urim and Thummim were missing in the second temple.
In John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, the following comments are made regarding Haggai 2:9:
“The Jews… themselves [say] there were several things wanting in the latter [temple] which were in the former [temple], as the ‘ark’, the ‘Urim’ and ‘Thummim’, the ‘fire’ from heaven, the ‘Shechinah’ (or, as in some books, the anointing oil, and, in others, the cherubim), and the ‘Holy Ghost’: by one of their writers…, they are reckoned in this order, the ark, the mercy seat, and cherubim, one; the Shechinah or divine Majesty, the second; the Holy Ghost, which is prophecy, the third; Urim and Thummim the fourth: and the fire from heaven the fifth…”
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible adds:
“Those five things, the absence whereof they felt, were connected with their atoning worhip or God’s presence among them; ‘the ark with the mercy-seat and the cherubim, the Urim and Tummin, the fire from heaven, the Shechinah, the Holy Spirit.'”
Similarily Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible:
“…the Jews [say] that several of the divine glories of the first temple were wanting in this [second temple] – the ark, the urim and thummim, the fire from heaven, and the Schechinah…”
The connection between the Urim and the Thummim and the existence of the temple, and their cessation with the destruction of the (first or second) temple, could be meaningful.
In his remarkable work, “The Urim and Thummim,” Cornelis van Dam informs us on page 101 that “in medieval Judaism the messianic expectation was great. The [Urim and Thummim] were not forgotten in this context. It is noteworthy that they formed part of the vision for the restored temple, and the implication was that the [Urim and Thummim] would once again function… among Protestants it was often stressed (not only in the sixteenth but also in the seventeenth century) that the [Urim and Thummim] pointed at the Messiah.”
As there are currently attempts underway to prepare for the construction of the third temple and the beginning of sacrifices in Jerusalem prior to the coming of the Messiah, it will be interesting to see whether at the same time the Jews will also initiate the use of the Urim and the Thummim through a high priest from the tribe of Levi.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
A new StandingWatch program was posted on the Web, titled, “The Lies About Europe.” Will the euro fail? Will the euro zone collapse? Will the EU fall apart? The answer to all of these questions is, No! How can we be so sure? Listen to this program, and you will know!
A German version of the StandingWatch (AufPostenStehen) program, titled, “Luegen ueber Europa,” was posted on YouTube and our German Website.
Norbert Link’s video-taped sermon, “Pentecost 2010,” has been posted on the Web.
Norbert Link’s video-recorded sermon, “To the Ephesians, Part 2,” has been posted on the Web.
Norbert Link’s new German sermon, “Das Evangelium und Sie, Teil 2,” (“The Gospel and You, Part 2”), has been posted on the Web.
Security In This Life
by Phyllis Bourque
I find it interesting that many of the subjects covered in the StandingWatch programs apply in my personal life, realizing that I am essentially subjected to the issues of this world, yet not without God’s involvement. Two recent issues that I had to face were unemployment and excessive health care costs.
Earlier this year, I lost my job. In fact, the whole transcription department of 16 people was done away with, in favor of outsourcing. My first reaction was that I would finally be able to retire! A very generous severance package would have easily bridged me over to retirement in September. I began to think of all the things I wanted to catch up on when I retired and was feeling pretty good about it… UNTIL I looked at the cost of health care. My dream of retirement was quickly overshadowed by the very steep cost of health insurance, as well as the insecurity of the Social Security system itself.
God was clearly involved, however, even before I learned I had lost my job. Within two weeks of the initial announcement, four people were rehired, but in a different capacity. This has since been reduced to three, and I am one of them. The new position, Transcription Quality Auditor, involves checking the reports transcribed by the outsource company for accuracy, along with assuring the proper work flow between the various software programs used by the hospital. I am working fewer hours but my hourly wage is higher. I still have health insurance benefits, and I still have the privilege of working from home. I know that job security, like Social Security, is weak at best, but for now, I do have a job.
I could see again that God knows what is best for me, even before I do, and that He is the only real security for me in this life, for which I am very grateful.
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
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