Update 594


Enabling Our Calling

On June 22nd, 2013, Robb Harris will give the sermon, titled, “Enabling Our Calling.”
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.

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Now and Then

by Dave Harris

It is astonishing to consider how seven billion people are living their lives. That number of humans is the approximate world population at the present time. Life is all-consuming, and what is important right now for the needs of the moment preoccupies most of us, most of the time!

Preparing for a future beyond this lifetime doesn’t hold great relevance for the majority of humanity.

How about you? Are you, through the visionary, big-picture goals of God’s revealed master plan, able to focus on His awe-inspiring future? Do you realize that what you are doing now will determine your place then? It is this powerful motivation by which Jesus Christ lived His life—setting an example for us:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Jesus never lost His vision of the ultimate purpose! Yes, He did struggle in the moment, and His life was not easy. Hebrews 5, verse 7, reveals that He was engaged in a life and death battle! And so are we!

Paul wrote about this, and he reminds us, saying, “…If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). He also gives us a perspective that far exceeds our present circumstances:

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, or height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Christians are called upon to live with their future life always at the forefront. Is the promise given to us to have part in the Kingdom of God enough for us to endure our trials, to overcome discouragement and to continue to “…press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14, Authorized Version)?

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In this issue, we first concentrate on events in the Middle East, especially Syria, Iran and Turkey.

We continue reporting on the ongoing investigation into the US government’s secret spying activities, and the resulting dark cloud being cast over President Obama’s visit in Germany, even though Germany is not without hypocrisy either.

We speak about the activities of the IRS for many years, targeting religious groups; address the growing “gay movement” in the USA and Europe, which now even involves very young children; and conclude with articles on the Colorado wildfire and the invasion of huge birds in California.

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Syrian Conflict Escalates

The Wall Street Journal wrote on June 14:

“The Kremlin criticized the U.S. decision to arm Syrian opposition fighters and said Washington’s evidence that the Syrian regime is using chemical weapons was unconvincing… President Barack Obama on Thursday authorized the U.S. to arm fighters against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, reversing a policy of giving only nonlethal support to the country’s opposition in the two-year-old civil war. The White House cited confirmation that Mr. Assad’s regime had killed up to 150 people with chemical weapons as the reason for its about-face.

“U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron… welcomed Washington’s assessment of Syrian weapons use. The U.K. and France were instrumental in ending a European Union arms embargo on Syria, paving the way for increased European assistance to rebel forces… U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday that he opposed the U.S. decision to send arms…  The Syrian government on Friday dismissed U.S. charges that it used chemical weapons as ‘full of lies,’ accusing Mr. Obama of resorting to fabrications to justify his decision to arm Syrian rebels, the AP reported…”

Der Spiegel Online added on June 14:

“The United States has shifted its course on Syria following chemical weapons revelations, but international support is limited. Germany refuses to arm the insurgents, and Russia is openly critical of President Obama… Germany says it has no plans to deliver arms to the rebels… Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry said it had no information of its own about the use of deadly poison gas by the regime in Damascus.”

The Local added on June 15:

“Rainer Stinner, the FDP faction speaker, told the Tagesspiegel newspaper on Friday that he was ‘exceptionally skeptical’ that the weapons delivery would help and thinks it would cause more problems than it solves. ‘The situation in Syria is completely unclear. No one knows who is going to end up with the weapons. They could be used against our partners. There is after all the danger that the conflict expands and spills over into other countries.’ The FDP, the junior coalition partner, is also the party of Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle.”

Deutsche Welle wrote on June 16:

“The United States wants to provide additional military support to the Syrian rebels. Both sides in the conflict are already getting weapons from abroad. Will the weapons of war increase the chances for peace?… The German government… is against arming the rebels, fearing that this may lead to an escalation in the conflict… with Iran and Russia on its side, the Assad regime has no shortage of supplies…. Tehran is sending small arms and trainers, and there are rumors of Iranian fighters alongside government troops. Russia also remains a staunch supporter of Assad, supplying him with fighter jets, anti-aircraft missiles and helicopters.

“Ultimately, however, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia are all using the Syrian civil war to pursue their own ends. Syria has become an arena in which geopolitical power struggles are being played out – and it’s the Syrian people who are paying the price.”

USA Engaged in Arming Most Extreme Sunni Islamists in Middle East

The Independent wrote on June 15:

“Washington’s decision to arm Syria’s Sunni Muslim rebels has plunged America into the great Sunni-Shia conflict of the Islamic Middle East, entering a struggle that now dwarfs the Arab revolutions which overthrew dictatorships across the region. For the first time, all of America’s ‘friends’ in the region are Sunni Muslims and all of its enemies are Shiites. Breaking all President Barack Obama’s rules of disengagement, the US is now fully engaged on the side of armed groups which include the most extreme Sunni Islamist movements in the Middle East.

“The Independent on Sunday has learned that a military decision has been taken in Iran – even before last week’s presidential election – to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against the largely Sunni rebellion that has cost almost 100,000 lives in just over two years. Iran is now fully committed to preserving Assad’s regime, according to pro-Iranian sources which have been deeply involved in the Islamic Republic’s security, even to the extent of proposing to open up a new ‘Syrian’ front on the Golan Heights against Israel.

“In years to come, historians will ask how America – after its defeat in Iraq and its humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan scheduled for 2014 – could have so blithely aligned itself with one side in a titanic Islamic struggle stretching back to the seventh century death of the Prophet Mohamed. The profound effects of this great schism, between Sunnis who believe that the father of Mohamed’s wife was the new caliph of the Muslim world and Shias who regard his son in law Ali as his rightful successor – a seventh century battle swamped in blood around the present-day Iraqi cities of Najaf and Kerbala – continue across the region to this day…

“[America’s] enemies include the Lebanese Hizballah, the Alawite Shiite regime in Damascus and, of course, Iran. And Iraq, a largely Shiite nation which America ‘liberated’ from Saddam Hussein’s Sunni minority in the hope of balancing the Shiite power of Iran, has – against all US predictions – itself now largely fallen under Tehran’s influence and power. Iraqi Shiites as well as Hizballah members, have both fought alongside Assad’s forces.

“Washington’s excuse for its new Middle East adventure – that it must arm Assad’s enemies because the Damascus regime has used sarin gas against them – convinces no-one in the Middle East. Final proof of the use of gas by either side in Syria remains almost as nebulous as President George W. Bush’s claim that Saddam’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction…

“In the Middle East, there is cynical disbelief at the American contention that it can distribute arms – almost certainly including anti-aircraft missiles – only to secular Sunni rebel forces in Syria represented by the so-called Free Syria Army. The more powerful al-Nusrah Front, allied to al-Qaeda, dominates the battlefield on the rebel side and has been blamed for atrocities including the execution of Syrian government prisoners of war and the murder of a 14-year old boy for blasphemy. They will be able to take new American weapons from their Free Syria Army comrades with little effort…”

Iran’s New President

Reuters wrote on June 14:

“Millions of Iranians voted to choose a new president on Friday, urged by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to turn out in force to discredit suggestions by arch foe the United States that the election would be a sham. The 50 million eligible voters had a choice between six candidates to replace incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but none is seen as challenging the Islamic Republic’s 34-year-old system of clerical rule.”

The Washington Post wrote on June 15:

“… early returns indicate a strong showing by the most moderate of the six candidates running for president of Iran [namely] Hassan Rouhani, the only cleric in the race… After some leading reformists were barred from running and other candidates dropped out, Iranians were choosing from among six presidential contenders…

“All six presidential candidates are considered to be loyal to [supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei]… Khamenei… dismissed the importance of the U.S. view on Iranian domestic politics. ‘I heard recently that someone in America’s National Security Council said that we don’t accept Iran’s elections,’ Khamenei said, an apparent reference to a comment by Secretary of State John F. Kerry. Kerry said last month that he did not expect the elections to ‘change the fundamental calculus’ of Iran’s nuclear policies, which he said are controlled by Khamenei, and not the president. ‘To hell with those who don’t accept it,’ said Khamenei.”

BBC News reported on June 15:

“Reformist-backed cleric Hassan Rouhani has won Iran’s presidential election, securing just over 50% of the vote and so avoiding the need for a run-off… Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei congratulated Mr Rouhani on his victory… Ayatollah Khamenei will ratify the vote on 3 August and the new president will then take the oath in parliament. Mr Rouhani… urged the world to ‘acknowledge the rights’ of Iran. He said: ‘The nations who tout democracy and open dialogue should speak to the Iranian people with respect and recognise the rights of the Islamic republic.’…

“The US said it respected the vote, although White House spokesman Jay Carney cited concern at censorship and lack of transparency… No foreign observers monitored this year’s election and there have also been concerns that media coverage in the run-up has been unfair. Many reformist newspapers have been shut down, access to the internet and foreign broadcasters has been restricted, and journalists have been detained.”

The Local wrote on June 16:

“German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Saturday welcomed the election of moderate cleric Hassan Rowhani as Iran’s new president as a vote for reforms and ‘a constructive foreign policy’”.

The same naive “hope” was expressed when Morsi was elected as the new President of Egypt, until he turned out to be a tyrannical Islamist of the Moslem Brotherhood. In  any event, notice the following insightful analysis.

Could Rowhani Deliver?

The Times of Israel wrote on June 15:

“In his public speeches, Rowhani — himself a conservative Shiite cleric –promised Iranians change both domestically and abroad. But Israeli experts on Iran said on Saturday that with no control over foreign policy and with the country’s economic situation dependent to a great extent on international decisions, the new president has precious little leeway. ‘An Iranian president largely serves as head of government for the supreme leader,’ Raz Zimmt, a research fellow at the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University told The Times of Israel. ‘He has no real prerogatives in foreign policy and his ability to provide solutions on the central issue, the economy, is limited.’…

“As secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (a position he filled from 1989 to 2005), Rowhani suspended the enrichment of uranium for two years, between 2003 and 2005. He was criticized for this during the election campaign, but repeatedly claimed that the decision was Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei‘s, not his. The United States had just invaded Iraq, and the Iranian leadership was fearful of a similar fate.

“On Friday, Rowhani brazenly declared that he was running ‘to boot out the extremists,’ indicating to Western observers that unlike Ahmadinejad, he seemed to be set on change. But Meir Javedanfar, who teaches modern Iran at Herzliya’s Interdisciplinary Center, said that paradoxically [sic] Rowhani could be put to good use by Iran’s conservative decision-makers. ‘They could have falsified the elections, but chose not to do so,’ Javedanfar said in an interview. ‘Now the regime can use Rowhani to mend bridges with the West, because the cost of sanctions has become too high.’ Zimmt said that by falsifying the elections like it did in 2009, the regime would have risked another round of widespread protests, a price hardly worth paying considering that Rowhani‘s positions are not diametrically opposed to those of Khamenei…

“Rowhani can try to convince the supreme leader to engage in negotiations with the US, but cannot initiate such a move on his own, Zimmt said. Domestically, he will likely act to release political prisoners and stress the importance of freedom of expression…

“One thing was clear on Saturday: The Iranian public wanted change, fearing the continuation of status quo or worse… ‘We won’t let the past eight years be continued,’ Rowhani told a crowd last week. But his ability to deliver on that promise seems rather limited.”

Real change in Iran won’t come… as the next article shows as well.

Syria and Iran

The Times of Israel wrote on June 16:

“Syrian President Bashar Assad on Sunday congratulated Hasan Rowhani on his victory in Friday’s Iranian presidential election, calling on his new counterpart to upgrade ties between the already close countries. Iran has been among Assad’s most steadfast supporters during Syria’s two-year civil war, sending Damascus arms, money and fighters. Assad said first on the agenda for the two leaders would be ‘confronting the plots of hegemony and aggression against the national sovereignty in our region in a way that reflects positively on the peoples of both friendly countries,’ according to a report carried by Syria’s state-run SANA news agency…

“While Rowhani is considered to be relatively moderate compared to his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, [his hands are tied] by the ruling clerical regime in Tehran, which will keep a tight handle on Iran’s foreign affairs. On Sunday, Britain’s Independent newspaper reported that Tehran would be sending 4,000 troops to Syria to bolster Assad’s forces, which are already augmented by fighters from the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran.”

Events in Syria (biblical Aram) and Iran (biblical Elam) are of great significance in the light of biblical prophecy. For more information, please read our free booklets, “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America,”  “Europe in Prophecy,” and “Middle Eastern and African Nations in Prophecy.” 

Why the Uproar in Turkey?

The Globe and Mail wrote on June 15:

“Some say the nationwide protests that rocked Turkey’s government the past two weeks were only about a grove of sycamore trees in the middle of the country’s biggest city, a trifling issue for a local planning board to work out. But to the country’s unapologetic Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it was much more significant, and explains why he was willing to fight a large segment of public opinion and put his decade-long rule on the line.

“For more than 200 years, on this site now known as Gezi Park, adjacent to Istanbul’s central Taksim Square, there stood grand Ottoman-era military barracks – a testament to the power of the Ottoman Empire. Then came Kemal Ataturk, the father of the Republic, who wanted to Europeanize Turkey. In 1940, his successors had the barracks razed and the trees planted in their place.

“Mr. Erdogan, the most prominent Turkish leader since Mr. Ataturk, hopes to be in power in some capacity in 2023, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the modern state. And, just as Mr. Ataturk ushered out the Islamic order that had dominated Turkey for 13 centuries, Mr. Erdogan and his Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party (known as the AKP), have ushered it back in, making Islam once again a significant component of Turkish life… He wants the Ottoman barracks rebuilt to their former glory – even if they only house a shopping mall instead of troops – and a grand mosque built on Taksim Square.

“Like a modern-day Peter the Great, who oversaw the design of Russia’s capital in St. Petersburg, Mr. Erdogan is seeing to every detail of his urban masterpiece, intended to Islamify parts of the city…”

Deutsche Welle wrote on June 16:

“Turkish police have been using tear gas and water cannons to clear protesters from the center of Istanbul ahead of Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit on Sunday. The move has done nothing to quell people’s outrage. In a full-scale operation on Saturday night (15.06.2013), Turkish riot police in Istanbul moved in to clear both Taksim Square and adjacent Gezi Park, where thousands of demonstrators had been camping out for more than two weeks… The leader of the German Green Party, Claudia Roth, was in Gezi Park to show solidarity with the protesters. She too was appalled by the behavior of the police, and said it had given her a sense of what war was like. Desperate protesters turned to Twitter to plead for help from the United Nations. Other eyewitnesses reported arrests and violent attacks by baton-wielding police. But the governor of Istanbul, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, justified the operation. ‘We asked the demonstrators to end their protests. We only went in after we had given the warning,’ he said…

“On Sunday night (16.06.2013) Erdogan was slated to attend a big political rally in Kazlicesme, a mostly conservative-Muslim part of Istanbul, and give a speech to his supporters. All over the city center there are advertisements in which the prime minister urges his constituents to demonstrate. The people of Istanbul are furious… Erdogan’s plan… is likely to backfire. The two main protest areas have been forcibly evacuated. The demonstrators are now preparing to march.”

For more information on Turkey’s future (which is biblical Esau or Edom), please read our free booklet, “Middle Eastern and African Nations in Prophecy.”

Where Is the Proof?

The Guardian wrote on June 13:

“Two prominent Senate critics of the NSA’s dragnet surveillance have challenged the agency’s assertion that the spy efforts helped stop ‘dozens’ of terror attacks. Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, both members of the Senate intelligence committee, said they were not convinced by the testimony of the NSA director, General Keith Alexander, on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, who claimed that evidence gleaned from surveillance helped thwart attacks in the US. ‘We have not yet seen any evidence showing that the NSA’s dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records has produced any uniquely valuable intelligence,’ they said in a statement released on Thursday…

“Alexander also testified that the databases of Americans’ phones records [contain] safeguards governing its searchability to prevent the NSA from abusing it. But there is ambiguity about whether a court or any outside body must grant the NSA permission to search it.”

These assertions by the NSA director have also been echoed by Attorney General Eric Holder and an increasing number of vocal Republicans, including former Vice President Dick Cheney. However, these “defenses” are highly suspect.

Newsmax added on June 18:

“Former state court Judge Andrew Napolitano said on Tuesday that officials from the National Security Agency ‘answered questions professionally’ in their testimony before Congress — ‘but I still think it’s bogus’… He was referring to comments from Army Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA’s director, on the agency’s two surveillance programs: one that gathers U.S. phone records and another that is designed to track the use of U.S.-based Internet servers by foreigners with possible links to terrorism… Alexander testified to the House Intelligence Committee that the programs have foiled 50 terrorist plots worldwide, including one directed at the New York Stock Exchange. ‘They can pick and choose which classified episodes they’re going to reveal,’ said Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge and Fox analyst. ‘Of course, they’re going to pick and choose the ones that make them look good.’

“In attacking Alexander’s broader testimony, Napolitano specifically cited the general’s response to a question posed by Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, the GOP chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Rogers asked whether the NSA had the “’ability to listen to Americans’ phone calls or read their emails under these two programs?’ Alexander responded, ‘No, we do not have that authority.’ Napolitano observed: ‘Of course, he doesn’t have the legal authority to [listen to] the phone calls. That’s not what the question asked. The question asked, “Does he have the practical ability to do so?” and he couldn’t answer that because the answer is “yes.” And the president and General Alexander are both saying, “trust us.” The same administration said “trust us” on Benghazi till we changed the story four times,’ Napolitano added. ‘The same administration said “trust us” on the James Rosen, Fox News search-warrant affair. The same administration said “trust us” on the IRS targeting conservatives. Why should we trust them?’ he asked Cavuto. ‘Why should we trust these people?’”

Yahoo Forced to Join PRISM Program

The Huffington Post wrote on June 14:

“Yahoo fought PRISM, and PRISM won. Court records obtained by The New York Times show that Yahoo had fought back against the National Security Agency’s broad requests for user data in 2008. The company, which provides email service to hundreds of millions of people, argued that the order violated Yahoo account holders’ constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The secret court didn’t buy Yahoo’s argument, and compelled the company to give the NSA digitally stored email and photos at its beck and call.

“Since the bombshell revelation of NSA’s so-called PRISM program last week, the public has learned more about how the nine participating Internet companies let the government collect broad swaths of personal information from Internet users for national security purposes. The secret 2008 decision seemed to put a dark cloud over Silicon Valley: cooperate with the government to fight terrorism abroad, or you’ll find yourself in court.

“One firm that more successfully resisted the NSA’s advances was Twitter. That’s partially because the young microblogging service has less data on users compared to Google or Facebook, according to The Verge, so it’s less desirable to government snoops. But that hasn’t stopped the company and its top lawyer, Alex Macgillivray, from fighting the government in court when it has asked for people’s private information.

“Though this case was previously known through a heavily redacted court order, it wasn’t until now that we knew Yahoo was the company behind the unsuccessful NSA challenge that would leave many companies less willing to battle the NSA on other surveillance requests. In the decision, the court had told Yahoo that their worries were ‘overblown.’

“Yahoo, like Google and Facebook, have denied involvement in PRISM. ‘Yahoo! has not joined any program in which we volunteer to share user data with the U.S. government,’ Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell wrote in a Tumblr post Saturday. ‘We do not voluntarily disclose user information. The only disclosures that occur are in response to specific demands.’

“Moving past outright denial of participation, companies such as Twitter, Microsoft, Facebook and Google are now pressing the government for permission to publish more information about the number of secret requests it receives for customers’ data.”

All of this is also shocking in light of the fact that these new revelations are contrary to what was asserted earlier, as the subsequent articles show as well.

TechCrunch reported on June 17:

“Yahoo! has disclosed the number of government requests for data it has received over the past 18 months, becoming the latest tech company to do so after the fallout from the NSA spying scandal… the company said that Yahoo! received 12,000 to 13,000 requests from FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) and U.S. law enforcement agencies during the period between December 1, 2012 and May 31, 2013… Facebook said on June 15 that for the six months ending December 31, 2012, it had received between 9,000 to 10,000 requests for data from U.S. law enforcement agencies. During that same period Microsoft received between 6,000 and 7,000 requests.”

How We Are Being Lied To

The Verge wrote on June 16:

“Since the story broke last week of the NSA’s secret compilation of Americans’ phone call metadata, the overwhelming response from government has been ‘nobody is listening to your telephone calls’ — that the data being collected is limited to things like phone numbers and call durations. Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, it now looks like the feds are listening. Or at the very least, they don’t require a court order just to do so.

“CNET has posted text from a Thursday House Judiciary Committee hearing at which FBI director Robert Mueller… testified that the government would need a ‘special, particularized order’ from the secret FISA court in order to target a particular individual’s phone for a wiretap. After checking to make sure the details weren’t classified, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) challenged Mueller’s statement, saying, ‘we heard precisely the opposite at the briefing the other day. We heard precisely that you could get the specific information from that telephone simply based on an analyst deciding that… In other words, what you just said is incorrect. So there’s a conflict.’”

On June 16, cnet.com added the following:

“The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed ‘simply based on an analyst deciding that.’ If the NSA wants ‘to listen to the phone,’ an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. ‘I was rather startled,’ said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.

“Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA’s formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically, it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls. Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler’s disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.”

As was pointed out recently in the press, the spying activities of NSA, resulting in a huge collection of data, could be used or misused in case of a totalitarian government in the future. What was not mentioned is that this totalitarian government could be an occupying foreign power, as revealed in Scripture. For more information, please read our free booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord”; “Is That in the Bible? The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation”; and “Biblical Prophecy—From Now Until Forever.

“Obama Tries to Ease German Spying Angst”

The Local wrote on June 15:

“The White House on Friday sought to cool German fears over a secret US Internet surveillance program, which threatens to detract from President Barack Obama’s visit to Berlin next week. Obama will speak directly to German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the PRISM program that was revealed in newspaper articles last week, and point out it is purely aimed at thwarting terror attacks, a senior aide said. ‘We understand the significant German interest in privacy and civil liberties,’ said Ben Rhodes, a US deputy national security advisor, adding that Obama would point out legal and political safeguards around the program. ‘I think our point is that this is focused very specifically on one goal, which is, you know, how do we disrupt terrorist activity, how do we mitigate security threats, both to us and to Germany,’ he said. Rhodes also noted that Germany had served as a ‘staging’ area for some of the hijackers who plotted the September 11 attacks in 2001.

“The German government said earlier in the week it was sending a list of questions to the Obama administration about the program. Under the scheme, the US National Security Agency can issue directives to internet firms like Google or Facebook to gain access to emails, online chats, pictures, files and videos uploaded by foreign users. The European Union has also expressed disquiet over the program and warned of ‘grave adverse consequences’ to the rights of European citizens. Germany had earlier Friday signaled disappointment that a meeting with US Internet companies Microsoft and Google over the PRISM program had not yielded sufficient answers.”

Obama Faces More Skeptical Germany

The Local wrote on June 16:

“Barack Obama will encounter a very different Germany – one that is more powerful and sceptical – than his famous predecessor John F. Kennedy did when he delivered his famous ‘ich bin ein Berliner’ speech some 50 years ago… Candidate Obama dazzled a crowd of 200,000 people in an open air speech in 2008 some months before his historical election. He will face a more modest reception this time around as talks center on trade and secret surveillance practices, observers say.

“President Obama appears ready to try to harness some of the alliance’s bygone sparkle by timing his visit one week ahead of the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s speech… Leading news magazine Der Spiegel last week featured a cover picture of Obama in Kennedy’s shadow, the tagline ‘The Lost Friend’, and an angst-ridden report about fraying ties…

“Obama nevertheless enjoys a level of support here that even Merkel, Germany’s most popular post-war leader, could envy as she seeks a third term in September elections. Last November nearly 90 percent wanted Obama re-elected. But now revelations of a global Internet snooping operation run by the National Security Agency have shocked a country where memories of systematic spying on citizens by communist East Germany’s despised Stasi are still raw.”

President Obama in Germany

The Atlantic Wire wrote on June 19:

“Barack Obama returned to Berlin today, almost five years to the day from when he delivered his famous ‘Victory Column’ speech that cemented his reputation as an international rockstar. Unfortunately, his reception this time was a lot different. An estimated 200,000 people turned out in July 2008 to see then Candidate Obama deliver an address in front of one of Germany’s most notable landmarks…

“Fast forward to 2013, and many are now saying that Obama’s reputation is ‘tarnished,’ by his recent snooping scandals, his extensions of the war on terror, and the hard luck realities of failing to deliver on all your promises… He’s ‘demystified’ and ‘no longer a superstar’ in German eyes. Now he’s just another world leader on a state visit, and whatever problems people have with U.S. policy are on his shoulders. And instead of opening up the speech to the whole city, Obama spoke in front only about 5,000-6,000 spectators, all of them invited guests…”

The New York Times reported that only 4,500 invited spectators were in attendance.

Der Spiegel Online wrote on June 19:

“German leaders have seemed eager to ensure that their concerns about the digital spying operation be taken seriously. Several have blasted both Obama and the National Security Agency, perhaps none as vociferously as Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. Wednesday, despite the day-long Barack-fest in the German capital, was no different. Philip Rösler, Angela Merkel’s vice chancellor and head of her junior coalition partners, the Free Democrats, said on public television that he was ‘extremely unsettled’ by the spying program. Former German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the opposition Social Democrats added that, while he understood US security concerns, ‘that can’t be synonymous with mass surveillance.’

“Merkel too voiced careful criticism of the program during the pair’s joint press conference at the Chancellery. She made sure to emphasize that Germany had received important intelligence from the US which played a role in thwarting planned terrorist activity here. But, she added: ‘I made clear that, despite the necessity, the issue of balance is an important one.’

“Obama was ready for questions about the Prism program, which has been likened in both the US and German press to George Orwell’s ‘Big Brother,’ made famous in his novel ‘1984.’ Rather than trying to dodge reporters’ queries, he took time to defend the program and explain its importance for US security. At the press conference, Obama also fielded difficult questions about some additional elements of US foreign and domestic policy that many in Germany find problematic, including Washington’s policy of using drones to hunt down suspected terrorist leaders in Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan, and the ongoing existence of the Guantanamo detention camp…

“Still, issuing an elaborate justification for a vast state surveillance program at exactly the same time as his wife and daughters were placing flowers at the remnants of the Berlin Wall is nothing if not ironic. East Berlin, after all, was the mother of all spy-states. Visitors to the Wall memorial learn that the state, known counter-intuitively as the German Democratic Republic, maintained a network of well over 100,000 citizen spies to keep close watch on their neighbors in addition to thousands of professional moles. Presumed enemies of the state were locked up… But it remains to be seen whether the president’s impassioned words in front of Berlin’s pre-eminent Cold War symbol will be enough to assuage deep German disappointment over the fact that Obama has failed to live up to expectations. Prior to the speech, Peter Thompson of the Guardian aptly summed up the feeling, tweeting: ‘Given PRISM will his speech become known as the “Ich bin ein East Berliner” speech?’”

The New York Times wrote von June 19:

“Yet the anticipation of the speech at the historic site was offset by attention to the dispute over the revelations of the breadth of American surveillance programs, which include both Prism, an effort to monitor foreign communications at American Internet companies like Google, as well as a vast database of domestic phone logs. The programs monitor the communications without individualized court orders. ‘We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information, not just in the United States but in some cases here in Germany,’ Mr. Obama said during the news conference. ‘So lives have been saved.’  He did not provide any details…

“That news has been controversial in Germany, where both the Nazi era and the postwar surveillance in Communist East Germany have fostered deep concerns about privacy and civil liberties, and the issue was expected to loom large in the meeting of the two leaders. Ms. Merkel said at the news conference that she and Mr. Obama had talked at length about the American programs, even indicating that the topic took precedence over their discussion of subjects like the global economy and the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan. She made clear that she had expressed her own concerns, despite her stated understanding of the need for such intelligence efforts…

“Mr. Obama, repeating defenses he has made to Americans, described how he had made sure when he took office that the intelligence programs ‘were examined and scrubbed.’… Ms. Merkel looked at him he spoke beside her, expressionless but seeming to listen intently. ‘It’s necessary for us to debate these issues,’ she replied. ‘People have concerns.’”

Of course, Angela Merkel would try to carefully “defend” the US spy program (having her own election in mind in 2014), in light of revelations of German hypocrisy, as the next article shows.

German Hypocrisy

The Local wrote on June 16:

“Despite the scandal over the US Prism spy programme, the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) is planning to invest €100 million to improve its internet surveillance, Spiegel Online reported on Sunday. The money is to be spent on new technology and on hiring as many as 100 new employees, the service wrote. The €100 million is to be spent over a five year period, but the federal government has already released €5 million for the first phase.

“The BND is moving forward with its plans despite criticism over the US spying programme. The agency, like the US National Security Agency, wants to be sure that it can survey cross-border data traffic. The story said that German law allows for spy agencies to monitor as much as 20 percent of communication between Germany and other countries, but due to technical limitations only five percent of such traffic is being monitored. These include emails, telephone calls, Facebook postings and Skype conversations.

“In contrast to the US, which can make a record of suspicious communications, German spies have tighter restrictions. Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich is calling for a loosening of those regulations. Friedrich also defended the US from German criticism of the recently revealed spying program, saying ‘That’s not how you treat friends who are our most important partner in the fight against terrorism.’ He made his comments to the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“Friedrich said Germany is dependent on information delivered from the US and Der Spiegel noted that there has been a considerable exchange of information between Germany and the US and that many attacks in Germany have been prevented, in part, by US information. Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger sharply criticized the US actions and has called for a full explanation from Washington.”

Of course, since Germany wants to follow the lead of the USA in how to spy on their citizens, and since they are ALREADY COOPERATING with the NSA, then they WOULD try to “justify” and support these horrendous atrocities. At the same time, Britain is not doing any better.

The Independent reported on June 17:

“Britain was plunged into a diplomatic row tonight following claims that foreign politicians and diplomats were repeatedly spied upon when they attended two G20 summit meetings in London. The allegations provoked anger in Turkey, Russia and South Africa, whose dignitaries were reportedly targeted by the covert surveillance operations in 2009 while Gordon Brown was Prime Minister. The intelligence services were even said to have set up internet cafes at the summit venues which they used to read emails sent by visiting officials.”

German Reactions

Der Spiegel Online wrote on June 20:

“He… managed to remind Germans why they are such big fans of this president. Even if Tuesday and Wednesday marked the first time Obama had visited Berlin as president — after fully five years in office — he was able to make it seem as though Germany and the Germans were near and dear to him… The audience ate it up. Sure there is concern in the country about Obama’s drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is widespread disgust with the mind-boggling extent of online surveillance undertaken by the National Security Agency. There is also a good bit of disillusionment stemming from Obama’s inability to close down the Guantanamo detention camp… But Germans like nothing better than to be taken seriously — and they are open to being charmed. Obama made a convincing show of doing both…

“But coming from a president that most in Germany continue to revere despite the shortcomings that have by now become obvious to all, Berliners were more apt to see the logic of proposing cuts to the nuclear arsenal in a city so marked by the Cold War. That, of course, was Obama’s intention. And he left the city having achieved the primary goal of his visit — that of putting a feel-good coat of paint on a trans-Atlantic relationship that had recently begun to show its age.

“German commentators on Thursday, however, seemed largely immune to the charm offensive.

“The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes: ‘(The speech) was a disappointment for those who hope for … for what actually? Clearly these phrases for the history books, which in themselves imply the claim of the US to lead the western World, don’t exist anymore… Obama used the Brandenburg Gate, he used Berlin, and he used Angela Merkel and her East German heritage to send a clear signal to Russia [regarding reduction of nuclear weapons] … The fact that this appeal to Russia was broadcast from Germany to the world shows what a central role Berlin still plays from America’s point of view in its relations with Russia.’

“Conservative daily Die Welt writes: ‘Barack Obama’s visit… didn’t touch the Germans, neither warmly or coolly… The indifference with which Obama was received is not an indication that Germans don’t like Obama anymore… America has become more foreign to us… But Europeans have also become more foreign to Americans. How should Americans know and understand that which we ourselves don’t know or understand? There is still a great lack of clarity about where the partially unified, partially divided continent of Europe is headed politically…’

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘… Europeans, especially the Germans, have their problems with both presidents. They despise Bush as a supposedly dim-witted cowboy. But in the meantime, they have become leery of the coldly analytical Obama, who kills suspected terrorists with drones and lets his government monitor the Internet.’

“Business daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘Germany, once again, provided the TV-ready backdrop for a US president, but is the country really a partner to America?… The US government itself knows the importance of Berlin and would like to see Germany take on a greater global role…’

“Left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes: ‘Obama… spoke about a lot, without saying much… he had no plan… Possibly the most important politician in the world has nothing planned. That is terrible news.’”

According to The Local, dated June 20, “The Südwest Presse… questioned the German public’s faith in Obama… ‘do the Germans trust the Nobel Peace Prize winner to lead the way to a beautiful new world?’ it asked. ‘Unfortunately the lasting impression is that he is a man of big promises and little progress,’ the paper concluded.”

Deutsche Welle (on June 19) summed it up in this way: “US President Barack Obama came, saw – but did he conquer?… US-German ties have developed, changed and matured over the years. What they most definitely are not is ‘normal.’… Germany and the United States have grown apart since 1990… Unified Germany emancipated itself rather quickly from its former protecting power, pursued its own interests, worked to push European integration, distanced itself from President George W. Bush and his war against Iraq, stands dumbfounded when it comes to Guantanamo… The United States also went its own ways after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. They withdrew troops and funds from Germany… All the while, the generation of World War II that had breathed life into the special relationship between Germany and the United States was dying out…

“In the run-up to President Obama’s visit to Berlin there was a lot of talk about a rather diffuse but growing disappointment with the man and his presidency. He was no messiah, no shining light anymore… the hopes and expectations projected onto Barack Obama – and that he had willingly projected onto himself – were as unrealistic as can be. That is why the current disillusionment with President Obama follows a specific dynamic that largely grows from disappointed love. Somehow the United States has never managed to live up to the great hopes and expectations that Germans linked to it…”

Obama Offends Catholics in Ireland

Newsmax reported on June 19:

“President Barack Obama angered some proponents of Catholic education during his visit to Ireland this week when he told a Belfast audience that towns will remain divided ‘if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs.’ An article, which subsequently appeared in the Scottish Catholic Observer carried the headline, ‘U.S. President Undermines Catholic Schools after Vatican Prefect Praised Them.’ The article said that Obama ‘made an alarming call for an end to Catholic education in Northern Ireland,’ and quoted from recent remarks of the Vatican’s Archbishop Gerhard Müller, who had said that Catholic education was ‘a critical component of the Church.’”

“Vatican to Announce John Paul II ‘Miracle’”

The Telegraph wrote on June 20:

“The Vatican has secretly attributed a mystery miracle to the late John Paul II, clearing the way for him to be declared a saint. The Holy See has yet to reveal what the miracle was or where and when it took place but Vatican sources said it would ‘amaze the world’. It concerns the ‘extraordinary healing’ of a Costa Rican woman who was cured of a severe brain injury after her family began praying to the memory of the late Polish pope, according to reports in the Italian media… John Paul II was beatified — the first step towards sainthood — in a lavish outdoor ceremony in St Peter’s Square in May 2011.

“The second miracle — which is required in order for him to be given full sainthood — reportedly occurred on the very day of his beatification… John Paul’s first attributed miracle was the apparent healing of a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre. Her recovery from Parkinson’s disease after praying for the late pope’s ‘intercession’ had no medical explanation, the Catholic Church maintains… ‘The canonisation of Karol Wojtyla will be the crowning glory of the recent history of Catholicism, linking the last three pontificates,’ Saverio Gaeta, who wrote a biography of John Paul II, told La Stampa newspaper.”

In case you missed it, the second “miracle” allegedly happened through the late pope AFTER his death—so supposedly, he worked this “miracle” from heaven. But the Bible condemns such beliefs which are rooted in paganism.

INS “Interprets” Rules for Conscientious Objector Status

The Huffington Post wrote on June 20:

“Margaret Doughty, an atheist and permanent U.S. resident for more than 30 years, was told by immigration authorities this month that she has until Friday to officially join a church that forbids violence or her application for naturalized citizenship will be rejected. Doughty received the ultimatum after stating on her application that she objected to the pledge to bear arms in defense of the nation due to her moral opposition to war. According to a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services by the American Humanist Association on Doughty’s behalf, officials responded by telling her that she needed to prove that her status as a conscientious objector was due to religious beliefs. They reportedly told her she’d need to document that she was ‘a member in good standing’ of a nonviolent religious organization or be denied citizenship at her June 21 hearing. A note ‘on official church stationary [sic]’ would suffice, they said.

“Here’s how Doughty explained her refusal to sign the pledge: ‘I am sure the law would never require a 64 year-old woman like myself to bear arms, but if I am required to answer this question, I cannot lie. I must be honest. The truth is that I would not be willing to bear arms. Since my youth I have had a firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or in the bearing of arms. I deeply and sincerely believe that it is not moral or ethical to take another person’s life, and my lifelong spiritual/religious beliefs impose on me a duty of conscience not to contribute to warfare by taking up arms … my beliefs are as strong and deeply held as those who possess traditional religious beliefs and who believe in God … I want to make clear, however, that I am willing to perform work of national importance under civilian direction or to perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States if and when required by the law to do so.’…

“The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Citizenship and Immigration Services, calling the government request ‘illegal and unconstitutional.’ ‘It is shocking that USCIS officers would not be aware that a nonreligious yet deeply held belief would be sufficient to attain this exemption,’ Andrew L. Seidel, a staff attorney at Freedom From Religion Foundation, wrote after laying out a list of Supreme Court tests that suggest a rejection would be unusual and improper. ‘This is a longstanding part of our law and every USCIS officer should receive training on this exemption … Either the officers in Houston are inept, or they are deliberately discriminating against nonreligious applicants for naturalization.’”

The IRS Scandal–FBI Knows Nothing

CNS News reported on June 13:

“While testifying before the House Judiciary Committee today, FBI Director Robert Mueller could not name the lead investigator in the IRS case involving the targeting of conservative groups. It is now one month into the investigation. Rep Jim Jordan (R-OH): ‘Can you tell me who the lead investigator is?’ Mueller: ‘Off the top of my head, no.’ Jordan: ‘It’s the most important issue in front of the country in the last six weeks, and you don’t know who’s heading up the case? Who the lead investigator is?’ Mueller: ‘At this juncture, no, I do not know.’ Mueller also claimed ignorance when Rep. Jordan asked him if anyone had contacted the victims of the IRS scandal.”

IRS Has Been Targeting Religious Organizations for Many Years

Breitbart wrote on June 14:

“An article on the Fox News website delineates the intimidation tactics the IRS has used to bludgeon religious organizations and religious leaders for decades. The authors point out that the IRS targets the organizations or individuals in one of two ways: either by responding to a complaint by an anti-religious group and asking the religious group or individual to justify their non-profit status, or for the IRS to carry out the wishes of upper echelon federal government officials who find the religious perspective offensive.

“The article site various targets over the years:

“ 1. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950’s who was targeted with an audit for speaking out about civil rights;

“2. An Episcopal minister from Southern California who received a multi-year audit after excoriating President Bush for invading Iraq;

“3. The legendary evangelist Billy Graham, who was hit with an audit last fall after he supported a ballot measure in his home state of North Carolina that clashed with the White House.

“The authors close with a stinging condemnation of the IRS’s warning to religious people ‘Not to do it again.’ They write:

“‘But not do what again? Not preach about moral matters that have a political connection? That would mean that religious issues stop being religious once a politician starts talking about them. More importantly, where does the IRS get the authority to override the First Amendment? If freedom of speech and freedom of religion are to mean anything, government bureaucrats can’t be allowed to decide what rabbis, priests, imams, and pastors  can preach. Religious people can and do disagree over whether pastors, priests, or rabbis should preach about the political issues of the day. That is their right. But surely all Americans can agree — especially after the abuses that have come to light in the past week–that the time for the tax man to censor sermons must come to an end.’”

The Curse of Obamacare

The Los Angeles Times reported on June 18:

“Aetna Inc. said it would stop selling individual health insurance policies in California next month, and nearly 50,000 existing policyholders will have to find new coverage by January. The company’s announcement Monday comes a month after it opted not to participate in California’s new state-run insurance market for consumers, a key component of the new federal healthcare law… Starting in January, most Americans will be required to [have] health insurance coverage or pay a penalty.”

A reader wrote us: “[We] were going to try to get health insurance through AARP, since I am 55 now, but they said they no longer carried health insurance for the state of West Virginia as of June 1st! AARP contracted out with Aetna as well!!  Thank you Obamacare! The downfall of America is right before our eyes!”

How Much Worse Can it Get?

On June 16, today.com reported the following:

“When twin sisters Zea and Luna Weiss-Wynne, both 9, wrote a letter to President Barack Obama last year, they asked for his attention on a few things. Obama invited the sisters to join him at a reception at the White House to outline their requests in public. The girls, who asked for his support of marriage equality, spoke at the LGBT Pride Month reception Friday, which is part of the annual celebration dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. The president made sure to give the third graders a turn in front of the microphone…

“Among the requests the girls outlined in their speech and their letter was… a commitment to gay marriage… The girls care about marriage equality because ‘we have two moms and they are just as good as other parents. They love us a lot.’… President Obama nodded his head and smiled as the sisters spoke to the crowd and outlined their requests… In his remarks at the event, Obama discussed various legislation he has passed that relates to the LGBT community, including a hate crimes bill, a national HIV/AIDS strategy and a policy that bans companies from denying medical care to LGBT Americans. ‘But part of the reason we’re here is because we know we’re not done yet,’ Obama said.”

This development is not restricted to the US, though. See the next article:

Europe’s Largest Gay Festival Held in Berlin

The Local wrote on June 16:

“Nearly half a million people in Berlin celebrated on Saturday the 21st annual gay-lesbian city festival – the largest gathering of its kind in Europe. Berlin’s mayor Klaus Wowereit, who is gay, took part in the festivities. He said the festival embodies the city’s openness to the world and its progressiveness, the Berliner Zeitung reported. The two-day festival, which wraps up Sunday evening, is expected to draw more than 400,000 spectators to the Schöneberg area of the city. Head organiser Dieter Schneider said that by Saturday afternoon the steady stream of visitors was larger than last year.”

For more information on a healthy and godly family life, please read our free booklet, “The Keys to Happy Marriages and Families.”

Colorado Fire Worst in State’s History

NBC News wrote on June 15:

“Firefighters made some progress battling a massive, deadly wildfire near Colorado Springs late Friday when cooler temperatures, rain and calmer winds swept in, allowing them to increase containment to 30 percent. Mandatory evacuation orders for thousands of Colorado Springs residents were lifted… More than 38,000 people were evacuated at the peak of the blaze.

“The fire, the worst in the state’s history, has killed two people and made ashes of 419 homes… The fire raged mostly uncontrolled for days, with a burn zone covering nearly 25 square miles. One of three major fires raging in Colorado, the Black Forest fire is now the most destructive on record in the state.”

“The Birds”

Breitbart wrote on June 14:

“The mighty endangered California condor has decided to take revenge on the people of California. The birds, which have up to a nine-foot wingspan, have descended Hitchcock-style on the town of Bear Valley Springs, ripping off roof shingles, clawing at air conditioners, and, of course, coating the town in condor feces. At one rental property, condors pried open a can of white paint, coating a deck with it; bit the wiring of the air conditioning; and tore apart the screens of two sliding doors…

“But residents can’t do anything about the delinquent condors, due to federal and state regulations. In fact, the California State Fish and Game Commission recently prohibited use of lead ammunition in areas in which condors nest. Actually, about the only thing you can do to the condor in California is kill it using a wind turbine.”

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How does the Bible describe love?

During one of His most famous discourses, Jesus Christ states with utmost clarity that love is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-40). Since we have the instruction and command to love, it is vitally important that we know what love is. How do you know if you have the love that God expects you to have? What qualities does an expression of love have? In what ways is love expressed? These questions are basic, but fundamental to the life of a Christian.

The first thing to consider is that there are different types of love. The Greek language makes this distinction with different words. Since the New Testament was originally written in Greek, the types of love that we may express can be distinguished easily, and guide our understanding about what type of love God expects of us. Before getting into the qualities of what an expression of love is, we need to know what different types of love the Bible mentions, and in what context. The Greek language contains 3 main words that can be translated into the English word “love.” These words each express a distinct nuance of love including sexual love between husband and wife (eros), friendship (philia), and moral or spiritual love (agape). Some also consider the Greek word “storge” to express a kind of love, such as that affectionate and nurturing love that a parent has for his or her child. “Storge” does not appear in the Bible, and is less commonly considered when distinguishing between types of love in the Greek language. Therefore, it will not be necessary to discuss it in depth as we reveal the essence of love. In order to express the true love that God requires of a Christian, one must learn how to distinguish between these types of love. Only by discerning the ways that love may be expressed can a Christian understand how to properly express love towards one another, and towards God.

The glamorous type of love is the romantic kind. The Greek word “eros” describes a type of love that involves passion, physical, and sensual desire shared between two people. The state of “being in love” expresses the notion of “eros.” The most obvious example of romance is the love shared between a husband and wife. As common as it is, the “eros” love of romance does not appear in the New Testament. However, the Bible contains a beautiful and poetic example of romantic love shared between a man and woman in the Song of Solomon. Throughout the book, the story expresses passion, physical attraction, tenderness, and sensual elation between the Shulamite and her Beloved. The language is descriptive enough to nearly make the reader blush as the deep and personal emotions are shared between two romantic lovers. The romantic love between a man and woman is unquestionably important since God created them to be together. Still, the description and instruction for this kind of love in the Bible is limited. 

The Greek word “philia” is another word that expresses a concept of love in the Bible. The New King James Version frequently translates this word as “friendship”, but it is translated as “love” in several places as well.  From Herbert W. Armstrong’s book entitled The Missing Dimension in Sex, the definition of “philia” or the related “philadelphia” follows. “This is the love of friendship—brotherly love—love of parent, or child.” The brotherly love of “philia” is the kind of love that exists between those who have mutual respect and care for one another.

Brotherly love is a kind of love that a Christian must build, both for other Christians (Titus 3:15), and for Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:37, John 16:27, 1 Corinthians 16:22). The model for brotherly love is set by God the Father Himself, in that He has brotherly love for Jesus Christ (John 5:20) and His followers (John 16:27). Jesus Christ too has brotherly love for Christians (Matthew 10:37). Something that is interesting to note is that brotherly love sometimes may take a form which may not be very pleasant, but still fits the requirement to unselfishly seek the well-being of a friend. The Bible reminds us of the following. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten….” (Revelation 3:19). The word for “love” here is the brotherly love of “philia”, which God has for His followers. The expression of God’s love taken at face value may seem to not be love at all, but the absolute opposite is true. Brotherly love sometimes requires the straight talk to help another be their best. The gift of brotherly love is clearly something that must be shared between Christians, Jesus Christ, and God the Father.

The third and most important word that describes a type of love in the Greek language is “agape.” Where the other words for love appear in relatively few places and are not often translated as “love” in the English language, “agape” dominates the New Testament. Most of the occurrences of the word “love” in English versions of the New Testament turn out to be translated from the Greek word “agape.” The meaning of “agape” is expressed as benevolence, and charity. However, agape love is much more than mere charity. This is the love of God. “Agape” describes the love that God has for us, the love that we must have for God, and the love that Christians must have for one another. Truly, this is an important type of love to learn and demonstrate.

The characteristics of godly love go far beyond physical attraction and camaraderie of friendship. Quoting again from The Missing Dimension in Sex, Mr. Armstrong illuminates the definition of “agape” love, “This is the love GOD expresses toward humanity. It is the divine, spiritual love, supplied by God’s Holy Spirit. The natural and unconverted man does not have this love! But God longs to fill him with it—if he will surrender and believe!”

An active expression of that concern may take many forms, but when the fulfillment of the godly purpose is the sole intent, that action is love in the form of “agape”. The greatest example we have of this kind of love is God’s love for the world, which is so great that He sacrificed His only Son (John 3:16). If merely the love of affection, friendship, or romance was at the root of God’s love for the world and His Son, a sacrifice of death would not make sense. However, offering sacrifice for the benefit of another is a high form of benevolence. This act of mortal sacrifice may be difficult to conceive of as love without careful and spiritually guided consideration, but this is indeed the love that God has for His children, as well as the love that He requires in return.

A critical aspect to consider when discussing the nature of “agape” – the love of God – is that it is only obtained by the receipt of the Holy Spirit. The Bible explains the origin of godly love in man quite clearly, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit [which] was given to us” (Romans 5:5).  This means that without the Holy Spirit, the love of God cannot reside in the heart of a Christian. Mr. Armstrong, in The Missing Dimension in Sex, explains the unique nature of this love quite succinctly. “A human can only really and truly love God with the very love which we first must receive from Him! This is the spiritual divine love God GIVES us by the Holy Spirit! But we must first REPENT—surrender unconditionally to live GOD’S WAY—turn from our former contrary way—and truly BELIEVE in Christ, accepting Him as personal Savior.” The necessity of a Christian to have godly love requires obtaining it through the Spirit of God, so that it may be returned to Him, and shared with brethren.

God proved His love by sacrificing Jesus Christ’s life so that His children may have eternal life. A statement could not be more clear than this, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). The love that God has can be nothing other than the “agape” type of love, which seeks the best for others. Though it was a brutal event, that sacrifice was an act of love by God the Father and Jesus Christ so that Christians might receive the benefit of eternal life. God seeks the benefit of the Christian, and not His own.

Just as God loves His children, He requires that love be returned. Knowing that godly love is benevolent to the recipient of love, how can love be expressed to God? Since He is all-powerful and has need of nothing, it might be difficult to come up with ways that His benefit may be sought. However, the Bible is very clear in its instruction about how love towards God might be expressed. Quite simply, love towards God is proven by obedience to His commandments (1 John 2:3-5). Jesus Christ instructs His followers in a way that is very easy to remember, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The message could not be any clearer. Knowing that keeping God’s commandments is how to show love to God, it is imperative that a Christian understands what those commandments are. In fact, we read in 1 John 5:3 that “this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

A critical component of God’s commandments is the requirement of a Christian’s love for one another. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). The sacrifice of Jesus’ life for the benefit of the everlasting life of His followers serves as the benchmark by which godly love is measured (1 John 3:16). The selfless sacrifice of individual desire and ambition for the true benefit and prosperity of another is the love that Christians must have for one another (Philippians 2:3-4), and this love is only obtained through the Holy Spirit working in the heart of a Christian.

Much may be said regarding what love is, what it is not, and how to express it. Even so, in order to build an accurate, consistent, and complete understanding of it, we must first establish discernment about the different types of love that the Bible contains.  It is at the core of Christianity to know these things. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born [better: begotten] of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” ( 1 John 4:7-8).

Lead Writers: Eric Rank and Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

Rene Messier is preparing to fly to Kenya in July to visit with our brethren and prospective members. Your prayers are appreciated.

The German version of our English booklet, “Is That in the Bible? The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation,” has been translated and has been sent to our graphic artist, Shelly Bruno, to finalize for posting.

The new booklet on the Ten Revivals of the Ancient Roman Empire, written by Evangelist Norbert Link, has entered its second review cycle. We anticipate publishing this revealing booklet later this summer.

“Nicht Nur Für Frauen!,” is the title of this week’s German sermon. In English, the title is “Not Just for Women.”

“Syria, Iran and Turkey… What’s Next?,” is the title of a new StandingWatch program presented by Evangelist Norbert Link. Here is a summary:

Events in Syria, Iran and Turkey—as well as the entire Middle East and Africa—are of significance and importance in the light of biblical prophecies. But only very few know where they are leading. Is America’s decision to send arms to Syrian rebels a wise move, or will it only cause more problems? Will Iran’s new leader bring about real change for the country and the world? Even if he wanted to do this, could he? And why are demonstrating Turks outraged with their leader? Is it just about some trees in a park—or is the cause much deeper? And what does it all mean?

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The First Things

by Shelly Bruno

I am a creature of habit, and easily tend to get into a routine. I put my head down and plow through the days. But that’s not healthy for many reasons. Sometimes I miss things that should be addressed or even revisited. For example, asking myself “Am I doing what I should be doing?”

The first priority on my list should be pursuing God’s kingdom. He even tells me so in an often-quoted Scripture. But do I do it? Is my routine sliding away from my top priorities?

I had a “check-in” experience last week, and realized I have been pushing my spiritual duties down my task list. Specifically not writing my tithe check first before any other bills. I would get it done, but not in the time frame I should have been doing it. So last week I sat down and wrote it out first–before looking at the stack of bills, the checkbook, or considering what was in the bank account. And later that day God showed me He was paying attention. My husband came home to tell me some good news: that his company had given him a raise (which he was expecting) but what surprised him, was that it was 4 times the amount he anticipated.

Knowing that God is watching and blessing our lives, this was an incredible reminder for me: always put the first things FIRST.

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How This Work is Financed

This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.

Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

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

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

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

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

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

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

©2024 Church of the Eternal God