Update 611


Tarnished Christianity and Ready or Not!

On November 2, 2013, Robb Harris and Dave Harris will give split sermons, titled, respectively, “Tarnished Christianity”, and “Ready or Not!”

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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by Eric Rank

 I recently had the opportunity to experience just a taste of what it is like to be unemployed. With the recent shutdown of the United States government, my job as a contractor was suspended until further notice. For the first few days, I have to admit, I enjoyed the free time. I took the time to take care of things around the house in preparation for the winter, I enjoyed the company of my family, and I even took a little more time to relax. However, as one day off turned into two, two into three, and eventually many more, my anxiety heightened to quite an uncomfortable level.

Even though I knew that the government shutdown would eventually end, I found myself in the immediate moment with feelings of genuine worry. I really did lose the sense of security I had in my job, and it caused some real stress. It is during times of stress when things that might otherwise remain hidden come to the surface. Trials, like sudden unemployment, have real value to a Christian because of this fact that they have the ability to refine us (James 1:2-4). What came to the surface for me was the realization that I had placed too much value on having security of a job that ultimately is not completely secure. This realization was an immense relief for me to find.

The Bible provides plenty of flawless guidance for how to live, but there are two keys that help to balance how we live and work that I find most helpful. The first key is that we must know that God is in control and that His Will is perfect. When we answer the calling that God has for us, and we commit to live our lives His Way at the time of baptism, we sign up to live within the boundary and circumstances that He controls. The events of our life are in the hand of God to control (Ecclesiastes 9:1), which means that there is nothing that we might go through that He does not want us to experience. It is very helpful to let that thought soak in. We should be relieved to know that the burden of controlling our circumstances is not ours, but God’s. Our job is to choose the correct way to respond to the individual, custom-made tests that God has designed for us.

The second key that I find helpful is to place value where it belongs. It is easy to get wrapped up in the apparent importance of the things in the carnal world in which we live. Taking the events we experience, the material we accumulate, and even ourselves too seriously can be dangerous. This turns us away from God, and has the effect of turning God away from us. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Investing the correct amount of our resources – care, attention, time, or money – in the things we do and have in this life should prove that our walk in life is a spiritual one, guided by God.

It might be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31), but once that passes, there is a tremendous relief that we can experience as He lifts that weight from our shoulders (Matthew 11:30).

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Revelations about America’s worldwide spying activities do not stop, and now, high-ranking governmental officials and President Obama himself are in the limelight of criticism. The German press is already speaking of Obamagate, and the US President’s reputation among world leaders and even the world population as a whole has been severely damaged. The explanations, denials and admissions of the White House and some NSA officials are contradictory and leave little doubt that America is not going to recover from this most recent scandal. The fact that high-ranking US politicians justify America’s spying activities is not helping either.

In other news, we are reporting on the real dangers of “accidental” detonations of America’s nuclear weapons; another earthquake in Japan near the Fukushima nuclear site; Iran’s progressing nuclear weapons program; the attack on religious freedom in the USA; and new deadlines for Obamacare’s individual mandate requirements; as well as Halloween.

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Did President Obama Know and Approve NSA Spying on Merkel and Others?

BBC News wrote on 27 October 27, 2013:

“Fresh reports in German media based on leaked US intelligence documents are prompting damaging new questions about the extent of US surveillance. Der Spiegel suggests the US has been spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone since 2002. Another report says Mr Obama was told in 2010 about the surveillance and failed to stop it. The spy row has led to the worst diplomatic crisis between the two countries in living memory…

“As well as the bugging of Mrs Merkel’s phone, there are claims the NSA has monitored millions of telephone calls made by German and French citizens…

“Mrs Merkel phoned the US president when she first heard of the spying allegations on Wednesday. President Barack Obama apologised to the German chancellor and promised Mrs Merkel he knew nothing of the alleged phone monitoring and would have stopped it if he had, Der Spiegel reports.

“But on Sunday Bild newspaper quoted US intelligence sources as saying NSA head Keith Alexander personally briefed the president about the covert operation targeting Mrs Merkel in 2010. ‘Obama did not halt the operation but rather let it continue,’ the newspaper quoted a senior NSA official as saying… Germany’s Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told Bild that running such an operation on German soil would be illegal under German law, and adds that those ‘responsible must be held accountable’.

“Similar [US] listening units [as the one in Berlin] were based in around 80 locations worldwide, according to the documents seen by Der Spiegel, 19 of them in European cities. If the existence of listening stations in US embassies were known, there would be ‘severe damage for the US’s relations with a foreign government,’ the documents said. Mrs Merkel – an Americophile who was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 – is said to be shocked that Washington may have engaged in the sort of spying she had to endure growing up in Communist East Germany.”

“Obama Was Aware of Merkel Spying: Report”

The Local added on October 27:

“Bild am Sonntag said that Obama wanted to be informed in detail about Merkel, who has played a decisive role in the eurozone debt crisis and is widely seen as Europe’s most powerful leader. As a result, the report said, the NSA stepped up its surveillance of her communications, targeting not only the mobile phone she uses to conduct business for her conservative Christian Democratic Union party but also her encrypted official device. It said US intelligence specialists were then able to monitor the content of her conversations as well as text messages, which Merkel sends by the dozen each day to key associates. Bild said only the specially secured land line in her office was out of the reach of US spies. The intelligence gathered was forwarded straight to the White House, without bypassing the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, according to the report.

“Bild and Spiegel described a hive of spy activity on the fourth floor of the US embassy in central Berlin, a stone’s throw from the government quarter, from which the United States kept tabs on Merkel and other German officials. If the spying against Merkel began as early as 2002, it would mean the United States under then president George W. Bush targeted her while she was still the country’s chief opposition leader, three years before she became chancellor. Bild said that Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schroeder was also in the NSA’s sights because of his vocal opposition to the US invasion of Iraq. Bush was also mistrustful of the Social Democrat because of his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the report added.”

NSA Denies German Reports

Deutsche Welle reported on October 28:

“Barack Obama has come under intense pressure following the scandal over the bugging of Angela Merkel’s cell phone by the NSA. The intelligence agency insists the US president knew nothing, but there are contradictions.

“The White House remains silent, while the National Security Agency denies German media claims that its chief, Keith Alexander, informed President Barack Obama in 2010 that it was bugging German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone. Alexander neither spoke with Obama about the secret operation, ‘nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel,’ a statement from NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said.

“According to the New York Times, the eavesdropping began 10 years ago, around the time of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, while Merkel was still in opposition as chairwoman of her party, the Christian Democratic Union. ‘What is coming to light now is no surprise to me,” said Thomas Drake, an NSA operative for 18 years before becoming a whistleblower… He says the new revelations about the NSA tally with his own memories of working for the agency a decade ago. ‘Just after the September 11 attacks the word on the ground was: since many of the attackers had been to Germany, had lived in Germany, or had travelled through Germany, the NSA and the US government declared Germany as the number one target in Europe.’

“Still the former agent is shocked by the level of surveillance targeting Merkel. ‘It is an unbelievable violation of the rules of international diplomacy,’ he said. ‘It affects Chancellor Merkel personally. That is her personal cell phone. How is that necessary?’… The man who once spied on East Germany from airplanes says the operations reminded him of the dictatorial state that was once in the grip of the stasi.

“The veteran Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward also criticized the NSA activities. ‘They need to review this secret world and its power in their government because you run into this rats nest of concealment and lies time and time again then and now,’ Woodward told broadcaster CBS. He said that the US was being ruled by an ‘incredibly powerful government that gets on automatic pilot and you have people with inexperience who don’t know about nuts and bolts questions.’…

“For its part, the White House has refused to add anything to its previous statements on the transatlantic bugging scandals. ‘The United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor,’ White House spokesman Jay Carney said last Wednesday (23.10.2013). Insiders now argue that may have been a straight lie… ‘The president makes the rules by which the secret services operate. The NSA and other US organizations cannot work outside the boundaries that the president sets,’ [Pete Hoekstra, former chairman of the secret services committee at the US House of Representatives] said.”


Der Spiegel Online wrote on October 28:

“What did President Barack Obama know? How can the crisis of confidence in the trans-Atlantic alliance be repaired? And what will really change in the end?

“That last question can already be answered: not a lot. Over the weekend, senior members of Congress strongly defended the NSA’s actions and dismissed the White House’s efforts at appeasement as nothing more than superficial politeness…

“It’s an attitude that newspaper editorialists shared…

“There is also confusion about what and when Obama knew about the operation against Merkel… Even if Obama didn’t know, it wouldn’t look good… The White House remains tight-lipped… Obama remained silent and spent his Sunday with a visit to church and a four-hour golf game.”

The Accusation and Denial Game Goes On…

Fox News reported on October 29:

“With every passing day bringing new allegations of the U.S. spying on its allies, many Israelis figure they would be naive to believe America wasn’t snooping on its closest ally in the Middle East. But instead of the indignation seen in France, Spain and Germany at the prospect that the National Security Agency listened in to the phone calls of top leaders, Israelis seem to take in stride the prospect of Uncle Sam listening in. ‘I think it is almost a universal assumption that everyone tries to spy on everyone,’ Mark Heller, of Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies told FoxNews.com… ‘It’s almost a given’ Heller continued. ‘The whole story reminds me of the scene from Casablanca when the Chief of Police is shocked to find out that there is gambling going on in the casino!’

“‘The Americans rightly see themselves as a superpower, but wrongly feel that they can do whatever they want, including the eavesdropping,’ Yatom, former head of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, told Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv. ‘I can tell you with certain knowledge that [America] has been listening in on its allies, including Israel. The U.S. doesn’t really care about anyone [but itself],’ Yatom said. ‘When the Americans think they need to listen in on someone, they’ll do just that.’…

“‘I think a lot of it [the shocked European reaction] is either hypocrisy or jealousy,’ Heller concluded. ‘After all, that is why almost everybody takes whatever counter-measures they can if they want to keep things secret. In the case of the Europeans, well, they’ve done a fair bit of their own [spying] as well.’”

The Los Angeles Times wrote on October 28:

“The White House and the State Department signed off on surveillance targeting phone conversations of friendly foreign leaders, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said Monday, pushing back against assertions that President Obama and his aides were unaware of the high-level eavesdropping…

“Intelligence officials also disputed a Wall Street Journal article Monday that said the White House had learned only this summer… about an NSA program to monitor communications of 35 world leaders.”

The New York Times wrote on October 29:

“The nation’s top spymaster said on Tuesday that the White House had long been aware in general terms of the [NSA’s] overseas eavesdropping, stoutly defending the agency’s intelligence-gathering methods and suggesting possible divisions within the Obama administration…

“General Alexander said news media reports that the N.S.A. had vacuumed up tens of millions of telephone calls in France, Spain and Italy were ‘completely false.’ That data, he said, is at least partly collected by the intelligence services of those countries and provided to the N.S.A. Still, both he and Mr. Clapper said that spying on foreign leaders — even those of allies — was a basic tenet of intelligence tradecraft and had gone on for decades. European countries, Mr. Clapper said, routinely seek to listen in on the conversations of American leaders…

“Several current and former American officials said that presidents and their senior national security advisers have long known about which foreign leaders the United States spied on…”

BBC News reported on October 29:

“The head of US intelligence has told lawmakers that discerning foreign leaders’ intentions is a key goal of the nation’s spying operations. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said such efforts were a ‘top tenet’ of US intelligence policy. But he told the intelligence panel of the House of Representatives the US did not ‘indiscriminately’ spy on nations.”

The Local wrote on October 30:

“The head of German foreign intelligence denied on Wednesday that Berlin was carrying out bugging operations from its embassy in the United States in a deepening espionage row. ‘No telecommunication-intelligence is conducted from the German embassy in Washington,’ Gerhard Schindler, head of the BND agency, was quoted by Zeit online news site as saying…”

The New York Times wrote on October 31:

“In testimony to Congress on Tuesday, the director of national intelligence… gave only the roughest sketch of the size of the N.S.A.’s surveillance program, but suggested that the leader of the United States’ most powerful European ally [Angela Merkel] was a single fish in a very big sea… ‘They suck up every phone number they can in Germany,’ said one former intelligence official.”

Spying on the Pope

AFP wrote on October 30:

“The US National Security Agency allegedly eavesdropped on cardinals before the conclave in March to elect a new pope, Italian weekly magazine Panorama claimed on Wednesday. ‘The National Security Agency wire-tapped the pope,’ the magazine said, accusing the United States of listening in to telephone calls to and from the Vatican, including cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio before he was elected Pope Francis. The allegations follow a report on surveillance website, Cryptome, which said the US intercepted 46 million telephone calls in Italy in December last year and early January this year…

“Bergoglio ‘had been a person of interest to the American secret services since 2005, according to Wikileaks’, it said… If true, the US spying would be an embarrassing blow to an institution famous for its secrecy. The goings-on of the conclave are particularly [cloak]-and-dagger, with a system installed in the Sistine chapel where the cardinals meet in order to scramble any mobile phone communications and excommunication for those who spill the beans.”

Spain Too

CNN wrote on October 28:

“The Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported Monday that the NSA collected data from 60 million phone calls in Spain in one 30-day period.”

Spying on Yahoo and Google

Deutsche Welle reported on October 30:

“The US National Security Agency has reportedly broken into links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world. The latest revelations came hours after German and US officials met to discuss US spy claims… The program, operated jointly with the NSA’s British counterpart GCHQ (UK Government Communications Headquarters), allows the agencies to intercept data flows from the fiber-optic cables used by the US Internet giants.”

Brazil and Germany Request UN Resolution Against USA

Foreign Policy wrote on October 24:

“Brazil and Germany today joined forces to press for the adoption of a U.N. General Resolution that promotes the right of privacy on the internet, marking the first major international effort to restrain the National Security Agency’s intrusions into the online communications of foreigners…

“Although the U.N.’s ability to fundamentally constrain the NSA is nil, the mounting international uproar over U.S. surveillance has security experts fearful for the ramifications… Anyone who thinks this issue will only resonate in Brazil, Mexico, France, Italy, and Germany… isn’t paying attention.”

US-European Relationship – “After the Love Has Gone”

CNN wrote on October 25:

“On July 24, 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama addressed tens of thousands of Germans on the avenue that leads from the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. In a pointed reference to the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush, he promised a new era of ‘allies who will listen to each other, who will learn from each other, who will, above all, trust each other’… No U.S. politician since John F. Kennedy had so captured Europeans’ imagination. Five years on, in the words of the song, it’s a case of ‘After the Love Has Gone.’…

“Even pro-U.S. newspapers like the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung are in full throttle, writing that: ‘The government in Washington has apparently not yet understood the level of damage that continues to be caused by the activities of American intelligence agencies in Europe.’… French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault commented it was ‘incredible that an allied country like the United States at this point goes as far as spying on private communications that have no strategic justification, no justification on the basis of national defense.’…

“The fall-out may be more than rhetorical. Germany’s opposition Social Democrats are asking whether the European Union can — or should — agree a free trade deal with the U.S. in the current atmosphere. Negotiations on the Transatlatic Trade and Investment Partnership were already in a fragile state and will not be helped by claims in Le Monde that large French corporations such as telecom company Alcatel-Lucent have been targeted by the NSA…

“Der Spiegel reported… that the British equivalent of the NSA was involved in a cyber-attack against Belgium’s state-run telecommunications company, Belgacom…”

All of these events are highly significant, as the Bible has prophesied—and the Church of God has proclaimed for decades—that in these end times continental Europe, under German leadership, will rise, while the USA and the UK will fall and become totally isolated in the world, and that a hostile relationship will especially develop between a European power bloc and the USA and the UK. We are clearly seeing now the beginning stages of these developments.

USA Upset with Germany

The Wall Street Journal wrote on October 30:

“The U.S. used sharp language Wednesday to criticize Germany’s economic policies in a semiannual currency report, saying the country’s export-led growth is creating problems for the euro zone and the global economy.

“The U.S. identified Germany ahead of its traditional target, China, and the most-recent problem country, Japan, in the ‘key findings’ section. The move indicates U.S. concerns about Germany’s policies have moved to the forefront while U.S. angst over the yuan and the yen is abating.”

The Local wrote on October 31:

“Germany on Thursday rejected as ‘incomprehensible’ criticism levelled by the US Treasury that Berlin should do more to increase its domestic demand and rely less on exports in order to help boost the global economy… The critical [US] report comes amid already strained German-US ties over reported US bugging of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone…”

One wonders whether the USA is engaging in a case of revenge against Germany’s strong attacks on American spying activities. This would not help to heal the broken relationship between the two countries.

“One ‘Oops’ Away from Armageddon”

The Independent wrote on October 26:

“In the 68 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, apart from scheduled nuclear tests, not a single nuclear warhead has exploded… since 1945, no nuclear weapon has gone off by accident… The US… currently has around 4,650 strategic missiles, 1,950 of which are deployed, the rest on stand-by. No figures are published, but upkeep, support and modernisation of the nuclear force reputedly costs at least $50bn (£31bn) a year…

“But never rule out the human factor. Somehow, for example, in contravention of rules set in place after North Carolina, six cruise missiles fitted with live nuclear warheads were carried on a flight in 2007 from North Dakota to Louisiana without authorisation. Apparently, loaders confused dummy warheads with the real thing…

“Back in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, at the height of the Cold War, the greatest nuclear threat to America was accidental detonation of an American weapon. That remains the case now…”

The dangers of nuclear weapons and nuclear sites worldwide should not be underestimated, as this and the following articles show.

Big Earthquake Hits Japan Near Fukushima Nuclear Site

On October 25, The Associated Press reported:

“An earthquake of magnitude 7.3 struck early Saturday off Japan’s east coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and Japan’s emergency agencies issued a tsunami advisory for the region that includes the crippled Fukushima nuclear site. Tsunamis of up to 15 inches were reported at four areas along the coast, but the advisory was lifted less than two hours after the quake. There were no immediate reports of damage on land…

“All but two of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors have been offline since a March 2011 magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami triggered multiple meltdowns and massive radiation leaks at the Fukushima plant, about 160 miles northeast of Tokyo. About 19,000 people were killed in the disaster. A string of mishaps this year at the Fukushima plant has raised international concerns about the operator’s ability to tackle the continuing crisis.”

Iran Almost Ready to Build a Bomb?

JTA reported on October 25:

“Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month, according to a new estimate by a top American think tank… The new assessment comes as the White House invited Senate staffers to a briefing on negotiations with Iran as part of its efforts to persuade Congress not to go ahead with a bill to stiffen sanctions against Iran…

“Israeli Intelligence and International Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz has said that Iran had made no concrete offer to resolve the conflict around its nuclear program during the last round of talks…”

Religious Freedom and Conviction at Stake

On October 25, The San Diego Union Tribune wrote the following:

“The U.S. Supreme Court is… likely to consider a complex legal tangle that focuses on a simple question: Are business owners free to follow their religious beliefs when they conflict with the expanding dictates of the government? The main case involves a nationwide craft store known as the Hobby Lobby, which objects to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that it provide certain types of contraceptives as part of the health plan the company offers its 22,000 employees.

“It is owned by evangelical Christians who see their business as an extension of their religious faith. Hobby Lobby already covers contraceptives in its insurance plan, but it objects to including ‘drugs and devices (they) … believe to be abortifacients,’ explained the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal in a decision siding with the company. Federal officials and state attorney generals, including California’s Kamala Harris, urged the court to take the case and side – no surprise here – with the government…

“This case is about a question that harkens back to the nation’s founding. When the individual’s conscience collides with the government’s rules, who wins?…”

New Deadline for Obamacare’s Individual Mandate – March 31.

Newsmax wrote on October 23:

“The Obama administration is giving individuals who buy health insurance through government-run marketplaces until the end of March to enroll in a plan, an administration official said.  And the deadline for a penalty or fine? It hasn’t changed, says White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest… It’s still March 31. ‘Under [the Affordable Care Act], if you have access to affordable coverage but choose to be uninsured for 3 consecutive months in a calendar year, you would face a penalty. In other words, you need to have insurance by the end of March to avoid a penalty in 2014,’ Earnest said in an emailed statement.

“‘Some have asked whether consumers could face a tax penalty if they don’t enroll in coverage by Feb. 15 of next year. This is not the case. If you sign up for insurance by the end of March, you will not face a penalty. The guidance that the administration will issue soon will reinforce this,’ Earnest continued… The open enrollment period extends from Oct. 1 to March 31…”

Broken Promises and Misrepresentations

Breitbart wrote on October 30:

“In a speech at Boston’s Faneuil Hall on Wednesday afternoon, President Barack Obama discarded his now-infamous broken promise: ‘If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance.’ Instead, he offered a new promise: ‘You will be getting a better deal,’ the president told health insurance consumers. He blamed insurance companies, not Obamacare, for the canceled policies:

“‘Now, if you had one of these substandard plans before the Affordable Care Act became law, and you really like that plan, you were able to keep it. That’s what I said when I was running for office. That was part of the promise we made. But ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel the substandard plans, what we said under the law is that you have got to replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage because that, too, was a central premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning… So if you’re getting one of these letters [canceling your insurance policy], just shop around in the new marketplace. That’s what it’s for…

“‘For the fewer than 5% of Americans who buy insurance on your own [sic], you will be getting a better deal. So anyone peddling the motion that insurers are canceling people’s plan without mentioning that almost all the insurers are encouraging people to join better plans with the same carrier and stronger benefits and stronger protections, while others will be able to get better plans with new carriers through the marketplace, and then many will get new help to pay for these better plans and make them actually cheaper–if you leave that stuff out, you’re being grossly misleading, to say the least.’”

“Ignoring evidence that the ‘better deal’ is often far more expensive than existing plans, the president updated his promise without apologizing for misleading voters for years about the consequences of Obamacare. He also ignored the fact that companies were compelled by the law to change their plans to comply with new rules…”

The earlier promise and the updated representations are simply false. Statements especially by Democrats during a House hearing on Wednesday, applauding the Obamacare disaster, were likewise misleading. The fact is that insurance companies are cancelling individual insurance policies by the hundreds of thousands because of Obamacare—including policies which were not substandard by any means—and that it is virtually impossible for MANY customers to find similar policies with the same or lower rates. The TRUTH is that the rates are much higher and simply not affordable for many “customers.”

There is no doubt that America’s healthcare system is in an awful state—the concept that a person who loses his or her job is forced to maintain individual healthcare through extremely expensive and largely unaffordable mechanisms (such as COBRA) is just one of the many horrible examples of a totally broken system—but sadly, Obamacare is not the solution. And of course, the ungodly greed of many insurance companies does not help to solve the problems either. The bottom line is that America’s disastrous healthcare system is just one of the many manifestations of a superpower which is descending into the abyss.

Americans More Divided Than Ever

Money Morning wrote on October 31:

“Obamacare doesn’t officially kick off until January 1st, yet millions of Americans are already at each other’s throats over it. Research from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the country is now more divided than any other time in history since the Civil War era. In fact, 20 states including Texas, Georgia and Louisiana have threatened to secede. And despite a recent Supreme Court ruling making Obamacare the law of the land, only 24 states are moving forward with a key aspect of Obamacare- the expansion of Medicaid. Of the rest, 21 are opposed and five are deadlocked in debate.

“So far, every single southern state from Texas to Virginia has refused to widen Medicaid, a key provision of the Obamacare program. This will leave millions of Americans without coverage. That’s because they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid as it now stands, but not enough to get the subsidies to buy insurance in the new exchanges.

“The South isn’t alone in rejecting Obamacare. Liberal states such as Maine have opposed the bill. Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio have yet to move forward with the expansion. Even legendary investor Warren Buffett, a one-time Obamacare supporter, said in 2010 he would scrap the healthcare bill and start over. One of the main architects of the bill, Democratic Senator Max Baucus from Montana said Obamacare is heading for a ‘train wreck’ if it’s not implemented properly.

“While even Obamacare detractors applaud the requirement that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions and put a stop to lifetime caps on benefits, they say these laudable benefits don’t compensate for the bills high cost – especially in new taxes. According to most experts, Obamacare will create no fewer than twenty new taxes or tax hikes on the American people. In fact, the Obama administration has already given the IRS an extra $500 million to enforce the rules and regulations of Obamacare.

“The new taxes don’t bode well for millions of middle-class Americans. Incomes for the rich have soared this decade but middle class workers have seen their wages stagnate and even drop since the 2008 Great Recession. Many fear Obamacare with its high insurance costs and new taxes, could provide the middle class a fatal blow… a third of all U.S. employers could stop offering health insurance to their workers… ordinary Americans will get stuck paying for substance abuse coverage – even if they never touched a drink or drug in their life… senior citizens will get hit the hardest. Hip and knee replacements and cataract surgery will be especially hard to get from Medicare in the months ahead thanks to Obamacare…”

The Bible pronounces a curse on those who take advantage of and neglect or mistreat the elderly.

Spooky Halloween Candy Is Big Business for Careless Americans

The website of fastcodesign.com published the following article:

“Halloween has always been about the things trick-or-treating represent… For a thousand years, Halloween has been all about eating sugar to assuage our fears. Dating as far back as the ancient pagan Celtic festival called Samhain–in which the end of harvest coincided with the opening of a liminal window into the spirit world–October 31st has always been an amalgamated swirl of sweets and the supernatural… As the Celts gorged themselves on crude jellies, sweetmeats, and candies, they would mask or blacken their faces to placate evil spirits…

“In the 1950s, candy companies started realizing that this trick-or-treat thing might be a huge thing for them… Then on November 2, 1970, 5-year-old Kevin Toston from Detroit died after eating what initial reports identified as heroin-laced Halloween candy. It later turned out that the heroin never came from the candy, but by that point, no one was paying attention. The idea that sickos were poisoning candy to give to trick-or-treaters had been launched into the zeitgeist.

“In a ghoulish twist, the notion that Halloween candy might be poisoned turned out to be great for candy makers. Concerned with safety, parents started telling their kids not to take any sweets that weren’t factory-wrapped, which meant that the homemade treats or loose candy that most houses had handed out in the past became objects of suspicion…

“Buoyed by the monster fad of the 1970s, the packaging of Halloween candy got increasingly weirder and wilder… Today, Halloween candy is big business. In 2011, $2.3 billion worth of Halloween candy… ‘When it comes to the money Americans spend on the holiday, Halloween is second only to Christmas’…

“Yet if there’s anything that the history of trick-or-treating or even Halloween shows us, it’s that sugar and fear are a winning combination. Whether you’re an ancient Celt facing the long nights of winter, when the spirits of the dead are rumored to roam; a kid running through the streets in a costume with his mouth full of gummi worms; or a mom, telling her children to only accept individually wrapped chocolates from name-brand candy makers, lest they be poisoned: candy sells better when it’s spooky.”

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How are we to view Hebrew Poetry in the Bible (Part 3)?

In the last two Q&As, we discussed several variations of the concept of parallelism in biblical Hebrew Poetry, namely identical and similar synonymous parallelism, and introverted and antithetic parallelism.

As we will recall, Synonymous Parallelism describes the repetition of identical or similar thoughts; while in Introverted Parallelism, the order of thoughts is reversed, and in Antithetical Parallelism, opposite thoughts are expressed.

In this final Q&A in our series about Hebrew Poetry in the Bible, we will discuss further concepts of poetic devices.

One of these devices is the concept of SYNTHETIC PARALLELISM, which is also sometimes referred to as constructive or epithetic parallelism.

In Synthetic Parallelism, the word “synthesis” describes a combination of separate parts or elements into a whole. In other words, thoughts are built upon each other.

In Synthetic Parallelism, the second thought adds something fresh or new to the first thought, or it may explain the first thought.

We can divide this concept further.

First, we are going to review two examples in which a thought in the first line is complemented by another related thought in the second line.

Psalm 2:6:

“Yet I have set My King
“On My holy hill of Zion.”

In this passage, the first thought in the first line needs to be complemented by the second thought in the second line, in order to express a complete statement and give a complete sentence. In this meaningful statement, God the Father explains to the nations and the kings of the earth, who are scoffing at God, that He has already set “His King” on “His holy hill of Zion.” The King is a reference to the Son, the Anointed One, Jesus Christ (compare verses 2, 7 and 12). Long before Jesus Christ would be born as a human being, it was clear to the Father that He would qualify as Ruler of the coming Kingdom of God. When the Father says, “My King,” He did not mean that Jesus would be superior to Him, but just the opposite: Jesus is the Father’s King—He belongs to and is under the Father.

Psalm 138:4

“All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD,
“When they hear the words of Your mouth.”

In this passage, the first thought in line 1 is complemented by a second thought in line 2: All the kings of the earth will praise and give glory to God when they hear His words. The context is the Millennium, when the glorified Jesus Christ will rule the earth (verse 5)—it will be then that they will understand what God is telling them, and then they WILL praise Him for the truth.

Let us focus now on one example of Synthetic Parallelism, where the thoughts in both lines are compared or contrasted with each other.

Proverbs 15:17:

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
“Than a fatted calf with hatred.”

The contrast or comparison can be clearly seen by the phraseology, “better … than.”  It is better to have little with love than much with hatred. Solomon contrasts a dinner of herbs with a fatted calf, but points out that such physical riches are never satisfying when there is no love in the house.

As a third variation, we are looking at two examples where the thought in the second line explains the thought in the first line. This is an important device to understand; otherwise, we might not grasp the fully intended meaning of a particular statement.

Proverbs 26:4:

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
“Lest you also be like him.”

In this passage, the thought of the first line is explained by the thought in the second line. If answering a fool according to his folly would result in us becoming like him, we should refrain from doing so.

Proverbs 26:5:

“Answer a fool according to his folly,
“Lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

In this passage, the thought in the first line is also explained by the thought in the second line, but in contrast with the previous example, we are told here that we are to answer a fool according to his folly, if he might otherwise think that he is wise and that we are unable to respond to him. So, depending on the circumstances, we ought not answer a fool according to his folly so that we do not become like the fool, but we should answer him according to his folly, if the fool would otherwise think that he is wise. Our Q&A on Proverbs 26:4 and 5 gives several examples as to how to apply these passages in practice. We also stated this:

“In verse 4, we are told not to answer a fool, ‘…Lest you also be like him.’ We are admonished to avoid a pointless argument, wasting fruitless time and energy on foolishness, and to avoid responding approvingly by like folly. However, in verse 5, we are told to answer a fool, ‘… Lest he be wise in his own eyes.’ There is a time when we cannot give tacit approval by silence. There is a selective time to stand up, and not close our eyes to damage.”

Let us continue by focusing on the concept of CLIMACTIC PARALLELISM in Hebrew Poetry. Depending on certain commentaries and designations, this concept is also sometimes referred to as comprehensive parallelism, stair-like parallelism or anaphora parallelism.

Climactic Parallelism describes the concept that a thought in the first line becomes greater and more comprehensive in the second line. The second line reaches a climax. A thought in the first line is repeated in the second line, but a new and climactic thought is added (like stepping on the next step of a stair), making the entire statement more comprehensive.

Psalm 29:1:

“Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones,
“Give unto the LORD glory and strength.”

The first thought in line 1 (“Give unto the LORD”) is repeated in line 2, but then line 2 adds what is to be given—“glory and strength.” The “mighty ones” could refer to angels or to humans whose potential it is to become God beings. But all are to give glory and strength to God. In using this poetic device, it is emphasized WHAT everyone is owed to give to God.

Psalm 29:8:

“The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
“The LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.”

In the second line, the wilderness is identified as the “wilderness of Kadesh,” making this a climactic statement, since Kadesh was in the wilderness to which the spies returned from Jericho (Numbers 13:26). The fact that the LORD’s voice shook the wilderness of Kadesh shows His displeasure with the evil report which the spies brought when returning.

Psalm 1:2:

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
“And in His law he meditates day and night.”

This example of Climactic Parallelism is also an example of Introverted Parallelism, showing that sometimes, different devices are being used in one particular passage. The climax here is expressed by the fact that the person, who delights in the law of God, meditates on it day and night. It is also an example of Introverted Parallelism, as the order of the thoughts is reversed (thought 1 in line 1 [“delight”] is expressed in thought 2 in line 2 [“meditates day and night”]).

Another device in Hebrew Poetry, which is used in the Bible, is that of EMBLEMATIC PARALLELISM.

The word “emblem” describes a symbol or a design that represents something; for instance, a dove is oftentimes used as a symbol of peace.

This is an important devise of Poetry, in that a literal statement in one line is contrasted with a metaphor or a simile in the other line.

A metaphor indicates something different from the literal meaning, such as, “You will eat my words,” or, “You have a heart of stone.” A simile compares one thing to another, such as, “He is as brave as a lion,” or, “childhood is like a passing dream.”

We distinguish between Emblematic Parallelism with a link and Emblematic Parallelism without a link. Many times, in the Hebrew text, the link is designated with the word “so,” connecting the different thoughts and making the contrast with a metaphor or simile quite clear.

Notice the following two examples of Emblematic Parallelism WITH a link:

Psalm 42:1:

“As the deer pants [longs for] the water brooks,
“So pants my soul for you, O God.”

The word “so” indicates here that the thought in line 1 is contrasted with the thought in line 2. While line 1 describes a literal occurrence (the thirsty deer longs for water), line 2 describes an emblem—a simile or a metaphor: David’s soul—his entire being—longs for God.

Proverbs 25:25:

“A cold water to a weary soul,
“So [is] good news from a far country.”

Here we find another contrast between something literal (cold water for a weary person) and something emblematic (good news from a far country). Even though good news from a far country can be quite real, it is contrasted here symbolically with the effect of cold water for a weary soul.

In the next example, no link to a metaphor or simile is given, but it is clear that in the Hebrew, a link is intended.

Emblematic Parallelism WITHOUT a link:

Proverbs 11:22:

“[As] a ring of gold in a swine’s snout,
“[so is] a lovely woman who lacks discretion.”

In the Hebrew, the words “as” in the first line and “so is” in the second line are not in the Original, but it is obvious that they must be added (as the translators did) to make the meaning clear. The literal statement (“a ring of gold in a swine’s snout”) is contrasted symbolically with a lovely woman (“the ring of gold”) who lacks discretion (“the swine’s snout”).

As another device of Hebrew Poetry, let us now focus on PALILOGICAL PARALLELISM.

The word “palilogy” describes the repetition of a word or phrase for emphasis. In Palilogical Parallelism, one or more words within the first thought are repeated, as an echo, in the second or third thought. As we will see, especially in this device, other devices may also be used. This is important to understand, if we want to grasp the full meaning of a particular statement.

Psalm. 72:17:

“His name shall endure forever;
“His name shall continue as long as the sun.
“And men shall be blessed in Him;
“All nations shall call Him blessed.”

This example combines several devices of Hebrew Poetry.  First, it incorporates the concept of Palilogical Parallelism. The thought of “His name” in line 1 is repeated, as an echo, in line 2, and the concept of being blessed in line 3 is repeated, as an echo, in line 4. In addition, we find here also an example of Synonymous Parallelism in lines 1 and 2. The concept of “endur[ing] forever” in line 1 is equated with the concept of “continu[ing] as long as the sun.” This is interesting in light of the fact that Jesus also said that as long as heaven and earth remain, the law of God will remain in force as well (Matthew 5:18). So, since God’s name will endure as long as the sun continues, so will His law.

Nahum 1:2:

“God is jealous, and the LORD avenges;
“The LORD avenges and is furious.
“The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries,
“And He reserves wrath for His enemies.”

The thought in line 1 (“the LORD avenges”) is repeated as an echo in line 2. In line 3, it is almost repeated (“the LORD will take vengeance”), and the thought of Him being “furious” in line 2 is equated with His “wrath” in line 4, while His “adversaries” in line 3 are equated with His “enemies” in line 4, showing that when man acts adverse to the Will of God, God is angry with man and regards him as His enemy.

Judges 5:27:

“At her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still;
“At her feet he sank, he fell;
“here he sank, there he fell dead.”

Certain words in line 1 (“at her feet he sank, he fell”) are repeated as an echo in line 2, and to an extent in line 3, but other thoughts are added: “he lay still” in line 1 is repeated, as an identical thought, in line 3 (“he fell dead”). This shows that a dead person lies still; there is no continuation of life or consciousness when one dies.

Before concluding this series, we want to address one more device in Hebrew Poetry. It does not contain the concept of Parallelism, but it is known as the “Acrostic” device. “Acrostic” literally means, “beginning of the line.” It refers to instances when each line—or each series of lines—begins with a new letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which has 22 letters.

For instance, Psalm 119 has 176 verses. Each verse of the first eight verses begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; each verse of the second eight verses begins with the second letter of the alphabet, and so on. Each verse of the last eight verses of the psalm begins with the last or 22nd letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Many translations, such as the Authorized Version or the New King James Bible, have these passages marked and designated in Psalm 119. Each verse of the first eight verses begins with the letter “Aleph,” followed by the second stanza of eight verses with the letter “beth,” and so on. The last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letter “tau,” is prominent in verses 169-176, where each verse of these last eight verses begins with the letter “tau.”

There are additional acrostic poems in the Bible.

Psalm 34:1-22 is an acrostic psalm, and so is Psalm 25, where with “minor exceptions, each verse of this alphabetic acrostic psalm begins with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet” (compare Ryrie Study Bible, comments to Psalm 34 and 25). In addition, Psalm 37 is an “alphabetic acrostic, every second verse beginning with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet” (compare Ryrie Study Bible). Other acrostic psalms can be found in Psalms 9 and 10, “every alternate verse (for the most part) beginning with the next successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet” (Ryrie Study Bible).

Proverbs 31:10-31 is an acrostic poem as well, and much of the book of Lamentations contains acrostic poems. (For instance, the Jewish Bible, Tanakh, designates quite nicely the different original letters of the Hebrew alphabet in these passages in the English translation) The Ryrie Study Bible explains that “the book [of Lamentations] consists of five poems, one for each chapter, the first four being written as acrostics (each verse begins with a word whose first letter is successively one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet—except in chapter 3, where three verses are allotted to each letter).”

To summarize, recognizing the different devices of Hebrew Poetry, as used in the Holy Bible, should give us a deeper understanding of the intended meaning of certain passages and also additional appreciation of the beauty contained in those passages. The Bible is a living book—the Word of the living God—and its richness should fill us with amazement and thankfulness, always remembering that man does not live by bread alone, but by EVERY Word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

“Hope and Desire in Trials,” is the title of last week’s sermon given by Evangelist Norbert Link. This is now posted for viewing–here is a summary:

When we go through trials, do we have the faith and trust in God that He will carry us through; that He will give us the strength to endure the trial; and that He will give us the desires of our hearts? This sermon shows how we can have this confidence, and what God expects of us.

“Spying in Satan’s World,” is the title of a new StandingWatch program presented by Evangelist Norbert Link. Here is a summary:

America’s habitual spying activities on friends and allies have caused an unprecedented worldwide uproar. Especially Europeans are up in arms. The blame game is continuing, misrepresentations and hypocrisy prevail, and the Germans have lost confidence in President Obama, who is perceived as having lied or being hopelessly ignorant in the matter, while some American politicians are defending NSA’s conduct. In this world, spying activities and falsehoods are one of Satan’s major devices. The Bible shows that just prior to Christ’s return, a war between Europe and the USA will break out, and wars start with words. We are in the preliminary stages of this development, leading to the Great Tribulation.

“Neu! Das Weltgericht,Teil 2,” is the new German sermon that has been recorded and will be presented this coming Sabbath. Title in English: “The World’s Judgment, Part 2.”

Our most recent booklet, “The Ten European Revivals of the Ancient Roman Empire,” has received several positive comments. Among these are the following:

“I read it with great interest. It is much appreciated.”

“I read your new booklet on the ‘Ten European Revivals’ and it must be the best I have ever seen on the subject. Congratulations on this effort to bring together so much overpowering information.”

Also, we received these encouraging comments about our StandingWatch programs:

“I appreciate very much the intelligent commentary of Mr. Link about the current events in the world. It is unique. It is a very good idea to introduce and conclude the program with a narrator. The music at the end of the program is spiritually inspiring. Keep up your essential work!”

“I watch the StandingWatch video with Norbert Link often and enjoy the information that he speak[s] about.”

We certainly appreciate hearing from those who read, listen to and view our materials!

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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

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

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