Update 683


We Aren’t Done!; Man’s Will, God’s Will; Trust Me; How Far Out of Egypt Have We Come?

On April 10, 2015, we will observe the last Day of Unleavened Bread. Morning services from Fort Collins, Colorado, will begin at 10:00 am Pacific Time. Dave Harris will give the sermonette (“We Aren’t Done!”) and Eric Rank will present the sermon (“Man’s Will, God’s Will”). Afternoon services will be broadcast from Ramona, California, and will begin at 2:00 pm Pacific Time. Kalon Mitchell will give the sermonette (“Trust Me”), and Brian Gale will present the sermon (“How Far Out of Egypt Have We Come?”).

On April 11, 2015, the weekly Sabbath, Kalon Mitchell will present the sermonette, titled, “In Tune,” and Brian Gale will give the sermon, titled, “Are You a Profitable Servant?”

The live services are available, over video and audio, at http://eternalgod.org/live-services/ (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time; 8:30 pm Greenwich Mean Time; 9:30 pm Central European Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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A Matter of Choice

by Dave Harris

When God calls someone, tremendous change must take place, and that becomes quickly obvious as a Christian confronts this world and its present social order.

You see, living as a Christian requires that we can no longer just go along with what everyone else is doing. We are forced to make choices—to reject one course of action and to choose another. While some of the steps we have taken, such as repentance and baptism, help lay a foundation for living in a godly manner, we are still constantly challenged to apply God’s laws in making decisions.

Hard choices require that we seek God’s Will in a matter. The Bible, through specific instructions and abundant examples, can help us understand the best course of action to take (Psalm 119:97-104). Seeking God’s guidance by prayer is available to us, but we must ask (James 1:5). The Church of God, through the ministry, may also assist us in difficult situations, if we are willing (2 Timothy 4:2-3).

Furthermore, when the answer is given from God, will we have the faith to go forward (Hebrews 11:6)? Our Christian growth is reflected by how successful we are in transcending this present evil age, but never forget that God’s Way is narrow and difficult when compared to the world in which we now live!

As each new issue arises, what will our choice be—obey God or compromise with Satan?

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War is consuming the Middle East, and we highlight Iran’s growing involvement in the Yemen conflict. ISIS—despite claims of containment by the West—is now pushing closer to Damascus. We present articles reacting to President Obama’s “deal” with Iran; report on unbelievable police brutality; and conclude with the ominous drought “punishing” California.

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Muscle-Flexing by Iran

AP reported on April 8:

“Iran dispatched a destroyer and another naval ship to waters off Yemen on Wednesday, raising the stakes amid a Saudi-led air campaign targeting Iranian-backed Shiite rebels fighting forces loyal to the country’s embattled president.

“The Iranian maneuver came as the U.S. deepened its support for the Saudi-led coalition, boosting weapons supplies and intelligence-sharing and carrying out the first U.S. aerial refueling mission of coalition fighter jets.

“The Iranian warships were sent to the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait as part of an anti-piracy campaign to ‘safeguard naval routes for vessels in the region,’ Iranian Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari was quoted as saying by the English-language state broadcaster Press TV.

“Securing navigation in the narrow strait was a key reason for the Saudi-led air and maritime blockade that began after Yemen’s internationally recognized president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, fled the country two weeks ago as the rebels closed in on Aden, Yemen’s second-largest city where he was based.”

ISIS Pushes Closer to Damascus

Breitbart reported on April 5:

“Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) militias have taken control of a southern district in Damascus, Syria, and are just a few kilometers from the military headquarters of the regime of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. Al-Assad’s army has suffered several recent defeats, especially the major military defeat in Idlib, and so it appears that ISIS may present a real military challenge to the regime in its seat of power. Reports indicate that ISIS is also receiving help from the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front), a group with which it often has battles in other places and times.

“ISIS’s advance into Damascus is through the Yarmouk refugee camp, home to about 18,000 Palestinian refugees. The camp has been under siege from al-Assad’s army since 2011, since al-Assad feared that the Palestinian refugees would join the fight against him. In the last couple of years, the Free Syrian Army and al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) have entered Yarmouk and fought each other, making Yarmouk increasingly dangerous for the civilians living there. Now the invasion of ISIS has turned Yarmouk into a humanitarian disaster. Aid groups are unable to enter Yarmouk, with the result that the civilians have no food and water, no electricity. Anyone who leaves his home risks getting shot and killed by snipers on the rooftops.

“Other reports indicate that al-Assad’s forces are trying to fight ISIS by means of ‘violent shelling by the regime forces using tank shells and ground-to-ground missiles,’ weapons that are more likely to kill civilians than ISIS.”

Obama’s Deal with Iran Weakens the USA

The Editorial Board of the Washington Post wrote on April 6:

“PRESIDENT OBAMA has launched an aggressive lobbying campaign for his preliminary nuclear deal with Iran… Unfortunately… the president’s claims could have a self-fulfilling quality. By loudly insisting there is no alternative to the terms he has agreed to, Mr. Obama helps ensure that the option of maintaining sanctions while insisting that Iran agree to dismantle more of its nuclear infrastructure… is no longer a practical alternative.

“At the same time, the White House stance risks weakening its negotiating position in the crucial bargaining with Iran. Mr. Obama conceded that some vital ‘details’ have not yet been worked out, including how the lifting of sanctions on Iran would be tied to its implementation of steps such as reducing its stockpile of enriched uranium and its base of installed centrifuges. Worryingly, the fact sheets issued by the U.S. and Iranian governments differ sharply… The gulf between those two scenarios is extremely important…

“Similarly crucial differences may be buried in the as-yet-unspecified details of how inspectors will obtain access to new suspected nuclear sites and how they will get answers to outstanding questions about Iran’s previous work on nuclear warhead designs. By insisting that the deal is already the best available, Mr. Obama is making it more difficult for his negotiators to walk away from the follow-up talks if they are unable to obtain satisfactory terms. If Iran continues to insist on the ‘immediate’ lifting of sanctions, will the president give in rather than reverse his rhetoric?…”

America’s foreign policy, including Obama’s controversial and ill-advised “deal” with Iran, is one of utter weakness, inconsistency and failure.

Western Leadership Failing!

AP reported on April 5:

“On a basic level, the framework deal between world powers and Tehran will be judged by whether it prevents an Iranian bomb, but that will take years to figure out.

“A more immediate issue is the projection of Western power. Supporters of the framework deal can argue that the U.S. and world powers extracted significant concessions from Iran, breaking a decade-long impasse and proving that diplomacy backed by tough sanctions can bring about positive change even in the Middle East.

“But if, as critics contend, the agreement ends up projecting U.S. weakness instead, that could embolden rogue states and extremists alike, and make the region’s vast array of challenges — from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Syrian civil war to the fighting in Libya and Yemen — even more impervious to Western intervention.

“The United States wants to rein in Syria’s President Bashar Assad as his ruinous civil war grinds into year five. It would like to encourage more liberal domestic policies in Egypt and push Iraq’s leaders to govern more inclusively. Despite years of setbacks, the U.S. would still like to see a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…

“The implications of a weak United States, meanwhile, are not just regional but global, affecting events from Russia to China and North Korea — as well as the prospects for global accords on climate change or even significant trade deals.”

Obama: “Nuclear Deal Cannot Depend on Iran Recognizing Israel”

Deutsche Welle wrote on April 7:

“Barack Obama has told US radio network NPR that demanding for Iran to recognize Israel would go beyond the scope of the nuclear deal discussed with Tehran… ‘The notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms…And that, I think, is a fundamental [mis]judgement,’ Obama said in the interview…

“Meanwhile, Republican leader Mitch McConnell criticized the pact with Iran saying that lawmakers opposed to the deal were planning a formal response…

“On Monday, Israel’s Minister for Strategic Affairs, Yuval Steinitz, said his country was still considering military action against Iran’s nuclear program. ‘It was on the table. It’s still on the table, it’s going to remain on the table…Israel should be able to defend – for itself, by itself – against any threat,’ Steinitz told reporters in Jerusalem.”

Taking America Down…

The Weekly Standard reported on April 8:

“Vice President Dick Cheney had harsh criticism for President Barack Obama in an interview last night with radio host Hugh Hewitt.

“Hewitt asked the former vice president, ‘Is he naïve, Mr. Vice President? Or does he have a far-reaching vision that only he entertains of a realigned Middle East that somehow it all works out in the end?’

“‘I don’t know, Hugh. I vacillate between the various theories I’ve heard, but you know, if you had somebody as president who wanted to take America down, who wanted to fundamentally weaken our position in the world and reduce our capacity to influence events, turn our back on our allies and encourage our adversaries, it would look exactly like what Barack Obama’s doing. I think his actions are constituted in my mind those of the worst president we’ve ever had.’”

America is going down! However, it is because of our national sins and our refusal to turn in heartfelt repentance to God. President Obama may well be an instrument to this end, as Mr. Cheney suggested.

Police Brutality and Abuse in America

The Local wrote on April 7:

“Three German journalists announced on Thursday they are taking the police in the American town of Ferguson to court after they were arrested while covering race riots there in August 2014.

“The journalists, Ansgar Graw of Die Welt, Lukas Hermsmeier of Bild and Frank Hermann, a freelancer for regional newspapers were arrested and detained for ‘refusal to disperse’… Graw told The Local that the police never gave him any official reason for his arrest but that his mugshot was accompanied by the text ‘refusal to disperse.’

“The correspondent said that the case was not about him but about asking ‘whether a county in the USA can accept that their police violate freedom of the press.’ ‘The American police overstep their rights very clearly and too often,’ he said…

“The journalists are arguing that their incarceration was a violation of the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the American Constitution, which cover freedom of speech, freedom of the press and protection against unlawful arrest. Graw, who has been based in Washington since 2009, also complained that conditions in prison were meant to ‘humiliate’ him. He was not only handcuffed but also chained to a wall… ‘In America the attitude is “We are the law and you have to accept whatever we tell you.”'”

Sadly, this seems to be very true far too often—see the appalling report below:

Shot in the Back!!!

Nytimes.com wrote on April 8:

“A white police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder on Tuesday after a video surfaced showing him shooting in the back and killing an apparently unarmed black man while the man ran away.

“The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, said he had feared for his life because the man had taken his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday. A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man, Walter L. Scott, 50, fled. The North Charleston mayor announced the state charges at a news conference Tuesday evening.

“The shooting came on the heels of high-profile instances of police officers’ using lethal force in New York, Cleveland, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere. The deaths have set off a national debate over whether the police are too quick to use force, particularly in cases involving black men.

“A White House task force has recommended a host of changes to the nation’s police policies, and President Obama sent Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to cities around the country to try to improve police relations with minority neighborhoods.”

Justice has departed from our land!

The Murder of Walter Scott

Deutsche Welle wrote on April 9:

“The man who shocked the world with a video apparently showing a white police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, shoot unarmed African American Walter Lamer Scott came forward late Wednesday, saying he immediately recognized the significance of the chilling footage he recorded… As a result of the recording, 33-year-old Slager was charged with murder on Tuesday and faces a sentence of life imprisonment or death if convicted. Slager stands accused of killing Scott, 50, after a scuffle that began with a traffic stop for a broken tail light. The video contradicted Slager’s claim that he fired because he felt threatened…

“In an interview with the Associated Press, another North Charleston resident claimed to have lodged a complaint against Slager in 2013 for use of excessive force, but that the officer was allowed to remain on duty following a brief investigation. Mario Givens, now 33, said in the interview that Slager forcibly entered his home and used a stun gun on him despite the fact that Givens had surrendered and put his hands in the air. Givens also claimed that Slager never said what he wanted or who he was looking for…”

One must wonder why persons like Slager are allowed to work as police officers…

California Drought Brings Changes

NYTimes.com reported on April 4:

“For more than a century, California has been the state where people flocked for a better life — 164,000 square miles of mountains, farmland and coastline, shimmering with ambition and dreams, money and beauty. It was the cutting-edge symbol of possibility: Hollywood, Silicon Valley, aerospace, agriculture and vineyards.

“But now a punishing drought — and the unprecedented measures the state announced last week to compel people to reduce water consumption — is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been this state’s driving engine has run against the limits of nature.

“The 25 percent cut in water consumption ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown raises fundamental questions about what life in California will be like in the years ahead, and even whether this state faces the prospect of people leaving for wetter climates — assuming, as Mr. Brown and other state leaders do, that this marks a permanent change in the climate, rather than a particularly severe cyclical drought.

“This state has survived many a catastrophe before — and defied the doomsayers who have regularly proclaimed the death of the California dream — as it emerged, often stronger, from the challenges of earthquakes, an energy crisis and, most recently, a budgetary collapse that forced years of devastating cuts in spending. These days, the economy is thriving, the population is growing, the state budget is in surplus, and development is exploding from Silicon Valley to San Diego; the evidence of it can be seen in the construction cranes dotting the skylines of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“But even California’s biggest advocates are wondering if the severity of this drought, now in its fourth year, is going to force a change in the way the state does business.”

European Rapid Reaction Force Ready Within Eight Hours

The Local wrote on April 9:

“Soldiers from Nato’s new rapid reaction force, including hundreds of German troops, were ready to deploy within eight hours of receiving the alert in an exercise simulating an urgent deployment to eastern Europe.

“Around 900 of the 1,500 personnel involved in the 12-nation exercise are based in Germany, where they are supposed to be ready to leave their bases in Saxony, Thuringia and Rhineland-Palatinate with their vehicles and equipment within five days.

“The VJTF was formed in response to growing fears over the threat Russia poses to bordering countries such as Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. By holding forces ready to be deployed at any moment, the alliance hopes to deter Russia from any aggressive moves towards its neighbours in north-eastern Europe…”

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What Can We Learn From the Parable in Matthew 25:1-12?

This parable is a very important aspect of God’s people being prepared. In the previous chapter, Matthew 24, this state of preparedness and readiness is emphasised (see verses 36-44). This last verse states: “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him.”

Ten virgins were waiting to welcome the bridegroom, five being wise and five being foolish.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary observes that “Then—at the time referred to at the close of the preceding chapter, the time of the Lord’s Second Coming to reward His faithful servants and take vengeance on the faithless.” The word “then” can be overlooked as it comes at the start of a new chapter; had this man-made separation of chapters not occurred, it would have more easily have been seen as a continuation of the same theme at the end of the previous chapter.

The bridegroom is Jesus Christ (compare Matthew 9:15; Revelation 19:7-9). We must remember that some of the early apostles expected Jesus to return during their lifetime; for instance, Peter, Paul, James and John (see Acts 2:16-21; 1 Corinthians 7:29; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Hebrews 1:2; James 5:3; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 2:18).

In the parable we are addressing, there was one group of virgins who were unprepared for the long delay of the bridegroom. When the cry was heard at midnight (verse 6), the two groups were told to go out and meet him.

Interestingly, in the parable that Christ gave before the one that we are now reviewing, the faithful and evil servants are addressed (Matthew 24:45-51). We read in verses 48-50: “But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of.”

The evil servant was more involved in society rather than with the ways of God, and it is a lesson for God’s people of every age.

The foolish virgins (verse 3) took their lamps with no oil in them and the wise (verse 4) took oil in their lamps. As will be shown, the meaning is that the five foolish virgins did not take any EXTRA oil with them. They still had oil in their lamps, as their lamps were still burning, but it was not enough. The foolish failed to take into account all circumstances including that of the possibility that the bridegroom might come later than expected. As they all slumbered and slept (verse 5), the wise virgins would awaken and get ready but the foolish would be ruing their lack of foresight and application. They tried to obtain oil from the wise virgins but this was not possible. They had foolishly assumed that the wait wouldn’t be for too long. Only the wise virgins became ready to attend the wedding.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary makes these observations: “The wise virgins kept their lamps burning, but they did not keep themselves awake. Too many real Christians grow remiss, and one degree of carelessness makes way for another. Those that allow themselves to slumber will scarcely keep from sleeping; therefore dread the beginning of spiritual decays. A startling summons was given. Go ye forth to meet Him, is a call to those prepared. The notice of Christ’s approach, and the call to meet him, will awaken. Even those best prepared for death have work to do to get actually ready, 2 Peter 3:14. It will be a day of search and inquiry; and it concerns us to think how we shall then be found.”

The Church has long understood that oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. This also applies to the oil in the parable of the ten virgins, in Matthew 25.

The Holy Spirit is not static. It is being used and needs to be refurbished. Even the lamps of the foolish virgins were still burning… the five foolish virgins say in verse 8: “our lamps ARE GOING OUT.” So, the Holy Spirit was still within them, but they did not have enough of the Holy Spirit to get them ready for the return of Christ.

In our Q&A on oil and the Holy Spirit, we state the following:

“There are many passages that convey and support the understanding that oil is used biblically as a symbol for the Holy Spirit. For instance, we read in Mark 6:13 that Christ had His disciples anoint sick people with oil, and they were healed. We know that Christ healed the sick with the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 8:43-46 — the Authorized Version has here, ‘virtue,’ but the literal meaning is, ‘power,’ compare New King James Bible. Compare, too, Mark 5:30; Luke 6:19).

“Christ gave His disciples the same ability to heal sick people by the power of the Holy Spirit (Mark 16:18), which presence is symbolized by the anointing of the sick person with oil (James 5:14).

“Another example for this symbolism is found in the famous parable with the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:3, 4, 8). They all fell asleep, and the oil of the five foolish virgins was going out — that is, they were losing more and more of the power of the Holy Spirit within them.

“1 John 2:27 speaks of our anointing abiding in us. This is a clear reference to the Holy Spirit that had been promised by Jesus Christ (John 14:16; 16:13). In 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul admonishes Timothy to ‘stir up’ — or to ‘re-kindle’ — the gift of God, referring here to the Holy Spirit….”

It is interesting that this parable does not end with the warning that the five foolish virgins will be cast into outer darkness or the lake of fire; and that there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. It is therefore possible that the unprepared five foolish virgins will live on, in the flesh, with other human beings, into the Millennium. They will most certainly not be transformed into Spirit beings at the time of Christ’s return, but it does not say that they will be killed or thrown into the lake of fire at the time of the third resurrection. Still, the point of the parable is that those who are unprepared will not enter the Kingdom of God when Christ returns.

The Pulpit Commentary observes as follows: “These virgins represent believers divided into two sections; evidently they are all supposed to hold the true faith, and to be pure and undefiled followers of the Lord (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 14:4), to be waiting for his coming, and to love his appearing; but some fail for lack of… perseverance…”

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible states the following:  “… there is a very lively description given of the… judgment… as also, because it appears elsewhere, that such will be the formal, lukewarm, cold, indifferent, secure, and sleepy state of the church, before the second coming of Christ…”

How many people over the years have looked at and studied prophecy to conclude that the end of the age was near and when this didn’t happen as they predicted or expected they just gave up on the Christian way of life?   Christian behaviour should never depend on a deadline for the Second Coming.   We are called to a way of life and the Father will send Christ back to this earth at precisely the right moment without any help from any human being.

Jesus Christ will return to this earth as many prophecies in the Bible clearly show.   For those who think that He doesn’t need to return, that the Church is the Kingdom of God and other wrong ideas, they will be in for a shock when this event does occur.   Matthew 24 clearly shows that Jesus will return and if He didn’t then mankind would literally blow itself to pieces: “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved [alive]; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (verse 22).

The elect of God are those whom God has called over the course of the last 6,000 years. They will be in leadership positions in the Kingdom of God (compare Isaiah 2:1-4 and 9:6-7). In 1 Corinthians 1:26-28 we read about those called: “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.”

Scoffers were predicted in the last days: “…knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts” (see 2 Peter 3:3). We must never fall into this category.

Our preparation and readiness for this event involves our own continual personal growth and supporting the true Church of God.   We need to have a sense of urgency because even if Jesus Christ does not return in our lifetime, when we die, our next waking moment will be at His return if we are faithful to the end (see 1 Corinthians 15:52). We simply don’t know how long we each have to live.

Preparedness, alertness, anticipation and readiness are qualities that we all need, and letting down in our Christian life will put us in the same predicament in which the five foolish virgins found themselves!

Lead Writers: Brian Gale (United Kingdom) and Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

We have notified attendees for the US Feast of Tabernacles, to be held in Pismo Beach, California, that final confirmation of their reservations should now be made. If you are interested in attending the Feast with us, please contact us for further information.

The Offertory by Robb Harris and the sermon presented by Dave Harris (Time To Heed) on last Sabbath are now posted.

We are anticipating the baptisms of several people in Germany this Sabbath, to be conducted by Norbert and Michael Link. Your prayers are appreciated.

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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