Update 135


Who Are the Saints

On Saturday, March 20, 2004, Dave Harris will be giving the sermon, titled, “Who Are the Saints?”

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Never Quit!

by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

Lance Armstrong, an American cycling super star, confronted cancer in the 1990’s and beat it. He subsequently made a simple but very profound and incisive statement when he pointed out that “Pain is temporary but quitting lasts forever.” Doesn’t that truly sum up what we, in the Church of God, have to avoid at all costs? Quitting lasts forever — especially in the Christian life.

I’m not talking about those things that we should quit. Galatians 5:19-21 clearly lists the works of the flesh that must not be a part of our Christian way of life. When we were being called and were repenting of our sins as we saw ourselves for what we were, these may well have been areas that we had to work on. Even after conversion, we must continue to strive to overcome those works of the flesh.

I’m talking about the way of life that we’ve been called to. The Christian way of life is for now and forever — and if we permanently forsake that way, then we have, in effect, quit forever.

We can, and we all do get temporarily discouraged. We are not alone in this. Moses, Elijah and Job, amongst others, were Old Testament examples of men of God who went through temporary times of discouragement. In the New Testament, there is a prime example of discouragement — but only on a temporary basis. When Jesus was being arrested, Matthew 26:56 states that “all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” Not just some of the disciples, but ALL of them. They must have been massively discouraged, but the Scriptures show that this was temporary and that they didn’t permanently quit.

There were other quitters — whether these people ever really understood, we don’t know (but God knows). After 3 ½ years of preaching about the Kingdom of God, healing so many people and performing many miracles, there were those who turned their backs on Christ. John 6:66 states simply that “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” We see here the backsliding of these disciples. Many of them must have gone back to their houses, families and previous jobs which they had left for a time to follow Him.

Undoubtedly, in many of those cases, 1 John 2:19 would apply, stating: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”

We have the greatest calling in the world. Quitting must never enter our thinking irrespective of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Matthew 24:13 tells us why we must stay the course. This Scripture is a repeat of what is said in Matthew 10:22. It clearly states that “he who endures to the end shall be saved.” We have to endure — not quit. We are having our chance now for salvation — eternal life.

While Lance Armstrong was applying his statement to endeavors in this life, it is a masterly summation of what we, in the Church, are involved in. We must always keep in the forefront of our minds that pain is temporary but quitting is, indeed, forever.

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U.S. and Europe Alienated?

In last Wednesday’s Today Show, a new poll was discussed. 8,000 people outside the U.S. had been questioned, and the results were quite alarming. According to the poll, only 37% of the French and only 38% of the German peoples view the politics of the United States in a favorable light. 82% of the French and 69% of the German peoples believe that the governments of the United States and Great Britain lied about the existence of weapons of mass destruction prior to the Iraq war (which began one year ago this Saturday, March 20).

Many commentators feel that a change in U.S. administration will also change the negative European feelings and create a more friendly relationship between those two power blocs. However, this assessment may prove too optimistic, even if a change were to occur. Most Europeans have not forgotten that the Democratic challenger of Mr. Bush, Senator John Kerry, voted for U.S. intervention in Iraq, and that he recently stated that he did not regret his vote.

Some commentators have recently shared their belief that many Europeans are not just anti-Bush, but anti-American. The widening rift between the two power blocs can also be seen in a recent development, dealing with the sharing of air data. Reuters reported on March 18, 2004, that “Key EU lawmakers dealt a blow to Washington’s air security strategy Thursday by rejecting a U.S.-EU accord on handing over passengers’ personal details. Citing civil rights concerns, the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee voted by a large majority to condemn the European Commission for agreeing to pass on data, such as credit card numbers and phone numbers, which Washington says it needs to spot potential terrorists… The committee asked the Commission to change its decision or face a legal challenge in the EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice. The full parliament will vote at the end of the month on whether it supports its committee’s view. The parliament’s opinion has no legal force, but the Commission will find it difficult to ignore such a strong political signal from the EU’s elected assembly, officials said.”

Does Terror Bring Europe Together?

As A.P. reported on March 15, “the European Union will hold high-level security talks on Friday [at EU headquarters in Brussels] to assess what additional anti-terrorism measures to take in the wake of the bombings in Madrid.” The countries will be discussing a “solidarity clause” committing nations to help each other in response to terror attacks, the appointment of a special EU official to coordinate counterterrorism operations in Europe, and improved intelligence sharing.

Israel and Palestine

Recent events have proven, once again, that the road map to peace between Israelis and Palestinians is currently nothing more than a concept of wishful thinking. As AP reported on March 15, “Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Monday ruled out peace negotiations with the Palestinians, charging they were doing nothing to stop attacks against Israelis.” Sharon made those statements, following Sunday’s double suicide bombings in the Israeli port of Ashdod, which killed 10 people. Subsequently, Israel retaliated by firing missiles at two suspected Hamas weapons workshops in Gaza City, causing some damage, but no injuries. USA Today added:

“Sunday’s bombing was the fourth attack carried out jointly by Al Aqsa and Hamas in recent weeks… Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat condemned Sunday’s attack on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and expressed regret that Israel canceled the summit” with the Palestinians, which had been scheduled for last Tuesday.

Iraq — now!

ABCNEWS published on March 14 a report on Iraq — almost one year after the war began. It titled its report, “Where Things Stand.”

Five teams of reporters from ABCNEWS, the BBC and TIME magazine assessed the situation. Here is their finding:

“By nearly every quantifiable measure, the situation has improved since before the war… However, the one exception — security — also happens to be the yardstick that Iraqis say matters most. Iraqis by a wide margin express optimism for the future — and believe democracy can take hold; they are less certain that the country is ready for elections.

“Any credit or praise for the U.S. is heavily tempered; roughly 8 in 10 Iraqis told us the Americans have not kept their promises — and they frequently told our reporters they blame the United States for problems in their lives. Traffic and other transportation problems have become a major concern. In central Iraq, people ranked this their second-highest priority. Interestingly, two seminal events since our last visit — the capture of Saddam Hussein and the announcement of a political handover on June 30 — get limited attention. And even when Iraqis acknowledge and appreciate progress, they do not necessarily credit the United States for the change. One year later, attitudes toward the U.S. are fraught with contradictions. Many people who cheered the capture of Saddam Hussein are deplored by the ‘humiliating’ way it was carried out. Iraqis often say they do not like seeing U.S. soldiers on their streets — but many would also agree with the crude assessment a 66-year-old tailor in Kut gave the TIME magazine’s Terry Mc Carthy: ‘If the Americans leave now, everyone will start eating each other.'”

But even with the Americans in Iraq, bloodshed continues. Reuters reported on March 18, 2004:

“At least seven civilians were killed in two separate bomb and gun attacks in Iraq on Thursday, doubling the death toll in a bloody 24 hours as U.S. forces prepared to mark the first anniversary of their invasion. A British military spokesman in Basra said four Iraqis were killed in an explosion outside the southern city’s Mirbabd Hotel. A child was one of at least two people wounded, witnesses said. The Basra attack came less than a day after a suicide car bomber killed seven people, including a British engineer, at a hotel in Baghdad [the Mount Lebanon hotel] on Wednesday evening. U.S. officials blamed that attack on Muslim militants, possibly linked to al Qaeda. Three employees of a U.S.-funded television station were shot dead at Baquba, northeast of the capital, and two Iraqis, including a child, died in fighting between guerrillas and U.S. troops in another restive town, Falluja… On Wednesday, two U.S. soldiers had also been killed in separate mortar attacks.Troops are on alert for an increase in violence ahead of Saturday’s anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion on March 20 last year which toppled Saddam Hussein… The bloodshed marred a U.S. campaign ahead of the invasion anniversary to stress progress made in the year since the war.”

Haider — a Dragon?

An interesting comparison was made last week in Austria’s magazine “Profil,” in regard to Joerg Haider’s sweeping election victory. The magazine stated: “[Austrian Chancellor] Schuessel’s favorite… thesis that he had become the ‘dragon slayer,’ that is the conqueror of Joerg Haider, became history last Sunday. The dragon is alive.”

Are Gay Rights Civil Rights?

This interesting question was asked in an article by ABCNEWS, published on March 13. The article quoted several black ministers claiming that “gay rights” have nothing to do with “civil rights” — that it is “offensive” to make such a comparison. Bishop Gilbert Thompson of Atlanta was quoted as saying: “I was born black. I was born male. Homosexuals are not born, they’re made. They don’t qualify.”

The article continued: “For many African Americans, who began the civil rights movement in the black churches of the conservative South, gay and lesbian Americans are people of poor behavior.” Pastor Garland Hunt of Atlanta stated: “Same-sex marriage has nothing to do with civil rights, this is an issue of morality.”

Spain’s Uncertain Future

Momentous events are occurring in Spain! Following the worst terror attack in Spain’s history, which killed over 200 and injured over 1,500 people in Thursday’s train bombings, the Spanish government was ousted by the voters Sunday and replaced by a new Socialist leader. The main causes for this startling development and the “protest vote” were (1) the support by the former Spanish government of the Iraq war, (2) the terror attack that was perceived as having been launched by al-Qaeda in direct consequence of the support of the war, and (3) the perceived inept and dishonest handling by the former Spanish government of the aftermath of the terror attack in Spain, by initially denying any involvement of al-Qaeda and blaming instead the armed Basque separist group ETA for the train bombings.

The new Spanish leader, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, already pledged to withdraw 1,300 Spanish troops from Iraq by June 30, if the United Nations does not assume control of the peacekeeping operation in Iraq by that time.

The European press treated the defeat of the Spanish government as a terrible blow for President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. As Bild Online commented, “they must now fear that other nations will follow Spain’s example.” Spiegel Online added that “Zapatero’s announcement constitutes a late victory for the anti-war movement, which could become problematic for the United States — as well as for the rest of the world.” The magazine stated that Poland, which has now become more and more isolated in Europe, was asked to replace Spain’s military position in Iraq, but that Poland may not be able to do so. It speculated that the United States will try to send in more troops, which may prove to be “problematic in the long run.”

AFP reported on March 15 that “Britain stuck to its tough line on terrorism as Prime Minister Tony Blair sought to take the electoral humiliation of his best European ally on Iraq in his stride… The verdict of Spain’s voters is unlikely to shake Blair’s conviction, shared with Bush, that pre-emptive action might need to be taken to deal with the twin menace of rogue states and global terrorists.”

Another remarkable consequence of the new leadership in Spain may be a closer alliance between France, Germany and Spain. As Der Spiegel Online reported on March 15, Spain’s new leader stated that he will no longer oppose a European constitution. This means that Poland is becoming isolated in Europe on this issue as well.

Realizing this fact, Poland might be trying to strengthen its ties with continental Europe. A.P. reported on March 18, 2004, about remarks by Poland’s President Aleksander Kwasniewski to the effect that Poland was “misled” about the threat from Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. The article continued: “The remarks… were his first hint of such criticism at the United States and Britain.”

President Bush quickly congratulated the new leader of Spain, Zapatero, on his victory. Zapatero later said that he will listen to President Bush’s viewpoints, but that he will not change his position on Iraq.

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We are commanded in the Bible to remove all leaven from our houses during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Is it true that your understanding and the understanding of the Jews are different, as to what constitutes leaven that needs to be removed? If so, could you explain your position and the reasons for it?

We are glad to.

First of all, we need to understand that the Jews were recipients of the “law” (Romans 9:4) and the “oracles” (Romans 3:2). They were entrusted by God to preserve the written Old Testament Scriptures as well as, for example, the knowledge of the week and the Hebrew Calendar (compare our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days,” pp. 2-3). Christ also told the Jews of His time to do what the scribes and the Pharisees told them to do, as they were sitting “in Moses’ seat,” warning them at the same time not to “do according to their works” (Matthew 23:1-3). In other words, the people were not to follow the leadership if they were to teach and act contrary to God’s law, either by adding or by deleting something (compare Deuteronomy 4:2). Christ chided the Pharisees and the scribes repeatedly for “laying aside the commandment of God,” while holding “the tradition of men” (Mark 7:1, 8-13). He made clear that His disciples were not obligated to follow those human traditions. Later, the apostles refused to obey the high priest and the Sadducees, when their command was contrary to God’s will (Acts 5:17, 27-29, 40-42).

Based on this background, we need to carefully evaluate the Jewish definition of what constitutes “leaven” that needs to be removed from our houses during the seven Days of Unleavened Bread (compare Exodus 13:6-7). The Jewish definition does not have to be accepted by God’s Church, if it is, in effect, adding to, or deleting from the revealed purpose and spirit of God’s commandment. We must also realize that Christ came to make the law more honorable (Isaiah 42:21), and to teach His followers the spiritual applications of the law (compare Matthew 5:21-48) — going beyond the application of the letter (Romans 7:6; 2 Corinthians 3:6).

It has been the long-standing teaching of the Church of God that in certain respects, the spiritual concept of leaven is both broader and narrower than the Jewish understanding.

To quote from the Broadman Bible Commentary, on Exodus 13, p. 360, let us notice the somewhat stringent and extreme interpretation of “leaven” in “later Judaism”:

“These must be removed at Passover: Babylonian porridge, Median beer, Edomite vinegar, and Egyptian Barley-beer, also dyers’ pulp, cooks’ starch-flour, and writers’ paste. R. Eliezer says: Also women’s cosmetics. This is the general rule: whatsoever is made from any kind of grain must be removed at passover’ (Perashim 3:1)…”

The Church of God never taught that beverages or items not meant or fit for human consumption are to be removed. The Good News wrote on March, 1981: “There is nothing in the entirety of Scripture [as distinguished from human traditions!] to indicate any restriction on the kind of beverages we consume during the Days of Unleavened Bread — no mention of these being the ‘Days of Unleavened Beverages.’ The fact is that in all cases where the Days of Unleavened Bread are mentioned, the reference is always to the example set by the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt without any leaven in their dough (see Exodus 12:39). There is no reference to the invisible yeast or result of it in either beer, wine or other beverages… If God had intended a ban on fermented beverages during the Days of Unleavened Bread, it would undoubtedly have been mentioned. In fact, such mention would have been necessary.”

An old letter from the Letter Answering Department of the Worldwide Church of God adds the following:

“Items such as bread, cake, crackers, cookies, and prepared cereals and pies which contain leavening, of course, must be put out. Doing so is symbolic of putting both the visible and the hidden sins out of our lives. It is true, however, that leavening agents are also found in a number of products other than baked goods. Among these are beer, wine, and antacids, and some medications, bath powders, toothpastes, and dog foods. Even fire extinguishers contain forms of leavening agents. But, all these need not be discarded.”

In addition, though, the Church of God has consistently preached and taught that certain “leavening agents,” which the Jews don’t remove, SHOULD BE removed. These leavening agents include baking soda and baking powder, but not “brewer’s yeast,” “yeast extracts,” or “cream of tartar.”

In regard to baking soda and baking powder, it has been said that these agents are dead, unable to puff up the dough. Whether or not this is true from a biological-chemical standpoint, note, how these agents are defined in encyclopedias. For instance, the Grosse Brockhaus defines “baking powder” as “baking leavening, to loose the dough, used in replacement of yeast.” The WebBible Encyclopedia defines “leaven” as an “agent used to raise bread or other flour foods. Physical leavens include water vapor, which is released as steam at high temperatures (as in popovers), and air, which is incorporated by beating. CHEMICAL LEAVEN (BAKING POWDER AND BAKING SODA) and biological leavens (yeasts and certain bacteria) raise the mixture by the formation of carbon dioxide gas, which is expanded by heat.” The Encyclopedia Britannica adds that baking powder is “a prepared mixture to replace yeast in baking.”

Based on the foregoing, the Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates have determined to uphold the long-standing Church teaching to include baking powder and baking soda as leavening agents that are to be removed during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Whether active agents or not, they would clearly be used, in any event, as a substitute for leavening to puff up any flour or meal product, thereby violating the spirit of God’s commands.

For any additional use of leavening agents, or agents used as a substitute for leavening, let us quote again with approval from the above-cited letter of the Letter Answering Department of the Worldwide Church of God:

“… it is a matter of personal conscience between the individual Christian and God as to whether the product should be thrown out. If having any of these or similar products in your home during the Days of Unleavened Bread defiles your conscience, it would be best to get rid of them during the festival (Romans 14:23).” In addition, we must also be careful not to offend others and their conscience. If we know that a member would be offended if we were to bring products into his house, or to Church services, which the member considers “leavened,” we should refrain from doing so (compare the principle in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33).

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Member Letter

A member letter was sent out this week, reporting on the ministerial conference and addressing Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. You can find a version of the letter at: http://www.eternalgod.org/lit/letters/brethren-20040318.pdf

Ian Willis, of the San Diego, CA congregation, was ordained as a deacon during Sabbath on March 6, 2004, by Edwin Pope, with the assistance of Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier and Brian Gale.

We are pleased to announce that Kalon Mitchell, of the San Diego, California, congregation, was baptized on March 13, 2004, in the presence of most of the San Diego brethren, as well as some brethren from Colorado and England. The baptism was conducted by Norbert Link, with the assistance of Brian Gale. Congratulations to Kalon.

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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:

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