Update 161


Unpardonable Sin

On Saturday, September 18, 2004, Norbert Link will be giving the sermon from Madison, Wisconsin. He will be discussing the greatly misunderstood concept of the “unpardonable sin.”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 2:30 pm Central Time. Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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Are You Sure?

by Dave Harris

Christianity is not for doubters!

You see, a follower of what is right and true must not equivocate. In the life of Jesus Christ, we do find struggles, but it was always a matter of overcoming and not giving in to sin. In His case, it was an issue of obeying and saying what was right and refusing to disobey.

For those around Him, this authoritative confidence of approach was shocking. When He taught in their synagogue on the Sabbath, we find this record of His impact: “And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22).

On another occasion, officers were sent to arrest Jesus: “Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, ‘Why have you not brought Him?’ The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!’ ” (John 7:45-46).

For those in whom Jesus Christ is living today, the same must be true! Indeed, some will take exception to one who boldly lives by and says, what is true. If fact, some will be offended, and–as prophecy shows–some will persecute and even kill those who resolutely stand in the truth.

We live in a time of blended opinions. Christianity now suffers because its purported advocates really don’t stand up for the right and true way. Rather, accomodations have led to a watering down of the potent message of true Christianity!

James describes those who approach God without faith, that is, doubting, in this way: “…for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). In verse 8, this thought is added: “he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Merely thinking that we are right and true is not enough. It takes more than just a positive approach. Consider that the very basis for how Jesus was able to fulfill His mission on this earth was His total reliance on God (Compare John 5:19).

James also made this key statement for us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Like Jesus, our source for what is right and true must be God.

Because what Jesus did was done in God, He was filled with the confidence of faith–He was sure about His teachings; about the work God had given to Him to accomplish; about the purpose of His life; and about His resurrection to eternal life; in fact, He was so sure that He was willing to lay down His life!

How sure are we?

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No End To War?

Violence and war breed more violence and war. This is THE lesson of history, which man, cut off from God and following Satan’s evil devices, has not learned. God will send Jesus Christ to FORCE peace upon man — as man is UNWILLING, UNABLE and WILLFULLY IGNORANT as to how to bring peace to this war-stricken world.

The latest fighting in Iraq proves the point. As Associated Press reported on Monday, September 13, 2004, “U.S. warplanes pounded a suspected hide-out of al-Qaida-linked militants in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Fallujah on Monday, killing at least 20 people and wounding 29, officials and witnesses said. Seven of the victims died when a shell hit an ambulance, a hospital official said.”

Again, we see innocent bystanders being killed in war. This is nothing new. In fact, we have become so accustomed to these tragedies, having our conscience seared and our eyes blinded to these terrible atrocities, that we call innocent victims, FOR WHOM we may claim to fight, “casualties of war” — as if this were to provide any justification for it.

As Associated Press continued to point out, the recent outbreak of violence “came a day after a surge in violence killed 78 people and wounded about 200 across Iraq as insurgents hammered central Baghdad with intense mortar and rocket barrages and violence appeared to be out of control.”

Violence only produces more violence. And everyone who takes the sword of war will perish by the sword of war — unless he repents. It is not too late for this world — and individuals — to repent of our carnal, war-mongering attitudes. But it is getting late — very late, indeed. Christ warned us that God will destroy those who destroy the earth (Compare Revelation 11:17-18).

War in Iraq

With the ongoing bloodshed in Iraq, several nations have reconfirmed their respective positions, or have added new ones to the plate. According to Associated Press of September 10, “Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reasserted Germany’s right to disagree with the United States over Iraq, adding that it would be wrong to interpret his country’s opposition to the war as anti-Americanism…. Polls have generally shown that majorities in European countries, including Germany, reject the U.S. policy in Iraq.”

AFP reported on September 10 that “In Ankara, Turkey urged Washington to halt its ‘disproportionate’ use of force and said the government was following events with ‘great concern.'”

War on Terrorism a Failure?

As was reported by oneworld.net on September 8, 2004, a new report of Foreign Policy in Focus concluded that a “three-year ‘war on terrorism’… makes Americans more vulnerable rather than more secure.” The report also concluded that “Washington’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 has proven counter-productive to U.S. anti-terrorism efforts and that the administration has failed to protect likely future terrorist targets at home, such as seaports and chemical plants.”

The report was compiled by a task force of 23 experts, including former government officials who served under Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton; the general secretary of the National Council of Churches; an arms expert at the World Policy Institute in New York City; and a senior Pentagon official under Reagan.

The report noted that “the government currently is spending more money every three days on the war in Iraq than it has spent on ensuring the security of the country’s 361 commercial seaports over the past three years.”

According to the article’s summary of the report, “the administration has also taken a ‘hands-off approach’ to ensuring the security of much of the nation’s basic infrastructure, about 85 percent of which is owned or controlled by the private sector. The chemical industry, for example, has successfully stalled efforts at enhancing security at the 123 plants and facilities where a release of chemicals could threaten the lives and health of more than one million people, the report charges… On the foreign-policy front, the administration’s clear hostility to multilateral institutions has not only increased resentment towards the U.S. among foreign governments and their publics, but has also undermined prospects for arms-control efforts that are vital to efforts to control and reduce the global supply of weapons of mass destruction.”

Now it’s Russia’s Turn?

After the United States had developed and carried out the theory of pre-emptive warfare — meaning, that “we” strike first before “they” strike, when there is a perceived threat of attack — Russia has now declared that it will likewise embrace this new theory. Europe has been opposed to this concept.

Associated Press reported on September 12, 2004:

“Russia has the right to carry out pre-emptive strikes on militant bases abroad, Russia’s defence minister said Sunday, citing the recent school hostage crisis. He said Moscow and the United States see eye-to-eye on fighting terrorism. Sergei Ivanov did not say what countries might be possible targets for a strike…”

The article continued: “Ivanov told the NTV television channel he had spoken twice with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week, adding the U.S. administration was more receptive to Moscow’s arguments on how to fight terror than some European officials. ‘In that sense, it has been easier for us to find a basis for mutual understanding with the United States than with some of the European nations.’… In Sunday’s interview, Ivanov repeated an earlier statement that a ‘pre-emptive strike may involve anything, except nuclear weapons.'”

Many feel that the world has most certainly NOT become a safer place with the development of this new theory of warfare. And once a “pre-emptive strike” is launched, who is to say that nuclear weapons won’t be used, ultimately?

Germany Angry With Poland

As Associated Press reported on September 12, 2004, “On Friday the Polish parliament, in a nonbinding resolution, urged its government to present an estimate of wartime damage and seek reparations from Germany. It was a response to claims by some Germans for restitution of former property in Poland, which have drawn strong resentment.” In an attempt to appease Poland, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder “indicated in Warsaw last month that his government will advise courts to reject any German citizens’ claims against Poland.”

Whether Mr. Schroeder’s “advice” has any legal effect, is one question. Whether the Polish parliament’s resolution will be followed through or not, is another question. Associated Press reported, “The Polish government views the question of German reparations for World War II as closed, Warsaw’s ambassador to Germany said Sunday, indicating that it won’t follow a call by Polish lawmakers to seek compensation.”

According to the “Financial Times Deutschland,” this is not necessarily the position of Poland’s leader, President Kwasniewski. He said that the bill for the destruction of Warsaw and other Polish cities has not yet been presented.

Regardless, the damage has already been done. German politicians reacted with outrage to the nonbinding resolution of the Polish parliament. As Bild Online reported on September 12, 2004, the leader of Schroeder’s party, the SPD, called the resolution a “provocation.” The spokesman of the FDP said that both demands, from Germans and Poles, are “dangerous.”

Editor in Chief of Bild Online, Peter Boenisch, wrote this commentary:

“Here and there, … neo-national enemies of Europe are working. [Sixty] years ago, Hitler’s fanatic minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, who killed his own children at the end of the war, proclaimed, ‘When we step down, the world will tremble for another 1,000 years.’ Everyone, who endangers European collaboration today, instead of creating peace in Europe, helps Goebbels and his dark and morbid threats. And that, neither the Germans nor the Poles of the 21st century could possibly want.”

Tragically, a peaceful united Europe won’t stay peaceful. The world will be shocked when a finally established European resurrection of the ancient Holy Roman Empire will show its true colors.

China vs. Catholic Church

Reuters reported on September 11, that “the Vatican accused China Saturday of launching a fresh crackdown on Roman Catholics, upping the ante in its war of words against the Communist state.” The article continued: “China does not allow its Catholics to recognize the Pope’s authority and forces Christians to belong to state-backed patriotic associations if they want to worship openly… China broke links with the Vatican in the 1950s after expelling foreign clergy. The Vatican estimates it has about eight million followers in China, compared with about five million who follow the state-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. The [U.S.] State Department’s Annual Report on Religious Freedom, issued in December, rebuked China, saying that believers who did not belong to state-sanctioned groups suffered varying degrees of ‘interference and harassment.’ China rejected the criticism as unfair.”

European Leaders Speak Their Minds

European leaders have openly expressed their feelings on world issues, according to an article of Associated Press, dated September 11. The article reported about the “loose tongues of the outgoing European Commission. The 30 members of the EU executive are suddenly free to say what they want because of their imminent departure as a new leadership prepares to take charge Nov. 1. In a flurry of farewell speeches, they are revealing personal opinions in unusually frank terms.” And frank they are. As the article pointed out:

“One says admitting Turkey to the European Union would spread Islamic radicalism throughout the continent. Another calls Britain America’s slavish ‘spear-carrier’ and bemoans Europeans’ image in Washington as ‘sanctimonious wimps.’ … Chris Patten, the EU’s outgoing external relations chief, said Friday European Union members must share more of the burden of global leadership with Washington if they want to shed their image as ‘sanctimonious wimps’ in the United States… He chided France, Germany and Britain for forsaking their leadership of Europe. In relations with Washington, he said, Europe ‘should be halfway between London and Paris: It must be neither a brave spear-carrier for the Americans, nor an elegant thrower of paper darts.'”

USA Doomed?

Recently, Globalresearch.ca, recipient of the 2004 Democratic Media Award, published a frightening article, titled, “Is a USA Economic Collapse Due in 2005?” The Canadian-based Website stated in its article:

“The official US myth is that the recession of 2000-2001 ended in November 2001 and ‘recovery’ has been underway ever since. The reality is not so positive. Using record low interest rates, the Fed has lured American families into debt at record rates, creating what might be called a ‘virtual recovery,’ financed by record amounts of new consumer debt. There has never been a recovery before in which debt levels increase, rather the opposite…

“All this economic consumption has created the illusion of a recovering economy. Behind the surface, a huge debt burden has built up. Since 1997, the total of home mortgage debt for Americans has risen 94% to a colossal $7.4 trillion, a debt of some $120,000 for a family of four. Bank loans for real estate purchases have risen since 1997 by 200%, to $2.4 trillion. Average US home prices have risen by 50% in the period since 1998. In 2003 alone a record total of $1 trillion in new mortgage loans were made. In 1997 mortgages totalled $202 billion… Many banks have loans written in adjustable mortgage rates. As US interest rates continue to rise over the next twelve months or so, that will trigger a wave of mortgage defaults. Some industry experts fear a ‘bloodbath’ in 2005…

“The American family is highly indebted, not just for their home. The Federal Reserve data show a total US debt level now above $35 trillions, or some $450,000 for a typical family of four. Average consumer debt for credit cards, autos and such is at record highs. Carmakers continue to offer car loans, with loans for up to six or even seven years. Many Americans owe more on their car than it is worth. The debt grows. As long as Fed rates are at 43 year lows, the debt is manageable. When US rates rise, it becomes unmanageable for many…

“The largest buyers of US government debt have been the central banks of the Asia-Pacific. The central banks of Japan and China alone hold more than $1 trillion of US Treasury bonds as foreign currency reserves. Worldwide foreign central banks hold some $1.3 trillion of US government debt. If private debt is added, the United States is the world’s largest debtor, with some $3.7 trillion in net foreign debt, as of the start of this year, likely well over $4 trillions by now. In 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected [,] the US was the world’s creditor with a plus of $1 trillion…

“In the 12-month period to this April, the Bank of Japan spent a record $200 billions to buy US dollar bonds or, in effect, to finance the cost of Bush’s Iraq war. The Banks of China, South Korea and Taiwan bought almost as much dollar bonds. They did this for clear reasons: Their currencies are linked to the dollar, and were the dollar to fall against the Yen or the Yuan, Asian exports would suffer a decline, endangering their economic growth and leading to explosive rises in unemployment across Asia. By recycling their trade dollar surplus into buying US Treasury debt, they argue they are looking after their own needs. A dollar crisis in early 2005 could signal the next global crisis. The whole world is hostage to the misconceived economic policies of a dollar standard out of control.”

Australia Under Attack

On September 11, 2004, Reuters stated in an article that Australia’s top policemen warned: “Militants behind the deadly bombing of Australia’s Jakarta embassy have a second group poised for attack.”

The article continued: “Indonesian police have launched a nationwide hunt for al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah militants blamed for the suicide car bomb attack that killed nine Indonesians and injured 182 outside the Australian embassy on Thursday… Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reissued a travel advisory on Saturday warning citizens against non-essential travel to Indonesia and also issued a rare general warning for its nationals traveling overseas… Australia has never suffered a major terror attack on home soil but 88 Australians were among 202 people killed in nightclub bombings two years ago on Bali, an Indonesian resort island.”

The article also pointed out: “Security analysts have warned that the rift between the two big parties could leave Australia open to attacks similar to the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people three days before Spain’s March 11 elections. The pro-U.S. government was swept from power and the incoming Socialists quickly pulled the country’s troops out of Iraq.”

Lingering Questions on School Shooting in Russia

Associated Press reported on September 11, 2004, that “questions lingered over how authorities handled the three-day standoff that left at least 330 hostages dead.” It quoted the Russian daily Russkiy Kuryer as follows: “One of the most painful questions that the whole world is asking — why all the events surrounding the Beslan school No. 1 looked so out of control … probably has an answer: Because nobody was in charge of the operation.”

A.P. continued: “Referring to the Beslan crisis, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge told The Associated Press on Thursday that ‘preliminary reports suggest there wasn’t the kind of coordination and leadership and direction and somebody being in charge.'”

The A.P. article concluded: “Lamenting the corruption and lapses in duty that allowed the attackers to bring their arsenal to the school, residents are demanding a full explanation of the circumstances that made the attack possible as well as how it all ended. Whether they will get it remains to be seen.”

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What Parts of Clean Animals are We Forbidden to eat?

The Bible says specifically which animals we may eat, and which we must not eat. A list of those “clean” and “unclean” animals can be found in several places, including in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. According to the Bible, such “popular” animals as pigs or swine, hares, rabbits, lobsters, shellfish, shark, or clams, are labeled “unclean” and are not to be eaten — even today.

In addition, the Bible specifically points out that we are not to eat blood or fat, even from clean animals. Leviticus 7:23-27 states:

“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘You shall not eat any fat, of ox or sheep or goat. And the fat of an animal that dies naturally, and the fat of what is torn by wild beasts, may be used in any other way; but you shall by no means eat it. For whoever eats the fat of the animals of which men offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, the person who eats it shall be cut off from his people. Moreover you shall not eat any blood in any of your dwellings, whether of bird or beast. Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

Beyond this, the Bible does not contain a specific prohibition to eat any parts of clean animals, including liver, kidney, heart, tongue, or stomach.

The Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates in Great Britain and Canada have concluded, after a careful study of the pertinent Scriptures, that it is up to individual choice whether someone wants to eat, or abstain from the consumption of certain parts of clean animals. At the last ministerial conference, the following was included in our minutes:

“The Bible plainly says that we should not eat blood, fat or unclean meat. Apart from that, it is up to individual choice. It must never defile conscience.”

Some have concluded that liver or heart can be eaten, but not kidneys, as the priests did sacrifice the kidneys to God. However, the Bible does not tell us why this was done, and to conclude, from Scripture, that it therefore constitutes a prohibition to eat kidneys stretches the Biblical account. We must note that while God specifically states that we are not to eat fat or blood, He does not give us such a prohibition for other parts of clean animals. Notice carefully God’s prohibition in Leviticus 3:14-17:

“Then he shall offer from it his offering, as an offering made by fire to the LORD. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma; all the fat is the LORD’s. This shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall eat neither fat nor blood.”

The above-quoted passage refers to the peace offerings — “the only offering in which the offeror shared by eating a portion of the sacrifice… The animal could be an unblemished male or female ox (3:1), lamb, or goat (vv. 7, 12)… No mention is made of a peace offering of birds” (Ryrie Study Bible). The above-quoted passage pointed out that kidneys were to be burnt as a sacrifice, but when God gave the prohibition as to what not to eat, He only mentioned fat and blood, not kidneys (compare verse 17).

In Leviticus 7:1-10, the trespass offering is mentioned, which was to be made from a ram, as Leviticus 5:15 establishes. The priests were to eat from the meat, after doing the following: “… all the fat thereof; the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards, And the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, and the caul that is above the liver [the fatty membrane surrounding the liver], with the kidneys, it shall he take away: And the priest shall burn them on the altar for an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a trespass offering (AV).” This passage does not include at all a prohibition to eat kidneys in general — apart from the context of a trespass offering — and even the trespass offering itself refers specifically only to a ram.

We are therefore not compelled to conclude that kidneys must not be eaten. Some feel that the definition of fat in the passages above includes kidneys, but this interpretation has been rejected by others, as going beyond the clearly revealed Word of God. If, however, somebody would eat kidneys and thereby defile his or her conscience, believing that they should not be eaten for religious or health reasons, then, of course, consumption of such food must be avoided (compare Romans 14:23).

Recently, we were asked the question whether chicken gizzards are fit to eat. According to the dictionary, a gizzard is “the second stomach of a bird, where food is broken up with the help of small stones the bird has swallowed.”

Since chicken is a permissible food, there is no reason to prohibit eating gizzards. The Bible does not say one way or the other, specifically, so it boils down to an individual decision. Some cut up gizzards and put them in Giblet Gravy for use with turkey and dressing at Thanksgiving. Others don’t eat them mainly because they are really tough to chew and one can certainly understand why, since they are used by the chicken in its digestive process. On the other hand, some like to eat them — or the stomach of the chicken — in chicken soup, and there is no Biblical prohibition — barring individual conscience — against doing so.

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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.

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