Update 173


Life of David

On Saturday, December 25, 2004, Norbert Link will give the sermon, continuing the series on the life of David.

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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In Truth


Most “Christians” would like to think that they are currently worshipping God in the right and true way. But the reality is quite the opposite.

Take, for example, the custom of Christmas. There are many resources, readily available, which attest to the fact that Christmas had its roots in paganism long before the birth of Christ. The Bible itself condemns these practices (ones still observed today) as they were extant in Old Testament times. Also, nowhere in the Bible will you find Christians celebrating Christmas. The fact that Christmas is not of Christian origins is not in dispute here.

In fact, many openly admit that Christ was not born on or near December 25th, and that it is indeed a day that originates in paganism. So, it really stands to reason that it is one of the highest forms of hypocrisy to say that we are worshipping God by taking on an irreligious observance such as Christmas. If we take a contrivance of ungodly inception and say that we are doing this in honor of God, can we not see how little this makes sense? (Compare Matthew 15:7-9)

In John 4:24 we are admonished to worship God in TRUTH. In the previous verse it states that the TRUE worshippers of God will worship Him this way. God has written down for us this way and TRUTH in the pages of our Bible. We will not find “THE TRUTH” in the teachings of man or, worse yet, of Satan. It is important to God that we study the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15) and give all diligence to them in order that we succeed (2 Peter 1:10) in doing God’s will, the right and TRUE way.

Christmas is not the way that God wants us to glorify and honor Him. He has set aside His own holy days for a special reason. For a more in-depth look at these subjects, please read our booklets, “Don’t Keep Christmas,” and “God’s Commanded Holy Days.” In addition to the articles on Christmas, published in this Update, you may also want to review our special Update #122 on Christmas, which was published on December 19, 2003.

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Christmas 2004 … in “New Europe”

AFP reported on December 22, 2004: “Driven by Christmas shopping fever and growing hunger for material goods, Europeans in former communist states are putting aside a historic aversion to taking out loans as their spending habits change and a new generation of debtors takes root… At no time is the desire for material things more visible than during the Christmas season, when people cram malls while banks flood airwaves from Budapest to Riga with ‘Christmas credit’ promotions.

“As Christmas shopping nears climax, ‘New Europeans’ sink deeper in debt. ‘Our consumer loans and credit card demands soar some 40 percent above the monthly average during the holiday season,’ said [a spokesperson of] Hungary’s largest bank… In Poland, several banks promise Christmas loans at low interest rates, even zero percent, but in return they charge ‘hefty’ commissions… Among Romanians, considerably poorer than the new EU members but hopeful of joining the Union in 2007, the consumer culture is also taking hold. Instead of the Christmas credit schemes, so-called ‘personal credits’ of under 3,000 euros are proving a runaway hit with those short of money in the holiday season.”

The article continued to point out that many “New Europeans” have, throughout the year, adopted a philosophy of buying now and (perhaps) paying later. For instance, in “Hungary, household debt increased five-fold in the past four years, fuelled by state subsidized mortgage loans that increased 11-fold from 2000 to 2004… More than 200,000 Hungarians are registered on a ‘black list’ of debtors who have missed credit payments…”

… in the United States of America

On December 19, 2004, the British news service, news.telegraph.com, pointed out that there is a “growing campaign in America to remove any trace of Christmas from public life.”

However, this campaign has nothing to do with a realization that Christmas is of pagan origin and should not be celebrated in a Christian nation. Rather, it is motivated by a–wrongly understood and interpreted–concept of separation between Church and State.

The article explained: “Across the United States, celebrations for what many Americans now refer to as the ‘C word’ have been all but restricted to churches and private homes. In Wichita, Kansas, a local newspaper ran an apology after referring to a ‘Christmas tree’, rather than a ‘community tree’ at the city’s Winterfest celebration. In Denver, a Christian church float was barred from the city’s parade while Chinese lion dancers and German folk dancers were welcomed. In parts of Florida, fir trees have been banned this year from government-owned property. A mayor in Massachusetts issued a formal apology to anyone offended by a press release that mistakenly described the town of Somerville’s holiday party as a ‘Christmas party’. Schools in Florida and New Jersey have banned all carols and elsewhere in Washington state a school principal banned a production of A Christmas Carol mainly because Tiny Tim prays: ‘God bless us, every one.’ In one New Jersey school district, where the singing of Christmas carols has long been abandoned, officials have this year forbidden children’s orchestras to play songs such as Silent Night because that might remind people of their Christian content.”

Although a ban of Christmas for the RIGHT reasons would be desirable and pleasing in God’s sight, the present attempts are all motivated by WRONG reasons. And as can be expected, as the article pointed out, “The fightback, however, has begun. Showdowns are taking place across the country as individuals, and conservative and religious groups, come out against the zealous interpretation of the separation of Church and State… Organisations such as the Americans United (AU) for Separation of Church and State believe that the campaign to put Christ back into Christmas is being pushed by conservative Christian groups buoyed by the victory of President George W Bush and the religious Right in last month’s elections.”

The sad part is that Christ can’t be put back into Christmas, as Christ was NEVER IN CHRISTMAS to begin with. Christmas is not a Holy Day that a Christian nation should be keeping. But this is NOT because of POLITICAL correctness, but because of a deep and sincere respect for God and His Word.

Conservative Christians lament that, as the article explains, “President Bush’s holiday greetings card, posted to a record two million recipients this year, carries a line from Psalm 95 — ‘Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song’ — [but] there is no mention of Christmas on the White House website. Even Fox News, the conservative television network, cannot bring itself to wish a merry Christmas to its viewers. Instead, ‘Happy Holidays’ is flashed up to the tune.”

And so some have started to fight to bring “Christ back into Christmas.” THAT fight cannot be won. For more information on this all-important issue, please read our free booklet: “Don’t Keep Christmas.”

… in Europe and the USA

On December 21, 2004, the British webpage, news.telegraph.co.uk, reported: “The Christmas message of peace, love and goodwill appears to have been replaced by one of drink, shopping and crime… The holiday season is also accompanied by higher than normal rates of murder, burglaries and drunk-driving… The increase in alcohol consumption was highest in Britain… In terms of actual alcohol consumed per person, only Germans knock back more wine, beer and spirits in December than the British. The average German imbibes 1.2 litres of pure alcohol per person, compared to the typical Briton’s 1.02 litres…. December is one of the more popular months for murders and burglaries across Europe. In Britain, the Christmas period triggers a 4.2 per cent rise in murders (to 0.17 deaths per 100,000 people). Elsewhere the seasonal increase is higher — a 5.7 per cent rise in America, France and Italy, and 6.4 per cent in Germany. Britain has a lower murder rate than its [Christian European] rivals… In America there are 0.74 deaths per 100,000 people, while in France there are 0.41 deaths. But the UK’s burglary rate is the highest in the survey — nearly 120 burglaries per 100,000 people compared to 62 in America and 67 in Italy.”
A seeming paradox is the fact that, in spite of these terrible figures of doom and gloom, “British church attendances increase by 220 per cent around the holiday period — compared to a 240 per cent increase in Germany and a 112 per cent rise in America.”

At the same time, the article continued to point out:

“However, Britain has the lowest proportion of churchgoers among [Christian European] countries. Just 16 per cent of people go to church in December in the UK — compared to 55 per cent of Americans, 49 per cent of Italians and 20 per cent of French. The British also spend more than most at Christmas. According to the statistics, based on 2003 data, the UK spends an average $2,006 (£1,081) per person in the shops in December — less than America, but more than the other [Christian European] countries.”

We believe these figures speak for themselves…

… in Germany

The English press reported on December 5, 2004, about the efforts of a German Catholic priest to abolish Santa Claus and replace him with St. Nicholas. This rather bizarre article by Reuters pointed out:

“A German priest fed up with the growing commercialism of Christmas launched an anti-Santa Claus campaign on Thursday featuring bumper stickers that proclaim: ‘This is a Santa-free zone.’ Eckhard Bieger, a Roman Catholic priest in Frankfurt, said he is all for the holiday season, gift exchanges and family celebrations. But he believes the twinkly-eyed old man in a red costume is a commercial fraud. ‘Santa Claus is a creation of the advertising industry and Coca-Cola to further commercial interests,’ Bieger told Reuters. ‘I don’t have anything against Christmas presents and don’t want to disappoint children,’ he said. ‘My aim is to put St Nicholas back at the center of attention rather than this Santa Claus figure, which is just an empty shell.'”

The article continued: “Swedish-American Artist Haddon Sundblom created the rosy-cheeked Santa used in Coca-Cola’s Christmas advertisements in 1931, and Bieger complained that it has been imitated ever since. Christina Jacob, spokeswoman for Coke’s Germany subsidiary Coca-Cola GmbH, said the company was proud Sundblom had created the Santa Claus character the world knows today for the Coca-Cola ad campaigns used during the 1930s and 1940s. ‘Sundblom used a cheery-faced Coca-Cola truck driver as his model for the portrait,’ said Jacob… ‘We’re naturally all proud that Coca-Cola is so closely entwined with the Christmas season.'”

Reuters pointed out: “The modern Santa is a far cry from the severe St Nicholas who meted out punishment or gifts to children in continental Europe or the Old Christmas figure who aided drunken festivities of the English… Bieger said he wanted to revive a tradition in which St Nicholas went from house to house on the night of December 6 and put sweets into shoes of well-behaved children.”

However, as with so many Christmas traditions, the concept of St. Nicholas is also of pagan origin–and the story of a saint giving presents to obedient children on December 6 is a fabrication. For proof, please read our free booklet, “Don’t Keep Christmas.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger the Next U.S. President?

The Associated Press reported on December 18, 2004, that Gov. Schwarzenegger gave an interview to the German “Sueddeutsche Zeitung.” According to A.P., “Schwarzenegger was guarded on suggestions that he harbors presidential ambitions, saying only that a debate on whether the constitution should be amended to allow foreign-born citizens to run was ‘overdue.'” The article pointed out that “Schwarzenegger became an American citizen in 1983, 15 years after he immigrated from Austria. He has said he’d consider running for president if such an amendment passed but also [has] taken pains to say it shouldn’t be created specifically for him.”

In the same interview, Schwarzenegger “suggested… that the Republican Party should move ‘a little to the left,’ a shift that he said would allow it to pick up new voters.” According to A.P., he “said that ‘the Republican Party currently covers only the spectrum from the right wing to the middle, and the Democratic Party covers the spectrum from the left to the middle… I would like the Republican Party to cross this line, move a little further left and place more weight on the center,’ he was quoted as saying. ‘This would immediately give the party 5 percent more votes without it losing anything elsewhere.'”

Conservative speakers of the Republican Party subsequently criticized Schwarzenegger for his comments, according to press releases in the U.S.

In other news, according to the November 2004 issue of “California Lawyer,” the “passage of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s $105.4 billion state budget may have soothed the greatest of California’s fiscal woes, but for many of the state’s regulatory agencies the budget burn has only gotten worse. Ongoing cuts and the fiscal realities of recent years have been especially tough on consumer protection–and left some beleaguered agencies scrambling to perform even basic regulatory functions.” The article pointed out that the agencies most affected are: Adult Protection Services; California Highway Patrol; Fair Political Practices Commission; California Department of Real Estate; and Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education.

Worldwide Epidemic Coming?

On December 20, 2004, the Associated Press reported that “Health officials warned Monday that the world was close to its next pandemic — a powerful and highly contagious mix of avian influenza and flu virus that would likely be centered in Asia. Authorities also warned that humans, and not animals as initially thought, would probably be the carriers… WHO had warned previously that bird flu mixed with a human flu virus could spread rapidly and cause as many as 7 million deaths.”

U.S. Presidents

The November 2004 issue of ABA Journal (the Journal of the American Bar Association) pointed out: “Since George Washington’s first Inauguration in 1789, the United States has had 42 presidents. More than half of them — 25 to be exact — have been lawyers.” In quoting an expert, author and commentator, Paul Finkelman, the article stated: “Lincoln was not only the nation’s greatest president but the one most deeply influenced by his earlier career as a lawyer… An example of how Lincoln thought like a lawyer… is the Emancipation Proclamation, which Lincoln issued in 1863 amid the fury of the Civil War to free slaves only in the states that had seceded from the Union. While some historians have criticized the document as too limited and cautious…, it was ‘a deeply lawyerly’ endeavor for Lincoln, drafted so that it would not be overturned by a dubious Supreme Court.”

The article continued: “Only four of the first 16 presidents were not lawyers, and from the end of the Civil War to the end of World War I, only Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt were not lawyers. But in the nearly 60 years since the end of World War II, only three men–Nixon, Clinton and Gerald Ford– have been lawyers.”

War Crime Defendants Representing Themselves…

ABA Journal published an interesting and thought-provoking article in its December 2004 edition, titled, “Foolish Like a Fox.” The article stated:

“He who represents himself has a fool for a client, goes the adage. But it’s also a truism that the courtroom can serve as a stage for a defendant–especially when that defendant is a deposed national leader intent on inflaming political unrest among his followers. That is just the kind of spectacle Slobodan Milosevic created by representing himself before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [ICTY], according to some observers. And, they say, the same thing could happen if Saddam Hussein, the toppled leader of Iraq, asks to represent himself before a war crimes tribunal formed by that country’s provisional government.”

The article continued (emphasis added): “‘Milosevic started out as a villain,’ says [Michael P.] Scharf [a law professor and director of the International Law Center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland]. ‘Now he’s the fourth most popular person [in Serbia] behind two sport stars and a rock star, and he got ELECTED TO PARLIAMENT IN A LANDSLIDE LAST DECEMBER. He campaigned during cross-examination. He used cross-examination as his presidential debate.’ The consequences of giving Saddam free rein in representing himself could even be greater, says Scharf. ‘I think if Saddam Hussein were to do the same things as Milosevic, you would fuel the insurgency and anti-U.S. sentiments throughout the Middle East, and it would lead TO CIVIL WAR,’ says Scharf.”

The article pointed out: “But in Saddam’s case, a decision on whether to allow him to conduct a pro se defense might depend partly on whether any lawyers are even available to represent him, says Douglas Stringer, an attorney in Portland, Ore., who served as a prosecutor with the ICTY in 1997-2002. ‘My understanding is that you have a defense team in Jordan that has been threatened with death should any of them come to Iraq… Very strict measures have to be created to even have them come to the ground in Iraq. He may be forced to defend himself because his lawyers can’t be present.'”

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Did Jesus Have Long Hair?

The Bible clearly reveals that Jesus Christ, when He was here on earth as a human being, did not wear long hair. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:14: “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?” It would therefore be inconceivable to assume that Jesus would have worn long hair.

Some have misunderstood a passage in the book of Matthew, erroneously claiming that Christ was a “Nazirite” (also spelled Nazarite in the Authorized Version) and that He therefore wore long hair. However, Christ was not a Nazirite, but a Nazarene. The passage in Matthew 2:23 reads:

“And he [Joseph] came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He [Christ] shall be called a Nazarene.'”

Jesus was called a Nazarene, because He lived and grew up in the city of Nazareth. He was not a “Nazirite.” The sixth chapter of the book of Numbers describes the law of the “Nazirites.” Those who took the vow of a Nazirite did not cut their hair, but they were also prohibited from drinking any wine or touching a dead body (Numbers 6:4-6). Christ, however, did drink wine (Luke 22:14-18; Matthew 11:19), and He did touch dead bodies (Luke 8:51-55).

If Christ had been a Nazirite, He would have broken His vow and thereby violated one of God’s laws. But He said that He had kept His Father’s commandments (John 15:10), including all ritual laws still in force and effect at His time, and we read that He never sinned. The Bible defines sin, however, as the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4, Authorized Version). Therefore, Christ could NOT have been a Nazirite.

Christ was a Jew, and He looked like an ordinary Jewish man, without special beauty in appearance (compare Isaiah 53:2). Judas had to identify Him to others with a kiss. He was able to escape on occasion, by mingling with the crowd and going “through the midst of them” (Luke 4:30; John 8:59). Apart from the Bible, archeology and history also confirm as well that the Jews at the time of Christ did not wear long hair. Christ, therefore, did not either–otherwise, He would have stood out in a crowd, and a special identification through Judas would not have been necessary.

Recently, Israeli and British forensic anthropologists and computer programmers got together to create Christ’s face featured in “Popular Mechanics,” a 1.2 million circulation magazine. They did not mean to imply that Christ actually looked the way the magazine cover portrayed Him, as they used the skull of a Jew from the first century — not, of course, the actual skull of Jesus. They nevertheless determined that Christ did not wear long hair. Other experts agree with that conclusion. On February 24, 2004, Reuters wrote:

“‘… Jesus didn’t have long hair, said physical anthropologist Joe Zias, who has studied hundreds of skeletons found in archeological digs in Jerusalem.’ [He also mentioned:] ‘Jewish men back in antiquity did not have long hair.’ ‘The Jewish texts ridiculed long hair as something Roman or Greek,’ said New York University’s Lawrence Schiffman. Along with extensive writings from the period, experts also point to a frieze on Rome’s Arch of Titus, erected after Jerusalem was captured in AD 70 to celebrate the victory, which shows Jewish men with short hair taken into captivity. Erroneous descriptions of Jesus in Western art have often misled film makers in their portrayal of Jesus, experts say.”

It is important to realize that virtually all depictions of Christ don’t accurately reflect His appearance as a human being on earth. He did not wear long flowing hair, and He did not look like a woman. He was a carpenter, a builder, and He was also the leader of former fishermen. Even His hair color was probably not blond — as depicted on most paintings — but black, as the Hebrew people at the time of Christ were recognized as having predominantly black hair.

In any event, Paul tells us that we are not to “know” Christ “according to the flesh.” We read in 2 Corinthians 5:16 (Phillips): “… even though we knew Christ as a man, we do not know him like that any longer.”

It is dangerous to focus on images and pictures of Christ, including portrayals of Christ by actors in movies, and think that in some way those portrayals may accurately represent how Christ might have looked. We are to focus on Christ as He is now — a powerful Spirit being! To get a correct portrayal of Christ’s present appearance, please read Revelation 1:14-16. Christ has white hair — as white as wool or snow — and His eyes are like flames of fire, while His face shines like the sun in full strength. THAT is the Jesus Christ of the Bible — God the Son, who is worthy of worship!

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Preaching the Gospel & Feeding the Flock

Our booklet, “Tithing–Today?” was sent out this week to our subscribers. The booklet is also posted on the Web.

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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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