Update 180


Haters of God

On Saturday, February 12, 2005, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “Haters of God.”

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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Religious Freedom


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Thus begins the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and what is, according to many, that which makes this country so great. Because of this many denominations within America have thrived peaceably for the last two and a quarter centuries. We have all been able to follow or not to follow God as we have seen fit. Americans have even been able to worship in a myriad of ways, or to reject any worship of God, and we have slapped ourselves on the back, congratulating one another in our open-minded approach to religion.

The twist to all of this is that the true and only God is not a believer in so-called religious tolerance. He is not an advocate of worshipping however we want or whatever we want (compare Matthew 15:7-9; Mark 7:6-7). It’s quite the opposite. He is an extremely jealous God (compare Exodus 20:5; Ezekiel 23:25-27), demanding our full attention and requiring that we shun all “rivals” with the utmost intolerance (compare Isaiah 42:8). He requires that we follow His Word to the letter at the very least (compare Malachi 4:4) and beyond that to the spirit of His commands (compare John 4:23; Matthew 5:17-48).

Sure, we still have the freedom to choose one of the ways set before us. Even in the world of tomorrow when Christ returns, people will still have the free moral agency to opt for one way or the other. But make no mistake about it, God has laid out the rules that we are to play by and with it comes cause and effect as well as blessing and cursing (compare Deuteronomy 11:26-28; Galatians 6:7-8).

So let us choose wisely because our immortality is a matter of life and death.

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USA and France

Reuters reported on February 7, 2005, that “France wants a fresh start in relations with the United States and both sides have much to contribute to a renewed transatlantic partnership, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said.” At the same time, Barnier added, however: “Alliance doesn’t signify allegiance… A renewed transatlantic alliance must be based on two pillars (European and American).” The article also pointed out that “France was encouraged by the election in Iraq on Jan. 30 and by a ‘renewed determination’ in Bush’s efforts over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Barnier said. But Washington must understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central and there will be no progress toward democracy in the Middle East unless it is addressed, he said.”

The Associated Press reported on February 8, 2005, that “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday urged Europeans to move beyond disagreements with the United States and join forces to spread liberty…. France was the most vocal opponent of President Bush’s handling of the war with Iraq, and Rice did not engender any goodwill in Bush’s first term when she said the United States should ‘punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia’ for their opposition to the invasion. Rice chose Paris for the major address of her first official tour of Europe, and offered words of encouragement and a promise of cooperation. ‘America stands ready to work with Europe on our common agenda, and Europe must stand ready to work with America,’ she said.”

Abortions in the U.S.A.

On February 7, 2005, CNSNews.com reported about an alarming development in the United States — that of increasing numbers of abortions amongst African-Americans. The article pointed out: “During America’s commemoration of Black History Month, some pro-life activists are charging that legalized abortion has led to a ‘black genocide’ of more than 14 million unborn African-American babies.”

The published figures are staggering. To summarize from the article:

— For every five African-American women who get pregnant, three have an abortion;
— Since 1973, more than twice as many blacks have died from abortion than from heart disease, cancer, accidents, violent crimes and AIDS combined;
— Blacks make up about 12 percent of the population in the United States but account for 32 percent of the abortions; and
–About 1,450 black infants are aborted every day in this country.

Israel and the Palestinian State

Reuters reported on February 8, 2005, that “Israeli and Palestinian leaders declared a cease-fire Tuesday at a summit in Egypt aimed at ending more than four years of bloodshed… But Islamic militants [especially Hamas] behind suicide bombings and rocket attacks said they were not bound by Abbas’s cease-fire, though they would continue to follow a de facto truce at his behest… Political analysts also sounded a cautious note amid the fanfares of optimism [by politicians and governmental leaders around the globe], pointing out the gap remaining on issues that led to the collapse of talks for a Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel in the 1967 war — such as on borders and whether Palestinian refugees get a ‘right to return’ to land in what is now Israel. Some 3,350 Palestinians and 970 Israelis have been killed since September 2000… Despite the optimism voiced by the politicians, many political analysts saw little advance at the summit.”

Only two days later, on February 10, 2005, Reuters reported about the fragile nature of the “truce,” as follows: “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fired three of his top security chiefs Thursday after militants broke a cease-fire he had agreed with Israel by bombarding Jewish settlements in Gaza with mortars. After the attacks, Israel had put off security coordination talks scheduled as a follow-up to Tuesday’s groundbreaking meeting in Egypt with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But an Israeli official said troops would not retaliate after some 50 mortar bombs and rockets hit settlements in Gaza. There were no casualties in the attacks by militants who have refused to participate in Abbas’s cease-fire gesture, and plans for him to reconvene with Sharon next week at the Israeli leader’s desert ranch remained in place… In another reminder of armed chaos in the Palestinian street challenging Abbas, dozens of gunmen including Hamas militants had stormed into a Gaza City prison Thursday and shot dead three inmates in a settling of scores between feuding clans… Hamas militants said the barrage was to avenge the death of a Palestinian shot dead by Israeli troops from a settlement on Wednesday. Troops said they fired on suspected intruders. Palestinians said the man was a civilian walking near his home.”

Byzantium and Bavaria

An article which appeared on the Internet, reported that “An exhibition exploring Europe’s Byzantine heritage, which opened in November, is bringing the fascinating but little-understood epoch to life at the Bavarian State Archeological Collection in Munich.” The article pointed out: “Founded in the fourth century when the capital of the Roman Empire was transferred from Rome to Constantinople- modern-day Istanbul – the Byzantine Empire flourished around the eastern Mediterranean for half a millennium….

“Bavaria’s fascination for Byzantine art and culture is at least as old as mad Ludwig II, the 19th century Bavarian king known for using state money to fund his outrageously extravagant castles. Ludwig II incorporated elements of Byzantine art into his castles, most prominently into the interiors of his castle Neuschwanstein. Bavaria has also long been home to the scholarly study of Byzantine history and culture. Germany’s first program dealing with Byzantium was created in 1897 at the University of Munich and remained the country’s only such program until 1945. Thus it may interest many local visitors that a Bavarian countess became the Kaiser of Byzantium in the 12th century, or that Augsburg became the ‘cradle of German Byzantium’ in the 16th century. Critics have suggested that the exhibition overplays the Bavarian influence on European Christendom, but for a state with much pride in its religious character, that’s par for the course.”

EU and the Catholic Church

“VIS” reported on February 4, 2005, from Vatican City that “Josep Borrell Fontelles, president of the European Parliament… met… with Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano and Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States… President Borrell Fontelles… explained some of the parliament’s current activities and the prospects arising from the enlarging of the European Union, expressing the hope that the constitutional treaty will be ratified by all States. The president, in harmony with the position the Holy See has always maintained, was careful to underline the nature of the European Union as a ‘moral force,’ with its own message of ever valid civilization, to be proposed even in the broader international context… The conversation also touched on problems arising from the presence of three great European bodies – the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – with agreement on the need for a clarification of their relationship. The Cardinal Secretary of State also highlighted the importance of the apostolic nunciature accredited to the European Union, in order to favor fruitful dialogue on issues of current importance.”

Human Cloning?

AFP reported on February 8, 2005, that “The scientist who created Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal, has been given a licence to clone human embryos for medical research, triggering an outcry among opposition groups… [Ian] Wilmut’s team plans to extract stem cells from patients with MND [Motor Neurone Disease] and implant them in unfertilised eggs to create cloned embryos. They will then harvest stem cells from the embryos to grow motor neurones — the long nerves which transmit electrical messages from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles.

“The technique will not be used to correct the disease, which is caused by the death of motor neurones and affects about 5,000 people in Britain, but the study of the cells could help to develop future treatments. Wilmut shot to fame in July 1996 when he created Dolly the sheep, the first mammal ever to be cloned from an adult cell. Dolly was put down two years ago this month after she developed a lung disease. Critics of embryo cloning fear that Britain is one step closer to authorising the creation of human clones, but Wilmut dismissed such fears. ‘This is not reproductive cloning in any way. The eggs we use will not be allowed to grow beyond 14 days,’ he said.”

The Associated Press added on February 8, 2005, that “It is the second such license approved since Britain became the first country to legalize research cloning in 2001… The first license was granted in August to a team at Newcastle University that hopes to use cloning to create insulin-producing cells that could be transplanted into diabetics. Such work, called therapeutic cloning because it does not result in a baby, is opposed by abortion foes and other biological conservatives because researchers must destroy human embryos to harvest the cells.”

Tsunamis Threaten the U.S.

As The Associated Press reported on February 8, 2005, “While the deadly tsunami in the Indian Ocean has focused attention on that part of the world, great waves also pose a threat to the United States. A tsunami struck the Virgin Islands in 1867 claiming 23 lives, and geologic evidence shows giant waves have struck several times over the last 3,500 years, affecting what is now Washington, Oregon and northern California… A 1755 earthquake that devastated Lisbon, Portugal, generated a wave that caused damage in the Caribbean… And there have been reports of a potential threat to the East Coast of the United States from waves that could be generated by landslides in the Canary Islands, across the Atlantic… Tsunami, caused by undersea earthquakes or volcanoes, can travel across the ocean at the speed of a jet plane, suddenly rising up to as high as 90 feet when they reach the shore… sedimentary evidence indicates six or seven severe tsunami have struck that state’s coast over the last 3,500 years, averaging about one such wave every 500 years.”

In a related article, www.smh.com.au reported on February 8, 2005, that “The tsunami that devastated South-East Asia was much bigger than was first believed, reaching heights of 30 metres, the size of a 10-storey building, and speeds of 13.7 metres a second.

“Scientists have found evidence in the Indonesian province of Aceh which shows the world has seriously underestimated the damage tsunamis can wreak… Vasily Titov, a tsunami computer modeller at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, which is host to some of the world’s top tsunami scientists,… said the findings showed scientists needed to rework their theories on tsunamis and would probably prompt a serious upgrade in the predicted size of the tsunami expected from a major quake off the US’s north-west coast. ‘Our worst-case scenario may not be the worst-case scenario,’ he said… Tim Walsh, a chief hazards geologist with the US Government, warned that a tsunami similar in size and destructive power to the December 26 one would strike the US if the plates in the Pacific Ocean collided. ‘We look a lot like the Indian Ocean,’ he said.”

Royal Marriage in England

As CNN reported on Thursday, February 10, 2005, “Britain’s Prince Charles is to marry his longtime lover, Camilla Parker Bowles, the royal family has announced. The wedding will be a civil ceremony in Windsor Castle on April 8, followed by a service of prayer and dedication in St. George’s Chapel at which the Archbishop of Canterbury will preside… On their marriage, Parker Bowles will be given the title of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall. When Charles becomes king, Camilla will not be known as Queen Camilla but as the Princess Consort, according to Charles’ office… Diana was divorced from Charles — heir to Queen Elizabeth II — when she died. Charles’ marriage is a sensitive issue because Parker Bowles divorced in 1995 and her former husband Andrew, a former army officer, is still alive. Charles would be the supreme governor of the Church of England if he took the throne, and some Anglicans remain opposed to the remarriage of divorcees. The church is officially neutral on the issue, but former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey recently urged the couple to marry.”

Evolution — Scientific?

Reuters reported, on February 4, 2005, about the death of Ernst Mayr, “a Harvard University evolutionary biologist called ‘the Darwin of the 20th century.'” The article pointed out that Mayr “almost single-handedly made the origin of species diversity the central question of evolutionary biology that it is today.”

However, it’s not that simple! University Professor of Law, Michael C. Dorf, wrote in an editorial, published by the Los Angeles Daily Journal on December 30, 2004, that the “two strongest arguments [of the intelligent-design literature] appear to point to the general absence of intermediate forms in the fossil record and to unanswered questions about how certain new, complex patterns of animal bodies could have arisen through random mutation and natural selection.”

Of course, another powerful argument against evolution, not mentioned by Dorf, is the fact that there is absolutely no evidence that one species (for instance, a dog) could develop into another species (for instance, a cat). This cannot occur today, as scientists are forced to grudgingly admit, and there is no proof that it ever could have happened before. If we follow the postulate of science to explain the past by what we can prove today, we must conclude that evolution could not have happened! The evolutionary mandate of the occurrence of so-called macro-mutations (changes from one species into another species, as distinguished from micro-mutations or changes within a species) is without any scientific proof — as more fully explained in our booklet, “Evolution — A Fairy Tale for Adults?”

In spite of the fact that evolution, as taught by Darwin (and scientists like the late Ernst Mayr), could not have happened, Dorf concluded that the courts should not allow the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, as “the fact that some phenomena remain unexplained by natural selection hardly shows that natural selection… will not eventually provide (!) the best account of these phenomena.”

Is this a scientific expression — or is it a dogma of religious wishful thinking?

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Is the provision in Deuteronomy 23:2 still valid today? Does it apply to God's Church?

The passage reads, in the New King James Bible: “One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD.”

Before we address the questions whether this passage is still in force and effect today, and whether it applies to the Church of God, let us try to determine what the passage conveys, as worded.

Several translations, including the Authorized Version, the Living Bible, the Revised Standard Version, Lamsa, and the Elberfelder Bible translate the Hebrew word “mamzer” (“of illegitimate birth” in the New King James Bible) as “bastard.” First, what is meant with the word, “mamzer”? The Broadman Bible Commentary explains that the “meaning of the Hebrew word [“mamzer”] translated ‘bastard’ is not really clear. Rabbinical interpretation points to the offspring of mixed marriages such as are mentioned in Nehemiah 13:23.”

Soncino points out: “Some Rabbis defined the term as the offspring of an incestuous marriage, others as non-Israelite (without any reference to illegitimacy). It means, ‘stranger,’ i.e. one whose descent is unknown.”

The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible defines the Hebrew word, under #4464, as “a mongrel, i.e. born of a Jewish father and a heathen mother.” [Of course, Strong’s makes the common mistake to equate an “Israelite” with a “Jew.”] Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible defines the Hebrew word as, “mixed” or “spurious.” It is also used in Zechariah 9:6.

The Nelson Study Bible equates the word with an illegitimate birth and points out that “it may refer to the offspring of an illicit cultic union, such as the child of a temple prostitute (vv. 17, 18).”

The Tanakh renders this word as “misbegotten,” and explains that the meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain; but that in Jewish law, it has received the meaning of the offspring of adultery or incest between Jews. The New Bible Commentary:Revised defines the word as “the offspring of an adulterous or incestuous relationship or marriage.”

As quoted above, the New King James Bible renders the Hebrew word as, “one of illegitimate birth.” The New International Version states, “born of a forbidden marriage.” The New Revised Standard Version states, “born of an illicit union,” while the New American Bible has here, “of an incestuous union.”

The next question is, what is meant with the statement that the person shall not enter into “the assembly of the LORD.” (The Authorized Version says here that the person shall not enter “into the congregation of the LORD.”)

The Broadman Bible Commentary explains that “the assembly of the LORD… is the official gathering of qualified citizens for purposes of annual religious feasts, war, or the determination of justice involving tribes… It also… presumed circumcision as a sign of covenant participation.”

The Nelson Study Bible adds: “In Deuteronomy the word (for assembly) often refers to those gathered before Sinai (5:22; 9:10; 18:16). Exclusion from the assembly means restriction from full participation in religious rites.”

Based on these explanations, some have concluded that the instruction in Deuteronomy 23:2 only forbade the particular person from holding a public office in the nation of Israel or the congregation (compare Matthew Henry’s Commentary).

Whatever the exact meaning of the passage, it is clear from the reasons given below that it is no longer in force and effect today, and that it does not apply to God’s Church. While Israel was a physical, unconverted nation, which did not have God’s Holy Spirit, the Church of God is a spiritual organism, composed of all those who have received God’s Holy Spirit, after genuine repentance and baptism. God does not exclude ANYONE from His Church, merely based on nationality, gender, upbringing, descent or offspring. The sins or mistakes of the parents are immaterial, when God calls a person. God looks at the heart and mind of those whom He calls — not at the actions in which the parents might have engaged.

The Bible makes it very clear that God is not a respecter of persons, and that all persons from all nations are acceptable to Him, when they repent. Acts 17:30 tells us that “God… now commands all men everywhere to repent.” Titus 2:11 adds that “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” Peter stated in Acts 10:28, 34-35: “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean… In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”

We also read in Galatians 3:28-29: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Even in Old Testament times, this future understanding regarding those who would be called to salvation was already revealed. God raised up Jephthah to judge Israel for six years. Jephthah will be in the Kingdom of God (compare Hebrews 11:32), but he was “the son” of Gilead and “of a harlot” (Judges 11:1); that is, he was an “illegitimate child.” Furthermore, The Broadman Bible Commentary adds the following in its discussion on Deuteronomy 23:2: “One passage in Isaiah suggests that in the future of Israel these restrictions will be lifted so that the eunuch and the foreigner will be welcome (cf. 56:3-8).”

This is indeed the case today. Nobody is excluded from the Church of God, the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). Ethnic, cultural or similar backgrounds of the persons are immaterial, once they repent and accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

The passage in Deuteronomy 23:2, and similar passages, are no longer valid today, nor can they be applied to the Church of God. They served their purpose for the carnal, physical nation of Israel, but they have been superseded by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ Who has opened a new way to God the Father, based on personal responsibility and conduct of those who are called today.

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Preaching the Gospel & Feeding the Flock

A new member letter was written by Dave Harris. It will be sent out on Friday, and has been posted on the Web. In the letter, Dave Harris challenges all of us to make sure that we are not deceived or deceiving ourselves.

Please remember our annual Church conference, which will begin on Friday, February 18, 2005. Please pray for safety for all of those who will be traveling to San Diego, and especially for Rene Messier, who is suffering with a painful back problem. Please also pray to God for inspiration during the conference, and that He would give us the wisdom and understanding of His Will for us.

A new StandingWatch program is scheduled to be recorded on Friday, and should be on the Web shortly.

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How This Work is Financed

This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.

Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.

While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

United States: Church of the Eternal God, P.O. Box 270519, San Diego, CA 92198

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

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