Update 192

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Keys in Overcoming Sin

On Saturday, May 7, 2005, Edwin Pope will give the sermon from Colorado. The sermon is titled, “Keys in Overcoming Sin.”

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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Absolutely!!!

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At one time the world was flat, the Sun rotated around the earth and there were only 7 other planets in this solar system. Men of renown based their calculations on these “facts” and wrote down these and other observations as absolutes. Later, we became smarter and figured out that these “facts” were not to be set in stone.

Then came Einstein, considered to be one of the most brilliant minds of all time, who came up with his famous theory of E=mc2. In this equation c stands for CONSTANT and that constant is the speed of light upon which many other conclusions relied. Now there are scientists that say the speed of light is slowing down and they say they have evidence to prove it.

In the scientific community there is the necessity to have absolutes around which theories, laws, knowledge and ultimately science can be built. Yet new generations bring better precision which refines or even changes what has been held as absolute truth.

It seems, based on past experience, that we can not rely on the absolutes and truths that man has been able to extrapolate empirically. What then can we rely on?

The one absolute that we can use as a foundation for building our life upon, the one absolute that is not going to change is God. God and His Word are the same YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW. We read: “I the Lord change not” (Malachi 3:6); and that “there is no variation or shadow of turning” with God (James 1:17).

Even if man could explain his existence accurately, there is no assurance that it will always be that way. Even though the universe will change, God won’t (Psalm 102:25-27). Man does not have the ability to control the environment like the One who created it. God is the only One that CAN be and is absolute.

This being the case, God and His Word should be our foundation, our beginning, and our basis for life. We can rely on EVERY word in the Bible and WE SHOULD (Matthew 4:4). We can not rely on anything else, because everything else will perish along with those that believe in it and follow after it (Proverbs 14:12).

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The New Europeans

On April 26, 2005, the International Herald Tribune published an interesting article about “European feelings.” The article pointed out:

“A year after 10 new members joined the European Union, euroskepticism and doubts about the new European constitution may be dominating headlines. But beyond politics and institutional battles, the everyday reality of Europe’s open borders is quietly forging a EUROPEAN IDENTITY. A growing number of young Europeans… work and date across the Continent. Unlike their parents, who grew up within the confines of nationhood, they are multilingual and multicultural.

“Most of the EU citizens who say they feel ‘European’ still rank their national identity higher than their European one, opinion polls show. But among those aged 21 to 35, almost a third say they feel MORE European than German, French or Italian, according to a survey by Time magazine in 2001… According to a poll conducted by the European Commission in all 25 member states last year, more than two-thirds of respondents say they feel ‘ATTACHED’ to Europe. Fifty-seven percent see their identity as having a ‘European DIMENSION’ in the near future, up five percentage points from 1999, while 41 percent say their identity remains entirely national…

“Perhaps the most striking example of such [European] convergence is the wave of opposition to the Iraq war that swept across the Continent two years ago. Even if a number of governments–notably Britain, Italy, Poland and Spain–backed the United States on Iraq, European public opinion strongly opposed the invasion… Some say trans-Atlantic tensions around the Iraq war may have strengthened a sense of UNITY in Europe… others argue that the expansion of the EU is what is paving the way to a true European IDENTITY.”

Partially Human and Partially Animal?

On April 30, 2005, CNN reported about “mingling human cells with lesser beings.” The article explained that “on a farm about six miles outside this gambling town [of Reno, Nevada, there is] a flock of about 50 smelly sheep, many of them possessing partially human livers, hearts, brains and other organs.”

The article continued:

“In fact, the Academies’ report endorses research that co-mingles human and animal tissue as vital to ensuring that experimental drugs and new tissue replacement therapies are safe for people… Doctors have transplanted pig valves into human hearts for years, and scientists have injected human cells into lab animals for even longer. But the biological co-mingling of animal and human is now evolving into even more exotic and unsettling mixes of species, evoking the Greek myth of the monstrous CHIMERA, which was part lion, part goat and part serpent. “In the past two years, scientists have created pigs with human blood, fused rabbit eggs with human DNA and injected human stem cells to make paralyzed mice walk. Particularly worrisome to some scientists are the NIGHTMARE scenarios that could arise from the mixing of brain cells: What if a human mind somehow got trapped inside a sheep’s head?… In January, an informal ethics committee at Stanford University endorsed a proposal to create mice with brains nearly completely made of human brain cells.”

Great Britain vs. the Euro

The Daily Mail reported on April 28, 2005: “Mr. Blair conceded last night that his dream of being the Prime Minister who takes Britain into the Euro is all but DEAD. He suggested there was almost NO CHANCE of a referendum on entry into the single currency in the next Parliament. Mr. Blair has often said he would like Britain to join if the conditions for entry can be met. But Gordon Brown [Chancellor] has repeatedly [said] they have not [reached that point].”

Haider in Germany

On April 30, 2005, wienweb.at reported about Austria’s Joerg Haider’s recent visit in Mannheim, Germany. Haider stated that he still wants to become Austrian CHANCELLOR. He also said that the people should be able to decide via referendum, whether to accept the EU constitution, as the EU constitution is a bad document. According to Haider, the proposed Constitution takes away rights from the people and gives them instead to the “colorless” bureaucrats in Brussels.

Doctrinal Decisions by Cardinal Ratzinger

On April 29, 2005, the Catholic News Service published a Timeline of principal doctrinal decisions, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 to 2005 [formerly called, “the Inquisition”], when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was prefect of the office. He was elected Pope Benedict XVI April 19, 2005.

Among the interesting and note-worthy decisions were the following:

— Nov. 26, 1983: “Declaration on Masonic Associations,” saying Masonic principles and rituals “embody a naturalistic” religion incompatible with Christianity. Those who knowingly embrace the principles or attend the rituals are involved in serious sin and may not receive Communion.

— Feb. 22, 1987: “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation,” clarifying the church’s position on assisted fertilization techniques and other biomedical issues, reaffirming teaching that an embryo is human from the moment of conception and that conception is moral only in the context of sexual intercourse within marriage.

— Feb. 16, 1989: Note regarding the moral rule of “Humanae Vitae” and pastoral duty, saying couples who find it difficult to follow church teaching about birth control of any kind “deserve great respect and love,” but the church is firm in teaching that contraception is an “intrinsically disordered act” that is prohibited without exception.

— Oct. 15, 1989: “Letter on Certain Aspects of Christian Meditation,” cautioning Catholics about using Buddhist, Hindu and other meditation techniques that place the focus of prayer on the self rather than on God.

— July 23, 1992: “Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on Nondiscrimination of Homosexual Persons,” saying, “It is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account” when making laws concerning “adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches and in military recruitment.”

— Sept. 14, 1994: “Letter to Bishops Regarding the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful,” saying the church cannot ignore Jesus’ clear teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and reaffirming that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics may not receive Communion.

— Oct. 28, 1995: Response to questions about the doctrine contained in the apostolic letter, “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,” saying the church’s teaching that women cannot be ordained priests belongs “to the deposit of faith” and has been taught “infallibly.”

— Aug. 15, 1997: Publication of the final Latin “typical edition” of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” including a stronger condemnation of the death penalty and an acknowledgment that science has not determined the cause of homosexuality.

— Oct. 31, 1998: “Considerations on ‘The Primacy of the Successor of Peter in the Mystery of the Church,'” saying that “the full communion desired by Christ among those who confess to be his disciples requires the common recognition of a universal ecclesial ministry,” and the Catholic faith holds that that ministry belongs to the pope.

— May 31, 1999: Notification regarding School Sister of Notre Dame Jeannine Gramick and Salvatorian Father Robert Nugent, barring the U.S. team from further pastoral ministry to homosexuals, saying they advanced “doctrinally unacceptable” positions “regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination.”

— June 26, 2000: Publication of a 43-page booklet containing the complete “Message of Fatima,” including the so-called “third secret” given to three Portuguese children in 1917. In his commentary, Cardinal Ratzinger said the third part of the message is a symbolic prophecy of the church’s 20th-century struggles with evil political systems and of the church’s ultimate triumph. In that writing, he stressed that only the ministerial hierarchy of the Catholic Church has the right to interpret the meaning of the “Message to Fatima.”

— Aug. 6, 2000: “Dominus Iesus,” a declaration on the “exclusive, universal and absolute” value of Jesus Christ and his church for salvation, that is, the “Catholic Church.”

— Jan. 16, 2003: Doctrinal note on the participation of Catholics in political life saying that while Catholics are free to choose among political parties and strategies for promoting the common good, they cannot claim that freedom allows them to support abortion, euthanasia or other attacks on human life.

— July 31, 2004: “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World,” saying the subjugation of women is the result of original sin and not of God’s original design for creation.

— Feb. 11, 2005: Statement and commentary reaffirming church teaching that only priests can administer the anointing of the sick and saying the doctrine must be “definitively” accepted by Catholics.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Future

On April 25, 2005, The Globalist published an insightful editorial about the election of Pope Benedict XVI. The paper stated the following:

“The new pope is certainly equipped to engage in these [ethical] debates. He has been a leading intellectual on ethics questions for decades. In his previous capacity in Rome, he was a forceful and articulate defender of church doctrine. Now he is challenged to move beyond being an enforcer to being an enabler… The power of religious institutions… remains as much POLITICAL as it is spiritual… The POPE is therefore a very POLITICAL force, as is the CATHOLIC CHURCH ITSELF.. As a WORLD LEADER now, he will need to carry on that dialogue with one billion Catholics and the five billion others who share the world’s future… “HOW LONG Pope Benedict will reign is UNKNOWN. When the first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany was sworn in, in 1949, he was only five years younger than the pope is today. And he stayed in office for 14 years, guiding the new republic in its first stages after the war. How Benedict shapes the agenda of his Church will be no less crucial for its future. THE RESULTS MAY BE FAR DIFFERENT THAN ANYONE CAN NOW KNOW FOR CERTAIN.”

Religious Persecution?

As AFP reported on May 5, 2005, “An Italian website that published a photo montage of Pope Benedict XVI dressed in a Nazi uniform was told to suspend its activities on Wednesday for OFFENDING the Roman Catholic religion, court officials said. Rome prosecutors accuse the Indymedia Italia site, which is part of a network of alternative media websites, of causing OFFENSE to the Catholic religion by publishing the photo montage alongside the caption ‘Nazi pope.’ Under Italian law, the offense is punishable by up to ONE YEAR IN JAIL… Italy’s largest press union, FNSI, slammed the decision as an ‘unacceptable attack on critical and satirical freedom.'”

Iran and the Bomb

According to an article by Reuters, dated May 3, 2005, “Iran vowed on Tuesday to press ahead with nuclear activities that could be used to make weapons and accused the United States and Israel of threatening international peace with their own atomic arsenals… In a comment clearly aimed at the European Union’s three biggest powers — France, Britain and Germany — [Foreign Minister Kamal]Kharrazi said ‘no one should be under the illusion’ that abolishing its nuclear fuel enrichment program would provide what he called an objective guarantee Tehran would not pursue the bomb.”

Russian Orthodox Church and Easter

On May 1, 2005, The Associated Press reported about the celebration of Easter by the Russian Orthodox Church. The article stated: “The Russian Orthodox Church, all but banned under the Soviet Union, has experienced a MAJOR RESURGENCE since 1991, with an estimated two-thirds of Russia’s 144 million people believed to be observant… Orthodox churches use a different calendar than the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, which celebrated Easter on March 27… In his Easter greetings, Putin said the country was undergoing a SPIRITUAL REVIVAL. ‘On this festive spring day, I’d like to point to the growing positive influence of the Russian Orthodox Church and other traditional Christian confessions on molding the spiritual and moral climate in Russian society,’ the president said.”
The article continued:

“In Ukraine, where the country’s sizable Roman Catholic population marked Easter nearly a month ago, President Viktor Yushchenko sent Easter greetings to Orthodox believers, telling them Ukraine received DIVINE HELP during last year’s pro-democratic ‘Orange Revolution’ that brought him to the presidency. ‘We see our FUTURE TIED with the future of other EUROPEAN NATIONS … I wish that this Easter marks the beginning of a new and better life for everyone,’ Yushchenko said. Almost 90 percent of Ukrainians are members of the Orthodox church….

“In Turkey, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I spoke out against terrorism and killing in the name of religion as Orthodox faithful gathered early Sunday at the seat of the Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul to celebrate Easter. Bartholomew [is] the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians and a longtime advocate of harmony between different religions…”

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Do You Believe in and Teach Self-Defense?

We addressed this question in our new booklet, “Should You Fight in War?” We are bringing you the following excerpts:

“Do we believe in God and rely on Him for our protection, having the faith that it is GOD who is our protecting shield, or do we think that we must have additional security in the form of a handgun or some sort of firearm? Do we think that God is incapable of helping us in certain circumstances? We should, of course, do everything that we can do to avoid getting into dangerous situations. We obviously should not go to places where gangs assemble, and we should not get involved with people who are known to be active in crimes, for instance. In addition, Proverbs 15:1 tells us that a soft answer turns away wrath but that grievous words stir up strife. So then, we need to be peacemakers, and we need to avoid everything that would create strife. Proverbs 18:6 reminds us that a fool’s lips enter into contention and that his mouth calls for violent reactions. We are also told in Proverbs 26:17 that he who passes by and meddles with strife belonging not to him, is like one who takes a dog by the ears. The point is, the battles of this world, which are fought by this world, are not our battles! This Scripture tells us not to be a fool, meddling with strife not belonging to us!… The most important of all the things you can do to avoid using violence is to pray to God, on a daily basis: ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’ (compare Matthew 6:13). We are to plead with God daily to NOT ALLOW a tempting situation that might be too difficult for us to bear, to overtake us. However, we read in the Bible that righteous persons have sometimes found themselves being attacked by others. What did they do, and what should YOU do, if God allows it?

“First, realize that God would NOT allow it if you were not able to bear it, as 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us. And when God does allow it, He will also provide a way of escape for you. This is sometimes literally the case. Sometimes you need to actually flee, to run away! Christ did so on occasion. We read in John 10:39: ‘Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand.’… When we find ourselves, or others, in a dangerous, challenging, life-threatening situation, we must PRAY to God, with faith, to HELP us out of that situation. To fight our fight for us! To give us the wisdom and the power NOT to do the WRONG thing, however tempting it may be.

“We must realize that no matter what harm we may WANT to do physically in a given situation, we must not seriously injure or kill the attacker. But unless we understand beforehand, and have in our mind that we are not to do something with the intent to seriously injure or kill the attacker, we might very well do so when the occasion presents itself. If we carry a gun with us or have one handy, say, next to our bed, we will certainly try to use it, but then may be killed in the process.

“People who disagree with the foregoing may ask you what you would do if you came home and a robber was in the process of raping your wife or killing your husband… Realistically, how many times does this happen? But if it does happen, do you really think that you can take a gun and shoot the attacker, and that the attacker would let you do it without any resistance? Chances are, he will use his gun first. In any case, to use a gun and shoot the attacker would be against the clear Biblical teaching of prohibiting killing. But what about just trying to injure him? In the heat of the moment, you may not be able to do just that, even if you wanted to. And if the attacker would only be injured, he would still have the chance to kill you or others who are with you. Christ told Peter, when he pulled his sword in defense of Christ and just injured the servant, to put his sword away. Christ’s protection did not depend on human weapons. It depended on God the Father and His angels. So, too, with us. Our real protection comes from the same source….

“The whole issue really comes down to where we place our trust and confidence for our protection, in EVERY situation. Notice God’s promise to His people, in Exodus 34:22-24: ‘And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end. Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the LORD God of Israel. For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.’ When man places his trust and confidence in God, God will protect man. Ultimately though, no matter the consequences, we must be living a life pleasing to God. We must never fear the ones who can take our physical life from us, but we must fear, or deeply respect, the One who can refuse to give us ETERNAL LIFE.

“We must always have the attitude that Daniel’s three friends had when they were asked to violate God’s laws by worshipping an idol, and in case of refusal, were threatened with being thrown into a fiery furnace. We need to speak and act in the same way when we are being tempted to worship Satan – the god of war – by picking up a gun or a knife or another weapon to injure or even kill another person. We read their answer in Daniel 3:17-18: ‘ … our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.’ We must not serve the wisdom of this world, worshipping the power of the air and the god of destruction and war. Rather, we must always follow the PRINCE OF PEACE.”

At the same time, we must firmly keep in mind God’s limitless power and His willingness to help His disciples, who place their trust and confidence in Him. Rather than resorting to violence with the intent to seriously injure or kill an attacker, God’s disciples are to pray to God for help in dangerous situations.

In 1982, the Mail Processing Center of the Worldwide Church of God published a collection of special letters, titled, “God Still Works Miracles Today.” These letters testified to the intimate involvement of God in people’s lives and His protection in times of trials. We are quoting excerpts from one remarkable letter, dated March 31, 1981:

“I would like to share with you an incident which happened at work, at a coal mine, several days ago. I received word from a foreman to go and repair the roof-drill for a new employee. When I got there, the employee informed me that he had already repaired the roof-drill.” The letter continued to describe how that employee engaged the writer in a discussion regarding the Sabbath, the Church and Mr. Armstrong, the late human leader of the Church. It continued:

“He then grabbed me, and threw me on the mine floor. With the cold edge of his knife at my throat, he said, ‘Take the words back that Armstrong is an apostle for today!’ All the time he was cursing Mr. Armstrong. I refused to take back my words. I managed to get my hand on his forehead and push him off but knew that if he got me down again, without a hand from God, he would kill me. I uttered a silent prayer, and immediately he started fighting something other than myself — and something I could not see. He began to vomit and cry violently and kept it up for several minutes. Then he crawled to the other side of the mine.”

God who protected Daniel in the lions’ den is ready and able to protect us today, if we long for His protection. We don’t need to use violence against others for our own protection, when we trust that God is there to help us, whenever we are in need. As we read in Psalm 46:1-3: “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling.” And notice this comforting reassurance and promise of God’s presence in our lives, and His protection:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you (Isaiah 43:2).

At the same time, we must always look at God’s overall Will for us and our great potential and destiny for our lives, as Christ expressed in Matthew 10:28-31: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground APART FROM YOUR FATHER’S WILL. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

To resort to violence with the intent to seriously injure or kill another person, even for the purpose of self-defense or defending others, is not in conformity with Christ’s teaching. As mentioned above, Christ told Peter, when he took the sword to defend Christ and injured the servant of the high priest in the process, to put his sword “in its place, for ALL who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). He continued to tell Peter that if He needed help, His Father would provide Him “with more than twelve legions of angels” (verse 53). Christ knew that His protection did not depend on man’s strength — including His own — but on God the Father’s.

God has assigned angels for our protection. For more information about this intriguing subject, please read our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World.”

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Preaching the Gospel & Feeding the Flock

A StandingWatch program, titled, “The Last Pope?”, was posted on the Web.

Sunday, May 8, 2005, has been set aside in the USA and many other countries as “Mother’s Day.” Regarding Mother’s Day celebrations, please review our Q&A on the matter, in Update #100.

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Choose Your Friends Wisely

by Aaron Hooper (19)

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Can the young mind comprehend the profound and vast wisdom in the statement: “Choose your friends wisely”? We young people are such that, simple admonishments must be explained to us in full — with real examples of things that have really happened to real people — and then, it’s still a big “maybe” whether or not we will even believe what we have been told. Wisdom is often the result of experience — and, if applied, can dramatically change the direction of our life. Now, the question is, whether we have faith in wisdom to act on what is right.

In this world, there are a lot of things we may try out of our own curiosity, bravery, and — to a greater degree — stupidity. But, there are an equal, if not greater number of things, that we will not try because of our own conscience — all those things we were taught not to do, that we know are wrong. That is, until we may make new friends, and if they have a lower moral standard than we have, then there are a lot of new possibilities of the things we will do, that don’t seem so bad… After all, our new friends seem like normal people and it seems like nothing bad has happened to them as a result of the things they have been doing.

The funny thing about doing something wrong is that we might not get in trouble right away. Doing wrong is so deceptive, and so easy, and we might even get away with it… for a little while — but, the “fun” won’t last forever. The consequences for doing wrong will always catch up with us sooner or later (probably sooner). And the more we do simple, “harmless” things, the more we may begin to hate ourselves. Also, the more we get involved in these “harmless” activities, the more we will become disconnected from God. We will pay for all the wrong things we have done to ourselves and other people — maybe even for the rest of our lives. But it all could have been easily prevented. Our friends have great impact on our immediate personality and perhaps even our long-term character development. Let us, therefore, choose our friends wisely.

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