Update 209


I Also Will Keep You

On September 3, 2005, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “I Also Will Keep You.”

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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What Does God Require?

by Edwin Pope

When God calls an individual to His Way, revealing to such a person Who He is; and when God opens that person’s mind to His Truth, resulting in that person’s repentance of his/her past sins and acceptance of Jesus Christ as his/her personal Savior; following baptism, such a person receives God’s Holy Spirit at the laying on of hands of God’s ministry. What does God then require of such person?

Is there a benchmark, a standard whereby one can know and understand that if he/she is diligent in maintaining such a standard, God will be pleased with that life? And if there is such a benchmark, can it be found in God’s Holy Scriptures, showing God’s clear and precise statement of His expectations of such a person?

The answer to those questions is, of course, an emphatic yes! One doesn’t have to go to the New Testament to find such a clear, precise statement. It can be found all the way back in the book of Deuteronomy as God was dealing with His chosen people, Israel! Since God does not change, His requirement of ancient Israel is the same requirement He has for you and me in this day. This spiritual requirement is found in Deuteronomy 10:12-13, where God plainly reveals what He expects of His chosen people, including you and me:

1) To fear the LORD your God.

2) To walk in all His Ways and to love Him.

3) To serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

4) And, to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes… for your good.

Much of God’s Word reveals to us instructions as to how we can accomplish these tasks in a way that is pleasing to our God. These requirements by God of you and me must become our number one priority during this physical life, as exemplified in the physical life of Jesus Christ. If we will be diligent in our approach to fulfilling these requirements, God will ensure through His Spirit our ultimate success!

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Hurricane Katrina’s Devastation

Early reports suggest that Hurricane Katrina might prove to be the deadliest and costliest natural disaster in the history of the nation. The city of New Orleans–
sometimes called the “most European of all American cities”–has now been compared with Hiroshima and Baghdad. The situation in New Orleans has been described as “chaotic.” The sufferings of the survivors are beyond comprehension. According to President Bush, it will take years to rebuild the destroyed areas. Der Spiegel Online published articles with the following headlines: “This Is Judgment Day”; “Can This Still Be Coincidence?”; and “The Smell of the Apocalypse.” Due to the devastation, the production of oil and of agricultural commodities has been greatly affected. In some states in the USA, prices for gasoline are approaching previously unthinkable heights.The hurricane’s devastation might push the nation’s fragile economy into recession. In addition, the city of Los Angeles is waiting for the overdue “big one”–an earthquake which might create even worse damage than the hurricane’s devastation in New Orleans. During the night of August 31, 2005, Southern California was rattled again by several earthquakes–including one with the magnitude of 4.5 on the Richter Scale. Are we seeing the beginning of the end for this great country?

The Economist reported on August 30, 2005:

“Besides its devastating cost in lives, Katrina could push the American economy–maybe even the world economy–into recession. Around four-fifths of New Orleans was under water on Tuesday August 30th, the day after Hurricane Katrina slammed into Louisiana, with winds roaring up to 140mph. Much of the city is below sea level and its levees–an ageing system of earthworks and pumping stations designed to hold the waters back–could not resist Katrina’s might. ‘The devastation is greater than our worst fears,’ said Louisiana’s governor, Kathleen Blanco… As the hurricane travelled on across Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama, it left a trail of death and devastation…

“More worrisome still is the toll of disease. Floodwaters may be contaminated with a toxic mix of industrial chemicals and raw sewage…

“… Nor will the effects of Hurricane Katrina be limited to the Gulf Coast and the offices of a few agitated insurers. Analysts are busy rewriting their forecasts of America’s fourth-quarter GDP growth to take into account the expected economic repercussions of the devastation. The affected area’s ports move a large fraction of the nation’s imports–including critical oil and gas supplies–as well as roughly half its exports of agricultural commodities like corn and soyabeans…

“Chief among the worries is the oil industry. The Gulf of Mexico provides about a tenth of all the crude oil consumed in America; and almost half of the petrol produced in the country comes from refineries in the states along the gulf’s shores. Oil companies are busy assessing how much damage was done to drilling rigs, refineries and port facilities; but even if the infrastructure is largely intact, shipping delays threaten to idle refinery production. This is bad news considering that refineries have been running flat out in recent months to keep up with high demand… If Katrina has damaged America’s capacity to pump and refine oil, forcing Americans to shop abroad for more fuel to feed their gluttonous appetites, it could be a long cold winter for everyone.”

Reuters reported on August 31, 2005:

“In the aftermath of Katrina, some 95 percent of U.S. oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and nine refineries along the coast remained shut down. Several crude pipelines on the Gulf Coast also remained out of service due to power outages, damage and flooding, creating further headaches for an industry that has been badly strained by the storm. What’s more, the Energy Department said Port Fourchon in Louisiana, which handles a large share of U.S. crude oil and natural gas imports, was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina and is cut off by floodwaters.”

The Associated Press reported on August 31, 2005:

“From papal prayers to telegrams from China, the world reacted with an outpouring of compassion Wednesday for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in messages tinged by SHOCK THAT A DISASTER OF THIS SCALE COULD OCCUR IN THE UNITED STATES… The storm was seen as an equalizer–proof that any country, weak or strong, can be victimized by a natural disaster. Images of flood-ravaged New Orleans earned particular sympathy in central Europe, where dozens died in raging floodwaters only days ago.”

In a related article, The Associated Press stated:

“Hurricane Katrina probably killed thousands of people in New Orleans, the mayor said Wednesday… If the mayor’s estimate holds true, it would make Katrina the NATION’S DEADLIEST HURRICANE SINCE 1900, when a storm in Galveston, Texas, killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people. The death toll in the San Francisco earthquake and the resulting fire has been put at anywhere from about 500 to 6,000.”

In a third article, the Associated Press stated: “Hurricane Katrina could cost the insurance industry up to $25 billion in claims, which would make it THE COSTLIEST STORM IN THE NATION’S HISTORY… That means Katrina could prove more costly than record-setting Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which caused some $15.5 billion in insured losses. Adjusted for inflation, Andrew’s cost would be nearly $21 billion today. The figures do not cover property that isn’t insured, which could add billions to the total. The Insurance Information Institute said that in Andrew’s case, the uninsured losses may have approached $16 billion.”

CNN.com reported on August 31, 2005:

“New Orleans resembled A WAR ZONE more than a modern American metropolis Tuesday, as Gulf Coast communities struggled to deal with the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina… New Orleans was left with no power, no drinking water, dwindling food supplies, widespread looting, smoke rising on the horizon and the sounds of gunfire. At least one large building was ablaze Tuesday… Katrina has inflicted more damage to Mississippi beach towns than did Hurricane Camille, and its death toll is likely to be higher, the state’s governor said Tuesday.”

The Financial Times commented on August 31, 2005, that “The damage from Hurricane Katrina has been worse than expected, initial assessments showed on Tuesday, prompting a new rise in oil prices to record levels and raising concerns about the cost of insurance in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Historical Proof for the Bible

The Los Angeles Times reported on August 9, 2005, that the Biblical Pool of Siloam was uncovered in Jerusalem. The Pool served as a gathering place for ancient Jews making pilgrimages and is the site, according to the Gospel of John, where Jesus cured a blind man. The article pointed out:

“The pool was fed by the now famous Hezekiah’s Tunnel and is ‘a much grander affair’ than archeologists previously believed…, said Hershel Shanks, editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review, which reported the find Monday.”

The article also explained the ignorance of certain scholars. It stated: “‘Scholars have said that there wasn’t a Pool of Siloam and that John was using a religious conceit’ to illustrate a point, said New Testament scholar James H. Charlesworth of the Princeton Theological Seminary. ‘Now we have found the Pool of Siloam… exactly where John said it was.’ A gospel that was thought [by ignorant men] to be ‘pure theology is now shown to be grounded in history,’ he said… The pool of Jesus’ time was built early in the 1st century BC and was destroyed by the future Roman Emperor Titus about AD 70.”

The fact that the pool of Siloam did exist, shows–once again–the accuracy of the Bible. It also condemns the futile attempts of Bible critics to discredit the Word of God, thereby deceiving and misleading people to believe that they don’t have to be obedient to Biblical injunctions. They will have to give account for their ERROR when their day of judgment comes.

Atheistic Scientists

On August 23, 2005, The New York Times published another interesting article about the appalling position of some leading scientists, openly denying the existence of God. The article, titled, “Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science,” pointed out:

“At a recent scientific conference at City College of New York, a student in the audience rose to ask the panelists an unexpected question: ‘Can you be a good scientist and believe in God?’ Reaction from one of the panelists, all Nobel laureates, was quick and sharp. ‘No!’ declared Herbert A. Hauptman, who shared the chemistry prize in 1985 for his work on the structure of crystals. Belief in the supernatural, especially belief in God, is not only incompatible with good science, Dr. Hauptman declared, ‘this kind of belief is damaging to the well-being of the human race.'”

On the other hand, a growing number of scientists say that they believe in God–although most of them don’t want to talk about it. One believing scientist said that many reject the idea of a belief in God “because of pride in the idea that science is the ultimate source of intellectual meaning.”

The article stated:

“According to a much-discussed survey reported in the journal Nature in 1997, 40 percent of biologists, physicists and mathematicians said they believed in God–and not just a nonspecific transcendental presence but, as the survey put it, a God to whom one may pray ‘in expectation of receiving an answer.'”

However, the article continued:

“Others play down those results. They note that when Dr. Larson [Edward J. Larson of the University of Georgia] put part of the same survey to ‘leading scientists’ – in this case, members of the National Academy of Sciences, perhaps the nation’s most eminent scientific organization – fewer than 10 percent professed belief in a personal God or human immortality.” Also, many scientists seem to believe in a God “who is behind the laws of nature but who is not intervening.”

When reading this, one is reminded of the pointed statements by Paul, in Romans 1:18-20, 22: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse… Professing to be wise, they became fools.”

Afghanistan’s Schizophrenic War

On August 17, 2005, Der Spiegel Online reported about the “Schizophrenic War” in Afghanistan. The magazine pointed out that Afghanistan is anything but a success story. It was explained:

“While the drug squads and social workers continue their desperate battle against heroin on the home front, German troops stationed in Afghanistan can do little more than stand by and watch as poppy cultivation expands dramatically. Almost 90 percent of the world’s opium comes from the fields of the Hindu Kush region where the Bundeswehr is stationed.”

The magazine continued to point out:

“In 2004, production increased by 17 percent to 4,200 tons. The area of land used for the cultivation of poppies, the opium plant, expanded by 64 percent, now encompassing 131,000 hectares.

“[German] Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has stated that ‘the mandate of the German forces does not include combating drugs.’ Poppy fields are not to be burned, nor are laboratories to be destroyed.”

The reason for this policy is, in part, not to anger the drug lords (whose support against the Taliban the Allies need). The consequence is, according to the article, that opium is now readily available in Germany, in part as a direct consequence of the “won” war in Afghanistan. And so, we see again that war is dirty business–and when it comes to Afghanistan, quite literally, it seems.

U.S. Real Estate Market in Danger

On August 26, 2005, Market Watch published the following article about the fragile real estate market in the United States: “In his sharpest warning to date about rising home prices, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the housing boom is an economic imbalance that could end badly… National housing prices have risen 12.5% in the past year through the first quarter, government data show.”

In a related article of The Associated Press, which was published on August 27, 2005, it was warned that “a chorus of economists, government officials and elected leaders both conservative and liberal is warning that America’s nonstop borrowing has put the nation on the road to a major fiscal disaster–one that could unleash plummeting home values, rocketing interest rates, lost jobs, stagnating wages and threats to government services ranging from health care to law enforcement… Many people take comfort in the rising value of their homes, and its spurred record home-building and buying, with new construction making places like Las Vegas the fastest-growing in the nation. But a home translates into wealth only when you sell it–and there’s a vigorous debate over whether the housing boom is becoming a bubble that will burst.”

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Please explain what is meant by the word, "saint."

Actually, the Bible is very clear as to the meaning of this word. However, orthodox Christianity, and especially Catholicism, have distorted the meaning and have adopted a concept of a “saint,” which is in total opposition to the Biblical teaching.

The “Christian” world thinks that a saint is a very special kind of a Christian; usually one who has died, went to heaven, and who is now interceding before God on our behalf. The “Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine,” by Peter Geiermann, edited 1946, defines a “saint” as “one whose soul is in heaven” (page 111).

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” edited 1994, states under No. 828: “By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the [Catholic] church recognizes the power of the spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models AND INTERCESSORS.”

The “Concise Catholic Dictionary”, by Reynolds and Rosemary Ekstrom, edited 1988, states on pages 134-135:

“Early followers of Christ… sometimes referred to other Christians as saints, but eventually (!) the word saints applied only to those in heaven… The [Catholic] church teaches that the saints in heaven can intercede on behalf of those on earth (these saints are often prayed to for help)… The church has traditionally taught that everyone in heaven (!) is a saint–not just those who have been canonized”
(emphasis supplied).

Further, in order to be “officially recognized” as a “saint,” the Catholic Church “requires the authentication of miracles wrought by, or through the intercession of, the person whose virtues are under debate. [These miracles] must be established by testimony of the countrymen of the reputed saint” (“The Catholic Dictionary,” article, “Canonization,” page 115).

We should realize that the worship of saints is closely associated with the pagan belief of ancestor worship. The Catholic Dictionary points out in its article, “Canonization,” on page 114: “Roman citizens brought the images of their distinguished ancestors in their villas. In China the worship of ancestors is to this day the most living portion of this popular religion.”

The “New Question Box–Catholic Life for the Nineties,” by John Dietzen, ed. 1988, states on pages 495 and 496: “The saints, including our own relatives and friends who have died and are with God, are united in some mysterious way by God’s providence. Since they are with God, it is only natural and profoundly Christian that we ask their help and prayers for anything important to us.”

However, such practice is not “profoundly Christian,” but since it is associated with paganism, it is, therefore, “profoundly pagan.”

Before explaining the biblical concept of a saint, let us clarify what a saint is NOT: As we pointed out in the Q&A of Update #205, the Bible does not teach that a person, including a Christian, goes to heaven when he dies. Neither does the “soul” of the Christian “go to heaven,” as the Bible does not teach at all the concept of an “immortal soul.” Rather, the human being IS the soul, and when the person dies, the soul dies (compare Ezekiel 18:4). A dead person is without consciousness, until Christ gives LIFE to the dead person in a resurrection FROM the dead. The Bible likens “death” to a “dreamless “sleep.” (Compare, for Biblical proof, our free booklet, “Do We Have An Immortal Soul?”) In addition, one does not have to be able to perform miracles to be recognized in the Bible as a saint. For instance, John the Baptist “performed no sign” (John 10:41), but Christ said that “among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).

When the Bible speaks about saints, it addresses LIVING Christians. Paul wrote to “the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who ARE in Colosse” (Colossians 1:2). He also wrote to the “saints who ARE in Ephesus” (Ephesians 1:1), or to “ALL the saints in Christ Jesus who ARE in Philippi” (Philippians 1:1). He was not addressing Christians whom the church would “declare” to be “saints” after their death. He also wrote, in Romans 16:15: “Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who ARE with them.” In 1 Corinthians 16:1, he spoke about “the collection for the saints,” who were, at the time, in need of physical help. In Acts 26:10, Paul is quoted as saying: “This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison… and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.” (Compare, too, Acts 9:13.)

We also read, in Daniel 7:25, that a future false religious leader will “persecute the saints of the Most High.” But the system which he represents will be severely punished by God. We read that the “angel of the water” will say to God: “You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, And you have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due” (Revelation 16:5-6).

Notice this! Christians are called saints in the Bible BEFORE they die. We are told, in Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the DEATH of His saints.”

According to the Bible, a saint is a person who is “holy” or “sanctified”; that is, he is set aside or set apart for a special purpose. Once a person is “sanctified,” he is “holy” — or a saint. The word “saint” refers to LIVING people–not dead ones. Notice Revelation 14:12, which addresses living Christians: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”

W.E. Vine explains in “Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,” that the word “saint,” as used in the New Testament, is derived from the Greek word, “hagios,” meaning “holy.” He states that it is used for “believers… It designates all such and is not applied merely to persons of exceptional holiness, or to those who, having died, were characterized by exceptional acts of saintliness. See especially 2 Thess 1:10, where ‘His saints’ are also described as ‘them that believed,’ i.e., the whole number of the redeemed…”

A saint is an obedient Christian. He has been set aside, by God, to BECOME a born-again member in the very Family of God. He is a child of God, but in no way is he to be worshipped or prayed to (compare Acts 10:25-26; 14:8-18).

In summary, there are no “saints” in heaven. Psalm 16:3 tells us that the “saints… are on the earth.” Therefore, it is useless and wrong to pray to “saints,” as they are dead and in the grave, unable to hear our prayers, and unable to help us. They cannot “intercede” for us–there is only one intercessor or mediator between God and man–Jesus Christ (compare 1 Timothy 2:5-6; see our free booklet, “Is God a Trinity?”).

The Bible says that you are a saint, if you are a converted Christian. But it is not your destiny to go to heaven when you die. For more information about the REAL potential and future of a true Christian–a “saint”–please read, “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God.”

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel & Feeding the Flock

A new StandingWatch program, titled, “Returning To Our Christian Roots,” was placed on the Web.

Our new booklet on Predestination and related topics has entered the first review cycle.

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The Ants

by Aaron Hooper (20)

Imagine trying to explain to an ant that if they live a righteous life and, in the end, are counted ‘faithful in the small things,’ you will make them into a human after they die. Imagine trying to explain to them the value of being human, or what it is like, though they have no idea of what it is like to be that ‘big’ and probably cannot understand through their ‘puny’ little eyes, what humans are.

The truth is, ants are more inherently selfless than we humans are, and don’t need us to teach them how to live their life. Solomon even admonishes us to consider their ways, and to learn from them.

Surely, such is the relationship between God and man (and how difficult it is to understand the things of God!), though the scale of God is much greater than the difference between human and ant. In fact, we are not much bigger than the ants when placed next to the INFINITE God, much as a pebble and a grain of sand are similar in comparison to the earth.

We are, however, not ‘god’ to the ants, because (1) we cannot see them all at once (2) we cannot rightly judge their thoughts or actions (3) we cannot make them live, or resurrect them to life… and the list goes on. The analogy is simply to illustrate the AWESOME MAGNITUDE of God and how infinitesimal we are.

There is a lot to be learned from the “faith” of ants, how they take action (without forethought of the benefit to themselves) to aid the larger purpose about them, without knowing what that purpose is or how it works, and having no promise or reward after they die. We should all the more put our minds towards diligently working towards the awesome purpose and the perfect plan that God has designed for us.

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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

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