Update 227


Abraham, Part 2

On January 21, 2006, Norbert Link will give
the final sermon on certain aspects in the life of Abraham, titled,
“Abraham, Part 2.”

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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Are You Truly Free?

by Edwin Pope

This past Monday the United States of America observed a day in
honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. The event brought to mind the whole
concept of freedom in this country and in the world as a whole. People
desire freedom wherever they are situated and are willing, as history
clearly reveals, to sacrifice all, including their lives, to obtain it!

are many freedoms that are available to citizens of the United States,
Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Western Europe,
which many take for granted; yet, such freedoms — as freedom of
religion, freedom of speech and of the press, and freedom to own land
and other properties — are not readily available in many countries
around the world. We often refer especially to the United States as the
land of the free.

is mankind truly free today, anywhere in
the world, including in the USA? As we approach God’s annual Spring
festivals, the first of God’s seven annual festivals of the year —
Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread — we remain thankful to our
God for having revealed to us the knowledge and truth of these days and
for having made it possible for us to observe these days in this
country, as well as in other countries, relatively without duress.

when you think of the holidays observed by most —
Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc. – we ask the question; “…is
mankind truly free?” Are people who have become hooked on drugs truly
free? When people live their lives daily according to the dictates of
this world, are they truly free?

The Scriptures reveal in John
8:34 that “…whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” Are not all men
slaves to sin? And, are slaves free men? But, how does one become free
from such a captivity, with this world being under the control and
dictates of Satan, and with the carnal pulls of the flesh, which we all
experience continually, affecting many of the decisions we make?

Christ tells us in John 8:31-32 that one must abide in His Word if he
would be a free man. Note, particularly, verse 32: “And you shall know
the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Yes, without truth, it
is impossible for one to become totally free — free from Satan’s
influence and free from the world which he controls today. But one who
is faithful to God and His Truth can become truly free!

Later, in
John 17:17, we see that Christ gives us instruction through a very
meaningful prayer to the Father, in which He says: “Sanctify them by
Your truth. Your Word is truth.” It is the Word of God which truly
separates us from this world, and it is God’s Word wherein Truth is

The world, however, does not yet understand this
revelation from God, not having been called of Him and therefore not
having received the love of the Truth, such that they have the freedom
to walk in it. Most have been deceived by the god of this world, Satan
the devil, and by their pleasure in the unrighteousness found in the
world (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

But, those who have been called
of God and who have remained faithful to that calling do have the
opportunity to obtain true freedom. Such opportunity has been made
possible by the life of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made for the
good of all mankind! In Romans 8:32, Paul asks the question “…how
shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” “All things”
would surely include freedom in this world!

Our obligation, then,
is to remain faithful to the calling we have received from the Father.
Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by
which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a
yoke of bondage.”

Many brethren have failed to follow this
instruction of Paul, an apostle of Christ, found in the book of
Galatians. Let us all take extreme care to never take lightly the
benefits afforded to us in the calling we have received. And let us
remain faithful to what we have proven over and over to be the
unchangeable Law and Truth of God; for through such conduct, we remain
being “truly free” in this world of sin!

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U.S. Economy in Big Trouble

The Economist reported on January 12, 2006:

“The economy that Alan Greenspan is about to hand over [when he retires on January 31] is in a much less healthy state than is popularly assumed… he is leaving behind: the biggest economic imbalances in American history… Part of America’s current prosperity is based not on genuine gains in income, nor on high productivity growth, but on borrowing from the future. The words of Ludwig von Mises, an Austrian economist of the early 20th century, nicely sum up the illusion: ‘It may sometimes be expedient for a man to heat the stove with his furniture. But he should not delude himself by believing that he has discovered a wonderful new method of heating his premises.’… America kept the world going during troubled times. But now it is time for others to take the lead.”

On January 16, The Pravda published the following alarming article:

“The United States is heading to financial crisis at top speed. That is correct, America will default on its foreign debt sooner or later if the actual trends remain unchanged. Consequently, the whole dollar-based world (including savings in U.S. currency) may crumble. In actuality, the public have grown tired of numerous forecasts regarding an imminent collapse of the U.S. economy. The picture looks pretty grim this time around. Several factors will have an extremely detrimental effect on the dollar, according to U.S. Secretary of the Treasury John Snow who forwarded a letter full of ominous predictions to 21 members of U.S. Congress…

“In his letter, Snow predicts a crisis in February this year. Citing U.S. government forecasts, Snow believes that America’s foreign debt currently standing at $8,184 trillion will hit the debt ceiling as early as February-March 2006. For decades the White House has been borrowing money to cover expenditures that exceeded the real economic growth rates. As a result, the U.S. public debt currently totals to $8.1 trillion, a huge figure compared to the U.S. GDP that is slightly above $11 trillion…  An additional minimum amount of $171 billion in foreign loans over the limit is required to satisfy the needs of the U.S. economy (though growth rates are far from being spectacular), otherwise the U.S. will face the first foreign debt default in its history. ‘We will run out of funds for financing the government operations by mid-March at the latest even if the U.S. Department of the Treasury takes all possible legal measures to keep the foreign debt ceiling from going up,’ says Snow. Under his scenario, the government will have to take ’emergency measures’ to pay the bills. The measures mostly boil down to cutting the spending in all areas from social sector to national security.”

The article continued:

“… a number of events are due [to] take place in March. The events look very alarming to the world of the dollar. First, Iran is to officially switch into the euro in its foreign trade operations including oil exports. Second, China is hinting at a potential increase of the euro share in its Central Bank basket of currencies. The dollar share currently holds 70% of the basket. The dollar will be severely affected should the two countries, an oil and gas producer and a manufacturer, take action in a simultaneous manner.”

Iran Threatens the West

The Observer reported on January 15:

“Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hardline President of Iran, launched an angry tirade against the West yesterday, accusing it of a ‘dark ages’ mentality and threatening retaliation unless it recognised his country’s nuclear ambitions. In a blistering assault, Ahmadinejad repeated the Islamic regime’s position that it would press ahead with a nuclear programme despite threats by the European Union and United States to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, where it could face possible sanctions. He added that Iran was a ‘civilised nation’ that did not need such weapons. Iran insists its nuclear programme is a wholly peaceful attempt to generate electricity.”

Regarding the nature of the threat of retaliation, The Observer speculated:

“Iran is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer and analysts have predicted that any disruption to its supplies could have a grave impact on global markets.”

North Korea Threatens the USA

CBS reported on January 13: “North Korean three-star General Ri Chan Bok tells correspondent Dan Rather that if the U.S. invades his country, he will use nuclear weapons to defend it… Does the general think that the United States might attack North Korea? ‘We firmly believe that the United States will carry out its policies on our country, even if they have to use military means,’ Gen. Bok tells Rather. ‘What we can say to you definitely right now is that we currently have nuclear weapons,’ he threatens.”

Germans and Americans

On January 16, Der Spiegel Online published an interesting article about the differences between Americans and Europeans. The magazine stated:

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent trip to Washington has a lot of people talking about ‘common values’ among conservatives. But a US conservative is a different species from a European conservative… since the beginning of her [Merkel’s] term in November, it’s been post-Cold War realities — including secret CIA prisons in Europe, extraordinary renditions, and Guantanamo — which have defined the US-German relationship. Indeed, given such differences, one wonders just what exactly are those ‘common values’ so often touted by conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic?… British historian Tony Judt recently pointed out that Europe and America have been lumped together in an entity known as ‘the West’ only since Word War II. It’s an entity that held strong from Pearl Harbor through the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.”

The magazine concluded that a reference to “common values” should be dropped, as there is more division than agreement on true “values”–even amongst American and German conservatives.

Merkel in Russia and Washington

On January 16, Der Spiegel Online reported about Angela Merkel’s first visit to Russia as German Chancellor, stating:

“Chancellor Angela Merkel’s first visit to Moscow as German leader has heralded a cooler, more businesslike approach to Russia compared with the unquestioning friendship displayed by her predecessor Gerhard Schröder… Germany’s new chancellor, Angela Merkel, signalled a decidedly no-nonsense approach during her inaugural visit to Moscow on Monday that reflected concern in Berlin about an excessive dependence on Russian gas and Russian human rights abuses… The contrast in atmosphere compared with Schröder’s days could not have been greater. Yet analysts say the end of close personal ties won’t lead to a marked deterioration in relations between the two countries, simply because too much is at stake. It’s a cold economic fact that they need each other — Germany gets over 30 percent of its natural gas supplies from Russia and trade between the two countries surged 30 percent last year.”

The magazine summarized Merkel’s recent trips to Washington and Moscow, as follows:

“Merkel has won praise for her reserved, sober style on the international stage and was given credit for brokering a European Union budget deal last month. Her inaugural visit to Washington last Friday also went off smoothly despite her criticism earlier in the week of the detention of terror suspects without trial in Guantanamo Bay.”

However, when President Bush and Chancellor Merkel were asked during a joint press conference about the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, President Bush made it very clear that Washington had no intentions of closing it down any time soon. Chancellor Merkel did not take a strong position on that occasion, rather choosing to dance around the issue. It is perhaps noteworthy that subsequently, according to a news report, dated January 18, the European Parliament “demanded” of the USA the “immediate closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, condemning the American practice of incarcerating hundreds of suspects” (Bild Online, January 18, 2006).

Did Germany In Effect Support the Iraq War?

Der Spiegel Online reported on January 17, 2006, about an outcry in Germany, after it was revealed that Germany collaborated with the United States during the Iraq war, even though former Chancellor Schröder publicly condemned the war. The article pointed out:

“Revelations that information from German intelligence agents in Baghdad was passed along to Washington, while former chancellor Gerhard Schröder publicly condemned the US-led war in Iraq, have caused an uproar in Berlin.”

The magazine continued to ask:

“So what was it? Hypocrisy at the highest levels or simply pragmatic realpolitik? Certainly, it would be naive to believe that just because Schröder refused to back US President George W. Bush’s plans for invading Iraq that all military and intelligence ties between Berlin and Washington would be cut… In an investigative report aired by German public broadcaster ARD late last week, a former Pentagon employee alleged that two Baghdad-based BND agents supplied useful intelligence to the US military’s Defense Intelligence Agency that helped American forces choose bombing targets.

“The most dramatic example of the alleged assistance may have been the April 7, 2003 attempt on the life of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. According to ARD’s Pentagon source, US intelligence received a tip that morning of a column of black Mercedes limousines near a restaurant often frequented by Saddam and other government leaders. It was thought that Saddam might be among the passengers. US officials reportedly called up German intelligence and asked them to have their agents do a drive-by of the restaurant. The German agents in Baghdad confirmed the existence of a convoy of armored vehicles outside the building and not long afterwards, four satellite-guided bombs obliterated the site. But that claim has been forcefully denied by the current BND [Germany’s Foreign Intelligence Agency] head, Ernst Uhrlau, who at the time was intelligence director at the chancellery…

“Berlin did, however, inform Washington that it had two BND agents operating in Baghdad. And once the war began, the German spooks quickly became highly valuable to US intelligence officials. Several times the Americans asked the Germans to clarify important details, such as whether or not Saddam Hussein’s claim was real that trenches around Baghdad had been filled with gasoline and would be set on fire as US forces approached… In exchange, the Americans provided the Germans with classified details about planned military operations — all valuable information for a German government that had been isolated by Washington because of its outspoken opposition to the war.”

The article published the following concluding remarks:

“While the whole episode may seem like a tempest in a tea cup to observers in Washington, it could have serious repercussions for the government in Berlin. The potential impact of the affair surrounding the two BND agents has been magnified by recent revelations about several other incidents of dubious cooperation with the United States on highly controversial matters in the war on terror. Sometimes that involved Berlin looking the other way while Washington bent the rules on human rights and sometimes the Americans simply misused German intelligence.”

Eavesdropping Without Court Approval Illegal?

The Associated Press reported on January 16, 2006, that former Vice President Al Gore accused President Bush that he “broke the law by eavesdropping on Americans without court approval.” Gore was quoted as saying: “What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently.” The article continued to point out:

“Gore… said the concerns are especially important on the [Martin Luther] King holiday because the slain civil rights leader was among thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government. King, as a foremost civil rights activist in the 1950s and 60s, had his telephone conversations wiretapped by the FBI, which kept a file on him and thousands of other civil rights and anti-Vietnam war activists.”

AFP reported on January 17, that “Civil liberties groups fired double-barrelled lawsuits at US President George W. Bush, challenging the legality of his domestic eavesdropping programme and demanding its immediate suspension. The suits were filed in New York by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and in Detroit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a host of other advocacy groups. Both actions sought an injunction that would prohibit the government from conducting surveillance of communications in the United States without judicial warrants.”

The news agency continued:

“The New York Times on Tuesday reported that much of the domestic spying conducted by the NSA after the September 11, 2001 attacks was unproductive and led federal agents to dead ends or innocent Americans. The monitoring of international telephone calls and computer messages placed by Americans to suspected terrorists abroad, and vice versa, produced such a huge amount of unfiltered information that it overwhelmed the FBI, current and former officials told the newspaper.”

First Elected African Female Leader

The Associated Press reported on January 16 about Africa’s first elected female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was sworn in Monday as war-battered Liberia’s new president. The article explained about Liberia:

“Founded by freed American slaves in 1847, Liberia was prosperous and peaceful for more than a century, bolstered by abundant timber and diamond wealth. But back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003 brought the country to its knees, killing 200,000 people and displacing half the nation’s population of 3 million. It is now one of the world’s poorest countries, ranked 206th in terms of per capita income out of 208 countries on 2004 World Bank list. Today, not even the capital has running water or electricity: the rich rely on generators, the poor on candles. Unemployment is 80 percent.”

Focusing on Liberia’s new leader, the article continued:

“Born in Liberia in 1938, Sirleaf worked her way through college in the United States by mopping floors and waiting tables. She graduated with a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard in 1971 and took top jobs in Liberia, including finance minister, and senior positions at Citibank, the World Bank and the U.N. Twice imprisoned in Liberia in the 1980s for political reasons, she returned during a break in fighting in 1997 to run for president. She lost to Taylor, but tried again last fall, emerging victorious.”

We wish Ellen Sirleaf all the best in her endeavor to return peace and prosperity to this once peaceful and prosperous country.

War on Terror to Last for Decades?

The Daily Telegraph reported on January 17:
“Biological weapons pose a far more serious long-term terrorist threat to the West than nuclear weapons, according to Washington’s leading counter-terrorism expert. And Henry ‘Hank’ Crumpton, the newly-appointed head of counter-terrorism at the US State Department, believes that it is simply a matter of time before international terrorist groups such as al-Qa’eda acquire weapons of mass destruction and use them in attacks… [He also] warned yesterday that the ‘war on terror’ was likely to last for decades.”

Crumpton also had some harsh criticism for America’s European allies, stating:

“But despite the initial success achieved during the Afghan war in 2001, he expressed disappointment with the support Washington had received from its European allies since hostilities ended. ‘The job was not finished and it is not finished now.’ Bin Laden, who escaped to Pakistan, was ‘in all probability’ still alive, he said. The regime of President Assad in Syria also seriously threatens western security, he says. ‘The regime continues to support terror organisations. And we know that the Baathist leadership fled to Damascus taking with them money and terrorist expertise, and we cannot rule out the fact that some of that expertise related to WMD.'”

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What does Zion refer to?

The word Zion first appears in the Bible as the name of the ancient
Jebusite fortress called the city of Jebus which was situated on a hill
within the subsequent boundaries of Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 5:7 states:
“Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of
David).” Note that from this original conquest, the area was enlarged:
“Then David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the City of David.
And David built all around from the Millo and inward” (2 Samuel 5:9;
also, 1 Chronicles 11:4-9).

The hill upon which Solomon built the
temple was Mount Moriah — a different location than that of the
original City of David. David purchased from Ornan the Jebusite the location on which the
temple of God would later be built by Solomon
(Compare 1 Chronicles 21:18-30 and 2 Chronicles 3:1).

Tracing the
earlier history of the site, we find that Israel’s two tribes of Judah
and Benjamin were given this as a part of their inheritance in the land
God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Benjamin’s share included the
city of Jebus — which is part of what became the city of Jerusalem
(Compare Joshua 18:28). Judah’s boundaries also included the area
bordering the city of Jebus (Compare Joshua 15:8).

However, the
Biblical record shows that when Judah and Benjamin began to take their
inheritances by force, they were unable to drive out the Jebusites
(Compare Joshua 15:63 and Judges 1:21). Part of the area belonging to
Judah was captured but not the fortress of Zion (Compare Judges 1:8).

the time of Abraham, the place where the city of Zion was built was
known as Salem. It is from this city that Melchizedek reigned as king
and priest of “God Most High” (Genesis 14:18).

In the New
Testament, further explanation concerning this remarkable site is given
in Hebrews 7:1-3: “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the
Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the
kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all,
first being translated ‘king of righteousness,’ and then also king of
Salem, meaning ‘king of peace,’ without father, without mother, without
genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made
like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.”

The meaning
of Zion continued to expand in its usage throughout the Bible. Zion
became synonymous with Jerusalem and Israel and was applied to the land
and people that God had chosen, as well. For example, Jerusalem and its
inhabitants are personified as the “daughter of Zion” (Compare Isaiah
62:11; Zechariah 9:9; and, Matthew 21:5).

Zion is
especially significant regarding the many prophetic statements
concerning the establishment of God’s Kingdom on the earth and the
location of His rule.

“For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has
desired it for His dwelling place: ‘This is My resting place forever;
Here I will dwell, for I have desired it’” (Psalm 132:13-14). Zion is
called the “…city of God” (Psalm 87:3) and the “…city of the great
King” (Psalm 48:2).

Note this prophecy about Zion, picturing
the future reign of God, as found in Zechariah 2:10-12: “‘Sing and
rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell
in your midst,’ says the LORD. ‘Many nations shall be joined to the
LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in
your midst. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to
you. And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in
the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem.’”

reference states: “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word
of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). Psalm 102, verse 16,
explains: “For the LORD shall build up Zion; He shall appear in His

The physical location of Zion is the place on this earth
where Jesus Christ will assemble those who have part in the first
resurrection (or who are changed from mortal to immortal — compare 1
Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18): “Then I looked, and
behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and
forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their
foreheads” (Revelation 14:1).

We should also realize that a
“Mount Zion” exists in the spirit world, describing the place of God’s
presence and of His unending rule over His creation (compare our free
booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World.”)
Speaking to Christians, the author of Hebrews says: “But you have come
to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly
and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the
Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the
Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that
speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).

“heavenly Jerusalem,” which will come down from heaven to earth, is
further described in Revelation 21 and in verses 1-5 of chapter 22.
Here, in the context of “…a new heaven and a new earth” (21:1), the
throne of God and of the Lamb will be placed in the New Jerusalem —
the holy city.

We see, then, that the meaning of Zion is far more
than its original designation as a Jebusite stronghold or fortress.
Zion depicts the headquarters for governmental administration — that
is, for God’s rule in and from heaven; for a united Israel under King
David; and eventually for the rule of God’s government over mankind.
Importantly, Zion also describes the people and the land of promise as
a symbol of the hope that God has prepared for all nations!

Lead Writer: Dave Harris

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

A new StandingWatch program
was recorded on Thursday, which is titled, “Beware of False Prophets!”
In the program, Mr. Link discusses the confusion created by those who
try to determine the exact time of Christ’s return, and who
misinterpret Biblical prophecy.

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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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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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