Update 281


A Question of Balance

On February 17, 2007, Brian Gale will give the sermon, titled, “A Question of Balance.”

Norbert Link will use the sermonette and announcements time to report on the annual conference and the memorial service for Mr. Pope.

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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The Hot Debate

by Norbert Link

Personally, I believe that we are experiencing global warming. I also feel that it is man-made, at least to a large extent. Certain prophecies seem to confirm to me some of the very same consequences, which are described by proponents of global warming. For instance, Luke 21:25 speaks of a time, just prior to Christ’s return,  when there will be “on earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring…” It appears to me that man-made global warming may just be another aspect of God’s prophetic warning in Revelation 11:18, reporting about God’s intervention in human affairs to “destroy those who destroy the earth.”

Not everyone agrees with the concept of man-made global warming. I have friends who believe otherwise. And they may be right. This does not diminish or destroy our friendship. At worst, we agree to disagree. After all, not all scientists are in universal agreement that we are experiencing man-made global warming. It is shocking, however, how political this “hot debate” has become in the media and amongst scientists and governments.

Reports have been filed about alleged past political pressure from the Bush Administration on scientists believing that global warming is man-made, as well as recent political pressure from the state of Oregon on the state’s Climatologist who believes that man does not cause global warming.

Germany’s “Die Welt,” wrote that those scientists who disagree with the concept of man-made global warming are labeled or “libeled” as “deniers”–a highly explosive term, especially in Germany, where Holocaust deniers are committing a crime. And so, in a recent article in the Boston Globe, it was stated that “we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.”

On the worldwide political scene, European nations are seriously considering to police and punish certain countries–most and foremost the USA–which have not signed the Kyoto climate protocol; perhaps by enforcing a “carbon tax.”

The global warming confrontation amongst governments, politicians and scientists will continue, and more and more pressure will be placed on those who dare to have a “different” viewpoint, which might be “politically incorrect.” But political correctness does not define right and wrong.

Christians who are concentrating on following the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, must be careful how they conduct themselves in the light of this “hot debate.” They must not be in any way emotionally influenced by political tactics stemming from the wisdom of this world–whether the respective positions are “pro” or “con” man-made global warming. If someone differs from you on this matter, so be it. God has called us to peace (1 Corinthians 7:15)–not to useless hot debates about inconsequential matters, which you and I cannot change, anyway, on a global scale.

Germany’s “Die Zeit” wrote that, due to inconsistent scientific “findings” of the past, “no one is sure anymore what to believe, when it comes to climate change.” This may be so. And God will show us in His due time, what He knew all along. In the meantime, let His true followers keep themselves unspotted from the world (James 1:27), while concentrating on being about their Father’s business (compare Luke 2:49; Matthew 28:19-20).

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Middle East In Worst Condition Ever

On February 9, Der Spiegel Online published an interview with Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, discussing the escalating developments between the USA and Iran, and the volatile situation in the Middle East. ElBaradei stated the following:

“… I personally believe that in a situation like the one you have in the Middle East today, where it’s like a ball of fire, you have to be very cautious. We cannot afford to add oil to that fire. The more we have confrontation, the more the Middle East will become militant and angry… We should not ride a train wreck. The Middle East is in the worst condition I have ever seen… It’s regrettable that Iran restricted the number of inspectors and we wrote to them and asked them to reconsider. It restricts our flexibility. I hope the Iranians will understand that the more transparency there, the better it will be for them.

“But I can also say that there are over 100 designated inspectors accepted by the Iranians. So we have enough people to do the job. We were just in Natanz and will soon go again… The Iranians themselves said that they want to install 3,000 centrifuges and are now moving forward in installing them… How long it will take to install and operate them will be part of my report to the IAEA Board of Governors on Feb. 21. So the window of opportunity for a time-out is very narrow. If my report is negative in the absence of any movement on the part of Iran then the Security Council will work for more sanctions. That would mean a further escalation that will become more and more difficult to scale back.”

On February 9, Der Stern Online published an interview with retired U.S. four-star general Wesley Clark. In the interview, Clark said, “I fear it will come to a military confrontation with Iran. This would lead to catastrophic results, for the region and for us.”

Accused Putin Becomes Accuser

In what must be seen as a “further worsening” of the relationship between Washington and Moscow, Russia’s highly controversial leader, Vladimir Putin, launched an unparalleled attack against the United States in a speech at a security conference in Germany. Putin has come under increased scrutiny for his perceived authoritarian conduct of brutally suppressing any resistance to his policies which are apparently aimed at the re-establishment of Russian dictatorship.

AFP filed this report on February 9:

“Russian President Vladimir Putin has launched a full-frontal attack on the United States, saying it had broken from international law and made the world a more dangerous place. Putin’s denunciation of US policy, made at a high-level security conference in Munich, prompted dismay among senior officials and politicians from the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation…

“The United States had disastrously ‘overstepped’ its borders… ‘in all spheres — economic, political and humanitarian and has imposed itself on other states,’ Putin said… What he called a ‘uni-polar’ world dominated by the United States, ‘means in practice one thing: one centre of power, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making, a world of one master, one sovereign,’… Such a situation ‘is extremely dangerous. No one feels secure because no one can hide behind international law,’ Putin said. He added that US dominance was ‘ruinous, not only for those inside the system but for the sovereign himself because it destroys him from within. It has nothing in common with democracy.’

“In a direct reference to US military policy, Putin said ‘local and regional wars didn’t get fewer. The number of people who died didn’t get less, but increased…. We see no kind of restraint, a hyper-inflated use of force.’ The United States, he said, had gone ‘from one conflict to another without achieving a fully-fledged solution to any of them.’

“Putin also rejected US criticism that under his watch, Russia has back-tracked on democracy… The speech marked a further worsening of relations between Moscow and Washington under Putin… The head of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said the world was seeing an ‘increasingly uni-polar government in Russia, where competing centres of influence are being forced to toe the party line.'”

The Associated Press pointed out that “The Russian leader also voiced concern about U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in eastern Europe — likely in Poland and the Czech Republic — and the expansion of NATO as possible challenges to Russia.”

The EUObserver added on February 12:

“Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s tough speech in Germany this weekend is a wake-up call to the harsh realities in EU-Russia relations, early reactions from European politicians say… Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt told Reuters: ‘we should take [Putin] at his word. This was the real Russia of now and possibly in four or five years time it could go further in this direction.’… Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg thanked the Russian leader ironically, saying that he had vindicated NATO’s decision to take in members from the former Soviet east over the past decade. Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves also urged the EU to think twice about future relations with ‘a country that considers democracy on its borders as a threat, or despotism inside its borders as a source of stability.'”

On February 12, Der Spiegel Online reported about German reactions to Putin’s provocative speech:

“The business daily Handelsblatt argues: ‘It’s dangerous and frustrating that the two nuclear superpowers have lapsed into a calculated simulation of the Cold War.’… The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘… Russia is demanding a front-row seat once again and with its nuclear weapons, its size and its wealth in oil and gas, there are powerful arguments in its favor. The US with its disastrous Iraq adventure provides another argument. Because (the war) has damaged Western credibility, it has provided Putin with the opportunity to give a powerful voice to the growing number of countries and people who doubt the wisdom of the West’s policies. The Russian President has laid his cards on the table. Europe and America now know Russia’s position… There is a lot to be said for not only listening to Russia’s voice but for taking it seriously.'”

The Bible confirms that we ought to listen to “Russia’s voice” and take it “seriously”–but for reasons which are unknown and unrecognized by most people. To learn more about Russia’s future role, please read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.”

Putin’s Mideast Tour

The Associated Press reported on February 12:

“Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to find quick success on a historic Mideast tour that saw the leader of energy-rich Russia forging oil diplomacy in Saudi Arabia and backing a natural gas cartel Monday with neighboring Qatar. Putin’s Middle East tour comes as Washington’s stature in the Gulf is slipping and Arab monarchies are busy boosting ties outside the region, particularly in Asia. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have welcomed Putin despite being traditional U.S. allies…

“European Union leaders have said they would stand against any effort by Russia to create a gas cartel, fearing energy prices — and Russia’s political clout — could rise dramatically as a result. Europe gets 44 percent of its natural gas imports from Russia… ‘Russia and Saudi Arabia are the world’s leading energy producers and exporters and here it is easy for us to find common ground,’ Putin said in remarks in Saudi Arabia broadcast on Russian state television. Russia, the world’s second-largest oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia, represents a potential ally with considerable political strength as a member of the U.N. Security Council and the so-called Quartet of Middle East peace mediators…

“Earlier Monday, Putin met with about 200 Saudi and Russian businessmen eager to expand ties. Saudi Arabian firms have been seeking deals in countries other than the United States because of the difficulty in getting visas following the Sept. 11 attacks. The hijackings were carried out by 19 Arabs, including 15 Saudis.”

AFP added on February 13:

“Putin paid tribute to ‘the good relations between Russia and Jordan’ and said he noted ‘an increased interest in Russia on the part of our Arab partners’ during his tour. The visits have opened the way for ‘big possibilities for Russia,’ he said. ‘For Russia the Middle East is strategically important.”

A Friendlier US Defense Secretary

AFP reported on February 13:

“US Defense Secretary Robert Gates flew home from a mission to gain support for a military counter-offensive in Afghanistan that produced little concrete but set a friendlier tone with US allies… He won no public promises of new troops and equipment from European allies, or a sea change in Pakistani policies that have allowed the Taliban to take root in its tribal areas near the Afghan border…

“[He] candidly made amends at each stop for past US errors. He told reporters in Islamabad his last visit to Pakistan was in connection with a decade-long struggle against Soviet occupation by Afghan mujaheddin fighters, which the United States backed along with Pakistan… ‘After the Soviets left, the United States made a mistake,’ he said. ‘We neglected Afghanistan and extremism took control of that country. The United States paid a price for that on September 11, 2001. We are here for the long haul.’

“In Germany, he acknowledged that Guantanamo and the prisoner abuse scandals in Iraq had damaged America’s reputation, and explicitly repudiated Donald Rumsfeld’s division of Europe into ‘new’ and ‘old’ depending on whether a country supported the US invasion of Iraq. ‘All of these characterizations belong to the past,’ he said… When Putin stunned an audience of defense and foreign policy heavyweights in Munich with a stinging attack on US global leadership, Gates used a disarmingly light touch to defuse it.”

In fact, Gates compared himself with Putin, pointing out that both had been trained as spies and were therefore known to be blunt. However, Gates added with a smile that he–contrary to Putin–had gone through a process of re-education.

Deal With North Korea Breakthrough or Disaster?

Der Spiegel Online reported on February 14:

“Negotiators in Peking as well as Washington hailed it as a breakthrough: North Korea will phase out its nuclear program. But to many critics — including George W. Bush’s own political allies — the deal looks like a concession. A day after the initial optimism surrounding the agreement with North Korea… many analysts, including a number of US conservative allies of US President George W. Bush, are waking up with second thoughts.

“The deal, struck on Tuesday as part of the six-party talks in Beijing [between North Korea, the US, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan], calls for massive oil and energy deliveries to North Korea in exchange for the mothballing of the country’s nuclear facilities. In addition to humanitarian and economic assistance, the aid amounts to some $400 million, according to reports in the US media.

“The dream of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, however, is still a long way off. Pyongyang will hold on to the nuclear arsenal it has already built — which is why some criticize the deal as a concession to North Korea, for very little in return.

“Former US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, was one of the critics. ‘It’s a bad, disappointing deal and the best thing you can say about it is that it will probably fall apart,’ Bolton said. ‘The only reason they were back at the negotiating table was because of the pressure we put on them through financial sanctions. Now we’re about to release that pressure.’ Bush advisor Mike Green also expressed doubt about the deal. ‘We won’t really know if the North Koreans have changed their basic stance and are really serious about giving up their nuclear program,’ he said, until it’s clear what they plan to do with their plutonium stockpile.

“In the agreement’s first phase, Pyongyang will receive 50,000 tons of fuel oil when it shuts down its nuclear power station in Yongbyon — which is set to happen in the next two months — under the supervision of international inspectors. A further 950,000 tons will follow once the station, about 62 miles from the capital Pyongyang, is disassembled… the international community seems to be grudgingly accepting North Korea into the nuclear weapons club following the country’s Oct. 9, 2006 test…”

AFP reported on February 14:

“US President George W. Bush rejected criticism of a breakthrough nuclear deal with North Korea… Speaking at a White House press conference, the US leader said the agreement aimed at halting North Korea’s nuclear weapons was a ‘good first step’ but added ‘there is a lot of work to be done to make sure that the commitments made in this agreement become a reality.’ Bush defended the deal against critics, including from his key conservative base, who said that offering aid and other guarantees to North Korea in return for disbanding its nuclear network was rewarding ‘bad behavior’ and a sign of US weakness…

“Among the agreement’s vocal critics was Washington’s former UN envoy, John Bolton, who called it ‘a very bad deal’ that shows US weakness at a time when Washington was challenging Iran over its controversial nuclear program. It also ‘undercuts’ UN sanctions resolutions against North Korea, Bolton said. But Bush rejected his criticism, saying ‘I strongly disagree, strongly disagree with his assessment.'”

Bad News for Great Britain

AFP reported on February 14:

“Britain’s youngsters had the worst relationships with their family and peers, suffered more from poverty and indulged in more ‘binge drinking’ and hazardous sex than children in other wealthy nations, said [a UNICEF] report. The United States placed 20 and Britain 21 on the list. Britain came in last for two of the main six areas studied by UNICEF: relationships, especially with their peers; and risky behaviour such as sex, drink and drugs… More broadly, Britain joined the United States and Sweden in having the highest proportion of children living in single-parent families, while Italy, Greece and Spain had the lowest… Almost a third of British youngsters aged 11, 13 and 15 reported being drunk on two or more occasions…”

Our free booklet, “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America,” explains WHY we are confronted with such terrible developments in the British and American societies. In addition, you might also want to read our free booklet, “The Keys to Happy Marriages and Families,” explaining that our children don’t HAVE to grow up like those as described in the UNICEF report.

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Would you please explain Proverbs 26:4, 5. Don't these two verses contradict each other?

This passage of Scripture has indeed puzzled many people. Proverbs 26:4 reads: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him.” Verse 5 adds: “Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

When trying to understand these two verses, we need to realize that the Bible does not contradict itself. God’s entire Word is truth, as Christ said in John 17:17: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” This is a strong statement of Jesus’ confidence in the truth of the entirety of Scripture. Christ also said in John 10:35: “the Scripture cannot be broken…” There are no contradictions in God’s Word–no passage of Scripture “breaks” or contradicts another passage. Jesus’ response made the truth of His argument rest on the absolute trustworthiness of all Scripture.

Rather than being contradictory, the two statements in Proverbs 26:4, 5, complement each other. The last part of each statement shows the sets of circumstances or scenarios under which each of the two statements is to be applied. In every case, before deciding whether or not to answer, we need to consider the questioner’s motives–where the questioner is coming from–the content of his question, and his attitude!

Proverbs 26:4 tells us not to answer a fool according to his folly, lest we be like him. In this situation, the fool is not there seeking to learn anything. He is just argumentative, wanting to quarrel and debate. To answer the fool’s specific allegation or even accusation would end up in a meaningless discussion. In such a case, both parties would end up being foolish or behaving foolishly. Luke 20:1-8 gives us one example. When Christ was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the Pharisees confronted Christ and asked Him: “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?” (compare verse 2). Christ understood the wrong motives and intentions of the Pharisees. He did not answer their question. Rather, He asked them a question that He knew was impossible for them to answer without condemning themselves (compare verses 3 and 4). As Christ expected, the Pharisees refused to answer the question. As a consequence, Christ stated that He would not answer their question either, and the discussion ended (compare verses 7 and 8).

On the other hand, Proverbs 26:5 tells us that there are selective times when we are to answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

This approach is well illustrated by Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, in his second letter to the Corinthian Church. Certain men at Corinth falsely pretended to be apostles of Christ. In order to protect the Church and not to give the impression of approving their claim through silence, Paul had to speak up. Therefore, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:23: “Are they ministers of Christ?–I speak as a fool–I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.” Paul answered these false apostles’ claims, by showing, in a “foolish way,” who was really an apostle of Jesus Christ, so that they would not appear wise to themselves and to others in the Church, thereby causing great damage.

Another example can be found in Job 2:9, 10: “Then [Job’s] wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” In this case the expressed folly is answered with reproof, as well as with a brief statement of the true facts and circumstances, exposing it in the manner deserved.

In conclusion, the two passages in Proverbs 26:4,5, do not contradict each other, but taken together, they explain different methods of handling the questions and statements of foolish people. In verse 4, we are told not to answer a fool, “…Lest you also be like him.” We are admonished to avoid a pointless argument, wasting fruitless time and energy on foolishness, and to avoid responding approvingly by like folly. However, in verse 5, we are told to answer a fool, “… Lest he be wise in his own eyes.” There is a time when we cannot give tacit approval by silence. There is a selective time to stand up, and not close our eyes to damage. We need godly wisdom to know just when and how to apply these principles, and this wisdom comes from God. James 1:5 tells us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Lead Writer: Bill Grams

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

We would like to thank everyone for their prayers for a successful conference in San Diego, as well as a meaningful memorial service for Edwin Pope. We are preparing a member letter which will report more fully about important decisions made during the conference, enabling us to further our two-fold commission to preach the gospel and to feed the flock. The member letter will be sent out next week, together with a hard copy of our new booklet, “The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days.”

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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

Canada: Church of God, ACF, Box 1480, Summerland, B.C. V0H 1Z0

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

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