Update 290


Alas, Sinful Nation!

On April 21, 2007, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “Alas, Sinful Nation!”

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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God’s Spirit

by Rene Messier (Canada)

The Holy Scriptures compare God’s Spirit and Spirit beings to the wind (John 3:8). Wind is invisible to the human eye. Yet, one can feel its effect on the human body in the form of a cool breeze, or on the earth in the form of a mighty wind.

In addition, the Bible talks about not quenching the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Here, it is compared to fire, which can be quenched  through various means. So, a person with the Holy Spirit can lose it (Hebrews 10:29; 6:4-6).

God’s Spirit has also been compared to water. We are told that in the future, God’s Spirit will be poured out–like water–upon all flesh (Acts 2:17-18). Isaiah 11:9 states: “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea.”

Interestingly enough, water can be manifested in three forms. One is vapor which we cannot see–yet, it is present in the air and measured as relative humidity. The second form is liquid. The human body is, to about ninety percent, composed of liquid, and over seventy percent of the earth is covered with water. The third form is solid, which we know as ice. Water has also interesting qualities: It is the universal solvent–a requirement for physical survival of mankind and the animal and plant world; it seeks its own level regardless of surroundings, and it cannot be compressed; it also expands at each end of its state–frozen or very hot, just before boiling.

Like water, righteous Spirit beings can also manifest themselves in various ways. A righteous Spirit being can be invisible to the human eye; they can be visible to the human eye–yet, still able to go through physical objects like walls or buildings; and they can be manifested in a form which can be touched and felt, as Christ appeared to His followers after His resurrection. 

What is important for us, as God’s people, is to use and maintain God’s Spirit in the manner pleasing to God. We are told to walk in the Spirit; that is, to be a right and correct example to the world. We are also told to grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18). Growing in grace is growing in the Spirit. After an orchard has been well watered, it will produce fruit for the owner in abundance. As we grow in the Spirit, we should produce the fruit of the Spirit, as mentioned in Galatians 5:21-22. This is the outward manifestation of the Spirit of God working in our lives.

As we approach Pentecost–the  Festival when the Holy Spirit was made available to the apostles and followers of Christ–let us ensure that we are manifesting the Spirit of God in our lives through the fruit of the Spirit. In doing so, we are witnessing to the world where God’s Spirit is dwelling and working in this present age–that is, in His true servants.

We can then look forward to the future, when God’s Spirit will be made available to all of mankind and when the fruit of the Spirit will be manifested on a worldwide basis–just like a well-watered orchard produces much fruit for the benefit of the owner and the pleasure of those who partake in the eating.

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Deadly Shooting Rampage in Virginia, USA

The Associated Press reported on April 16:

“A gunman massacred 32 people at Virginia Tech in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history Monday, cutting down his victims in two attacks two hours and a half-mile apart before the university could figure out what was going on and get the warning out to students. The bloodbath ended with the gunman committing suicide, bringing the death toll to 33 and stamping the campus in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains with tragedy, perhaps forever.”

The New York Times added on April 17:

“This morning, the gunman was identified as Seung-Hui Cho [from South Korea]… It was the deadliest shooting rampage in American history and came nearly eight years to the day after 13 people died at Columbine High School in Colorado at the hands of two disaffected students who then killed themselves.”

ABC News added on April 17:

“Seung-Hui Cho bought his first gun, a Glock 9 mm handgun, on March 13 and his second weapon, a .22 caliber handgun, within the last week, law enforcement officials tell ABCNews.com. ‘This was no spur of the moment crime. He’s been thinking about this since at least the time he bought the first gun,’ said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant. Both guns were bought in Virginia, according to the officials.
“Under Virginia law, state residents can only buy one handgun in any 30 day period, suggesting Cho bought his second weapon after April 13, or sometime over the weekend. ‘He clearly spent some time figuring out how he was going to take care of business once classes began on Monday morning,’ said Garrett.”

As Rootsweb.com pointed out on April 17, there was actually a worse mass murder in recent American history, involving the killing of school children: “On May 18, 1927, 45 people, mostly children, were killed and 58 were injured when disgruntled and demented school board member Andrew Kehoe dynamited the new school building in Bath, Michigan out of revenge over his foreclosed farm due in part to the taxes required to pay for the new school.”

On April 19, AFP reported that  “South Korean mass-killer Cho Seung-Hui cast himself as a martyr in a hate-filled manifesto that included photos of him brandishing the guns used to mow down at least 30 classmates and teachers on a US campus… Virginia Tech police chief Wendell Flinchum said Cho was committed to a mental health facility through a court-ordered ‘temporary detention order’ in December 2005, following a stalking incident…  Cho was released for outpatient treatment after a physician certified that while he was ‘mentally ill’ he ‘does not present an imminent danger to himself or others.’ The revelation of Cho’s hospitalization for mental illness raised additional questions as to how he was able to legally purchase the guns used in Monday’s shootings.”

It is obvious to us that the mass murderer was not only “mentally ill”–he was, in our opinion, CLEARLY DEMONICALLY INFLUENCED–IF NOT POSSESSED–when he committed his horrific crimes. The additional fact that apparently, a “personality change” occurred in him a short time prior to his murders, provides additional evidence for this conclusion.

European Press Reactions

European press reactions to this recent massacre minced no words, blaming the American fascination with guns and the relative ease to be able to acquire them for the mass murder. Der Spiegel Online pointed out on April 17: “The local authorities are not the only ones who have a lot of explaining to do [why they did not act quicker and with more competence]. The whole country should be looking at why these kinds of horrible crimes happen so often in the United States. No other country in the world experiences massacres in schools and universities so regularly. Out of 46 of these kinds of crimes that have occurred since 1996, more than half have been in the US… Perhaps the most urgent question is: Is it not finally time for tighter weapons laws? Virginia, the setting for yesterday’s catastrophe, is proud of its particularly lax gun laws. A 9 mm pistol, like the one the perpetrator used, shoots as fast as you can pull the trigger. It is as easy to buy at a private gun fair as a six-pack of beer.”

The magazine added the following in a separate article:

“Across the continent on Tuesday, European media rubber-neck at Monday’s massacre in the United States. Most seem to agree about one thing: The shooting at Virginia Tech is the result of America’s woeful lack of serious gun control laws…
“British daily The Independent writes:

”’The passionate feelings of the gun lobby may be traced to the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, enshrining “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”. Although the provision stems from the times when “well regulated militias” were deemed necessary to protect against a British attempt to regain the lost colonies, it is the default position of any argument against greater gun control here. As such, it has trumped every other consideration, not least the fact that on any given day about 80 people are killed by firearms, the vast majority by murder or suicide. Gun violence may cost $2.3 billion each year in medical expenses, but it is a price, gun supporters believe, that is worth paying to protect a fundamental freedom .’…

“French daily Le Monde writes:

“‘This new tragedy presents a new opportunity for American public opinion to interrogate itself about a society which, as one of the students who survived Columbine said at the time, is very much responsible for what has happened.’

“‘French conservative daily Le Figaro writes:

“‘It was all too easy for the elected representatives of the United States, from the White House to the Congress, to express their sadness yesterday; America’s problem with fire-arms represents a political issue for which they share responsibility. Here is a country that represents the vanguard of development and democracy while it is legal to carry a gun in 45 of 50 states, as long as the gun is not loaded’…

“Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera writes:

“‘Shocked psychologists and sociologists ask themselves how gun violence is to be explained. Some speak of the repressed violence of a country that goes back to generations of pioneers habituated to achieve justice on their own and which is forced to face the powerful tensions within a multiracial society. Others criticize the spread of violent video games (which are, however, a phenomenon that has only emerged in recent years). In any case, gun violence is becoming a common phenomenon in the United States… In the poorest neighborhoods, people are getting used to the use of fire-arms — a phenomenon that is linked to the growing tendency among many young people to resort to violence to settle even minor disputes and to the ease with which weapons can be acquired.’

“Italian daily Il Messaggero writes:

“‘America is a nation that has for some years been in danger of becoming more and more unloved in the world, especially in the poorest countries. During the period following World War II, America was seen as the guardian of democracy and was equated with the defense of liberty; today, America is a superpower that begins wars and lives with the constant necessity of having to defend itself against the enemy — whether this enemy be called Islam or whether it bears the face of the neighbor who has done you wrong.’…

“German daily Bild writes:

“‘Now we will probably begin discussing the overly lax gun laws in the United States. There, buying a machine gun is often easier than getting a driver’s license. And a new ban on violent games and killer videos will also be put back on the agenda. But in the end, nothing is likely to happen. And the next killer already lives somewhere among us. But we have little reason to point an accusing finger at the Americans. Despite strict gun legislation, we (in Germany) have experienced the school shootings in Erfurt and Emsdetten. We have to consider the problems in our society. And we have to take care of our fellow humans.'”

German Press Reactions to American Reactions

After the German and European press published several national and international press reactions to the shooting, many responses from angry American readers were received, requesting the press to stop moralizing and lecturing America, and defending the “constitutional right to bear arms.”

This in turn prompted the German press to respond.

On Wednesday, April 18, Der Spiegel Online wrote:

“Two days after the Blacksburg massacre, media commentators in Germany say that however absurd America’s lax gun laws may seem in Europe, they are a fact of life in the US and won’t change… There are all kinds of reasons that drive someone to commit mass murder. Germany, which has strict gun laws, suffered its own school massacre in the eastern city of Erfurt in 2002 in which 18 people died including the 19-year-old shooter, former pupil Robert Steinhäuser, who was armed with a pump-action shotgun and a 9mm semi-automatic Glock similar to the one used by Blacksburg killer Cho Seung- Hui.

“Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“‘One can’t completely deny the influence of factors such as video games and lax gun laws. Researchers at Iowa State University found that young people who like to play violent video games are more aggressive and have more criminal energy. But what no study has ever been able to prove is the sequence of causes. Do games trigger violence or are they simply poison for souls who already have a propensity to commit violence?’

“‘Of course the constant use of video games can damage a weak psyche. And it’s a perfectly logical conclusion that lax laws like those in Virginia make it far easier to get at an arsenal of weapons. But clinical disorders, the psychological and social development of the shooter and factors like a loss of self-worth or the end of a relationship also play a role in shooting rampages.’… It makes no difference whether it’s the know-it-all attitude of European television presenters or Austrialian Prime Minister John Howard who urged America on the day of the tragedy to change its laws; or the hurried defense of gun ownership rights by President George Bush and his potential successor John McCain. Such contributions are like corn plaster on plague boils. There are no simple explanations for a complex pathology like that of a mass murderer. Only intensive research into suicides can unravel the web of factors that trigger such a tragedy.’

“Conservative Die Welt writes:

“‘Mass murder is possible in seconds… Is that America’s curse? In some American states, guns are largely banned, in others they’re largely permitted. There are urgent and justified calls for legislation to limit gun ownership. In the USA, 80 people die from gun shot wounds each day, in Britain it’s around 200 a year. But the Erfurt school, was that in America? Man is a wolf to other men — the Ancients said.’

“Left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes that the right to bear arms is firmly cemented in the minds of Americans:

“‘It’s part of American postmortem ritual to first mourn what has happened and then in the very next sentence to insist on the right of every American citizen to own his own gun. That is how it is enshrined in the Constitution, says the National Rifle Association, the gun lovers’ lobby. Which means it’s set in stone… But wasn’t the nation ready after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to do all in its power to prevent future attacks?… The Blacksburg shooting is another wake-up call to American society to finally rid itself of outdated paradigms. If it doesn’t it will have to learn to live with such massacres in future. There will always be homicidal maniacs. But one could make it more difficult for them to take action.’

“Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“‘Supporters of a right to bear arms like to refer to the Second Amendment of the Constitution and to history. Non-Americans find it hard to understand a mythology believed in by millions of Americans and nurtured by powerful political forces. Especially after an event like Monday’s rampage it seems like immoral absurdity. But could this deed have been prevented if access to guns had been more difficult? After all, Erfurt is not in Virginia.”

“Business daily Financial Times Deutschland writes:

“‘Non-Americans might find it crazy but the fundamental right of citizens to own guns has been enshrined in the Constitution since 1791. It mirrors America’s fundamental mistrust of government but also the need for self-protection in remote areas… Two out of five US households today own a firearm. As long as the gun laws in rural states remain as lax as they are now for plausible reasons, it will be easy to circumvent the bans that have already existed in cities for a long time. Even a Democratic presidential candidate cannot afford to stir up voter opposition in the South and West with a call for new legislation. In any case, he or she wouldn’t have the power to implement such laws.'”

More British Press Reactions

Britain’s The Daily Mail wrote on April 18, 2007:

“The NRA (National Rifle Association) spends millions of dollars every year to protect the sacred rights of American citizens to own guns, quoting as its authority the Second Amendment to the Constitution (1789) which states, in part, ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed’. But there is a vital preamble to this right which is always ignored, asserting that those bearing arms should be within ‘a well-regulated militia’. Not a single court in the U.S. has upheld the NRA’s claim that when the authors of the Second Amendment referred to a ‘militia’ they meant the citizenry, the ordinary people.

“Indeed, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger is on record as saying that the NRA’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is: ‘One of the greatest  pieces of fraud, and I repeat the word fraud, on the American people by special interest groups that I have seen in my lifetime.’

 “This notwithstanding, the gun lobby goes from strength to strength, apparently untroubled by a growing number of admittedly less well-funded pressure groups calling for Congress to take action and control the private ownership of firearms.”

More International Reactions

The Associated Press wrote on April 17:

“The Virginia Tech shootings sparked criticism of U.S. gun control laws around the world Tuesday. Editorials lashed out at the availability of weapons, and the leader of Australia—one of America’s closest allies—declared that America’s gun culture was costing lives. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the government hoped Monday’s shootings, … carried out by a 23-year-old South Korean native, would not ‘stir up racial prejudice or confrontation.’ “While some focused blame only on the gunman, world opinion over U.S. gun laws was almost unanimous: Access to weapons increases the probability of shootings. There was no sympathy for the view that more guns would have saved lives by enabling students to shoot the assailant.

“‘We took action to limit the availability of guns and we showed a national resolve that the gun culture that is such a negative in the United States would never become a negative in our country,’ said Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who staked his political career on promoting tough gun laws after a gunman went on one of the world’s deadliest killing sprees 11 years ago. The tragedy in a Tasmanian tourist resort left 35 people dead. Afterward, Australia’s gun laws were changed to prohibit automatic weapons and handguns and toughen licensing and storage restrictions.

“Handguns are also banned in Britain—a prohibition that forces even the country’s Olympic pistol shooting team from practicing on its own soil. In Sweden, civilians can acquire firearm permits only if they have a hunting license or are members of a shooting club and have no criminal record. In Italy, people must have a valid reason for wanting one. Firearms are forbidden for private Chinese citizens.

“Still, leaders from Britain, Germany, Mexico, China, Afghanistan and France stopped short of criticizing President Bush or U.S. gun laws when they offered sympathies to the families of Monday’s victims.

“Editorials were less diplomatic.

“‘Only the names change—And the numbers,’ read a headline in the Times of London. ‘Why, we ask, do Americans continue to tolerate gun laws and a culture that seems to condemn thousands of innocents to death every year, when presumably, tougher restrictions, such as those in force in European countries, could at least reduce the number?’…

“The Swedish daily Goteborgs-Posten said without access to weapons, the killings at Virginia Tech may have been prevented… In Mexico, radio commentators criticized the availability of firearms in the U.S. Others renewed Mexico’s complaint that most guns in Mexico are smuggled in from the United States.”

Catholic Church Tries to Re-Write History

The New York Times wrote on April 14:

“The Vatican’s ambassador to Israel has said he will skip the official Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at a national museum here on Sunday to protest the museum’s depiction of Pope Pius XII as a largely passive bystander to the murder of Jews during World War II… [The] ambassador, Archbishop Antonio Franco, said that he would not attend the service because he believed the description of Pope Pius XII offends the Catholic Church.

“The eight-sentence caption next to two photographs of Pius XII in an exhibit says his reaction to the ‘murder of the Jews during the Holocaust is a matter of controversy,’ implying he did not do enough. ‘When Jews were deported from Rome to Auschwitz, the pope did not intervene,’ the caption reads. ‘The pope maintained his neutral position throughout the war, with the exception of appeals to the rulers of Hungary and Slovakia towards its end. His silence and the absence of guidelines obliged churchmen throughout Europe to decide on their own how to react.’… The dispute could threaten already fragile ties between the Roman Catholic Church and Israel, which established a diplomatic relationship in 1994.”

In spite of the recent attempt by some Catholic scholars to re-write history, the caption of the national museum on the Holocaust is absolutely correct. It is a historical and UNDENIABLE FACT that Pius XII did not openly oppose Nazi Germany, in order to “protect” Catholics in Germany. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.”

Anglican Archbishop Tries to Re-Write the Bible

On April 18, Britain’s The Daily Mail wrote the following:

“The spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans has said conservative Christians who cite the Bible to condemn homosexuality are misreading a key passage written by Saint Paul almost 2,000 years ago.
“Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, addressing theology students in Toronto, said an oft-quoted passage in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans meant to warn Christians not to be self-righteous when they see others fall into sin. His comments were an unusually open rebuff to conservative bishops, many of them from Africa, who have been citing the Bible to demand that pro-gay Anglican majorities in the United States and Canada be reined in or forced out of the Communion… The worldwide Anglican Communion is near breaking point over homosexuality, with conservative clerics insisting the Bible forbids gay bishops or blessings for same-sex unions. Its U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, named a gay bishop in 2003… In the passage of Romans that Williams referred to in Monday’s speech, Paul said people who forgot God’s words fell into sin. ‘Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion,’ Paul wrote” [compare Romans 1:27].

Of course, there are many more New Testament passages where the practice of homosexuality is condemned in Scripture (e.g., 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Russia’s Ongoing Dictatorial Tactics

CNN reported on April 14 that several hundreds of Putin’s outspoken critics and “dissenters,” including world-famous former chess champion Garry Kasparov, were “detained” during a demonstration, questioning Putin’s dictatorial politics. We recently published excerpts from a Spiegel interview with Kasparov  in our Update #286 (“Russia–Don’t Close Your Eyes!”). The fact that Russia tried to put the usual spin on these events cannot deny the fact that Putin’s government is using increasingly autocratic and tyrannical measures to suppress any opposition.

Reuters added on April 16:

“The White House expressed deep concern on Monday over how Russian authorities broke up opposition protests over the weekend, calling it heavy-handed and part of an ’emerging pattern of use of excessive force.’… The sharp U.S. criticism marked a new chapter in already strained relations between Washington and Moscow. The Bush administration over the past year has at times accused Putin of rolling back democratic reforms… The Kremlin on Monday defended police action… Germany, currently holding presidency of the European Union, said earlier on Monday that Russia’s police crackdown on the anti-Kremlin protesters and media was ‘unacceptable’ and demanded Moscow explain its actions.”

The Imus Lynch Party

On April 13, WorldNetDaily published an outspoken editorial by Pat Buchanan pertaining to the remarks by Don Imus and his subsequent firing, titled, “The Imus Lynch Party.” In the article, it was pointed out:

“In the end, it was not about Imus. It was about us. Are we really a better country because, after he was publicly whipped for 10 days as the worst kind of racist, with whom no decent person could associate, he was thrown off the air?… when Imus called the Rutgers women’s basketball team ‘tattooed … nappy-headed hos,’ he went over the top. The women deserved an apology… But Imus did apologize, again and again and again… The hypocrisy here was too thick to cut with a chainsaw. What was the term the I-Man used? It was ‘hos,’ slang for whores, a term employed ad infinitum et ad nauseam by rap and hip-hop ‘artists.’ It is a term out of the African-American community. Yet, if any of a hundred rap singers has lost his contract or been driven from the airwaves for using it, maybe someone can tell me about it. “If the word ‘hos’ is a filthy insult to decent black women, and it is, why are hip-hop artists and rap singers who use it incessantly not pariahs in the black community? Why would black politicians hobnob with them? Why are there no boycotts of the advertisers of the radio stations that play their degrading music?…

“‘We know of no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodic fits of morality,’ said Lord Macaulay… Imus threw himself on the mercy of the court of elite opinion – and that court, pandering to the mob, lynched him.”

Bush Under Fire

The Independent wrote on April 15:

“President George Bush is coming under unprecedented pressure from Tony Blair and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to agree to tough new international measures to stop global warming accelerating out of control. The measures are contained in a strongly worded draft communiqué for June’s G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany… which warns that ‘tackling climate change is an imperative, not a choice’. It adds that if ‘resolute and concerted international action’ is not ‘urgently’ taken, global warming will become ‘largely unmanageable’.

“The United States and Canada are resisting key elements of the draft, but Mrs Merkel is determined not to water it down. She is backed by the Prime Minister, who is ringing Mr Bush weekly to try to persuade him to change his position. The draft warns that ‘global warming caused largely by human activities is accelerating’ and that it ‘will seriously damage our common natural environment and severely weaken [the] global economy, with implications for international security’…

“The United States is at present refusing to agree to any target for limiting global warming, and the issue will come to a head at a crucial preparatory meeting for the summit on 4 May.”

Racism in Germany

The Associated Press wrote on April 15:

“A German army instructor ordered a soldier to envision himself in New York City facing hostile blacks while firing his machine gun, a video that aired Saturday on national television showed… The Defense Ministry said the video was shot in July 2006 at barracks in the northern town of Rendsburg and that the army has been aware of it since January… The clip shows an instructor and a soldier in camouflage uniforms in a forest. The instructor tells the soldier, ‘You are in the Bronx. A black van is stopping in front of you. Three African-Americans are getting out and they are insulting your mother in the worst ways. … Act.’ The soldier fires his machine gun several times and yells an obscenity several times in English. The instructor then tells the soldier to curse even louder.

“According to [Der] Stern, the 90-second clip had been posted on a Web site used by soldiers to exchange private videos. A soldier who used the site alerted his superiors, the magazine reported.

“The video is the latest embarrassment for the German army. Eighteen army instructors are currently on trial for allegedly abusing and humiliating 163 recruits in 2004. Last year, newspapers published photos of German soldiers in Afghanistan posing with skulls — including one who exposed himself while holding a skull. ”

According to an article in Der Stern, dated April 19, the German army instructor has been dismissed. The magazine published an interview with one of the soldiers who obeyed the command, stating that he “disagreed” with the decision to dismiss the instructor, as the video had been “completely misinterpreted.”

Innocent Afghans Killed

According to an article of Der Spiegel Online, of April 15, 2007, American soldiers are accused of killing 10 innocent civilians in Afghanistan in early March, and injuring 33. The magazine quotes the Washington Post to the effect that the accused soldiers misrepresented that they were forced to defend themselves after a suicide attack by responding to “gun fire” from the innocent victims.

Would Jesus Have Looked Like the Pope?

Der Spiegel Online wrote on April 15, 2007, that Germany’s Roman Catholic Cardinal, Joachim Meissner from Cologne, wrote that if Jesus Christ had reached the age of 80, He would have looked like Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope turned 80 on Monday, and the circus surrounding his birthday celebrations “is becoming more and more scurrile,” according to the magazine.

Do Cell Phones Kill Bees?

The Independent published a rather fantastic article about the disappearance of bees, speculating that cell phones are responsible. In that seemingly bizarre publication, it was pointed out:

“It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world’s harvests fail. “They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world – the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon – which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe – was beginning to hit Britain as well.

“The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees’ navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives.”

It seems to us that a much more plausible explanation for the disappearance of bees is man’s greedy and uncontrolled desire for wealth, thereby polluting the atmosphere in the process, as we reported in last week’s Update #289 (“Do Millions of Bees Die Because of Pesticides?”)

Iraq’s Ongoing Troubles

The Associated Press reported on April 16:

“Cabinet ministers loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr resigned on Monday to protest the prime minister’s refusal to set a timetable for an American withdrawal, raising the prospect that the Mahdi Army militia could return to the streets of Baghdad. The number of bodies found dumped in Baghdad increased sharply on Sunday to 30 — from as low as five in recent days — in a possible sign of the militia’s resurgence, even ahead of the six resignations. The bodies, most of them tortured before they were shot execution-style, are widely believed to be the victims of Shiite death squads associated with the Mahdi Army. Al-Sadr had ordered his fighters hide their weapons and stay off the streets shortly before the U.S. troop surge and security crackdown began on Feb. 14.

“The departure of the six ministers, while unlikely to topple Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, deals a significant blow to the U.S.-backed leader, who relied on support from the Sadrists to gain office… Al-Sadr, who has tremendous influence among Iraq’s majority Shiites, has been upset about recent arrests of his Mahdi Army fighters in the U.S.-led Baghdad security crackdown. He and his followers have also criticized al-Maliki for failing to back calls for a timetable for U.S. troops to leave the country.”

On April 18, AFP reported:

“An avalanche of car bomb attacks on Shiite districts of Baghdad slaughtered 190 people on Wednesday and delivered a savage blow to the credibility of a two-month-old US security plan. The series of blasts was the deadliest in the Iraqi capital since the launch of the massive crackdown; the single most devastating blast alone killed 140 people, mainly civilian commuters and shoppers.”

Terrible Weather Conditions in the Northeast of the USA

The Associated Press reported on April 16:

“A menacing spring storm punished the Northeast for a second straight day Monday, dumping more than 8 inches of rain on Central Park and sending refrigerators and pickup trucks floating down rivers in one of the region’s worst storms in recent memory… The nor’easter left a huge swath of devastation, from the beaches of South Carolina to the mountains of Maine. It knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people…

“The storm was especially harsh in the Westchester County suburbs north of New York City and in New Jersey, where the state was placed under a state of emergency and more than 1,400 residents were evacuated—many by boat… Vermont got about 17 inches of snow, with flakes still falling Monday across sections of Pennsylvania, New York and Maine… New Jersey authorities called it the worst storm to hit the state in 15 years. Five homes burned down in one town after fire crews could not reach the buildings because of floodwaters.”

Germany Fails To Act

The Wall Street Journal wrote on April 17:

“Hezbollah arrived in the European Union back in the 1980s, along with refugees from the civil war in Lebanon. Despite its deadly track record and a 2005 European Parliament resolution recommending the banning of the Iranian-funded group, it is still legal on the Continent. France, Spain, Belgium and Sweden prevent the EU from jointly designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

“Holding currently both the E.U. and G-8 presidencies, Berlin would be in a strong position to head the fight against an organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the replacement of Lebanon’s fragile democracy with a Tehran-backed Islamic state. So far, however, Germany has squandered this unique opportunity to push for a Hezbollah ban… German security services believe that about 900 Hezbollah core activists are in the country and regularly meet in 30 cultural community centers and mosques… Berlin is also aware that representatives of Hezbollah’s ‘foreign affairs office’ in Lebanon regularly travel to Germany to give orders to their followers.

“… too many Germany policymakers uncritically accept the idea that there is supposedly a political Hezbollah — an Islamist but legitimate movement independent of those Hezbollah terrorists who have murdered hundreds of people around the world. To believe that fairy tale, they even ignore Hezbollah’s own words. As Mohammed Fannish, member of the ‘political bureau’ of Hezbollah and former Lebanese energy minister put it in 2002: ‘I can state that there is no separating between Hezbollah’s military and political arms.’… In ignoring the threat from Hezbollah, the German government puts hope above experience. While it tries to spare German citizens from the wrath of Hezbollah, it plays down the danger… In the end, this approach… compromises the safety of German citizens.”

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Would you please explain Matthew 13:31-32? Was Christ incorrect when He referred to the mustard seed as the "smallest" seed? Aren't there smaller seeds than the mustard seed? And isn't it also incorrect that the full-grown plant is not the greatest among herbs? Wouldn't this mean that Jesus did not know the size of seeds and plants which He had created (compare John 1:1-3)?

Christ knew very clearly what He was saying, and He was by no means uneducated or incorrect about His statements regarding the proverbial mustard seed.

He stated in Matthew 13:31-32:

“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

The spiritual application of this parable is very clear. Christ compared the Kingdom of God with a very small seed, as it begins in a very small way. It is like a little bit of leaven, which will ultimately leaven the whole world (Matthew 13:33). Today, the gospel of the Kingdom of God is not accepted by very many, and very few–the firstfruits–respond to its message and become converted. Once they receive the Holy Spirit, they are begotten children of God and of His Kingdom–which is the Family of God that will rule on this earth, when Christ returns. Ultimately, the knowledge of God will cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea. The government of Christ will increase and will have no end (compare Isaiah 9:7). The Nelson Study Bible explains: “… the number of people who will inherit the kingdom of God will be very small at first. But though it begins like the smallest of seeds, the nucleus will enjoy growth completely out of proportion to its initial size.”

But did Christ err when He compared the steady growth of the Kingdom of God with a mustard seed? Didn’t He know that the mustard seed was not the smallest of all seeds, and that it would not become the tallest of all herbs?

For instance, the Broadman Bible Commentary points out:

“Under cultivation, the mustard plant… grew to a height of eight to ten feet [or 2.5 to 3 meters]… If pressed literally, the details of the parable do not conform to exact scientific data. The mustard seed [which was only 0.95 – 1.1 millimeters in diameter]… was not the ‘smallest of all seeds…'” Rienecker adds that certain birds, especially goldfinches, loved to live in that tree, and that the oil from the tree was also used for medical purposes.

We will address shortly whether Broadman’s comments as to the “scientific inaccuracy” of Christ’s statements are correct.

But first of all, as the Broadman Bible Commentary itself points out, “The contrast between the smallness of the mustard seed and the greatness of the plant it produced was proverbial. It is not necessary to press the matter of the actual size of either.” In addition, the commentary of JFB observes, that the reference to the “least of all seeds” must be understood “not absolutely, but popularly and proverbially, as in [Luke] 17:6, ‘If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed’… ” Likewise, the reference to the “greatest among herbs” must be understood “not absolutely, but in relation to the small size of the seed, and in warm latitudes [it is] proverbially great.” The commentary of Barnes adds the following:

“The plant here described was very different from that which is known among us. It was several years before it bore fruit and became properly a tree. Mustard, with us, is an annual plant: it is always small, and is properly an herb. The Hebrew writers speak of the mustard-tree as one on which they could ‘climb,’ as on a fig-tree. Its size was much owing to the climate. All plants of that nature grow much larger in a warm climate, like that of Palestine, than in colder regions. The seeds of this tree were remarkably small, so that they, with the great size of the plant, were an apt illustration of the progress of the church and of the nature of faith, Mat.17:20.”

However, we DO want to carefully review what Christ said, in order to show that He was ALSO very accurate from a “biological” and “scientific” standpoint.

As the translation of the New King James Bible, which is quoted above, shows, He spoke of the “least” of the seeds and the “greatest” of the herbs–not necessarily of the “smallest” and the “largest.”

When Christ said that the mustard seed was the “least” of all seeds, the Greek word for “least” is “mikros.” When using the phrase that it would become the “greatest” of all herbs, the Greek word for “greatest” is “meizon.”

Thayer defines “mikros” as follows:

“small, little: … of size… length… space… age… time… quantity [and] of rank or INFLUENCE.” Strong’s defines the Greek word “mikros” as “small (in size, quantity, number or (figuratively) dignity): – least, less, little, small.”

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, states that the word “mikros” literally means, “small” or “little,” (in regard to age, quantity, size or space), but that it is sometimes translated as “the least” (for example, in Acts 8:10 and in Hebrews 8:11), with reference to rank and INFLUENCE.

We see, then, that the word “mikros” can be translated as “little”–it does not even HAVE to be translated as “the least.” In addition, the Greek word “mikros” does not HAVE to address size at all, but it can refer to “influence” or “dignity.”

Likewise, the Greek word for “greatest”–“meizon”–can be translated as “greater”–by comparison. It does not have to address size; it can also refer to IMPORTANCE or INFLUENCE.

Young’s defines the word “meizon” as “greater” or “larger.” The meaning is primarily one of COMPARATIVE IMPORTANCE, and not necessarily of size. In Matthew 18:1, the same Greek word “meizon” is used to describe IMPORTANCE, STATUS or RANK (“Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven…”); the same is true in Matthew 23:11 (“But he who is greatest among you…”). Paul uses the word likewise to address IMPORTANCE, in 1 Corinthians 13:13, when he says: “the greatest of these [faith, hope and love] is love.”

We might also note that there is by no means unanimity as to how to translate Matthew 13:31-32.

Here are some alternative renderings:

“… which indeed is LESSER among all the seeds; but when it is grown is GREATER than the herbs, and becometh a tree…” (The New Testament from the Greek Text, edited by Ivan Panin, Toronto, 1935).

“Though it is the smallest of all YOUR seed [Christ was addressing His audience in Judah], yet when it grows, it is the largest of GARDEN PLANTS and becomes a tree…” (NIV; similar Rotherham and Zuercher)

That Christ was not actually saying that the mustard seed was the tiniest and smallest of all seeds, and that it would become the tallest and largest of all plants, can also be seen by reviewing the parallel passage in Luke 13:18-19, where He simply stated: “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”

All that Christ was doing was to compare the growth of the Kingdom of God–and its increasing importance and influence for man–with the growth and increasing usefulness and importance of the mustard seed, as is clear from Luke’s account. Christ knew very well what He was saying, and even though He used a PARABLE to convey a SPIRITUAL LESSON, He did in no way state something which was biologically or scientifically incorrect.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

A new Standing Watch program was recorded and placed on the Web, including on Google Video. The program is titled, “The Don Imus Circus.”

Set forth below is a brief summary of the program:

Don Imus’ inappropriate use of language, maligning young female Basketball players, prompted an ongoing and seemingly never-ending flood of responses. The resulting Imus circus has empowered opportunists and sensationalists to promote their own agendas. But has the undue attention given to the Imus’ statements done more harm than good?

Norbert Link’s video-recorded sermon “How Do You Look at Sin?” was placed on Google Video.

Our booklet, “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God” has been translated into German and has entered the review cycle.

Our new booklet on the “Meaning of God’s Fall Holy Days” will shortly be entering the second review cycle.

We have commenced an Internet ad campaign in England, promoting one booklet, and are working on similar ad campaigns for the USA and Canada.

This week, Norbert Link sent a special update on the Work to our membership via email. We would like to state portions of the same in this Update:

“We would like to share with you some exciting news. Our income has been very sound and stable, and our current balance is very encouraging. In light of this good development, for which we thank God and all of you, we were able to buy a new computer, to be used for the transmission of our live Sabbath and Holy Day services, and a new camera, to be used, together with the new computer, for the StandingWatch programs and perhaps additional programming under discussion. In addition, we purchased another computer which will enable us to continue the production of video sermons, to be placed on DVDs and on Google Video and possibly others.
“When setting up the new equipment for the new format of the StandingWatch programs [to be soon implemented], we realized the need for a small recording studio. As a consequence, we have begun the task of building such a studio, and the progress already achieved is just amazing. This studio will enable me to record programs any time I want, without having to go through the sometimes laborious task of setting up and taking down the equipment, arranging and adjusting lighting, etc.”

Also, our technical team is exploring possibilities as to how to increase the effectiveness and dynamics of the StandingWatch programs, including alteration of the “extro,” by adding text, a voice over and music. The team is also looking at trying Norbert in a few different positions with a few different backgrounds. We have a couple of good ideas that look great in the mind’s eye, but will have to see how that comes out on the big screen.  We are evaluating some software packages that will accomplish these things. After we get the lighting setup in our small studio, which is being built, we will continue exploring these and other possibilities.

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Basket Case

by John Amorelli

Recently I landed a part-time job in a chiropractor’s office. I had an experience that taught me a few good lessons. The last Thursday before Easter, all the employees in the office were given Easter baskets filled with marshmallow, chocolate bunnies and candy Easter eggs.  When I was given my basket, I didn’t want to accept it. I tried to give it away to other employees in the office but they didn’t want my basket.  I asked myself: “What do I do? Should I just leave the basket there and walk away?  Should I take it and throw it in the dumpster out in the back parking lot? Or should I just accept it and take the basket with me and enjoy the ‘sugar-coated’ tempties?”  These were the thoughts going through my head. There was one thought that didn’t go through my head, though–and that thought was, “Should I tell my employer and my co-workers that I don’t celebrate Easter?” (… even though they knew I keep God’s Holy Days.)

So I took the basket with me. As I drove home through the mountains, I had the basket next to me on the passenger seat. A chocolate one-eyed bunny slid out of the basket and was there on the passenger seat looking at me (with a smile). The temptation to devour that sweet delicacy was there.  At that moment  I was angry with myself for not telling my employer and co-workers that I don’t celebrate Easter.  I then disposed of the basket full of goodies! My voice echoed over the mountain as I yelled out in anger, “Issssshtaaaarrrrr”!!
When I got home, I meditated on the situation. I realized that I turned into a “basket case!” Instead of directing my anger towards that “basket,” I should have utilized God’s perfect love towards myself and others by praying for strength to be upfront with my employer and co-workers about not celebrating Easter.  The lesson I have learned is not to become a “basket case” in trials, but to stand firm in my convictions. I should not “sugar-coat” God’s Truth.

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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

©2024 Church of the Eternal God