Update 324


Do You Know the Year of Christ's Return?

On December 29, 2007, Norbert Link will give the sermon, titled, “Do You Know the Year of Christ’s Return?”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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What Can You Do?

by Dave Harris

You could just quit! Among our options is to give up, to throw in the towel or to weakly accept defeat.

Being called by God leads us into a very challenging way of living. We are instructed to seek  the perfection of God; that is, we are to live our lives overcoming imperfection (compare Matthew 5:48).

This is not easy! In fact, the struggle is, as we say, 24/7–night and day, every day! Jesus stated this concept a little bit differently, but the impact of what He said is also all-consuming: “‘Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it'” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Don’t expect it to be easy, but at the same time, don’t expect to fail–do not approach life with a defeatist attitude. That mind-set is the ultimate tool of Satan!

Paul reassured himself and us with this inspiring truth:

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39).

Can you do this–can you believe that God has called you with His personal conviction that you can be a part of His Family and that His limitless power is available to assure that you will have a place in His Kingdom?

Finally, let me ask, “What can you do?” Let us all answer as Paul answered: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

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Benazir Bhutto Murdered

Recently, nothing but bad news has surfaced from Pakistan, one of the world’s nuclear powers. But on Thursday, December 27, the announcement that former premier and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated during a campaign rally has topped it all.

Pakistan–the world’s “most dangerous” country–is in turmoil. January elections in Pakistan are “as good as dead.” These are some of the comments from Der Spiegel Online, dated December 27.

The world is alarmed and in shock. Strong condemnations against the cowardly act of a suicide assassin were heard from almost every corner. But depending on who was really behind this murderous attack, the repercussions for Pakistan and the world might far exceed the imaginable. The Bible strongly suggests that Pakistan will not remain for long an ally of the USA. Momentous events are beginning to take shape, which will lead to a world quite different from the one we know today.

AFP wrote on December 27:

“Pakistani opposition leader and former premier Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in a suicide attack on Thursday, plunging the nation into turmoil less than two weeks before elections. She had just addressed a campaign rally for the parliamentary vote when an attacker shot her in the neck before blowing himself up at a park in the northern city of Rawalpindi…

“President Pervez Musharraf called on the country to stay peaceful ‘so that the evil designs of terrorists can be defeated,’ state television reported… There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but Bhutto had accused elements in the intelligence services of trying to kill her. She also said she had received death threats from Islamic militant groups including Al-Qaeda.”

The Associated Press added on December 27:

“Her death threw the campaign for critical Jan. 8 parliamentary elections into chaos and stoked fears of mass protests and violence across the nuclear-armed nation, an important U.S. ally in the war on terrorism. At least 20 others were also killed in the attack…”

The British tabloid, The Sun, added:

“Next to President Pervez Musharraf, Bhutto, 54, was the best known political figure in the country, serving two terms as prime minister between 1988 and 1996.”

USA Today reported on December 27:

“Violence also hit another top opposition leader on Thursday. Four workers in former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League were shot dead at a rally in Rawalpindi and eight others were injured…”

Really Bad News for the USA

The Associated Press stated on December 27:

“[President Bush’s] appearance [expressing his condolences and his outrage over the assassination] came as U.S. officials here struggled to cope with the immense policy implications of the assassination on relations with a nuclear-armed country that has received billions of dollars in American financial assistance and is an ally in the war on terrorism…

“The United States had been at the forefront of foreign powers trying to arrange reconciliation between Bhutto and Musharraf, who under heavy U.S. pressure resigned as army chief and earlier this month lifted a state of emergency, in the hope it would put Pakistan back on the road to democracy. Bhutto’s return to the country after years in exile and the ability of her party to contest free and fair elections had been a cornerstone of Bush’s policy in Pakistan, where U.S. officials had watched Musharraf’s growing authoritarianism with increasing unease.

“Those concerns were compounded by the rising threat from al-Qaida and Taliban extremists, particularly in Pakistan’s largely ungoverned tribal areas bordering Afghanistan despite the fact that Washington had pumped nearly $10 billion in aid into the country since Musharraf became an indispensable counterterrorism ally after Sept. 11, 2001…

“Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, ‘I am convinced Ms. Bhutto would have won free and fair elections next week… This fall… I twice urged President Musharraf to provide better security for Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders.’ He said ‘the failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered.'”

Who Killed Benazir Bhutto?

On December 27, Times On Line discussed the prime suspects in Bhutto’s assassination. The paper stated:

“The main suspects in Benazir Bhutto’s assassination are the Pakistani and foreign Islamist militants who saw her as a heretic and an American stooge and had repeatedly threatened to kill her. But fingers will also be pointed at Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] , the agency that has had close ties to the Islamists since the 1970s and has been used by successive Pakistani leaders to suppress political opposition.

“Ms Bhutto narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in October, when a suicide bomber killed about 140 people at a rally in the port city of Karachi to welcome her back from eight years in exile. Earlier that month, two militant warlords based in Pakistan’s lawless northwestern areas, near the border with Afghanistan, had threatened to kill her on her return.

“One was Baitullah Mehsud, a top commander fighting the Pakistani army in the tribal region of South Waziristan. He has close ties to al Qaeda and the Afghan Taleban. The other was Haji Omar, the ‘amir’ or leader of the Pakistani Taleban, who is also from South Waziristan and fought against the Soviets with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan…

“[Bhutto] accused Pakistani authorities of not providing her with sufficient security and hinted that they may have been complicit in the bomb attack [in October]. Asif Ali Zardari, her husband, directly accused the ISI of being involved in that attempt on her life. Mrs Bhutto stopped short of blaming the Government directly, saying that she had more to fear from unidentified members of a power structure that she described as allies of the ‘forces of militancy’.

“Analysts say that President Musharraf himself is unlikely to have ordered her assassination, but that elements of the army and intelligence service would have stood to lose money and power if she had become Prime Minister. The ISI, in particular, includes some Islamists who became radicalised while running the American-funded campaign against the Soviets in Afghanistan and remained fiercely opposed to Ms Bhutto on principle. Saudi Arabia, which has strong influence in Pakistan, is also thought to frown on Ms Bhutto as being too secular and Westernised…”

“Europe Just Got Bigger”

Der Spiegel Online reported on December 21:

“Europe just got bigger. At one minute after midnight local time on early Friday morning, border controls vanished for nine more European Union members, many of them former members of the Soviet Bloc. Fireworks, cheers, music and speeches throughout the morning welcomed the expansion, which means that travelers can move from the far corners of Estonia all the way to the Atlantic coast in Portugal without once encountering a border guard. ‘This is an especially beautiful moment,’ said German Chancellor Angela Merkel… ‘It is a source of great pleasure that coming generations will experience open borders as the European normalcy.’…

“Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Malta all joined the so-called Schengen zone, as the open-border area is known… There are now 24 countries — including two non-EU states, Norway and Iceland — populated by 400 million people in the border-free travel zone… Most of those countries entering Schengen on Friday were behind the Iron Curtain just 20 years ago. The opening of the border between Germany and Poland — one of the most contested in the past centuries of European history — was of particularly symbolic importance.”

… But Is it All Good News?

The EUObserver added on December 21:

“Land and sea border checks… are now abolished, while air borders are set to follow on 30 March 2008. Practically it means that as of today, ‘people can travel hassle-free between 24 countries of the Schengen area without internal land and sea border controls- from Portugal to Poland and from Greece to Finland’, EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini said in a statement. ‘An area of 24 countries without internal borders is a unique and historical achievement. I feel very proud and privileged to have been involved in making it happen’, he added…

“However, some were more enthusiastic than others. While Slovaks were celebrating until late in the night on Friday at the country’s border with ‘old’ member state Austria, no celebrations could be noted on the Austrian side. A recent poll carried out in Austria showed 75% of its citizens opposed the lifting of barriers, according to the BBC…

“European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said: ‘Together we have overcome border controls as man-made obstacles to peace, freedom and unity in Europe’…

“The Schengen area was established in 1985 and named after the small Luxembourg village where it was signed by Germany, the Benelux countries and France. The nine new countries joined the 15 others already in Schengen – thirteen EU states excluding the UK and Ireland which preferred to stay out, but including Norway and Iceland.

“Non-EU member Switzerland is also to become a member of the Schengen area next year, while three EU states – Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania — have still to meet the necessary requirements. It is not yet known when they will join the EU’s borderless zone, but Cyprus is expected to do so around 2009, while Bulgaria and Romania are hoping to follow suit by 2011.”

It’s not all good news–by any means. For further information as to what IS prophesied to happen soon in Europe, please read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.”

The Ever-Shrinking U.S. Dollar

The Washington Post wrote on December 24:

“The sharp decline of the U.S. dollar since 2000… marks a shift for Americans in the global economy. In times of strength, a mightier dollar allowed Americans to feed their insatiable appetite for foreign goods at cheap prices while providing Yankees abroad with virtually unrivaled economic clout. But now, as the United States struggles to fend off a recession, observers say the less lofty dollar is having both a tangible and intangible diminishing effect.

“‘The dollar was the dominant force in world economics for 100 years — we had no competition,’ said C. Fred Bergsten, an American economist… ‘There was no other economy close to the size of the United States. But all that is now changing.’ The dollar is down more than 40 percent against the euro over the past seven years, taking a particularly sharp drop last month.

“… for untold millions worldwide, the weak dollar has emerged as a troubling dark spot… some countries have begun to diversify their dollar holdings… In May, Kuwait dropped its currency peg to the dollar and other oil-rich Gulf states have threatened to follow. Perhaps most telling: In recent months, the euro surpassed the dollar as the currency with the largest global circulation…

“The chink in the dollar’s armor has dealt a blow to American pride — at least to the kind of pride that comes with buying power. Nowhere is that more visible than with Americans overseas… ‘Every time the euro increases by 10 cents towards the dollar we lose $1 billion in our operations,’ said an Airbus official at the company’s headquarters in Toulouse, France. ‘Aircraft are sold in U.S. dollars, but most of our production costs are paid in euros.’…

“The dramatic surge in oil revenue along with the weakening dollar has sparked a rise in inflation in the Gulf states — hurting most those who have the least. In recent months, it has wiped out much of the gains from years of hard labor for the thousands of South Asian workers who moved to Dubai for a piece of its multibillion-dollar construction boom… some in China are turning their noses up at the dollar. Lin Jing, a sales manager… said [his] company has begun to demand euros from its overseas customers instead of dollars. ‘The use of euros enables us to shy away from losses caused by the conversion between the [Chinese currency] and the weakened dollar,’ he said.”

America’s Housing Saga Worst Since Great Depression

The Washington Times wrote on December 26:

“This year’s housing bust is shaping up to be one of historic proportions. Sales and construction have sunk to levels not seen since the 1990 savings and loan crisis, while foreclosures and price drops are the largest since the Great Depression — and expected to get worse next year. Many parallels can be seen with earlier housing debacles. Each episode had some combination of easy money, loose lending, greed and fraud that turned a housing boom into a speculative bubble. But few housing bubbles have ended so badly as the one today, when the nation is confronting the prospect of mass foreclosures and family dislocations…

“The whole mess threatens to sink the broader economy the longer it wreaks havoc on consumer confidence and spending power… The housing saga is far from over, many analysts say. With millions more mortgages resetting in the next two years, many more people could lose their homes. Banks, securities firms and investors could foot another $300 billion in losses, by some estimates. If consumers are daunted by bleak housing news and their loss of wealth and spending power, they could capitulate and send the economy into a recession, economists say…”

How Europe Views the American Presidential Election

Der Spiegel Online wrote on December 24:

“The United States is a country that likes to explain democracy to other nations. It is also a country that starts wars to bring democracy to the world. It allows the candidates for its highest office, the presidency, to spend a year and a half campaigning, leaving no stone unturned as it delves into their past…

“And then there is Iowa. Iowa — a flat state of corn, cows and the occasional small town. Iowa, a sparsely populated state in the US Midwest, is home to 2,982,000 people, 94 percent of them white. Astonishing things have been happening in Iowa in recent weeks: Hillary Clinton knocking on the doors of hog farmers and smiling timidly; Rudy Giuliani helping an elderly woman cross the street; Mitt Romney telling a joke; Barack Obama standing in the lobby of a Des Moines hotel whistling a tune; Fred Thompson looking awake.

“The American presidential election campaign is heating up. Although the general election isn’t until November 2008, Iowa residents of both major political parties will be the first, on Jan. 3, to cast their votes to determine which Democrat and which Republican will make the final run for the White House. Voters in New Hampshire, South Carolina and the rest of the 50 states will follow suit in the days and months ahead…

“Of course, it is by no means certain that the Democrats will still be ahead when the general election rolls around in just under a year. But it looks that way for the moment, at least, partly because current President George W. Bush is so unpopular and partly because American voters are confronted with an unusually weak collection of candidates for the Republican nomination…

“A preliminary decision — nothing more, nothing less — will be made here in Iowa on Jan. 3. The real race begins after that.”

However, the magazine added:

“It could snow on Jan. 3, a Thursday. And there will be football on TV — both could reduce voter turnout. No more than 100,000 votes are up for grabs for each party in Iowa, and only 3,000 to 4,000 votes will decide whether Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, the two leading Democratic candidates, will win the state’s important first-in-the-nation primary election. Winning in Iowa is… traditionally a tremendous boost for a candidate. Conversely, candidates who fail to place a strong second or third in the state are often finished.”

Putin Person of the Year? — Get Real!

Time Magazine chose Vladimir Putin as the person of the year. An odd choice–to put it mildly. On December 20, U.S. News and World Report published the following commentary by senior writer Michael Barone. Although we do not agree with all of his comments, they nevertheless make interesting reading:

“Time magazine has chosen Vladimir Putin as the person of the year. This strikes me as an odd choice. Yes, Putin has been an important player on the international stage; yes, he has frustrated American efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; yes, he has been more intransigent on asserting Russian power on the ‘near abroad,’ the former Soviet republics, which, like Ukraine, Georgia, and the Baltics, seek to take a different course. But he has been doing these things for years, and he has made no important advances, at best incremental progress, in calendar year 2007…

“To be sure, Time did not always name those admired by its founder, Henry Luce, a liberal Republican and interventionist in the run-up to World War II. For 1942, it named Joseph Stalin for the Soviets’ successful resistance to the Nazi invasion that began in 1941, but it had also… named Stalin as the man of the year in 1939, because the Hitler-Stalin pact agreed to in August 1939 enabled Adolf Hitler to invade Poland without serious opposition. Indeed, Time also named Hitler man of the year for 1938, when he got Britain and France to appease him by destroying the power of Czechoslovakia to resist conquest…

“It hailed Richard Nixon as the man of the year for 1971, for the opening to China, which is hard to quarrel with, whatever your ideological orientation. Nixon set a new policy for China that has been followed, more or less, by every administration since (though denounced by most presidential nominees since). The post-Luce Time was quick to notice the turn in China policy made by Teng Hsiao-P’ing (as he was then transliterated), man of the year for 1978, and gave him the honor again, this time as Deng Xiao Ping, in 1985. Time has often honored winning presidential candidates who had not seemed such likely winners the year before, bestowing the man of the year designation on Ronald Reagan for 1980, for example. But, oddly, it honored him and Soviet leader Yuri Andropov as co-men of the year for 1983, though they never met and never negotiated…

“Time left no doubt of where it stood. Mikhail Gorbachev was the man of the year for 1987, an eminently defensible choice, but he was also 1989 declared man of the decade for 1989—an echo of Time’s declaration for 1950 that Winston Churchill was the man of the half-century. There’s just a tad bit of difference here: Churchill won, and Gorbachev lost. The man of the decade of the 1980s who prevailed and triumphed was Ronald Reagan…

“When I started off in journalism, at the Harvard Crimson in 1963, Henry Luce and Time were considered a prime example of slanted journalism, tilted toward Republicans and against Democrats, toward liberal Republicans and against conservative Republicans, tilted toward Catholics (Luce’s wife Claire Boothe Luce was a Catholic convert, and Luce produced hugely favorable coverage of his friend Joseph Kennedy’s children and of the Catholic Diems in Vietnam; it turns out the coverage of the Kennedys was inflated…)

“Now Time is slanted to the left… The men of the year for 1993 were the ‘peacemakers’ Nelson Mandela, F. W. de Klerk, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yasser Arafat. Quiz question: Which name doesn’t belong on this list? Or 1998 men of the year Bill Clinton and Kenneth Starr, as odd and ill-assorted a pair as Andropov and Reagan…

“Which brings us back to the person of the year for 2007, Vladimir Putin. Yes, he’s a consequential figure, who has just nominated a successor who looks like his pawn… But Russia ain’t what it was when Time saw Ronald Reagan and Yuri Andropov as a dynamic duo. And who are Time’s runners-up? Al Gore, who exaggerated the IPCC climate forecast by a factor of 20 to say that New York and London would be flooded by global warming (they weren’t in the 13th century, when the weather was a lot warmer than it is now). J. K. Rowling, who has made millions writing books that children and adults love to read; all power to her, but she’s not exerting the kind of influence over human affairs that Hitler did in 1938 and Stalin did in 1939…”

“Defense” Cooperation Between Russian and Iran

The Associated Press and the International Herald Tribune reported on December 24:

“Iran and Russia discussed defense cooperation… as ties between the two countries have been increasingly flourishing… In early 2007, Iran received advanced Russian air defense missile system under a US$700 million contract signed in 2005. Russia has provided Iran with military products such Kilo-Class submarines, MIG and Sukhoi military planes and bombers in the past decades. Relations between Iran and Russia have been growing closer in recent months, climaxed by a historical visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Tehran in October. Russia is also putting the finishing touches on a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant in Bushehr, located in southern Iran. Iran received the first shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia last week, paving the way for the startup of its reactor in 2008.”

Tony Blair’s “Conversion” to Catholicism

The Associated Press reported on December 23:

“Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has left the Church of England and converted to Catholicism, the faith of his wife and children. Blair converted during a Mass Friday night at the private London chapel of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales… Blair had been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family and in recent months had been following a program leading to his reception into the church… In England’s last census, 72 percent of people identified themselves as Christian. Many are Anglicans affiliated with the Church of England, which was created by royal proclamation during the 16th century after King Henry VIII — who married six times — broke ties with the Roman Catholic Church in a dispute over divorce.”

Tony Blair–How Catholics Are “Made”

The Daily Mail wrote on December 23:

“Tony Blair was challenged yesterday to explain his record on abortion, embryo testing and gay rights after announcing that he had converted to Catholicism. Some Catholics condemned his previous support for causes which were apparently inconsistent with Church doctrine. But they drew a rebuke from senior figures in the Church, who said the Pope’s welcome for the new recruit was the final word. Sources said Mr Blair’s conversion ‘is not retrospective’ and that he does not have to account for his actions and beliefs in the past…

“John Smeaton, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: ‘During his premiership Tony Blair became one of the world’s most significant architects of the culture of death, promoting abortion, experimentation on unborn embryos, including cloned embryos, and euthanasia by neglect. SPUC is writing to Tony Blair to ask him whether he has repented of the anti-life positions he has so openly advocated.’

“Former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe, herself a convert, raised Mr Blair’s previous support for embryo research, gay ‘marriage’ and abortion, saying: ‘My question would be, has he changed his mind?’ Former Labour minister Peter Kilfoyle, a Catholic, said: ‘If he showed just one ounce of contrition over Iraq, then he would be closer to the body of morality that is the Catholic Church.'”

Roman Catholic Church Dominant Religious Group in Britain

The Sunday Telegraph wrote on December 23:

“Roman Catholics have overtaken Anglicans as the country’s dominant religious group. More people attend Mass every Sunday than worship with the Church of England, figures seen by The Sunday Telegraph show… The rise of Catholicism has been bolstered by an influx of immigrants from eastern Europe [especially Poland] and Africa.”

The Daily Mail added on December 23:

“The arrival of more than 600,000 Poles since their country joined the EU in 2004 appears to have dramatically slowed the long-term decline in congregations at Catholic churches. Roman Catholics who attend Mass have outnumbered Church of England congregations on Sunday mornings for some years…”

Sarkozy–a “Cultural Catholic”

The International Herald Tribune reported on December 21:

“President Nicolas Sarkozy has broken a French taboo by urging a more active role for religion in public life, but stopped well short of the American-style mix of faith and politics his critics say he wants to copy. A twice-divorced ‘cultural Catholic’, Sarkozy used a visit to the Vatican on Thursday to declare France was rooted in Christianity and needed Catholics to be more active in public life because faith helped give meaning to life…

“In its front-page cartoon on Friday, the Paris daily Le Monde showed Sarkozy dressed as a bishop, with President George Bush shouldering a cross and an American flag and confessing to Pope Benedict: ‘I think this guy is stealing my job.’…

“In his speech accepting the canon’s title, an honour given to French leaders since the 17th century, Sarkozy made repeated references to France’s Christian roots — a link that Paris refused to have mentioned in Europe’s planned constitution… Sarkozy said France needed ‘convinced Catholics who are not afraid to say who they are and what they believe.’

“RTL radio commentator Serge July noted the Catholic Church in France has criticised Sarkozy’s crackdown on immigration and plans to drop most restrictions on Sunday shopping.”

Christmas–“Christianized” Paganism

The Associated Press reported on December 22, 2007:

“The church where the tradition of celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25 may have begun was built near a pagan shrine as part of an effort to spread Christianity, a leading Italian scholar says… In 325, [Constantine] convened the Council of Nicaea, which fixed the dates of important Christian festivals. It opted to mark Christmas… on Dec. 25 to coincide with the Roman festival celebrating the birth of the sun god, Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at Rome’s La Sapienza University, told reporters Friday… ‘The church was built to Christianize these pagan places of worship,’ he said… Rome’s archaeological superintendent Angelo Bottini, who did not take part in Carandini’s research, said that hypothesis was ‘evocative and coherent’ and ‘helps us understand the mechanisms of the passage from paganism to Christianity.'”

How New York Invented Modern-Day Christmas

The Daily News reported on December 23:

“Christmas was originally a combination of the day of worship of the birth of Christ and the Roman winter solstice festival called the Saturnalia. The latter was a very raucous, townwide affair, and its raunchy and riotous ways persisted until nearly modern times. Then the Puritans outlawed Christmas altogether…

“It was New York City that changed all that, pioneering the family — and very child-centered — holiday that has since spread around the world. This is not surprising, perhaps, seeing that Santa Claus is New York’s patron saint. No, really. The Dutch ship that brought the first settlers to Manhattan was named for St. Nicholas, the patron saint of old Amsterdam as well as children.  It was long a Dutch tradition for children to get presents on St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6, often put in their shoes or stockings for them to find in the morning… Often these presents came on Christmas instead of St. Nicholas Day.

“Then, around the turn of the 19th century, New York’s emerging literary establishment created much of the folklore of the modern Christmas. Washington Irving wrote about St. Nicholas (‘Sinterklaes’ in one Dutch form of the name, soon anglicized to ‘Santa Claus’)… In 1821, an American children’s book called ‘The Children’s Friend’ changed Santa’s horse and wagon to a reindeer and sleigh… At first, there was no single, standard image of Santa Claus. But in the 1860s, the great American political cartoonist Thomas Nast contributed drawings… to Harper’s Weekly — a New York publication, of course — that fixed to the present day the image of Santa Claus as a jolly, bearded, fat man in a fur-trimmed cap…

“By the 20th century, the New York-inspired American Christmas traditions were hallowed ones. But New Yorkers kept adding to them anyway. In 1940, Irving Berlin wrote what has become the most popular Christmas song of all time, ‘White Christmas.’ Nine years later, Robert May and his New Yorker brother-in-law, the composer Johnny Marks, added a ninth reindeer to Santa’s sleigh, Rudolph.

“It is, perhaps, a sign of New York City’s incomparable multiethnic synergy, which reaches right back to the present-seeking children of Dutch days, that both Marks and Berlin were, of course, Jewish.”

Where Do Santa’s Elves Come From?

On December 22, Yahoo published the following as the best answer to the question where Santa’s elves come from. It stated:

“The Santa Claus story is of MIXED background–combining Germanic mythology and folktales with Christian stories about one or more church leaders (the source of the name Saint Nicholas). The elves appear to come from a Germanic folktale that was brought into the mix. Here is the story, according to Wikipedia:

“‘Another early folk tale, originating among the Germanic tribes, tells of a holy man (sometimes Saint Nicholas), and a demon (sometimes the Devil, Krampus, or a troll). The story states that the land was terrorized by a monster who at night would slither down the chimneys and slaughter children (disembowelling them or stuffing them up the flue, or keeping them in a sack to eat later). The holy man sought out the demon, and tricked it with blessed or magical shackles (in some versions the same shackles that imprisoned Christ prior to the crucifixion, in other versions the shackles were those used to hold St. Peter or Paul of Tarsus); the demon was trapped and forced to obey the saint’s orders. The saint ordered him to go to each house and make amends, by delivering gifts to the children. Depending on the version, the saint either made the demon fulfil this task every year, or the demon was so disgusted by the act of good will that it chose to be sent back to Hell. Yet other versions have the demon reform under the saint’s orders, and go on to recruit other elves and imps into helping him, thus becoming Santa Claus.'”

A “holy man” commands a demon to do good deeds? Very unlikely–unless the “holy man” is a “demon” himself… In any event, this story shows that the gifts for children were made by demons… and that Santa Claus was originally a demon… AND, that also the elves were apparently demons as well…

When the Wise Men Visited Jesus

The Grayson County News Gazette re-told the “Christmas story” in one of its articles, published on December 24. The following admission is quite striking:

“After Jesus’ birth, Herod was king of Judea. At this time wise men (Magi) from the east saw a star, they came in search, knowing the star signified the birth of the king of the Jews. The wise men came to the Jewish rulers in Jerusalem and asked where the Christ was to be born. The rulers explained, “In Bethlehem in Judea,” referring to Micah 5:2. Herod secretly met with the Magi and asked them to report back after they had found the child. Herod told the Magi that he too wanted to go and worship the babe. But secretly Herod was plotting to kill the child. So the wise men continued to follow the star in search of the new born king and found Jesus with his mother in Bethlehem. (Most likely Jesus was already two years of age by this time.).”

Christmas and the “Child Jesus”

The Associated Press reported on December 25:

“Pope Benedict XVI issued a Christmas Day appeal Tuesday to political leaders around the globe to find the ‘wisdom and courage’ to end bloody conflicts in Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan and Congo… Wearing gold-embroidered vestments and a bejeweled bishops’ hat, or miter, Benedict urged the crowd to rejoice over the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth, which he said he hoped would bring consolation to all people ‘who live in the darkness of poverty, injustice and war.’… ‘May the child Jesus bring relief to those who are suffering and may he bestow upon political leaders the wisdom and courage to seek and find humane, just and lasting solutions,’ he said… He said he hoped Christmas would bring consolation to ‘those who are still denied their legitimate aspirations for a more secure existence, for health, education, stable employment, for fuller participation in civil and political responsibilities, free from oppression and protected from conditions that offend human dignity.'”

What is striking is, among other things, the plea that the “Child Jesus” would bring relief. Jesus Christ is NOT a Child anymore–He is an all-powerful GOD being–the LIVING KING of kings and the LORD of lords–our mighty High priest and Savior. But this is exactly one of the problems with Christmas and its traditions–to think of our Maker and Creator (compare John 1:1-3, 14) as a helpless young little child in a manger. For more information about the REAL Jesus, please read our free booklet, “Jesus Christ–A Great Mystery.”

Christ–The “Sun” Rising From the East?

The Catholic News Services (CNS) reported on December 27:

“The newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, asked Msgr. Marini to explain why the crucifix, the symbol of Christ’s death, was being given such prominence even at midnight Mass when the church was celebrating Christ’s birth.

“‘The position of the cross at the center of the altar indicates the centrality of the crucifix in the Eucharistic celebration and the exact orientation the entire assembly is called to have during the eucharistic liturgy… Salvation comes from the Lord. He is the east, the sun that rises, the one whom we all must watch,’ Msgr. Marini said. In his 2000 book, ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy,’ Pope Benedict argued that facing the east while praying is a physical expression of turning toward God, toward the sun that rises for the salvation of all men and women.

“‘Where a direct, common turning toward the east is not possible, the cross can serve as the interior “east” of the faith. It should stand in the middle of the altar and be the common point of focus for both priest and praying community,’ he wrote.”

The Bible has some strong words to say about those who worship the sun (or Jesus “as” the sun) rising from the east. Ezekiel 8:15-17 reads:

“Then He said to me, ‘Have you seen this, O son of man? Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these.’ So He brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the LORD  and THEIR FACES TOWARD THE EAST, and they were WORSHIPPING THE SUN TOWARD THE EAST.”

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Would you please explain Matthew 22:23-30?

Matthew 22:23-30 reads:

“The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying, ‘Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.’ And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.”

It is important to realize that Jesus answered the Sadducees and that He responded to their wrong concepts pertaining to the resurrection. We might say, Jesus answered a fool according to his folly (compare Proverbs 26:5).

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible explains that the “Sadducees had their origin and name from one Sadoc, a disciple of Antigonus of Socho, president of the Sanhedrin, and teacher of the law in one of the great divinity schools in Jerusalem, about 264 years before the incarnation… Sadoc [taught that] there was no resurrection of the dead, nor angel, nor spirit, in the invisible world… [The Sadducees] received only the five books of Moses, and rejected all unwritten traditions.”

From this background, we must understand correctly to whom Christ was speaking and what He was saying–and we must take note of what He was NOT saying. He responded to the assertion of the Sadducees that there was no resurrection by pointing out that there WAS a resurrection to ETERNAL LIFE. Please note carefully that He was not addressing other resurrections to physical life–both past and future. (For more information on the THREE resurrections, as taught in Scripture, please read our free booklets, “Do We Have an Immortal Soul?” and “God’s Commanded Holy Days.” Please read also our Q&A in Update #316 on the three resurrections.)

Notice that the parallel passage in Luke 20:27-40 makes clear that Jesus was only addressing the resurrection to eternal life.

He said in verses 34-36: “..’ The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are COUNTED WORTHY to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; NOR CAN THEY DIE ANYMORE, for they are equal to the angels and are SONS OF GOD, being sons of the resurrection.”

When addressing the resurrection to immortality–also called the FIRST resurrection in the Bible (compare Revelation 20:4-5)–Jesus explained that those who will be in THAT resurrection, will be SPIRIT beings (like angels are spirit beings) who don’t marry in the way physical human beings do. In making this comparison, He told the Sadducees that angels DO exist, and that the righteous will be LIKE angels–as they will be Spirit beings. He did not teach that the righteous will BECOME angels; rather, that they will be higher than angels, as He called them SONS of the resurrection (compare Hebrews 2:10). Normally, angels are not called sons, but ministering spirits to assist the SONS of God to inherit salvation (compare Hebrews 1:14). Paul would later say that the sons of God will “judge angels” (compare 1 Corinthians 6:3). For further information, please read our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World.”

Notice how Jesus continued His response to the Sadducees, as recorded in the parallel account, in Luke 20:37: “But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that THE DEAD ARE RAISED, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live in Him.”

As the Sadducees did not believe in the inspiration of the Old Testament apart from the first five books of Moses, Jesus quoted, as proof for a resurrection, from the first five books of Moses, mentioning the burning bush episode, as recorded in the book of Exodus. He continued to say that God was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that God was not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Some commentaries erroneously conclude that Jesus was saying here that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were ALIVE when Jesus spoke these words–and that Jesus was therefore upholding the concept of the immortal soul which teaches that the immortal soul goes to heaven when man dies–a teaching which the Sadducees rejected.

However, Jesus did not believe in the false concept of the immortal soul. He taught that death was a sleep out of which man must be awakened (compare John 11:11-14, 43-44). He said to the Sadducees that God is a God of the living, because He will awaken Abraham, Isaac and Jacob out of their sleep of death through a resurrection from the dead. Remember, Jesus answered the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection. He proved that there is a resurrection from the dead by saying that God is the God of the living. The dead will live because God WILL RAISE them up in the resurrection (compare John 5:25, 28-29)–and God looks at future events, which are certain, as if they had already occurred. (Compare Romans 4:17, in the Living Bible: “That is what the Scriptures mean when they say that God made Abraham the father of many nations. God will accept all people in every nation who trust God as Abraham did. And this promise is from God himself, who makes the dead alive again and speaks of future events with as much certainty as though they were already past.”)

But let us also consider resurrections to physical life. Jesus taught such resurrections as well, but He did not address those in His response to the Sadducees. Jesus resurrected Lazarus to physical life, and He taught that many will be resurrected to physical life in the future. The Bible refers to that resurrection of billions of people as the “Great White Throne Judgment” (Revelation 20:11-12; compare also Revelation 20:5).

The question may be asked: What will happen to a woman who was married to several husbands and who will be resurrected to physical life, together with all those former husbands, in the Great White Throne Judgment resurrection? Would God consider her married to any or all of those former husbands? The answer would be clearly, no. When a husband dies, the wife is no longer “bound” or married to him. Since in the example of the Sadducees, all husbands died before the woman did, she was not “bound” or married to any of them at the time of her death. But even if she had died before her last husband, she still would not be considered married to him at the time of her resurrection–as the last husband would also have died subsequently.

Paul says in Romans 7:1-2:

“Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.”

A married couple would not be considered married to each other in the First Resurrection to immortal life. Nor would they be considered married in the Second Resurrection to physical life, because by virtue of their death, their physical marriage arrangement was dissolved.

Would they be able, though, to marry (again) in the Second Resurrection? The Bible does not expressly say that marriages will not take place during the time period of the Second Resurrection–the Great White Throne Judgment–but it is highly unlikely that they will, as one important reason for marriage is producing physical offspring. It does not appear from Scripture that new babies will be born in the Second Resurrection. The Great White Throne Judgment period will pertain to those who HAD lived before, without having been given the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, and who will then be given that opportunity.

In conclusion, Christ reproved the Sadducees in many different ways, teaching and confirming the concept of the resurrection of the dead. He limited His answer to the FIRST resurrection of the righteous. He did not teach the false concept of an immortal soul, but He did teach that the righteous, who DIED, will be RAISED to immortal life through a resurrection.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

US Contributions for 2007:

Donations and contributions received with letters postmarked in 2007 AND with enclosed written checks, dated in 2007, will be included in the detailed donation receipts for 2007. These receipts will be printed and sent out in mid-January of 2008. Cash contributions must also be received prior to January 1, 2008 (or, if sent by letter, the letter must be postmarked in 2007), in order to be included in the donation receipts for 2007. All contributions not falling into the categories described above will not be included in the donation receipts for 2007.

A new StandingWatch program was posted on StandingWatch and Google Video. It is titled, “What Is the True Gospel?, Part 2”

In the program, Norbert Link discusses that Christ came to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. He commissioned His Church to preach it today, and He said that its worldwide proclamation would be the sign for His Second Coming and the end of this present civilization. But why does Christ tell you to seek the Kingdom of God–to become worthy to inherit it and to enter it? And once you are in the Kingdom of God, what will you do then?

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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:

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