Update 331


There Is Hope!

On February 16, 2008, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, respectively, “There Is Hope!”

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 Time Is It Now?


The answer depends on which clock you check.
If you check the U.S. Debt Clock, you might think it’s time to tighten our fiscal belts. According to that clock, the U.S. National Debt has grown $1.48 billion per day since September 29, 2006. That puts our debt at over $9 trillion. Some organizations, including one who counts among its members the former Chief Financial Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, says U.S. debt calculations should include expenses like social security and government pensions. When these are included, the U.S. Debt Clock reads $55 trillion!

If the Debt Clock doesn’t make you nervous, maybe the one maintained by the Board of Directors of the Bulletin for Atomic Scientists will. According to their Website, their clock “…conveys how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction—the figurative midnight—and monitors the means humankind could use to obliterate itself.” In January 2007 that clock was moved forward to five minutes to midnight. The statement about this change included the following sobering comments:

“We stand at the brink of a second nuclear age. Not since the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has the world faced such perilous choices. North Korea’s recent test of a nuclear weapon, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a renewed U.S. emphasis on the military utility of nuclear weapons, the failure to adequately secure nuclear materials, and the continued presence of some 26,000 nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia are symptomatic of a larger failure to solve the problems posed by the most destructive technology on Earth.”

Before you dismiss this as hyperbole, consider a statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin made less than two weeks ago: “A new round of the arms race is developing in the world. Russia will start production of new types of arms, with the same or even superior specifications compared to those available to other nations.” The Bulletin for Atomic Scientists reports that “50 of today’s nuclear weapons could kill 200 million people.” What possible use could anyone have for weapons that are “superior” to these?

The Bible foretells of a time when such weapons will be used. It will be a time of “…great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21).

But when will this happen? God, in His wisdom, has not told us. But despite the fact that we don’t know the exact time—or perhaps because we can’t know it—the Bible gives us an urgent or persistent admonition to watch. We see this in Mark 13:33: “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” In Revelation 3:3, we are warned: “…if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief…”

What time is it now?

Now is the time to watch and be ready. Now is the time to be zealous and repent.

Now is NOT the time to forsake God’s way of life or His people, but to draw close, to stir up love and good works. Now is high time for us to be fully awake, for our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

Now is the time–with all of our heart, our mind and our strength–to make our calling and election sure. If we will do this now, then “…an entrance will be supplied to [us] abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11).

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The Western World’s Subjugation to Muslim Immigrants

Der Spiegel Online published the following on February 12:

“In the summer of 2007, Tiny Muskens, a liberal Catholic and the former bishop of the Dutch city of Breda, proposed replacing the word ‘God’ with the word ‘Allah.’ Allah, he said, is a nice name for God and, for this reason, we shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about referring to God as Allah. A short time later, the Social Democratic mayor of Brussels, Freddy Thielemans… instructed Brussels police officers not… eat in public during the month-long Ramadan fast, so as not to offend Muslims. A bit farther south, in Zurich, police officers were asked to acquaint themselves with Islamic culture by voluntarily refraining from eating or drinking for an entire day during Ramadan… Meanwhile, the BBC announced a new policy on its Web site’s ‘Section on Islam’: Any mention of the Prophet Muhammad was to be followed by the phrase ‘Peace be upon him.’… It didn’t take long before the British Home Office announced a new rule applicable to all official government statements: Phrases like ‘war on terror’ and ‘Islamic extremism’ were no longer to be used.

“And now a British cleric wants to introduce Shariah [Islamic law] in England. Mind you, this is not just any pastor from some tiny village in Wales, but rather the spiritual leader of the Anglican Church, Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury. According to Williams, Britain must consider the fact that some citizens cannot identify with British law. Accepting some aspects of Shariah, he argued, could help to avoid social tension. Under Williams’ proposal, people involved in marital conflicts and financial disputes would be able to choose between British law and Shariah…

“The proposal by the archbishop of Canterbury is evidence of more than just an unbelievable naiveté. It also reveals how far the idea of preventive capitulation in the face of an unsolvable problem has advanced.”

Danish and Swedish Newspapers Go On the Offensive

Deutsche Welle reported on February 13:

“Five major daily Danish newspapers, 10 smaller papers and a Swedish daily reprinted on Wednesday, Feb. 13, one of the 12 drawings of Mohammed that a Danish paper had published two years ago and which triggered global protests. The drawing was a caricature of the Prophet, whose head was adorned with a turban that looked like a bomb with a lit fuse. In republishing the cartoon, editors vowed to defend freedom of expression.

“The act was in response to news on Tuesday that police had foiled a murder plot against the cartoonist. ‘We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case, and to unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper will always defend,’ wrote the Berlingske Tidende, which reprinted the cartoon in its Wednesday edition… One editorialist in the Danish paper Politiken commented that the murder plot was an attack on Denmark’s democratic culture.”

No Mosques in Parts of Austria

On February 12, IOL published the following article:

“The provincial government of Carinthia, a southern Austrian province, on Tuesday passed a law effectively banning the construction of mosques or minarets. The controversial legislation, passed with the votes of the Conservative People’s party and the right-wing Alliance for Austria’s Future was a sign against the ‘advancement of Islam’, provincial governor Joerg Haider said. The legislation links the construction of mosques with rules concerning the overall look and harmony of towns and villages, thereby aiming at preventing their construction…

“Haider, a former leader of the right-wing Freedom Party that in its heyday enjoyed the support of up to 27 percent of Austria’s voters with its anti-immigration rhetoric, praised the new rules as a ‘guidepost’ for Europe…”

President Bush Signs Economic Stimulus Plan

The Associated Press reported on February 13:

“President Bush signed legislation on Wednesday to send $300 to $1,200 rebate checks to millions of Americans as a ‘booster shot’ for the economy. Rebates are to go out beginning in May to taxpayers and low-income people…

“Most taxpayers will receive a check of up to $600 for individuals and $1,200 for couples from the Internal Revenue Service, with an additional $300 per child. People earning at least $3,000 and those who owe little or no taxes would get $300 for singles, $600 for couples. Those making more than $75,000 and couples with income exceeding $150,000 are to get smaller rebates — $50 less per $1,000 they make over those thresholds…

“Economic analysts generally believe the $168 billion package Bush signed will help prevent the current downturn from ballooning into a crisis. But if the rebates don’t spur a consumer spending spree strong enough to cure what ails the economy, Congress is ready to throw more money at the problem… In the meantime, economists are debating how effective the rebates will be, with critics arguing that debt-burdened consumers will use the money to pay bills rather than spending the checks and spurring growth.”

General Motors Suffered Huge Loss in 2007

CNNMoney.com reported on February 12:

“In an effort to shave ongoing losses, General Motors offered lucrative buyouts Tuesday to 74,000 employees – its entire U.S. hourly workforce. The nation’s largest automaker announced the latest round of buyouts as it reported another loss on its core auto operations in the fourth quarter, which combined with charges taken earlier in the year left GM with a company-record $38.7 billion net loss for 2007.
“To try to stem automotive losses that have dogged the company since 2005, the company is making a range of offers, up to cash payments of $140,000 to the remaining 74,000 GM workers represented by the United Auto Workers union. The goal is not to reduce headcount but rather to bring in new workers at a lower cost…

“The company also saw pretax losses grow in its European operations and profits decline in the Asia-Pacific region that has become increasingly important for the company’s fortunes.”

U.S. Economy Clearly in Trouble

The Associated Press reported on February 14:

“Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Thursday that the country’s economic outlook has deteriorated and signaled that the central bank is ready to keep on lowering a key interest rate — as needed — to shore things up. In remarks to the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke said the one-two punch of the housing and credit crises has greatly strained the economy. Hiring has slowed and people are likely to tighten their belts further, as they are pinched by high energy prices and watch the value of their single biggest asset — their homes — weaken, he warned. ‘The outlook for the economy has worsened in recent months, and the downside risks to growth have increased,’ Bernanke said…

“‘Our economy is clearly in trouble,’ said the committee’s chairman, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. Restoring investor and consumer confidence, he said, is critical ‘if we are going to get back on our feet again.’… Economic growth practically stalled in the final three months of last year, and some economists believe it may actually be contracting now. By one rough rule of thumb, a recession occurs when there are two consecutive quarters — six straight months — when the economy shrinks.”

Exxon Mobil Cut Off From Venezuela’s Oil

The Associated Press reported on February 12:

“Venezuela’s state oil company said Tuesday that it has stopped selling crude to Exxon Mobil Corp. in response to the U.S. oil company’s drive to use the courts to seize billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets. Exxon Mobil is locked in a dispute over the nationalization of its oil ventures in Venezuela that has led President Hugo Chavez to threaten to cut off all Venezuelan oil supplies to the United States. Venezuela is currently the United States’ fourth largest oil supplier…

“Meanwhile, Venezuelan state television has begun airing short anti-Exxon segments, with a message appearing on the screen in red text reading: ‘Exxon Mobil turns oil into blood.’ The U.S. remains the No. 1 buyer of Venezuelan oil… Venezuela is selling the U.S. a daily average of 1.5 million barrels of crude and other products derived from oil.”

The Melting Pot of the USA

USA Today reported on February 12:

“… according to projections released Monday by the Pew Research Center… show that by 2050… one in five Americans will have been born outside the USA… Whites who are not Hispanic, now two-thirds of the population, will become a minority when their share drops to 47%… Hispanics, already the largest minority group, will more than double their share of the population to 29%… Blacks will remain 13% of the population. Asians will go to 9% from 5%… The gap between the number of working-age people and the children and seniors who depend on them will widen as boomers age. There will be 72 young and elderly for every 100 people of working age by 2050…The ethnic and racial profile of the nation could change because of inter-marriage. It’s not clear how the children and grandchildren of multiracial and multi-ethnic unions will identify themselves in the future.”

Senior Military Commander of Hezbollah Killed

Deutsche Welle reported on February 13:

“The Shi’ite militia group Hezbollah has said that one of its senior military commanders has been killed in Syria. Imad Mughniyah was killed in a car bombing in a residential area of Damascus late on Tuesday. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the US welcomed the death of Mughniyah who was alleged to be responsible for bombings and kidnappings on Western facilities in Lebanon in the 1980’s. The US had a 25 million dollar bounty on the head of Mughniyah for his role in the hijacking of a US airliner in 1985. Hezbollah and Iran blame Israel for his assassination, an accusation Israel has denied.”

Calls for “Retaliation” Against Israel

The Associated Press reported on February 14:

“The purported leader of al-Qaida’s affiliate in Iraq called in a new posting on a militant Web site on Thursday for attacks on Israel and proposed that Iraq’s territory be a ‘launching pad’ to seize Jerusalem. In the 30-minute audiotape, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, said to head the Islamic State of Iraq, lashed out at Arab and Palestinian groups — especially the Palestinian Hamas — for failing to liberate the Palestinians… The new posting came as Israeli security instructed embassies and Jewish institutions around the world to go on alert for fear of revenge attacks for a car bomb that killed a top-wanted terrorist, Imad Mughniyeh, late Tuesday in the Syrian capital. Hezbollah has accused Israel of killing the militant, whose funeral was being held Thursday, but Israel has denied that.

“… al-Baghdadi said the ‘Islamic state in Iraq will be the cornerstone for the return of Al-Quds’ and added the group was trying to use Iraq’s western province of al-Anbar as a launching pad for missiles against Israel — the same way the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein fired 31 missiles against the Jewish state in the Gulf War.”

German Court Rules Surveillance of Scientology Legal

Deutsche Welle reported on February 13:

“An administrative appellate court in Muenster… found that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution was within its authority to keep Scientologists under observation… In the statement announcing the verdict, the court said that there were ‘numerous indications’ that the Scientology organization promoted a form of society ‘in which central constitutional values such as the dignity of mankind and the right to equal treatment would be suspended or restricted.’ ‘In particular, there is the suspicion that in a scientological society only Scientologists would enjoy civil rights,’ the court decided…

“The German court also heard testimony concerning a number of anti-democratic remarks made by Hubbard. The court found… no evidence of the movement distancing itself from those opinions. The Church of Scientology says it will appeal the ruling and called for an end to the surveillance. ‘The German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution should finally end this farce and turn its attention to real enemies of the Constitution and real danger so as to do what it is there for: to protect the German constitution and the basic rights of the people,’ the organization said.”

Israel and Germany–Don’t See Eye to Eye

Der Spiegel Online reported on February 13:

“Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Berlin Monday and Tuesday, where he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel for discussions on topics including the countries’ shared concerns on Iran’s putative nuclear ambitions… On other topics, Israel and Germany share less common ground. The square-off between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip has intensified as the militant group continues to launch daily salvos of rockets into Israel and suicide bombers have struck after a year-long hiatus. In response, Israel has tightened restrictions on the Gaza Strip, which has intensified the humanitarian crisis there. Israel has also not ruled out a full-scale military campaign…

“The right-leaning Die Welt writes: ‘… Germans and Israelis are seeing less and less eye to eye… For the Germans, war is the worst possible thing that can happen, but for the Israelis that thing is aggression, which in its most extreme form can only be stopped with war…’

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘Germany only has limited opportunities to exert influence… The most important job for Europe’s governments is to continue encouraging Israel to choose another path’…

“The business daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘Germany is really a dependable ally of Israel’s. But this partnership is skating on thin ice. When the (respected German polling institute) Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research conducted a survey in January asking people which countries Germany should cooperate with, Israel landed in last place. That’s not surprising when you know that nearly half of all Germans view (Israel) as the largest threat to world peace. You can’t make the blanket statement that aggressive anti-Semitism lies behind these views. What is probably more symptomatic of the image of Israel that many Germans have can be seen in the sentiment expressed by a young woman in a discussion last week in Berlin, when she said: ‘Israel is building itself into its own prison, just like East Germany once did. But hopefully this wall will fall, too.'”

A Historic Moment For Europe

The EUObserver wrote on February 8:

“The French parliament has approved the new EU treaty, making France the first of the large member states to ratify the document and drawing a line under the shock ‘No’ vote of almost three years ago when French voters rejected the original EU constitution… Europe Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet told parliament on Thursday that ratification was a ‘historic moment for France’ while foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said ‘this treaty deserves to be appreciated for its value: as an important moment in the construction of the European ideal.’ ‘This is excellent news, a great victory for France which has gone from being the country holding up Europe to being the one that pulled Europe out of gridlock,’ said government spokesman David Martinon… The French ratification… makes France the fifth country after Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Romania to approve the treaty.

“The treaty introduces a powerful foreign policy chief, a permanent president of the European Council and gives greater legislative powers to the European Parliament. It must be ratified by all 27 member states to come into force. Ratification is expected to take place through the year. Germany plans to ratify in June while others such as Spain will follow suit later in the year. Only Ireland has pledged to have a referendum. Meanwhile, the ratification saga continues in Slovakia. Its treaty approval process has become tangled up in a separate dispute between government and opposition parties over a media bill, which the opposition say is too restrictive.”

Slovenia will most certainly not be in a position to stop European unification. Either they will come around and ratify the treaty, or they will find themselves outside European confines. The same would be true for any other of the smaller European countries.

The Soon-Coming European Military Muscle

The Associated Press reported on February 9:

“French Defense Minister Herve Morin accused the United States of a ‘schizophrenic’ approach to European security Saturday and also criticized other European allies for an ‘infantile’ dependence on American power. Morin complained to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other delegates at an international security conference that the U.S. was constantly pushing European allies to take on a greater defense burden, but resisted French-led efforts to build a security role for the European Union… French President Nicolas Sarkozy is keen to improve trans-Atlantic relations and is considering a return of France’s armed forces to NATO integrated military command 40 years after Gen. Charles de Gaulle pulled them out over concern about American domination of the alliance. But France is expected to link the return to American backing for a greater EU defense role…

“The French minister also took a swipe at other European allies for cutting defense budgets and preferring to rely on American protection rather than building up European military muscle. ‘Europe does not assume enough responsibility, it simply falls into dependence,’ Morin complained. ‘European nations must do more to share the defense burden…

“German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung and NATO’s Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer both welcomed signs that France is considering a return to full membership of the military structure. ‘I hope that France will get more involved in the alliance,’ Jung told the meeting.”

Armageddon on the Horizon

The Daily Mail reported on February 8:

“Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of starting a new arms race on Russia’s doorstep. Moscow will respond by modernising its military and weapons systems, he said yesterday. In a speech containing tough rhetoric aimed at the West, the Russian president said Nato expansion and U.S. plans for a missile defence shield in Eastern Europe had kicked off an arms race… [He said:] ‘We drew down our bases in Cuba and in Vietnam. What did we get? New American bases in Romania and Bulgaria, and a new third missile defence shield in Poland… The Kremlin has said that U.S. plans to deploy ten missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic would threaten Russia’s security. And it dismissed U.S. claims that the sites are to deter a missile threat from Iran… ‘We are being forced to take retaliatory steps,’ he said.”

Der Spiegel Online added on February 13:

“Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters on Tuesday that Russia could aim missiles at Ukraine if leaders in Kiev decide to join NATO and host part of the alliance’s controversial anti-missile shield… The statement was the clearest warning so far that Russia would resist the march of NATO membership to the Black Sea.”

Global Warming or New Ice Age?

The Drudge Report published the following article by RIA, which was originally written on or about January 22:

“Temperatures on Earth have stabilized in the past decade, and the planet should brace itself for a new Ice Age rather than global warming, a Russian scientist said in an interview with RIA Novosti Tuesday. ‘Russian and foreign research data confirm that global temperatures in 2007 were practically similar to those in 2006, and, in general, identical to 1998-2006 temperatures, which, basically, means that the Earth passed the peak of global warming in 1998-2005,’ said Khabibullo Abdusamatov, head of a space research lab at the Pulkovo observatory in St. Petersburg…

“Had global temperatures directly responded to concentrations of ‘greenhouse’ gases in the atmosphere, they would have risen by at least 0.1 Celsius in the past ten years, however, it never happened, he said. ‘A year ago, many meteorologists predicted that higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would make the year 2007 the hottest in the last decade, but, fortunately, these predictions did not become reality,’ Abdusamatov said. He also said that in 2008, global temperatures would drop slightly, rather than rise, due to unprecedentedly low solar radiation in the past 30 years, and would continue decreasing even if industrial emissions of carbon dioxide reach record levels. By 2041, solar activity will reach its minimum according to a 200-year cycle, and a deep cooling period will hit the Earth approximately in 2055-2060. It will last for about 45-65 years, the scientist added…

“Mankind will face serious economic, social, and demographic consequences of the coming Ice Age because it will directly affect more than 80% of the earth’s population, the scientist concluded.”

Whether global warming or a new ice age, the consequences for our planet would be equally devastating. Based on the Biblical prophecies, both a temporary “cooling off” and a “warming” of the planet appear to be possible, even though we must understand that the prophecies will be fulfilled, in most cases, through SUPERNATURAL events. Note Biblical passages such as Isaiah 13:10; 30:26; Revelation 8:12;16:8-9, 12.

Huge Rubbish Dump in the Pacific Ocean

The Daily Mail reported on February 12:

“A rubbish dump twice the size of the United States has been discovered floating in the Pacific Ocean. The vast expanse of debris, made up of plastic junk including footballs, kayaks, Lego blocks and carrier bags, is kept together by swirling underwater currents. It stretches from 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan. Because the rubbish, which has been called a ‘plastic soup’ and a ‘trash vortex’, is translucent and lies just below the water’s surface it cannot be seen in satellite photographs.

“American oceanographer Charles Moore discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by chance in 1997 while taking a short cut home from a yacht race… He warned that the rubbish could double in size over the next decade if consumers do not cut back on their use of plastics. More than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die every year as a result of plastic rubbish. Syringes, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have all been found inside the stomachs of dead seabirds. The rubbish can also be dangerous for humans, because tiny plastic pellets in the sea can attract man-made chemicals which then enter the food chain… The rubbish dump is made up of two linked areas either side of Hawaii. Around one-fifth of the junk is thrown off ships or oil platforms, while the rest comes from the land.”

Human-To-Human Transmission of Bird Flu Virus

The Associated Press reported on February 13:

“The daughter of an Indonesian women who tested positive for bird flu has also contracted the virus, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, in what could be a case of human-to-human transmission. The 14-year-old girl was in critical condition at a Jakarta hospital, WHO said on its website. The girl’s 38-year-old mother has been in hospital with the bird flu virus since Jan. 26. ‘She was exposed to her sick mother…and spent time in a neighbourhood where chickens and other birds were found,’ the WHO statement said, adding the source of infection is still under investigation. Further tests will be needed to establish whether the daughter contracted the virus from contact with her mother or from an infected chicken or its droppings – the source of most of Indonesia’s 103 fatal cases.

“Cases of possible human-to-human transmission are watched closely because they increase the chance of the virus mutating into a form that is easily passed among humans, which could possibly trigger a global pandemic. The World Health Organization said the virus passed between humans, although in a limited way, in one large cluster of cases in a single family on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island in 2006. The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed at least 226 people worldwide since it started ravaging poultry stocks in Asia five years ago, WHO said.”

Beware of Cyberthieves!

CNN reported on February 13:

“… cyberthieves use a… type of subterfuge — phishing — to cover their identities and wipe out bank accounts. Phishing occurs when fraudulent e-mails that appear to be from a legitimate source are sent in an effort to obtain sensitive information from a user… Of the top 20 companies targeted by phishing in 2007…, 19 are in the banking industry. Computer users are often tricked into visiting fraudulent sites because of ‘danger, danger’ e-mail subject lines like ‘account security measures,’ ‘important notice’ or ‘(your bank name) security notice.’

“One sneaky thing some malware (malicious threats) does is to modify a user’s server information. For example, a user types www.bankofamerica.com into his or her browser. But instead of the computer using the service provider’s server, which would take the user to the real Bank of America server, the computer uses a bogus server run by phishers — and that takes the user to a fake Bank of America server. The phishers take the user’s login information and empty the account. Most users, even the savvy ones, wouldn’t know that their server settings have been hijacked…

“Though tech-savvy, proudly paperless home computer users may shun those so-20th-century snail mail bank statements, it might be worth it to go retro and compare your online banking information with the paper record… criminals in Brazil have figured out ways to wipe out bank accounts and leave no trail in an individual’s online account. And bank customers may be out of luck if the theft goes unnoticed for a while. Usually, banks give only 90 days to remediate an account problem.”

Jews Still Don’t Like Catholic Prayer…

Reuters reported on February 7:

“The top Vatican cardinal in charge of relations with Jews on Thursday denied a new prayer for their conversion was offensive and said Catholics had the right to pray as they wished. Cardinal Walter Kasper spoke in an interview in a leading Italian newspaper a day after world Jewish leaders said the new prayer could set back inter-religious dialogue by decades. ‘I must say that I don’t understand why Jews cannot accept that we can make use of our freedom to formulate our prayers,’ Kasper, a German, told the Corriere della Sera.

“The Vatican on Tuesday revised a contested Latin prayer used by a traditionalist minority on Good Friday, removing a reference to Jewish ‘blindness’ over Christ and deleting a phrase asking God to ‘remove the veil from their hearts’. Jews criticized the new version because it still says they should recognize Jesus Christ as the savior of all men. It asks that ‘all Israel may be saved’ and keeps an underlying call to conversion that Jewish leaders had wanted omitted.

“‘We think that reasonably this prayer cannot be an obstacle to dialogue because it reflects the faith of the Church and, furthermore, Jews have prayers in their liturgical texts that we Catholics don’t like,’ Kasper said… Jewish organizations… criticized the new version. ‘While we appreciate that some of the deprecatory language has been removed … we are deeply troubled and disappointed that the framework and intention to petition God for Jews to accept Jesus as Lord was kept intact,’ Abraham Foxman, U.S. national director of the ADL, said in a statement.”

However, the Catholic Church is correct in pointing out that all men–including Jews–MUST accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. The BIBLE makes it very clear that we cannot be saved except through Jesus Christ (compare Acts 4:12). Whether men like it or not–that is the truth!

Lent, the Virgin Mary and the Healing of the Sick

VIS reported on February 10 that according to the Pope, “the beginning of Lent this year coincides with the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes (11 February 1858). ‘The message the Virgin Mary continues to proclaim at Lourdes’, he said, ‘recalls the words that Jesus pronounced at the very beginning of His public mission: … “Convert and believe in the Gospel”, pray and do penance. Let us welcome Mary’s invitation, which echoes that of Christ, and ask her to enable us “to enter” with faith into Lent, to live this period of grace with inner joy and generous commitment’. The Pope concluded his pre-Angelus remarks by entrusting the sick and their carers to the Virgin Mary…”

Regarding the role of the Virgin Mary in the Catholic Church, please make sure to read our Q&A on the Nicolaitans in this Update.

New Chief Named for German Catholic Church

Deutsche Welle reported on February 13:

“Robert Zollitsch, archbishop of Freiburg, unexpectedly has been named Karl Lehmann’s successor as head of the German Catholic Church. He’s considered a liberal and recommends making celibacy optional for priests… Zollitsch has a reputation for not shying away from both touchy political topics and church disputes… He was born in 1938 to a German family in Filipovo in former Yugoslavia. They were expelled after the Second World War and fled to Germany.”

Bishop of Church of England: “We DON’T Go to Heaven When We Die”

WorldNetDaily reported the following on February 10:

“A bishop described as ‘one of the most formidable figures in the world of Christian thought’ is now challenging the widely held belief that Christians go to heaven when they die. N.T. ‘Tom’ Wright, the fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England who has been praised for his staunch defense of the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ, has published a new book in which he says people do not ascend to God’s dwelling place. Instead, God will be coming back to Earth. ‘Never at any point do the Gospels or Paul say Jesus has been raised, therefore we are… all going to heaven,’ Wright told Time Magazine…

“In the Gospel of John, Jesus himself is quoted as saying, ‘And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.’ (John 3:13)…

The article continued quoting Wright as follows:

“Jesus’ resurrection marks the beginning of a restoration that he will complete upon his return… Wright says much of ‘traditional Christianity’ has been influenced by pagan philosophies…

“While Wright’s view may seem stunning to many of today’s Christians, it is the same view held by some famous names in the Protestant Reformation. In 1520, Martin Luther blasted Catholic ideas ‘that the soul is immortal; and all these endless monstrosities in the Roman dunghill of decretals.’ A decade later, English Bible translator and martyr William Tyndale echoed the idea Christians are completely dead until Jesus returns, as he voiced opposition to ‘heathen’ ideas of people having immortal souls at birth: ‘The true faith putteth [setteth forth] the resurrection, which we be warned to look for every hour. The heathen philosophers, denying that, did put [set forth] that the souls did ever live. And the pope joineth the spiritual doctrine of Christ and the fleshly doctrine of philosophers together; things so contrary that they cannot agree…'”

Even though Wright’s positions contain the usual mixture of truth and error–so his unbiblical concept that the souls of men will enter an intermediate conscious state upon death–he nevertheless understands that we do not go to heaven when we die. The truth is this: When we die, we enter into a “dreamless sleep,” but we will be awakened within the next second of our consciousness through a resurrection from the dead. The Bible does not picture death as the entrance into a painful or worrisome uncertain intermediate state–but rather as an unconscious “sleep,” followed by a beautiful and mind-boggling awakening for those who died in Christ. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Do We Have an Immortal Soul?”

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Who were the Nicolaitans, mentioned in Revelation 2?

We find two references in the Bible about the Nicolaitans, and they are both contained in the second chapter of the book of Revelation. In His message to the church of Ephesus, Jesus Christ says in Revelation 2:6: “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Again, in His message to the church of Pergamos, He says in Revelation 2:15: “Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”

Much has been speculated about the origin and exact nature of the Nicolaitans and their teaching.

The Catholic New Advent Encyclopedia states that the Nicolaitans were “a sect… about the character and existence of which there is little certainty. Irenaeus… discusses them but adds nothing… except that ‘they [led] lives of unrestrained indulgence.’ Tertullian refers to them… Hippolytus based his narrative on Irenaeus, though he states that the deacon Nicholas was the author of the heresy and the sect… Clement of Alexandria… exonerates Nicholas, and attributes the doctrine of promiscuity, which the sect claimed to have derived from him, to a malicious distortion of words harmless in themselves… Eusebius [states]… that the sect was short-lived… Another opinion, favoured by a number of authors, is that, because of the allegorical character of the Apocalypse, the reference to the Nicolaitans is merely a symbolic manner of reference…”

The commentary of Barnes points out:

“From the two passages, compared with each other, it would seem that they were alike corrupt in doctrine and in practice, for… their deeds are mentioned, and… their doctrine… In regard to the origin of the name, there [has been the opinion…] that the name was derived from Nicolas, one of the deacons ordained at Antioch [compare Acts 6:5]. Of those who have held this opinion, some have supposed that it was given to them because he became apostate and was the founder of the sect, and others because they assumed his name, in order to give the greater credit to their doctrine. But neither of these suppositions rests on any certain evidence, and both are destitute of probability. There is no proof whatever that Nicolas the deacon ever apostatized from the faith, and became the founder of a sect; and if a name had been assumed, in order to give credit to a sect and extend its influence, it is much more probable that the name of an apostle would have been chosen, or of some other prominent man, than the name of an obscure deacon of Antioch…

“[Others] have supposed that the name Nicolaitans was intended to be symbolical, and was not designed to designate any sect of people, but to denote those who resembled Balaam, and that this word is used in the same manner as the word ‘Jezebel’ [in Revelation 2:20], which is supposed to be symbolical there.

“… it has been supposed that some person now unknown, probably of the name Nicolas, or Nicolaus, was their leader, and laid the foundation of the sect. This is by far the most probable opinion, and to this there can be no objection…”

The commentary continues:

“Neander… supposes that the passage relates simply to a class of persons who were in the practice of seducing Christians to participate in the sacrificial feasts of the pagans, and in the excesses which attended them – just as the Jews were led astray of old by the Moabites, [Numbers] 25… It is generally agreed, among the writers of antiquity who have mentioned them, that they were distinguished for holding opinions which countenanced gross social indulgences.”

The New Bible Commentary:Revised adds the following:

“We gather… that they held the same error as the Balaamites, viz. teaching to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication. These were the chief matters condemned by the decree of the apostolic council (Acts 15:29). It is noteworthy that Balaam and Nicolaus have more or less the same etymology (Balaam–‘he has consumed the people’; Nicolaus–‘he overcomes the people’). If this is the teaching so strenuously resisted by the Ephesians… then it must have been widespread indeed.”

The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown gives this interpretation: “Literal eating of idol meats and fornication … were accompanied by SPIRITUAL IDOLATRY AND FORNICATION.”

Unger’s Bible Handbook states: “Some take this symbolism, however, as indicating the origin of clericalism (‘nikeo, ‘conquer,’ and ‘laos,’ ‘people’), making them a group that early favored a clerical system which later developed into the papal hierarchy.”

Similarly the Ryrie Study Bible: “… some understand from the meaning of the name (‘conquering of the people’) that they were a group which promoted a clerical hierarchy…”

James Hastings makes the following interesting remarks about the “Nicolaitans,” in his “Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics”:

“According to pseudo-Dorotheus, there was a Nicolas, bishop of Samaria, who fell into heresy and evil ways under the influence of Simon Magus, and he may have given his name to the sect… the name… has been attached to several later groups… There is evidence at the beginning of the 3rd century of the existence of a Gnostic sect of immoral habits, called therefore Nicolaitans… they shared the worship of the great Mother-goddess, the goddess of heaven…”

In light of what IS known about the Nicolaitans, as set forth above, one does not need to be uncertain about their origin and nature, when considering the most obvious usage of the word–which has been preserved even in our days. We explain the following in our free booklet, “Don’t Keep Christmas,” under the section, “Santa Claus”:

“Closely associated with the giving of presents at Christmas time is the figure of Santa Claus, also called St. Nicholas… According to legend, there was a Catholic priest who allegedly gave gifts to children in December. This priest was supposedly the Bishop of Myra, and he was called ‘Nicholas.’ He reportedly died on December 6, 326 AD. This is the ‘official’ explanation, as to why the ‘day of St. Nicholas’ is celebrated today on December 6. Many historians doubt, however, that there is any legitimacy to this legend. They even question whether such a priest ever existed…

“On the other hand, it is a historical fact that pagans did worship a pagan god that shows great similarities with the modern Santa Claus. This pagan deity was the old Germanic god ‘Wodan.’ He was called ‘Odin’ in Scandinavia. Wodan or Odin was a sun god. According to pagan belief, he gave his life for the world by ‘hanging on a tree’ or a cross for nine nights, after which he was ‘pierced by a spear.’… In Germanic legends, Wodan [or Odin] had a holy tree, and when someone came close to that tree on December 25, he found presents under it. In addition, Wodan’s day on which he was worshipped was December 6. Earl W. Count, B.D., Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, states in ‘4000 Years of Christmas,’ on pp. 11 and 54: ‘We do not really know when the Christ Child… was born; or the time and place when Christmas was first celebrated; or exactly how it was that, over the centuries, a bishop-saint of Asia Minor and a pagan god of the Germans merged to become Santa Claus… Of most interest to us, however, is the fact that Wodan [or Odin] has become – Santa Claus, or, as he is better called, St. Nicholas.’…

“Where did the name ‘Santa Claus,’ or ‘Nicholas,’ come from? In Revelation 2:6, we are introduced to the sect of Nicolaitans which taught and practiced wrong concepts and doctrines… Nicolaus, the founder of the sect of the Nicolaitans… is none other than ‘Nicholas’ or ‘Santa Claus.’ In German, for instance, the similarities of these two names are even more striking. ‘Nicolaus,’ the founder of the ‘Nicolaitans,’ is rendered in German as ‘Nikolaus’ – and ‘Santa Claus’ in German is ‘Nikolaus’ as well.”

Far from being an obscure short-lived ancient sect, the Nicolaitans are well and alive today in the “Christian” world. After all, Christ’s message to the seven churches was not just meant for the seven ancient church congregations at the time of John, but it was also prophetic and addressed to the Church of God throughout its existence until the time of Christ’s return. And, the message is a warning to all true Christians, not to repeat the mistakes which some of the ancient church congregations committed.

The deeds of the Nicolaitans became doctrine, and orthodox Christianity adopted the pagan festivals of Christmas and St. Nicholas Day–in honor of the “founder” of the Nicolaitans–and teaches it today as some of the most important festivals of Christianity. In addition, the unbiblical concept of the worship of the Virgin Mary and her “ascension” to heaven, where she is believed to reside as the queen or “Mother goddess” of heaven–as the early Gnostics worshipped the “great Mother goddess of heaven”–gradually became an established dogma in the Catholic Church. But Jesus said twice in Revelation 2 that He hates the deeds and teachings of the Nicolaitans.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

We are happy to announce that September Danforth-Prentice was baptized in Woodburn, Oregon, on February 9, 2008. Norbert Link conducted the baptism, which was witnessed by family members and brethren. We would like to welcome September as a newly-begotten child in the Family of God.

A new StandingWatch program (#156) has been posted on StandingWatch, Google Video and You Tube. It is titled, “Right or Wrong–God Decides!” In the program, Norbert Link discusses the fact that the human mind does not know what is Christian conduct. The Bible allows what humans reject, or it prohibits what humans approve. Examples include: relating unflattering facts about people who have died; spanking and disciplining our children; marriage and divorce; abortion; and scientific advancements of cloning or “creating” embryos. Do you know God’s viewpoint on those matters?

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Prove Me

by Tom Shadoin

Over the decades I have heard many sermons and sermonettes about tithing, as well as many stories of the blessings God has poured out on those who have obeyed His instructions in this matter.

And I had to ask myself the question: If, as God promises, He will provide for and bless those who tithe, does that not also provide just one more proof that He does exist? Too many times I have heard the plaintive complaint that we can’t prove that God exists. But if God’s laws are proven to exist and work–like tithing does–therein lies proof that the Lawgiver exists! Many of the famous as well as not-so-famous have put God to this test. James Cash Penney (founder of JC Penney’s) in fact began to tithe at age 16.
When I learned about tithing, I had to understand that it means, paying 10%, and not giving what I think I can give, or when I think I can do so. I saw that there are no halfway measures with God–it is either His way or nothing. And since He owns the business (so to speak), He sets the rules. I had to learn that there is no reason to complain if I pay less than a tithe and He does not respond.

I always remember the stories I heard from ministers who were stationed in the Philippines. One told us about a sermon he gave to poor Filipino farmers about tithing. After the sermon, one person came up to him. “Pastor,” he said, “if I tithe from my field and livestock, and God doesn’t provide for me and my family, we will starve.” “You tithe as God commands,” the pastor told him, “and if God doesn’t take care of your family, I will.”  We in the congregation all chuckled as the pastor finished the story saying, “And BOY was I glad God prospered that family!”

Another pastor related the story of the Filipino farmer who showed up at his door one afternoon and handed the pastor a fish. “Here,” he said, “is my tithe.” Noticing that the farmer had no other fish with him, the pastor asked where the other nine fish were. “I’m going back to catch them right now!” the farmer said confidentially, walking away.

Especially the last story impressed on me that kind of confidence which I have to have. I have seen God’s blessing in my life when I obey Him and tithe faithfully. God challenges me to prove Him, constantly, and I would say, His very existence, by following His command to tithe. As long as I continue to do it, I know that I will never regret it and that I will never have to look back!

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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