Update 334


"Authority" and "The Rod and Staff"

On March 8, 2008, Eric Rank and Robb Harris will give split sermons, titled, “Authority” and “The Rod and Staff.”

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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Peace and Reconciliation

by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

In a few weeks time, baptized members of the Church of God will be taking the Passover as instructed by Jesus (compare John 13). This is an annual event that the Church of God has kept down through the centuries. But before we take the Passover, there are many things that we have to do.

As we are reminded in Rene Messier’s new member letter, we are told to examine ourselves – not others. It is very easy to examine the faults and sins of other people but much more uncomfortable to review our own situation. This self examination, while ongoing throughout our lives, takes on extra significance as we approach the Passover (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-28). We should examine every aspect of our lives, and we should all heed the instruction given by Jesus to the lawyer in Matthew 22:34-40, to love both God and man with all of our hearts. If we have a problem with someone which might inhibit our relationship with him or her, we are told exactly what to do.

Matthew 18:15-17 is a short passage of Scripture, which deals with interpersonal relationships and conflict resolution, but pride and lack of courage can often get in the way. Nevertheless, it is the way that God instructs in sorting out a problem. The apostle Paul talks about a ministry of peace and reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). We are to “leave our gift at the altar and be reconciled” (Matthew 5:22-24). What if the other party refuses to reconcile and although he understands this admonition, he works his way around the behavior that God expects? If we have made the approach and been rebuffed, there is little we can do except to pray that God will open the mind of that person. It truly is a great sadness when this happens.

However others behave does not give us license to act in a similar fashion. Christ, when He was dying on the cross, asked His Father to “forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). We should take exactly the same position, not because of smugness or self-righteousness, but with a humble attitude knowing that it is the way that pleases God. Reviewing and implementing all of these admonitions will ensure that we can take the Passover in a worthy manner, knowing that we have fulfilled the Biblical admonition to examine ourselves.

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Latin America–At the Brink of War

The Associated Press reported on March 3:

“Ecuador on Monday broke off diplomatic ties with Colombia, and Venezuela says it will expel Colombia’s ambassador after [Colombia] conducted a strike against leftist rebels inside Ecuador.”

Reuters added on March 3:

“… a dispute across the Andean region… erupted after Colombian soldiers raided inside its southern neighbor [Venezuela] to kill a guerrilla leader… [Venezuelan President] Chavez [ordered] troops and tanks to the border with Colombia and he warned conservative [Colombian] President Alvaro Uribe that a similar strike on Venezuelan soil could lead to war. Ecuador has also sent thousands of troops to the border…”

The Daily Mail stated on March 2 that “The U.S. would almost certainly come to Colombia’s aid if oil-rich Venezuela launched an invasion.”

AFP reported on March 4:

“A crisis between three Latin American nations worsened Tuesday when Venezuela said it was closing its border with Colombia, even as frantic diplomatic talks to stave off war were about to begin.”

German Reaction to Latin American Crisis

On March 4, Der Spiegel Online quoted excerpts from several German newspapers, dealing with the crisis in Latin America. The magazine stated:

“For Europe, the conflict comes as a bit of a shock — Ecuador is a favorite [recipient] of German development aid. Commentators writing in Germany’s main papers Tuesday were full of opinions on what the conflict meant for the region’s future.

“Left-leaning Berliner Zeitung is skeptical of [Venezuelan President] Chavez’s motives. ‘Colombia has chosen to accept the risks. The chance of dealing the guerrillas a devastating blow and of killing their leader was too great to pass up. But the sovereignty of Ecuador was violated in the process, and President Correa [of Ecuador] is well within his rights to be outraged and impose sanctions. The conflict must not escalate. But when Venezuela sends tanks to its border with Colombia — which has nothing to do with this commando raid — what else could it be besides a dangerous regional escalation, the likes of which Latin America hasn’t seen in decades? Hugo Chavez is personally and ideologically close to Colombia’s guerrillas. .. Could Chavez, who is finding less and less support at home, be trying to gather Venezuelans behind him through military escapades?’

“The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung leaps to Venezuela’s defense: ‘… With the precisely planned raid in the Ecuadorean Amazon, Colombia’s right-wing leader Alvaro Uribe is consciously risking a regional escalation of the decades-long conflict. The strong reaction of his leftist neighbors Rafael Correa and Hugo Chavez to his border violation should hardly surprise him — or his powerful backers in Washington… Yesterday’s warning from the German government about escalation is hypocritical: Germany has long counted as one of the discreet, but important, supporters of the Colombian president.’

“Meanwhile, the right-leaning Die Welt has harsh words for Ecuador: ‘In the last few years relations between (Venezuela and Colombia) have gotten dramatically worse, as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez morphed from covert sympathizer to open supporter of Colombia’s FARC terrorists… That should ring alarm bells in Berlin, especially since Ecuador is an important recipient of German and European development aid, which should be withdrawn as soon as possible. Other recent verbal lapses on the part of Venezuela’s president have been unsettling: He suggested that Colombia was essentially “the Israel of Latin America,” because, like Jerusalem, it has close ties to the US. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will welcome these words from his ally Chavez — but in Europe they should inspire watchfulness.'”

Iranian President in Iraq–“Unintended” Consequences of U.S. Invasion

The Associated Press reported on March 3:

“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday dismissed U.S. accusations that his country is training extremists and demanded that the Americans withdraw from Iraq. Speaking in a nearly hour-long news conference at the end of an unprecedented visit to Iraq, Ahmadinejad said the U.S. allegations – that Iran is training Shiite militants who target American troops and Muslim rivals – don’t matter to the Iranians…

“Ahmadinejad is the first Iranian president to visit Iraq, and his two-day trip highlighted one of the unintended consequences for Washington after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the Iraq that ousted Saddam Hussein from power. Under Saddam, a Sunni who once led an eight-year war against Iran, the two countries were bitter enemies, but Iraq’s new Shiite-dominated government has deep ties to Iran’s cleric-led Islamic republic.

“Ahmadinejad was warmly received by Iraqi President Jabal Talabani, a Sunni Kurd, and other Iraqi leaders. He said Tehran and Baghdad are ‘brotherly’ nations who share many beliefs and values…. After meeting Sunday with Talabani, who told the Iranian leader to call him ‘Uncle Jalal,’ Ahmadinejad drove through the U.S.-controlled Green Zone to visit Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a fellow Shiite, at his Cabinet offices… Earlier Monday, Talabani and Ahmadinejad signed seven memorandums of understanding on issues including industrial development, trade and customs.”

The World Condemns Israel

AFP wrote on March 3:

“Israel vowed on Monday to keep hitting Gaza even as troops pulled out of the Hamas-run territory after clashes that killed more than 120 Palestinians and dealt a major blow to Middle East peace talks… The bloody assault earned Israel international condemnation and caused moderate Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to cut contacts with the Israelis, though on Monday he reiterated his willingness to seek a truce… US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice departed for the region in her latest bid to boost peace efforts which have been stalled… Rice’s deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Israel had a ‘right to defend itself’ against Hamas rocket attacks but Israel also had to ‘show appropriate consideration’ for the humanitarian situation in Gaza Strip…

“Since a dramatic escalation in violence last Wednesday, at least 121 Palestinians, including 22 children and dozens of militants, have been killed… More than 350 were wounded. Two Israeli soldiers were also killed in the clashes and one Israeli civilian died in a rocket attack launched by Gaza militants… Israel launched the operation on Saturday in a bid to stop near-daily rocket fire from Gaza, where the Islamist Hamas movement — which is sworn to Israel’s destruction — seized power in June by routing pro-Abbas forces. But as has been the case with previous Israeli operations, this one failed to halt the rocket fire… The [Israeli] army claimed all the long-range rockets fired at Israel in recent days were Iranian-made.”

Der Spiegel Online stated on March 6:

“A report sponsored by eight British-based aid agencies and human rights groups has described the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip as the worst in 40 years… The damning report on the humanitarian situation released on Thursday says that 80 percent of Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants are now dependent on food aid, while unemployment is close to 40 percent…. Israel’s Defense Ministry rejected the report, saying Hamas, the militant Islamist rulers in Gaza, was to blame for the hardships. It also pointed out that medicines and medical equipment were shipped into Gaza without limitations…

“On Wednesday a senior United Nations official warned that the dire conditions in Gaza would deteriorate even further if Israeli military action escalated. ‘It would be devastating,’ John Ging, director of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, told Reuters. ‘The whole infrastructure is in a state of collapse, whether it’s water, sanitation or just the medical services,’ he said. ‘If there’s a further military offensive it will again just … compound an already desperate situation.'”

Kremlin’s Tough Line Will Continue

The Associated Press reported on March 3:

“President Vladimir Putin fast-tracked the transfer of power to his newly elected protege Monday and signaled the Kremlin won’t back down from its pull-no-punches anti-U.S. foreign policy or ease up on its critics at home. President-elect Dmitry Medvedev… has stressed he will pursue Putin’s foreign and domestic agenda, and in a sign that little would change, Russia squeezed natural gas supplies to Western-leaning Ukraine, and police in Moscow manhandled opposition protesters who denounced the election as a farce… Medvedev has vowed to make Putin his prime minister, enabling the forceful leader to maintain strong influence…

“The head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s vote observation mission, Andreas Gross, said balloting was not free or fair… Western nations have accused Putin of backtracking on democracy, but he has dismissed the criticism and fired back by accusing the West of meddling.”

Moscow–World Capital for Billionaires

AFP reported on March 5:

“Moscow has overtaken New York City as home to the most billionaires, according to Forbes magazine, with 74 of the super-rich elite now counting the Russian capital as their home. By contrast, 71 billionaires live in New York, according to the magazine’s annual list, which placed London in third place with 36. ‘Russia is again the dominant story in (Europe) this year. Its billionaires are just fast and fearsome. What’s fascinating is that every single one of them is self made,’ said Forbes senior editor Luisa Kroll. ‘We’re not going to get into exactly how they got it but none of them inherited it and their average age is 46,’ she added. Russia now counts a total of 87 billionaires, ousting Germany in second place but still trailing the first-placed United States, which has 469.”

Clinton Wins–What’s Next?…

The Associated Press wrote on March 5:

“But even if she wins every contest left, Clinton still would have a hard time overcoming Barack Obama’s pledged delegate lead. In fact, her task got even harder because even though she won Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island Tuesday night, she didn’t do much to close the delegate gap — and with every contest that passes, the number up for grabs drops… Even her own advisers acknowledge Obama will probably win the two other states left this month — Wyoming on Saturday and Mississippi next Tuesday. If she is able to continue turning voters against Obama in the races after that, she could plausibly clinch the nomination by persuading superdelegates to back her. It won’t be easy… With seven weeks until Pennsylvania, there’s plenty of time for the race to get even uglier.”

… While McCain Wins Republican Mantle

AFP added on March 5:

“Clinton’s comeback prolonged the longest and costliest nominating race in US history and ensured weeks or months more of bruising battle for the right to face John McCain, who clinched the Republican mantle Tuesday… McCain… capped an amazing comeback after his campaign had looked dead and buried in mid-2007, crippled by overspending and infighting that led to an exodus of top aides. But now, McCain can enjoy laying out his lines of attack for the November election while watching the Democrats fight tooth and nail.

“The Arizona senator promised to combat Islamic extremism, keep the US economy open to world trade and lower taxes if elected the successor to George W. Bush, whose blessing he was to receive at the White House on Wednesday… His victories Tuesday took McCain, a Vietnam war hero distrusted by many conservatives for his maverick stance on issues such as immigration, over the Republican finish line of 1,191 delegates. His last remaining challenger, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, bowed out and pledged fealty to the Republicans’ new standard-bearer.”

German Viewpoint on U.S. Elections

Der Spiegel Online reported on March 6:

“Like the millions of others around the world who have been closely following the US presidential primaries, Germans are troubled by the results of Tuesday’s primary votes in Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island. Like the candidates themselves, they are exhausted and were hoping for some clarity and resolution from the big day. But clarity is not to be had, and the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will go on… Going by a recent poll by public broadcaster ARD, two-thirds of Germans skew Democratic in their preference for the next American president. A new survey by pollster Forsa found that a slight majority would prefer to see Obama in the White House. And that leaves Germans a bit troubled at the moment, at least going by the editorial pages…

“The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes: ‘March 4, 2008 might just go down in US political history as the day Republican McCain won the vote to be the 44th president of the United States… With her three victories on Tuesday, Clinton has shown that her aggressive campaign against Obama has paid off. And, so, she will stay in the race… Her absurd suggestion that they could share a ticket– with her on top — is nothing but pure cynicism and won’t fool anyone. Her desire for a mud-slinging contest is irrepressible’…

“The financial daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘After three months of election marathoning, the existence of two formidable and almost equally popular candidates has thrown the Democrats into a real predicament. For the Republicans — with their own “comeback kid” in John McCain — this is a fortunate coincidence.'”

Anti-Americanism on the Rise in Europe

Der Spiegel Online wrote on March 3:

“As credit woes endanger the world economy, they’re giving Europeans another reason to resent US influence. Anti-Americanism was already simmering because of the Iraq war, dislike for President George W. Bush, and mistrust of rampaging buyout firms. Now, Europe’s pundits and politicians are feeding public perceptions that ordinary folks will be left paying the bill for the financial missteps of big banks…

“It’s always hard to measure the practical impact of anti-Americanism on US businesses abroad. But this latest outburst could have repercussions…The atmosphere gets even more charged with actions such as the EC’s record $1.3 billion (€857 million) fine against Microsoft on Feb. 27.

“As popular European attitudes against the American and British brand of capitalism harden, governments may tilt left (it’s already happening in Germany) and economic nationalism will get a boost, as it has in France. The resulting backlash could make it harder for US firms to make acquisitions in Europe, and high-risk, high-reward financial products from Wall Street will be ferociously scrutinized. And as Europe’s Left uses anti-business sentiment to press for an advantage, it will be much harder for companies to restructure or negotiate globally competitive wages.

“In recent years, Europeans have grudgingly accepted US-style reforms as necessary to compete in the global economy… But even as economic growth surged and unemployment plummeted, many people felt the benefits went mostly to the wealthy — who critics say failed to pay their fair share of taxes. Suspicion of the rich runs deep in Europe, where labor leaders and left-leaning politicians still speak the language of class warfare. Of course, Europe’s elites are doing plenty on their own to bring the moneyed classes into disrepute. Many of the tactics that led to the subprime crisis were cooked up in London, and European banks such as UBS were among the most avid buyers of the loans. France has Jérôme Kerviel, the trader blamed for $7 billion in losses at Société Générale. And German police have been raiding the homes of people suspected of hiding assets in Liechtenstein.”

Europeans Expect U.S. Actions Regarding Weak Dollar

The EUObserver reported on March 5:

“EU finance ministers and the head of the European Commission have voiced concern over the record strength of the euro against the US dollar, in comments aimed at the US authorities rather than the monetary policy of the eurozone’s central bank. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso admitted to journalists at a Brussels conference on Tuesday (4 March) that the rise of the common currency against the dollar is a ‘matter of concern in some sectors of our economy’… The strong euro is harmful for European exporters, particularly for French and German producers, although it also weakens the negative effect of high oil prices – which are calculated in dollars – for Europeans.

“While keeping firm on the importance of the independence of the European Central Bank (ECB) and its monetary decisions, Mr [Jean-Claude] Juncker, [the Luxembourg leader and the eurogroup chief,] suggested that Europe expects US authorities to act towards boosting the dollar, as earlier suggested by US Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson. ‘As we have done before, we have noted comments made by the US authorities who have reaffirmed that a strong dollar is in the interest of the US economy,’ said Mr Juncker.”

On March 6, The Associated Press added:

“The dollar’s plunge continued unabated Thursday, striking record lows after the European Central Bank kept its benchmark rate on hold and the U.S. released another batch of dour economic reports. The euro fetched a record $1.5370 in European morning trading before falling back to $1.5360. The European currency closed at $1.5262 Wednesday. Meanwhile, the British pound broke through $2 again after the Bank of England also decided to keep its key refinancing rate unchanged at 5.25 percent… The latest record for the euro drew a new round of criticism in Europe, particularly from trade unions worried about exports to the U.S… European Union businesses said they were starting to feel the pinch, too, notably from U.S.-based buyers who pay for goods from Europe.”

Airbus Over Boeing to Replace U.S. Air Force Tankers

CNN reported on March 1, 2008:

“The U.S. Air Force on Friday announced one of the largest military acquisition programs in U.S. history, saying the service had chosen Northrop Grumman over Boeing to replace its aging air refueling tanker fleet… The announcement was a surprise to many in the business industry who expected Boeing [a U.S. company] to be favored over the company, which will use a European company’s airframe, Airbus, for the tanker. The $40 billion deal to start replacing 179 tankers — known as the KC-45A program — will expand to over $100 billion to replace the entire fleet of almost 500 planes.

“… one lawmaker called the decision to award the contract to Northrop Grumman a blow to the American defense industry and an economic boon for European countries. ‘These are the same European governments who are unwilling to support us in the global war on terror and over the last few months refused to provide even an additional 100 soldiers apiece for Afghanistan operations,’ said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California. ‘Instead, we have to send 3,200 additional U.S. Marines to Afghanistan while they take $35 billion in American taxpayer contracts.’

“The contract to replace the aging fleet of air refueling tankers was mired in corruption and political wrangling for years. In 2004, Congress, led by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, banned the Air Force from working out a lease and purchase deal with Boeing after a federal investigation uncovered improprieties at the highest levels of the Air Force procurement process. Critics also complained that Boeing was awarded the contract without competition and that the deal was a bailout for the 767 program, which was facing slumping sales.

“Congress forced the Air Force to start a new contract bidding plan that allowed Airbus to compete for the contract. Pentagon officials said the losing company could protest and ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate the decision, which would delay the program again.”

Britain to Ratify Lisbon Treaty

The EUObserver wrote on March 6:

“The UK’s parliament has rejected a call for referendum on the new EU’s Lisbon treaty, a move representing a victory for Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown which has argued in the face of bitter opposition that there should not be a public poll… The Lisbon treaty was signed by EU leaders in December 2007 and it must be ratified by all the bloc’s member states before taking into force. Most countries have opted for a parliamentary ratification, with only Ireland due to hold a referendum on the issue, probably in June… Britain is now expected to ratify the treaty by the summer. So far, five countries have given the green light to the document: Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, France, and Romania.”

Joerg Haider vs. “Islamization” in Austria…

DPA (German Press Agency) reported on March 4:

“Austrian rightist Joerg Haider on Tuesday demanded measures against creeping Islamization of the country, including bans of headscarves and the construction of mosques.

“‘We must not tolerate any longer that radical Islamists mock the rule of law in our country and ignore our values and dominant culture,’ said Haider, who led the right-wing Freedom Party (FP) to become Austria’s second strongest party and now is governor of the southern Austrian province Carinthia. Haider demanded that immigrants must adapt to the ‘Leitkultur,’ a term which translates as dominant, or defining culture.

“‘Those who live here, have to adapt to our dominant culture and accept the rule of law. Who cannot or does not want to do this, has no place here,’ Austria’s formerly dominating right-wing figure said in a press release. Following the refusal of a female defendant in an Islamist terrorism trial to remove her burka as required by Austrian law, Haider suggested a headscarf-ban ‘following the Dutch example.’ The Netherlands’ general ban on cloaking was an example worth following, Haider said, as it was a way to ban wearing Muslim headscarves or burkas in accordance with the Dutch constitution, Haider said.

“The former FP-leader and founder of a Alliance for Austria’s Future, a rivalling rightist party, also suggested extending a ban on the construction of mosques, introduced in the southern province of Carinthia last month, to all of Austria.”

… While Harvard Supports U.S. “Islamization”

The Associated Press reported on March 4:

“In a test of Harvard’s famed open-mindedness, the university has banned men from one of its gyms for a few hours a week to accommodate Muslim women who say it offends their sense of modesty to exercise in front of the opposite sex. The policy is already unpopular with many on campus, including some women who consider it sexist… The trial policy went into effect Feb. 4, about a month after a group of six Muslim women, with the support of the Harvard College Women’s Center, asked the university for the special hours, spokesman Robert Mitchell said.

“‘We get special requests from religious groups all the time and we try to honor them whenever possible,’ he said, noting that the school has designated spaces for Muslim and Hindu students to pray. No men are allowed in the gym between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Mondays, and between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Even the staff during those times is all women.

“The special hours allow the Muslim women, who adhere to traditional dress codes by covering their hair and most of their skin while in public, to dress more appropriately for exercising, said Susan Marine, director of the women’s center. ‘It’s a pretty big breach of their moral and religious code for a man to see them with their hair uncovered and it’s just not possible for them to be in a mixed environment,’ she said.”

… And the Pope Is to Host a Summit With Muslims

AFP wrote on March 5:

“Pope Benedict XVI will host a ground-breaking ‘summit’ of Catholic and Muslim leaders in November, the Vatican said Wednesday. The ‘Catholic-Muslim Forum’ from November 4 to 6, will bring together 24 dignitaries from each faith on the theme of ‘love God, love your neighbour,’ it said… The statement was signed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican council for dialogue between religions, and Sheikh Hakim Mourad, who led a delegation of Muslim officials in talks in the Vatican on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Vatican Secretary of State… has underlined the pontiff’s ‘complete willingness’ to meet with Muslim leaders ‘to see what unites us, without minimising or ignoring our differences.'”

The World’s Insane Military Spending

BBC News reported on March 4

“The Beijing government has announced a 17.6% rise in its defence budget, meaning it will spend about 417.8bn yuan ($59bn; £30bn) over the next year… In a report released just before Beijing announced its budget, the US Defense Department estimated China’s military spending in 2007 at between $97bn and $139bn – more than double the figure given by Beijing…

“Not including the cost of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, US President George W Bush recently asked for a budget of $515bn for the next fiscal year. According to recent figures, the US spends more than 4% of its GDP on defence…

“In cash terms, the UK government admits to being the next biggest spender on defence, setting aside $64.7bn for the next year. This accounts for 2.5% of the GDP.

“Beijing’s official figures put its spending about on a par with France – although if the Pentagon’s figures are correct, China has the second-biggest defence budget in the world…

“The BBC’s world affairs correspondent… says the US is determined to maintain its position as a major Pacific power, while Beijing seems equally determined to assert what it sees as its rightful place on the world stage. He says both sides know that China has the greatest potential of any country to challenge US military power in the long term. It is a fluid and edgy regional strategic dynamic that also sucks in the other big Asian powers – like Russia, Japan and India…”

The sad lesson of history is that man’s weapons WILL BE USED. And the Bible confirms that another all-encompassing WORLD WAR IS A CERTAINTY. Man’s greed and lust for power, inspired by the god of this present age–Satan the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4)–will bring this world to the brink of utter destruction. And then–but not before then–Jesus Christ WILL intervene and save mankind from total annihilation (Matthew 24:21-22, 30-31). Then HE and “the saints” will rule (Revelation 20:4, Daniel 7:27)–replacing Satan and incompetent human world leaders and power-hungry politicians with faithful and true godly leadership, DESTROYING all weapons and establishing PEACE on this earth (Isaiah 2:1-4)–something this world has not experienced for about 6,000 years.

How Foolish–Jewish Professor Claims Moses Was On Drugs

Did you think you have heard it all? Then be prepared for another surprise. A Jewish professor postulated that Moses was “on drugs” when he saw the burning bush or when he heard God speak to him on Mount Sinai. One wonders how absolutely “foolish” some “educated” minds of this world have become (compare 1 Corinthians 1:20; 3:19). Read it for yourself.

AFP reported on March 4:

“High on Mount Sinai, Moses was on psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments, an Israeli researcher claimed in a study published this week. Such mind-altering substances formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times, Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy.

“‘As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don’t believe, or a legend, which I don’t believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics,’ Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday. Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the ‘burning bush,’ suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances…

“He mentioned his own experience when he used ayahuasca, a powerful psychotropic plant, during a religious ceremony in Brazil’s Amazon forest in 1991. ‘I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations,’ Shanon said. He said the psychedelic effects of ayahuasca were comparable to those produced by concoctions based on bark of the acacia tree, that is frequently mentioned in the Bible.”

Let us ask this facetious question: Are we sure that the professor was not on drugs when he came to his conclusions regarding Moses? The sad part is, some may even believe his nonsense.

At the time of Jesus, some did not believe Moses, even though they claimed that they did. It is therefore no surprise that some Jews today disbelieve the inspired account of Moses, as recorded in Scripture. Notice Christ’s challenging words to the Jews at His time: “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you–Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? (John 5:45-47).

Here is the conclusion of the matter, as God inspired Paul to write: “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3:1-4).

Spielberg’s Fascination with the Occult, Ghosts and UFOs

TechCrunch, a Weblog founded in June of 2005, reported the following on March 4:

“Hollywood super producer Steven Spielberg is preparing to launch a new social network, we’ve heard from multiple sources. The focus will be on users who’ve had or who are interested in sharing paranormal and extraterrestrial experiences. The new social network may also have original video content investigating alleged ghost and UFO stories.

“Spielberg has always had a love for ghost and UFO stories. His movies include Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Poltergeist (1982), E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Casper (1995), Men in Black (1997), The Haunting (1999), War of the Worlds (2005) and the upcoming Interstellar (2009). His first movie, at 16, was a 140-minute science fiction adventure called Firelight (which later inspired Close Encounters). Add to those titles a score of other sci-fi movies.

“Spielberg has apparently had at least one paranormal experience himself. There are stories of him staying in a hotel called Excelsior House and being so frightened by ghosts that he fled the room and moved 20 miles away. We’ve also heard anecdotes about Spielberg seeing the ghost of a dead relative repeatedly as a child. Whether based in reality or the product of an exceptional imagination, these experiences may have had an impact on his life’s work and this upcoming social network.”

Helpless Against Vultures

An interesting article was published on March 5 by LocalNews.com:

“Residents in a Polk County community [in Florida] are demanding help in getting rid of vultures that are ripping shingles off rooftops and chewing rubber linings of car doors and windows. City officials said little can be done about the hundreds of black and turkey vultures because they are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. City Attorney Sean Parker said vultures have additional protection under a bird-sanctuary ordinance adopted by Bartow in the 1950s. Officials said scaring off the vultures could be considered a violation and could result in fees of up to $500 a day.”

No Public Cussing in March

The Associated Press reported on March 6 about South Pasadena:

“This community on the edge of Los Angeles has become a cuss-free zone. So if you’re headed to South Pasadena this week, be sure to turn down the volume on that Snoop Dogg CD, and, if the little old lady from Pasadena cuts you off in traffic, don’t even think about flipping her the bird. Not that police will slap cuffs on you… in light of the proclamation passed Wednesday by the City Council. But you could be shamed into better behavior by the unsettling glares of residents who take their reputation for civility seriously… The proclamation will be in effect until Friday, and then the first week of every March hereafter… what’s different about the latest push to stop saying in public [objectionable] words… is that it was proposed by a 14-year-old boy.”

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Please explain Jesus' sayings in Mark 9:43-48.

This particular passage has caused great confusion for many readers, and has prompted some Christians to adopt wrong and unbiblical teachings.

This is what Jesus said in Mark 9:43-48:

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched–where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’ And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched–where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’ And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire–where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'”

This passage raises numerous areas, requiring clarification:

(1) What “life” is Christ referring to?
(2) Are we to literally cut off our hands and feet and pluck out our eyes when they “cause” us to sin?
(3) What is the fire that shall never be quenched?; and
(4) Why do their worms not die?

Let’s review these questions one at a time.

(1) “Enter into Life”

Christ is referring here to ETERNAL life, equating it in Mark 9:47 with entering the KINGDOM OF GOD. We find similar phraseology in Matthew 19:16-30. There, a rich man asked Christ how to enter “ETERNAL life” (Matthew 19:16). Christ answered in verse 17: “… if you want to enter into LIFE [obviously referring to ETERNAL life–that was the question of the rich man], keep the commandments.”

When the rich man revealed his unwillingness to keep ALL of God’s commandments, including the one against idolatry, Christ said, “… it is hard for a rich man to enter the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” (verse 23), identifying it later as the KINGDOM OF GOD (verse 24). And finally, in verse 29, He emphasized that He was speaking of inheriting ETERNAL LIFE. He showed thereby that “entering into life” means, inheriting ETERNAL life in the Kingdom of God.

What did He mean, when He said that we should cut off our hands and feet and pluck out our eyes, if they cause us to sin, and that it is better to enter into life maimed, lame and blind, than to “go to hell”?

(2) Cut Off Your Hand and Feet and Pluck Out Your Eye

We have to state very emphatically that Christ did NOT mean this in a literal way. If it were to be understood literally, then no Christian would enter life with two feet, two eyes or two hands, as ALL Christians have sinned and still sin, and not only once (compare Romans 7:15-16, 24; 1 John 1:8-10). We should also note that sin originates in the mind (James 1:14-15). Even a maimed, lame or blind person can and does still sin. The Lamsa Bible explains that the expressions “plucking out your right eye” and “cutting off your right hand” (compare Matthew 5:29, 30) are Aramaic idioms, meaning “stop envying” [with your eyes] and “stop stealing” [with your hands]. [Likewise, the Lamsa Bible explains that the phrase “turn your cheek,” as used in Matthew 5:39, is another Aramaic idiom, meaning, “Do not start a quarrel or a fight.”]

The Nelson Study Bible adds: “Cut it off should be taken figuratively; it means to take whatever drastic action is necessary to avoid sin.”

The Broadman Bible Commentary points out: “… if what you desire to do, or the places you long to frequent, or the things you are greedy to possess… would entice you into a path departing from the way [of life]… whatever sacrifice is necessary must be made. This is no command for mutilation of the body. But there cannot be two masters in life; either you ‘deny yourself’ and accept a new master (‘follow me’) or you lose your [eternal] life.”

What Christ was referring to was the need to cease using our members in the practice of sinful conduct. For example, He warns His disciples not to look at a married woman with evil thoughts, as this constitutes adultery in the eyes of God. Coveting our neighbor’s possessions already constitutes using our hands in committing theft in the eyes of God, and hating our fellow man already constitutes murder in God’s eyes–using our feet to walk on an evil path. We read in Colossians 3:5, 8, that we have to put to death our “members,” which are then described as including fornication, evil desire, covetousness, anger, malice and lying. Paul says in Romans 6:13, not to “present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but… as instruments of righteousness to God.”

James warns us that our tongue is a little member which must be controlled (James 3:5), lest it causes irreparable harm. And finally, he states in James 4:1 that “wars and fights come from… your desires for pleasure that war in your members.”

Jesus was using certain members of our bodies (foot, hand and eye) to illustrate the principle that a Christian must strive to eradicate sin in his life–even if it means, breaking a sinful HABIT which may be as painful to overcome as perhaps losing a foot, a hand or an eye. But Christ said it is better to forgo the passing pleasures of sin (compare Hebrews 11:25)–even if it “hurts”–than to be cast into hell fire.

What did Christ mean when He talked about “hell fire that shall never be quenched”?

(3) Unquenchable Hell Fire

The Greek for “hell” in the phrase “hell fire” is “Gehenna.” Gehenna, which designates the valley of Hinnom, is located outside Jerusalem. Trash, animal carcasses and even the dead bodies of criminals were thrown into that fire to be burned up. Jesus applied the concept of that Gehenna fire to the fire awaiting the wicked to destroy them. That fire is referred to in many places as the “lake of fire” or the second or final death (compare Revelation 20:14). The wicked will be thrown into that “hell fire” to be burned up and destroyed–they will not be tortured for ever and ever. The act of their extinction will occur with sudden finality, and the wicked will quickly perish with only a brief comprehension of their empty fate!

The Nelson Study Bible states: “The imagery of hell (frequently called gehenna) comes from a garbage dump outside the walls of Jerusalem. Jesus’ hearers were familiar with the smoldering fires that always burned there.”

For further information on the concept of “hell” or “Gehenna,” please read our free booklets, “Do You Have an Immortal Soul?” and “God’s Commanded Holy Days,” as well as our Update #194, “Do the Wicked Go to Hell?”, Update #195, “Revelation 14:11”; and Update #196, “Revelation 20:11.”

But why did Christ say that the fire would not be quenched? Does this “hell fire” burn forever?

Note that Jesus does not say that the fire will burn forever, and that it will never go out. He said that it would not and could not be “quenched”–that is, nobody would (be able to) put it out as long as there was fuel to keep it burning. Once there is no more fuel, it will cease to burn.

The same terminology is used throughout the Bible for fire–or God’s wrath burning like a fire–but this does not mean that that fire or the wrath of God will burn forever. It burns as long as there is reason or “fuel” to burn. Note Jeremiah 4:4: “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, And take away the foreskins of your hearts, You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My fury come forth like fire, And burn so that no one can quench it, Because of the evil of your doings.” Compare, too, Jeremiah 21:12 and Amos 5:6.

But we also read that God’s wrath, even though no one can quench it, will not “burn” forever. Psalm 30:5 says: “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life.” And Micah 7:18 adds: “He does NOT retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy.”

God uses the same terminology of “unquenchable fire” for the ancient destruction of Jerusalem at the time of Jeremiah. We read God’s words in Jeremiah 17:27: “But if you will not heed Me to hallow the Sabbath day, such as not carrying a burden when entering the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.”

We read that this prophecy came to pass in the days of King Zedekiah of Judah, when King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem under his captain Nebuzaradan. We read in 2 Kings 25:9 that he “burned the house of the LORD and the king’s house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire.”

But that fire is not burning any more today. Jerusalem was rebuilt. It existed at the time of Jesus. The fire was never quenched, that is, deliberately put out, but it went out on its own when there was no longer any fuel to keep it burning.

The same is true for the Gehenna fire–the lake of fire. We read that it will ultimately engulf and burn up the surface of the entire earth–we are told that “both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). In fact, even the “heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat” (verse 12). But after that, God will create “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (verse 13). At that time, there will be no more burning lake of fire, because nothing will exist anymore which needs to be burned. Revelation 21:4 tells us that at that time, there will be “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain.”

For more information on the new heavens and the new earth, please read our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World.”

The Gehenna fire will apparently be burning throughout the time of the Millennium, the Great White Throne Judgment and the Third and Final Resurrection to “damnation” or “the final destruction” of the wicked. Why does Jesus say that during that time, the worms of the wicked will not die?

(4) Their Worms Won’t Die

Again, Christ uses language pertaining to the fire of Hinnom, which was burning outside Jerusalem, to illustrate a point. When some animal or body of dead criminals caught on the ledges below the rim, it would be devoured by “worms” or maggots. However, the maggots would not live forever–they would develop into flies. Those flies would deposit new eggs, and maggots would hatch from these eggs, eat the flesh, continue in the larval form for a few days, go through a metamorphosis and emerge as flies. Nothing would exterminate the maggots–as nothing or no one would extinguish or quench the fire. But without fuel to burn or without flies to deposit new eggs, the fire would go out and maggots would cease to develop. Technically, Christ’s point is well taken, as maggots in fact did not die–they developed into flies–which would ultimately die. But His spiritual application is much more telling: The fate of the unrepentant wicked is inescapable. As no one quenched the fire or prevented maggots from developing into flies, so no one can change the fate of the unrepentant sinner.

Jesus quoted from a future prophecy in Isaiah 66:24, which says: “And they shall go forth and look Upon the CORPSES of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, And their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” Please note that the “worms” or maggots are those developing on the corpses of dead people–they are NOT the dead people themselves.

The Broadman Bible Commentary agrees, stating as follows: “Hell with its unquenchable fire is ‘Gehenna’… Gehenna historically was a valley at the western edge of Jerusalem. Used at one time by worshippers of Molech as a place where their sons or daughters were offered in sacrifice, the valley was defiled during King Josiah’s religious reformation… Since that time it had been used as a dump for all kinds of refuse. Therefore it was correctly described as a place where maggots continually fed and multiplied (‘their worm does not die’) and where fire was always smoldering (‘the fire is not quenched.’).”

In conclusion, Christ’s statement in Mark 9:43-48 is a warning to all of us. He cautions us to be very careful about how we live–and to break any sinful habits which we might have–even if that process hurts and is painful. If we are neglectful in our efforts to overcome sin, we might end up in the lake of fire. We are told in Hebrews 2:1-3: “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we NEGLECT so great a salvation.” Again, we read in Hebrews 4:11: “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” And finally, note this warning in Hebrews 10:26-27: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and FIERY indignation which will DEVOUR the adversaries.”

Therefore, as we are admonished to do, “… be even more diligent to make your call and election SURE… for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the EVERLASTING KINGDOM of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

A new StandingWatch program (#159) has been posted on Standing Watch, Google Video and YouTube. It is titled, “What’s Wrong With Our Presidential Elections?” In the program, Norbert Link points out that millions of dollars are being spent to support a candidate who is “uniquely qualified” to become the next U.S. President, while other candidates are not–so we are told. What is being missed in all this hype of Presidential election campaigns and debates? What is going on in the world, while Americans are glued to their TV sets to absorb every last bit of information evolving around the Presidential elections? Most importantly, how does God feel about all of this?

This week, we sent out a new member letter together with our new booklet, “The Sacrificial System and the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.” In the member letter, Rene Messier encourages all of us to examine ourselves thoroughly at this time of year, and he discusses potential areas for individual self-evaluation.

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by Simon Akl

Recently, in one of my Health Science classes on Epidemiology, I was shocked by some of the statements made by my teacher. We were discussing how religious-based lifestyles can promote better health.  The concept of clean and unclean foods given in the Bible came up.  The teacher explained that there were clear health benefits from abstaining from unclean foods.  He explained why pork and other sea creatures were bad for our health and were known to promote certain diseases.  However, he ended by saying that such health hazards were now outdated and no longer needed to be followed.  Later in the discussion, I was even more surprised when he stated how in the past the Catholic Church had modified their teachings in order to incorporate more predominantly pagan celebrations.  I could not believe how aware he was of this information and yet continued to follow their false teachings and customs. 

On a different occasion, in a conversation with my school secretary, she also stated how so many teachings had been changed by the Catholic Church.  She knew about their pagan roots, yet chose to still follow them.  Even when the truth is plain and clear, people still find ways to be deceived by Satan and his evil works.  Though it is sad to see others being deceived, it helps me to realize how truly blessed I am to be a part of God’s calling, and how thankful I ought to be to have been given the ability to resist Satan and his deception.

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How This Work is Financed

This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.

Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.

While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

United States: Church of the Eternal God, P.O. Box 270519, San Diego, CA 92198

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

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

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