Update 379


"The Interview and the Job," and "The Ninth Commandment"

On Saturday, January 31, 2009, Kalon Mitchell and Michael Link will give split sermons, titled, respectively, “The Interview and the Job,” and “The Ninth Commandment.”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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Are YOU Converted?

by Dave Harris

Is our conversion to be measured by a series of actions we took at the very beginning periods of our calling? Is conversion something neatly tucked away— along with learning about the truth of God and being baptized?

If we are judged by our conduct, by our actions with family, friends, neighbors and—especially—our brethren, do our actions rise to the level of being truly converted?

Have you noticed a theme over the past several weeks in sermons, sermonettes and our written materials that deals with inter-personal relationships within the Church of God? That has not come about by accident! Rather, we have addressed problems that need to be taken seriously and very, very personally!

It would seem that the prevailing view and reaction is that this is certainly needed. But how many of us really apply these admonitions as personal correction? And how many of us implement the changes that we need to make?

Throughout both the best of times and the worst of times in the history of the Church of God, friction between people arises. It has, and it will again! This is a kind of thermometer—or, a litmus test—of our conversion in action. If we have not made it a point to stay mindful of valiantly struggling to walk as Jesus Christ walked, learning to think as He thinks, then we are doomed to fall back to our own personal likes and dislikes—to our own unconverted way of viewing and treating others; however, we are warned to not become entangled in these former ways once we have begun to live in the newness of conversion as Christians (Compare 2 Peter 2:18-22).

As we should know and as we have been reminded, what we do to others and how we treat them measures our conversion. Jesus Christ is the One doing this evaluation, and He, in no uncertain terms, warns us that our actions towards others is exactly how He views our treatment of Himself!

Shame on us if we refuse to humble ourselves and begin to love one another, as we ought! And shame on us if our own actions should cause someone to ask, “Are YOU converted”?

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News Overview in Light of Bible Prophecy

The already strained relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community reached a new low over the Pope’s decision to welcome back an anti-Semitic Bishop who denied the Holocaust. The Catholic Church also sharply criticized President Obama for his recent decisions to allow stem-cell research and provide funds for abortion. In the USA, the Obama mania seems to have no end, but dark clouds are on the horizons of Afghanistan and Pakistan; as well as the ever-worsening economy in the USA and Great Britain [with frightening parallels being pointed out between the ever-increasing inflation of the US dollar and the German Reichsmark during the Weimar Republic]; the unresolved Guantanamo Bay situation; controversial comments by the Obama administration regarding white construction workers; and Mr. Obama’s failure to obtain bipartisan support for his unpopular $819 billion economic stimulus package [which has grown in the Senate to $888 billion] might soon bring idolizing supporters, as well as the entire country, back to the level of reality.

The situation surrounding the war in Gaza is still very volatile, as the fragile cease fire was broken this week. Lasting peace appears impossible to achieve. The EU continues to consider the possibility of getting involved militarily, while the world continues to condemn a seemingly indifferent Israel for its actions.

The Bible predicts that the USA and Great Britain will lose their status as influential world powers, facing destruction from the outside and within. Likewise, the state of Israel will be hated by all nations. Scripture is very clear that the EU will intervene in the Middle East, apparently motivated by a desire to bring peace to the region; to protect religious artifacts; and to guarantee unhindered access, religious and otherwise, to the city of Jerusalem. In support of Arab communities and to avoid a further escalation, the EU will prohibit sacrifices which the Jewish people will have begun in the city. However, that “confederation” between the EU and Arab nations will not last. Ultimately, outright war will thrust the region into utter chaos and devastation.

For more information, please read our free booklets, “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America,” “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord” and “Europe in Prophecy”.

Catholic Church “Infuriates” Jews

The Guardian wrote on January 25:

“[Pope] Benedict yesterday welcomed back into the Roman Catholic Church Richard Williamson and three other men who were excommunicated in 1988 after being ordained without Vatican permission. The three had been appointed by breakaway French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The Vatican decree issued yesterday spoke of overcoming the ‘scandal of divisiveness’ and seeking reconciliation with Lefebvre’s conservative order, the Society of Saint Pius X, which opposes the modernisation of Catholic doctrine.

“But Jewish groups have warned the Pope that the decision could damage Catholic-Jewish relations after Williamson claimed in an interview, broadcast last week, that historical evidence ‘is hugely against six million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler … I believe there were no gas chambers’… Williamson added he realised he could go to jail for Holocaust denial in Germany…

“Relations between the Vatican and Jewish groups are already strained by the row over Pope Pius XII, who was pontiff during the second world war, and is being considered by the Vatican for beatification. He is accused by some historians and Jewish leaders of failing to speak out against the Holocaust. Israeli officials recently protested when a senior cardinal said Israel’s offensive in Gaza had turned it into a ‘big concentration camp’.

“It is not the first controversy for Benedict. His decision to allow freer use of the old Latin mass, including a Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews, caused widespread anger…”

The Time wrote on January 24:

“The bishop [Williamson]… has been accused of anti-Semitism in the past… The French Jewish organization CRIF called Williamson ‘a despicable liar whose only goal is to revive the centuries-old hatred against Jews.’..

“A senior Vatican official told TIME that the Pope is expected to make the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), the name Lefebvre followers call their movement, into a personal prelature of the papacy, the same special status that conservative lay group Opus Dei was granted by John Paul II… Benedict’s decision marks a watershed. Following on the Pope’s 2007 decision to widen use of the old Latin rite mass, the rapprochement with the traditionalist faction appears to be a purely papal initiative…

“Some will hail Benedict as a bold defender of the rights of traditionalist Catholics and a man of conviction unbent by the winds of controversy; but others, both inside and outside the Church, will take his embrace of the Lefebvre followers as the final proof that Benedict, deep down, is determined to make the Church far more traditional than it is today.”

Welt On Line wrote on January 25:

“While lifting excommunications that had barred them from the Roman Catholic Church left many internal questions open, there was no doubt it has provoked what some are calling the biggest setback in Catholic-Jewish relations in half a century.

“Israel-based Rabbi David Rosen, head of inter-religious affairs for the American Jewish Committee and a leading figure in decades of dialogue with the Vatican, said:

“‘The late Pope John Paul II called anti-Semitism a sin against God and man. The denial of the overwhelmingly detailed documentation of the Shoah (Holocaust) is anti-Semitism at its most blatant…’ Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, spoke of ‘an act of moral debasement unworthy of a moral institution’…”

Outrageously Dangerous Opinions by Bishop Williamson

Arutz Daily Israel Report wrote on January 25:

“Williamson is a Holocaust denier, and has repeatedly said that the gas chambers did not exist and that no more than 300,000 Jews were killed during World War II, mostly of starvation. In addition, Williamson has declared that the Jews are plotting to take over the world, and that the U.S. and Israel were behind 9/11. In an interview with Swedish television conducted last November but broadcast last week, Williamson said that he believed that there were ‘no gas chambers. Between 200,000-300,000 perished in Nazi concentration camps, but not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber,’ he said…

“Williamson has had a long history of Holocaust denial. In a 1989 sermon in Sherbrooke, Canada, Williamson said that ‘there was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies. The Jews created the Holocaust so we would prostrate ourselves on our knees before them and approve of their new State of Israel… Jews made up the Holocaust, Protestants get their orders from the devil, and the Vatican has sold its soul to liberalism.’ In dozens of sermons and letters, [Williamson] reiterated the same theme, adding that Hitler ‘liberated’ Germany from the Jews.

“[Williamson] advocates a return to the Middle Ages, with the Inquisition the preferred model of the Catholic relationship to Jews. ‘As Catholic faith goes up, so Jewish power goes down, while as Catholic faith goes down, so Jewish power goes up. In the Catholic Middle Ages, the Jews were relatively impotent to harm Christendom. But as Catholics have grown over the centuries weaker and weaker in the faith, especially since Vatican II, so the Jews have come closer and closer to fulfilling their substitute-Messianic drive towards world dominion… When Spanish Catholics were truly Catholic, God granted them by 1492 to reconquer Spain from the Arabs, and then granted them to create a Catholic empire in the Americas.'”

German Press’ Reactions

Der Spiegel Online reported on January 26 about the German press’ reaction to Bishop Williamson’s embrace by the Catholic Church:

“German papers on Monday argue that the pope is ruining decades of work aimed at improving relations between Jews and Catholics… Meanwhile in Germany, the vice president of the Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, has accused the pope of an ‘incomprehensible act of provocation.’ Speaking to the Handelsblatt newspaper on Sunday, Graumann said: ‘The fact that it is of all things a German pope who conjured up this new ice age between Jews and the Catholic Church … that is something particularly painful, astonishing and deplorable’…

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘The pope’s reconciliation with an offensive anti-Semite is shocking… With the rehabilitation of the bishop, Benedict XVI is sabotaging the Christian-Jewish dialogue…’

“The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: ‘… it remains a mystery why the pope is now making such concessions to the fanatical opponents of the Second Vatican Council, that he is making a mockery of his predecessor John Paul II’s insistence on obedience to the teachings of the church and to the pope…'”

Catholics Concerned About Pope’s Decision

Catholics are shocked, too, about the decision of the Pope to rehabilitate Bishop Williamson. NPR wrote on January 26:

“John Allen, a senior correspondent with the National Catholic Reporter, says, at least in the short term, the decision is a ‘catastrophe [and a ‘disaster’] in terms of Catholic-Jewish relations… a lot of even moderate and even some conservative Catholics would look at this as symbolic of a kind of course change in Catholicism.’

“The traditionalist Lefebvrites reject celebrating Mass in languages other than Latin, Allen says, and they oppose moves the church has made to recognize religious freedom and the separation of church and state, as well as to promote unity with other religions.”

German Jews Cut Contact with Catholic Church

Der Spiegel Online reported on January 29:

“Pope Benedict XVI these days is doing his best to calm waters roughened by his recent decision to bring Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson back into the fold. At his Wednesday audience at the Vatican, Benedict went out of his way to express ‘full and indisputable solidarity’ with Jews and explicitly condemned those who would deny the Holocaust…

“Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said she was breaking off contact with the Catholic Church. ‘Under such conditions, there will be no further dialogue between myself and the church… I am not dealing here with people who don’t know what they are doing,’ she continued. ‘The pope is one of the most educated and most intelligent people in the Catholic Church. Every word that he says, he means.’…”

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Severs Vatican Ties

USA Today wrote on January 29:

“Israel’s chief rabbinate severed ties with the Vatican on Wednesday…

“The Jewish state’s highest religious authority sent a letter to the Holy See expressing ‘sorrow and pain’ at the papal decision. ‘It will be very difficult for the chief rabbinate of Israel to continue its dialogue with the Vatican as before,’ the letter said. Chief rabbis of both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews were parties to the letter…

“The rabbinate and the state of Israel have separate ties with the Vatican, and Wednesday’s move does not affect state relations.”

Catholic Church Disappointed with “Arrogant” President Obama

AFP reported on January 24:

“A senior Vatican official on Saturday attacked US President Barack Obama for ‘arrogance’ for overturning a ban on state funding for family-planning groups that carry out or facilitate abortions overseas.

“It is ‘the arrogance of someone who believes they are right, in signing a decree which will open the door to abortion and thus to the destruction of human life,’ Archbishop Rino Fisichella was quoted as saying… Fisichella is president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, one of a number of so-called pontifical academies which are formed by or under the direction of the Holy See…”

The Associated Press added on January 24:

“Fisichella said in an interview… that ‘if this is one of President Obama’s first acts, I have to say, in all due respect, that we’re heading quickly toward disappointment.’…

“‘This deals a harsh blow not only to us Catholics but to all the people across the world who fight against the slaughter of innocents that is carried out with the abortion,’ another top official with the Academy for Life, Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, [said]… ‘Among the many good things that he could have done, Barack Obama instead chose the worst,’ he was quoted as saying Saturday.”

Prior to Mr. Obama’s signing the controversial bill on abortion, the Catholic Church had warned him not to do so. As NPR wrote on January 18:

“Less than a week after the presidential election, the Vatican’s top health official, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, warned the President-elect that it’s unethical to give the green light to embryonic stem-cell research [which Mr. Obama did subsequently]. Even tougher words came from Cardinal James Francis Stafford, head of a Vatican court and one of the highest ranking Americans at the Vatican. The Cardinal said in a speech at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. that Obama’s statements on abortion reflect ‘an agenda and vision that are aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic.’

“Now, the Vatican’s number one concern is that Obama may sign a proposed Freedom of Choice Act [which he did, see article above] that would invalidate any state laws that place restrictions on abortions. A senior Vatican official told Time Magazine that ‘would be the equivalent of a war.’

“And this is not the only potential clash. Just last month, the Vatican issued a wide-ranging document on bioethics that forcefully condemned not only embryonic stem-cell research, but also artificial fertilization, and it declared that the morning-after pill falls within the ‘sin of abortion.’ A few days earlier, the Vatican opposed the United Nations declarations against discrimination of homosexuals and for the rights of the disabled on the grounds that they could be seen as sanctioning gay marriage and abortion.”

Attack on White Labor by Obama Administration?

Associated Content reported on January 22:

“Families of white, male construction workers may want to pay attention: Robert Reich [22nd secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton] has opined that the Obama stimulus funds allocated to businesses in the construction industry should be withheld specifically from white men… While it is comforting that in the audio clip Mr. Reich is quick to disclose that he has ‘nothing against while male construction workers,’ the fact that he does not want stimulus generated jobs to go to ‘white male construction workers’ is gravely disconcerting. Even more alarming is the fact that Barack Obama has remained mum about the opinions expressed by his economic adviser.

“Would there have been an outcry has Mr. Reich suggested keeping the stimulus funds from being spent on ‘black male construction workers’ or ‘undocumented alien construction workers?’ Maybe it would have made waves had he opined on ‘Jewish construction workers’ or ‘female construction workers?’ As it stands, it would appear that Robert Reich has declared open season on white males.”

President Obama’s Troubles with Afghanistan…

The Associated Press reported on January 25:

“President Hamid Karzai condemned a U.S. operation he said killed 16 Afghan civilians, while hundreds of villagers denounced the American military during an angry demonstration Sunday… Karzai’s latest criticism follows a Saturday raid in Laghman province that the U.S. says killed 15 armed militants, including a woman with an RPG, but that Afghan officials say killed civilians. Two women and three children were among the 16 dead civilians, Karzai said in a statement…

“Civilian deaths are an extremely complicated issue in Afghanistan. Afghan villagers have been known to exaggerate civilian death claims in order to receive more compensation from the U.S. military, and officials have said that insurgents sometimes force villagers to make false death claims. But the U.S. military has also been known to not fully acknowledge when it killed civilians.”

… and with Pakistan…

Welt on Line reported on January 25:

“U.S. drones fired missiles into Pakistan late on Friday killing 17 people, intelligence officials and residents said, in the first such strike since Barack Obama became U.S. president. These missile attacks on Islamist militants in Pakistan do not help its efforts in the U.S.-led campaign against militancy, a spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari said on Sunday… There was no sign Friday’s strikes hit any of al Qaeda’s top leadership…

“Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said it hoped the new U.S. administration would review the policy, although during his election campaign Obama had spoken of strikes into Pakistan if the Pakistani military was unwilling or unable to tackle militant targets… Pakistani authorities said the drone attacks, which sometimes kill villagers, enrage Pashtun tribesmen and drive them into the arms of the militants…”

Ordering to Close Guantanamo Bay Prison Just the “Easy Part”

AFP reported on January 24:

“Two men released from the US ‘war on terror’ prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have appeared in a video posted on a jihadist website… One of the two former inmates, a Saudi man… has been elevated to the senior ranks of Al-Qaeda in Yemen… The Defense Department has said as many as 61 former Guantanamo detainees — about 11 percent of 520 detainees transferred from the detention center and released — are believed to have returned to the fight.

“The latest case highlights the risk the new US administration faces as it moves to empty Guantanamo of its remaining 245 prisoners and close the controversial detention camp within a year.”

U.S. Economy in Deeper Trouble Than Realized

Bloomberg reported on January 24:

“First Centennial Bank of Redlands, California, was seized by a state regulator, the third U.S. bank to fail this year, as the recession deepens and the slump in the housing industry sends home foreclosures to records…

“Regulators closed 25 banks last year, the most since 1993, draining money from the FDIC deposit insurance fund… National Bank of Commerce in Berkeley, Illinois, and Bank of Clark County in Vancouver, Washington, were shuttered by regulators on Jan. 16…

“More than 2.3 million U.S. properties got a default or auction notice, or were seized by lenders… The FDIC classified 171 banks as ‘problem’ in the third quarter, a 46 percent jump from the second quarter, and said industry earnings fell 94 percent to $1.73 billion from the previous year. The agency doesn’t identify problem banks by name.

“The largest institution to fail in U.S. history, Washington Mutual, was sold to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Sept. 25 after customers drained $16.7 billion in deposits in less than two weeks. Wachovia Corp. was near failure before being bought by Wells Fargo & Co. for $12.7 billion.”

2009–Another Miserable Year for U.S. Employees

The Associated Press reported on January 27:

“Rising unemployment spared no state last month, and 2009 is shaping up as another miserable year for workers from coast to coast. Jobless rates for December hit double digits in Michigan and Rhode Island… With tens of thousands of layoffs announced this week by well-known employers such as Pfizer Inc., Caterpillar Inc. and Home Depot Inc., the unemployment picture is bound to get worse in every region of the country, economists say. ‘We won’t see a light at the end of the tunnel until 2010,’ said Anthony Sabino, a professor of law and business at St. John’s University.

“The number of newly laid off Americans filing claims for state unemployment benefits has soared to 589,000, while people continuing to draw claims climbed to 4.6 million, the government said last week. There’s been such a crush that resources in New York, California and other states have run dry, forcing them to tap the federal government for money to keep paying unemployment benefits…

“In 2008, the country lost 2.6 million jobs, and in 2009 at least 2 million more jobs are forecast to disappear… The U.S. has been mired in a recession since December 2007. It is on track to be the longest downturn since World War II.”

Is California Being “Terminated”?

ABC News reported on January 27:

“… tax refunds are now on hold in California for the first time in state history… the controller’s office estimates that a combined 2.74 million California individuals and businesses will have their tax refund delayed [which is hoped to] free up $1.99 billion over the next month to pay for education, debt service, and other payments that legally have first claim to state funds.

“California has had no money in its general fund for the past 17 months, and has been paying its bills by borrowing from Wall Street and special internal funds. If the state’s legislators and governor do not reach a budget agreement that brings immediate funds into the state’s coffers, the state’s borrowed funds will be entirely exhausted at the end of February, according to the controller’s office.”

Even though Governor Schwarzenegger (“the Terminator”) came to power in California due to a recall procedure, based on the concept that he could restore a sound economy to the state, it is clear that his ambitions have failed miserably.

New $819 Billion Economic Recovery Plan Only Approved by Most Democrats

USA Today reported on January 28:

“The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives quickly approved President Obama’s $819 billion economic recovery plan Wednesday. The vote was 244-188, mostly along party lines… The vote sent the bill to the Senate [and according to press releases, has now reached a figure of $888 billion]… Democratic leaders have pledged to have legislation ready for Obama’s signature by mid-February… No Republicans supported the measure. Eleven Democrats opposed it. The vote was Obama’s first test of the bipartisanship he pledged in his campaign.”

Obviously, this test has failed!

Broken Bank Bailout–Are We in Trouble!!!!

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 29:

“New Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner is exploring the creation of a government-funded ‘bad bank’ to buy up mortgage-backed securities and other troubled assets from banks in hopes of boosting their capital levels so they can begin lending again… Ultimately… Administration officials believe they could need up to $2 trillion.

“Fixing the banks will almost certainly require far more than $700 billion in TARP funds. Goldman Sachs analyst Andrew Tilton figures U.S. financial institutions will suffer more than $1 trillion in loan losses — about half of which have been recognized so far. The problem isn’t only with residential mortgages. Add in commercial real estate and other poorly performing loan categories, and the banks may hold some $5 trillion in ‘troubled assets’ on their books, he says.

“New York University’s bearish economics professor, Nouriel Roubini, estimates that additional private and public capital of $1 trillion to $1.4 trillion will be needed to recapitalize the banks…

“Prying more money out of Congress for expanded bank bailouts will be tough. Yet it’s hard to see the economy recovering without healthy banks. Getting there won’t come cheap.”

UK Economy Worse Than Great Depression in 1939?

The Telegraph wrote on January 25:

“Britain is heading for economic depression for the first time since the 1930s, economists have warned… They said the current crisis will be of a scale to rival the biggest peace-time crisis in modern history — the Great Depression… The news sent the pound sliding to its lowest level since 1985… Confirmation that the economy has entered recession capped a week in which Gordon Brown was forced to announce a new £350 billion bank rescue plan. Unemployment has almost reached two million…

“Britain is likely to suffer more than other economies due to its heavy reliance on the financial services sector, which has all but imploded in the wake of the economic crisis, experts said.

“Others raised the spectre of an outright economic depression, often defined by experts as a peak-to-trough economic contraction of 10 per cent. Aside from the demobilisation periods following the First and Second World Wars, this kind of contraction has never taken place — not even in the 1930s’ Great Depression.”

German Economy–How Bad Is It Really?

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 22:

“The German economy may shrink by as much as 2.25 percent this year, warns Economics Minister Glos. But there is some cause for optimism. Despite the deepest recession since World War II, the country could see positive quarterly growth before the year is out…

“Germany, which makes up about a third of economic output among those countries belonging to the single currency, the euro, could see a return to positive growth as early as April and keep growing for the remainder of the year, the government said…”

A less optimistic picture was painted by Der Spiegel Online in an article, dated January 23, quoting from several German newspapers and magazines:

“The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“‘The (German government’s) rescue operations have so far not brought the desired results. The banks have been plugging up their worst holes with billions of euros of taxpayers’ money, but their losses have been growing even faster. Meanwhile complaints from companies about increasingly restrictive lending practices are growing louder. Obviously the banks can not be helped just with money alone…

“The financial daily Handelsblatt writes:

“‘It is not easy to say this loudly and clearly: The German banks are on the edge of the abyss. This is the painful truth, and nothing but the truth…’

“The conservative Die Welt writes:

“‘Taken as a whole, (Germany’s) financial institutions have dead weight to the tune of hundreds — or even thousands — of billions on their balance sheets. This problem can not be solved simply by sitting it out — action needs to be taken now so that the economic crisis is not exacerbated…'”

European Troops in the Middle East?

The Associated Press reported on January 24:

“French troops, Turkish monitors, British ships, German tunnel detectors, European radar equipment — officials say all these options are being weighed as they try to cement the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas… Potential obstacles include divisions within Europe over how robust an international border control presence should be, Western discord over how to deal with Hamas, and Egypt’s resistance to a foreign military presence on its soil…

“France is pressing other European allies and Egypt to consider an armed border force, possibly under European Union or United Nations auspices… British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also offered Britain’s Royal Navy to help interdict arms shipments bound for Hamas.”

Smuggle of Arms for Hamas through Tunnels Still Ongoing

The JC.com added on January 22:

“The Egyptian regime is still enabling Bedouin smugglers to use the tunnels under their border with the Gaza Strip to transfer arms to Hamas… Despite announcements by senior Egyptian officials that they would clamp down on the smuggling, local Bedouin traders are still offering — even after the Gaza ceasefire — to smuggle goods and people under the border.

“These were the tunnels that enabled Hamas and the other Palestinian organisations to bring through materials to manufacture the missiles fired on Israel. Longer-range Grad and anti-aircraft missiles are also taken through the tunnels, as are regular consignments of marijuana grown in Sinai, destined for the Israeli market…  the smuggling never ceased during the past three weeks, despite the heavy bombardment by the Israeli Air Force of buildings on the Palestinian side of Rafah, suspected of hiding tunnel entrances.

“In one case, a group of German doctors who arrived to treat Palestinian wounded were smuggled through a tunnel, eyes blindfolded so they would not be able to reveal the location. ‘A lot of tunnels were destroyed,’ said one Bedouin active in the smuggling business, ‘but the deeper ones that are well shored up are still standing’…

“‘The only thing that will stop the tunnel business is a full opening of the crossings,’ said one Bedouin. ‘But even that won’t stop the arms smuggling. There will still be ways to put arms on the lorries going through the crossings and to bribe the guards.’”

Worldwide Anger Against Israel

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 22:

“Israelis do not understand a world that reproaches them for what they have done in the Gaza Strip. They brush aside concerns about civilian [casualties] and stories about Palestinian suffering are relegated to the back pages… The number of dead, wounded and homeless runs into the thousands — and all of this happened less than an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv. But no one in Israel seems to be talking much about the consequences of the war against Hamas. Thoughts about the upcoming elections on Feb. 10 push away those about the moral issues involved with military action. There is no public discourse about the ethical boundaries soldiers and officers should have observed. Nobody asks how many children it was acceptable to sacrifice in Gaza in order to save the life of one Israeli soldier. No one wants to know about the question of who is responsible for taking care of Gaza’s homeless and refugees.

“This silence worries Gadi Baltiansky, director general of the Geneva Initiative, a large Israeli peace organization advocating a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It troubles him that his country is so indifferent to the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza…

“During the war, Yedioth Ahronoth, the country’s most influential newspaper, reported each new expansion of the offensive in bold headlines, while at the same time relegating stories about the suffering of Palestinians to the back pages — as if the latter were somehow irrelevant. In any case, the Israeli media weighted the events in Gaza differently than Western newspapers and TV stations. For example, Israeli readers had to wait until page seven of Yedioth Ahronoth to find reports about the Israeli military’s shelling of a United Nations-run school. In the European and American media, on the other hand, reports about the incident were given far greater prominence.

“With Israel facing global condemnation and with the possibility of war crimes trials, the Israelis are concerned about the legal pitfalls that might lie ahead for its government ministers and military officers. Many people do not understand what the world wants them to do and dismiss the criticisms, saying: ‘As usual, everyone is turning against us again.’ A full 82 percent of Israeli citizens say they do not believe that Israel acted with disproportionate violence in Gaza. That might explain why they don’t understand how the images and reports coming out of Gaza could create a wave of empathy for Palestinians — and anger toward the Israelis — around the world…

“Palestinians are not completely blameless when it comes to rising indifference to Palestinian suffering among Israeli youths. Seeking to explain Israeli public sentiment, peace activist Baltiansky says: ‘The suicide bombers who brought insecurity to Israeli cities during the second intifada have hardened Israeli society. Why should we show restraint when Palestinians sacrifice their children for suicide attacks and send them against us?'”

Turkey Angry with Israel

Reuters reported on January 29:

“Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan stormed out of a debate on the Middle East at the World Economic Forum on Thursday, saying he might never return to the annual gathering of the rich and powerful. Israel’s President Shimon Peres had launched a fiery defense of his country’s assault on Gaza over the past month and, with a raised voice and pointed finger, questioned what Erdogan would do if rockets were fired at Istanbul every night.

“As the debate… was ending, Erdogan was cut short as he tried to respond. ‘I don’t think I will come back to Davos because you don’t let me speak,’ the Turkish prime minister said, as he stood up and walked out of the conference hall in the Swiss ski resort…

“Turkey’s state-run Anatolian news agency quoted Erdogan as saying to Peres: ‘When it comes to killing you know very well how to kill. I know very well how you killed children on the beaches.'”

And the War Goes On…

BBC reported on January 27:

“Israel has carried out an air attack in Gaza and sent tanks into the Strip, after Palestinian militants killed an Israeli soldier… It was the worst violence in Gaza since Israel’s offensive against Hamas ended with both sides declaring ceasefires… An Israeli soldier on patrol in a vehicle was killed by an explosive device deliberately planted on Israel’s side of the border near the Kissufim crossing, prompting troops to open fire into Gaza.

“The explosion was filmed by the militants, as was gun fire and a grenade blast. Three soldiers were injured in the attack. Israeli troops fired into the Gaza Strip in retaliation, as a result of which Palestinian officials said a farmer was killed. Heavy fighting was reported in Khan Younis, south of the Kissufim crossing, and many people had fled their homes.”

The Associated Press added on January 28:

“President Barack Obama’s new Mideast envoy sought Wednesday to boost a 10-day-old Gaza cease-fire that was thrown into turmoil, as Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza smuggling tunnels in retaliation for a Palestinian bombing that killed a soldier… U.S. envoy George Mitchell said it was ‘critical’ that the cease-fire be extended and consolidated… But the new violence cast a shadow over Mitchell’s arrival.

“The flare-up is the worst since Israel and Hamas separately declared cease-fires on Jan. 18 to end a three-week Israeli offensive against the Palestinian militant group in the Gaza Strip. Since withdrawing its troops, Israel has threatened to retaliate hard for any violations of the informal truce. Reflecting the seriousness of the situation, Defense Minister Ehud Barak canceled a planned trip to Washington this week to stay home and deal with the crisis…”

UPI added on January 29:

“Eight Palestinians, including children, were wounded Thursday when an Israeli airstrike hit a vehicle in Khan Yunis in Gaza, Palestinian officials said. The strike targeted Mahmoud Hamdan Samiri, a Khan Yunis resident Israeli authorities said was involved in the terror cell behind Tuesday’s attack at the Kissufim crossing in which an Israeli soldier was killed and three others were wounded, The Jerusalem Post reported.”

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Did the Roman Catholic Church Canonize the New Testament?

When we read certain historical books, we may find something like the following narrative, as adopted from sources published on the Internet:

The process of canonization was complex and lengthy. In the first three centuries of the Christian Church, there was no New Testament canon that was universally recognized. Nevertheless, by the 2nd century there was a common collection of letters and gospels that a majority of church leaders considered authoritative. These contained the four gospels and many of the letters of Paul. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian (all 2nd century), held these to be on par with the Hebrew Scriptures as being divinely inspired. Other books were held in high esteem, but were gradually relegated to the status of New Testament apocrypha.

In about 170 AD, Irenaeus cited 23 of the 27 New Testament books, omitting only Philemon, James, 2 Peter and 3 John. The Muratorian fragment, written about the same time, attests to the widespread use of all the New Testament books except Hebrews, James, 1 Peter and 2 Peter.

However, other church fathers had already cited those omitted books in various writings defending against Gnostic doctrines. The Codex Barococcio from 206 AD includes 64 of the 66 books of today’s Bible. Esther and Revelation were omitted, but they had already been declared as inspired scripture by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian and the Muratorian Canon. In 230 AD, Origen declared that all Christians acknowledged as scripture the four Gospels, Acts, the epistles of Paul, 1 Peter, 1 John and Revelation.

By the early 300’s, all of the New Testament books were being used in the mainstream church body. The New Testament canon as it is now, including all 27 books, was first listed by St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in 367, in a letter written to his churches in Egypt. The Synod of Hippo (393 AD) and the third Synod of Carthage (397 AD) also recognized these 27 books as canonical. In addition, during this time, the highly influential church fathers, Jerome (340-420 AD) and Augustine (354-430 AD) published their lists of 27 books completing the New Testament.

Certain books continued to be questioned, especially James and Revelation. As late as the 16th century, theologian and reformer Martin Luther questioned (but in the end did not reject) the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Book of Revelation. Today, German-language Luther Bibles are printed with these four books at the end of the canon.

Even many of those who claim that the canonization of the New Testament books took place, as described above, admit that the recognition of the sanctity of Scripture was not the result of any pronouncement by Roman Catholic Church officials in the late fourth century. Rather, they clarify that the canon was determined by the authoritative use of these books by the first and second century church. It is claimed that the New Testament canon was merely a process of formal recognition of already recognized Scripture.

We do not believe that God gave the Roman Catholic Church the task to decide which books of the New Testament were inspired and should be included. Even though it RECOGNIZED their inspiration at a later date, the “canonization” took place much earlier–that is, in the lifetime of the apostles Peter, Paul and John (compare our Q&A in Update 374, discussing the completeness of the Bible).

In 2 Timothy 4:13, Paul asked Timothy to “bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.” This appears to be a reference to letters which Paul had written, and which he wanted to be preserved. The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown states:

“He was anxious respecting these that he might transmit [the books] to the faithful, so that they might have the teaching of his writings when he should be gone… ‘especially the parchments’ — containing perhaps some of his inspired Epistles themselves.”

In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter considered the letters of Paul, which can be found in the New Testament, as part of the Scriptures. He also stated in 2 Peter 1:15 that he was anxious to ensure that the brethren would “always have a reminder of these things after my decease,” referring to his death. He went on to explain in 2 Peter 1:18, in regard to the transfiguration on the mount, that “we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” Only three apostles were on the holy mountain when Christ was transfigured and when, in that vision, Elijah and Moses appeared. These disciples were Peter, John and James. By the time of Peter’s writing, James had died, and only John and Peter were still alive.

Peter continued, in verse 19, that “we have the sure word of prophecy” (Authorized Version). The use of the word “we” would have to be a reference to Peter and John. It would be Peter and John who preserved and would leave behind the inspired “word of prophecy” or “inspired writings”–the word “prophecy” can also refer to inspired preaching. Peter said that John and he had, or possessed, the inspired writings–the New Testament. This referred to the writings of the New Testament which were already in existence at that time, but it also allowed for those writings, which would still be added by the apostle John, before his death.

At the time of Peter’s writing, Paul had died, and Peter spoke of Paul’s letters as “Scripture,” showing that they were recognized as such. Who recognized them? Obviously, Paul must have recognized them before his death, and subsequently, they were recognized by the last remaining two original apostles, Peter and John, and they did so under godly inspiration.

After Peter’s death, John survived as the last of the early apostles. Before he died, he wrote the gospel of John, the three letters of John, and the book of Revelation, which concluded the sacred writings of the New Testament.

That the book of Revelation was meant to be the last and final book of the New Testament can be seen by its very claims. We read in Revelation 22:18: “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book.”

In other words, those would have to face God’s punishment who would claim that additional future writings should become part of the inspired Scriptures of the New Testament. We also read in verse 19 that punishment would befall those who would try to take away from the words of the book of Revelation–who would claim that portions of the book of Revelation, or the entire book, was not inspired.

We have every reason to believe that the books of the New Testament, as we have them today, were recognized as inspired by the apostles Paul, Peter and John, as they were guided by the Holy Spirit. And as we explained in the Q&A in Update 377 on the Preservation of the New Testament, God saw to it that the New Testament books would be preserved, as He also preserved the sacred writings of the Old Testament.

Jesus Christ Himself promised that God would ensure that His Word would be preserved for all eternity. He said in Matthew 5:18: “… one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

Peter explained that “the word of the LORD endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25). Paul instructed Titus to only ordain an elder if he would hold “fast the faithful word as he has been taught” (Titus 1:9), expecting, of course, that “the word” would be preserved. Jude challenged the brethren to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Again, true brethren were asked to stand up for the faith which had been taught and preserved in the sacred writings.

We read that God’s end-time disciples would keep His Word (Revelation 3:8)–which requires that God’s Word had been preserved and would be available in the end time. In fact, some, living in the end time, would even be killed for keeping the Word of God (Revelation 20:4).

Jesus is the personified Word of God (Revelation 19:13; John 1:1, 14; 1 John 1:1). As He is still alive today, so He made sure that His written Word–the entire Bible–would stay ALIVE as well. After all, the Word of God is “LIVING and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12).

Who canonized the New Testament? It was God, but He inspired His apostles Paul, Peter and John to pronounce the decision which books and letters should be considered as sacred and infallible. And so, God ultimately used the apostle John to canonize the writings of the New Testament.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

New StandingWatch program and sermons in English and German

A new StandingWatch program was posted on StandingWatch, GoogleVideo and YouTube. It is titled, “Israel Lost the Gaza War against Hamas!”

Norbert Link points out in the program that in spite of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s declaration of victory, many commentators and news analysts have concluded that Israel was defeated. Why is this? Will American President Barack Obama’s announced efforts to bring peace to the Middle East have any lasting success? Who will become the most important nation to get involved in the Middle East–a nation which the Arab countries are waiting for? It is not the USA! The answer might surprise you.

A German version of the above-mentioned program (“Israels Verlorener Krieg”) was posted on YouTube and our German Website.

Norbert Link’s video-recorded sermon, “Poetry in the Hebrew Bible,” which was given on January 24, 2009, has been posted on our Website and on Google Video

A new German sermon (“Hat Jesus das Fleisch Unreiner Tiere Gereinigt?”), dealing with the question whether Jesus purified all unclean animals to make them fit for human consumption, was recorded this week to be posted soon on Google Video and our German Website.

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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

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