Update 426


Why Prophecy?

On January 9, 2010, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “Why Prophecy?”

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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by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

The word “conformity” can have both good and bad connotations. It is defined as “similarity in form or character; agreement; action or behavior in correspondence with socially accepted standards, conventions, rules, or laws.”

The world has just kept some of its festivals, and many have conformed to keeping Christmas and New Year because of peer pressure; not wanting to upset children, parents or family; or because it was a good excuse for a few days off work with, in many cases, riotous and wanton celebration.

Of course, there were those who kept those days moderately and in good conscience–although they were “sincerely wrong”–but even such people are becoming the minority, as the supposedly religious “Christian” aspect fades from view for the majority.

Had many not spent lavishly at the end of the year, businesses who rely on this trade may have been put out of business and that could have exacerbated an already fragile economic situation. But that was not the reason that people spent; it was simply what they wanted to do.

People conform for all sorts of selfish and personal reasons: Wanting to belong; not wanting to be ostracized in their society; wanting to be seen at various functions or with organizations; attending church because it’s the “thing to do” especially at Christmas and Easter; and so on. This conformity is something with which a true Christian must not be involved.

However, conformity can be a good thing when channeled the right way. I am referring to conformity to the Way of God, conformity to His Word and conformity to His Commandments (compare Romans 12:2). This is not self-seeking, but a humble approach to the One Who gives us every breath we breathe.

Conformity to God and His Way is totally opposite to the conformity that this world practices, particularly at the time of the year that has just passed. When we conform, let us be in line with our God and not in tune with what the world expects of us. Then we will always be in a winning situation!

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We begin with an article by Reuters, listing the possible economic and political crises we might be confronted with in 2010, and continue with several reports on Yemen which has been labeled as the “newest hotbed of international terrorism.” However, the sad truth is that Yemen is not really a “new” operation base for al-Qaida and other radical Islamist organizations. Rather, the USA and Western nations have been sleeping at the switch and ignoring the growing problems. Now, as the German media reports, there are no real solutions for dealing with the dilemma, and Yemen is accusing the USA of having created at least part of the debacle.

We then report on President Obama’s many challenges–all of them very dangerous, and none of them easily solvable. His appointment of a transgender as Senior Technical Advisor to the Commerce Department does not help and is not a light matter in the eyes of God Who condemns such practices in His Word. The lack of spiritual leadership in this country could also be seen in the willingness of the head of the nation’s evangelical non-denominational megachurches to give the opening prayer during the swearing-in ceremony of the new lesbian mayor of Houston.

While the Los Angeles Times states the opinion that the last decade was the worst in modern American history, Reuters feels that the prospects for any American recovery are extremely slim. We most certainly agree with this assessment in the light of biblical prophecy.

The discussion in Germany regarding the unpopular Afghan war was fueled again by statements from the head of the German Lutheran Church and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, pleading for an end to the war and withdrawal of all German troops–a move which would create further friction between the USA and Germany.

Turning to social issues, we quote from an article by the Telegraph, advocating occasional spanking of young children; speak on the terrible rise of the misuse of alcohol in Britain; explain the German pagan customs and demonic practices of New Year’s; and conclude with reports about the astonishing intelligence of dolphins.

This world’s conditions deteriorate with alarming speed, as man has rejected God! While the world believes in the Satanic concept of evolution and involves itself with Satanic rites, for instance on New Year’s, it rejects God Who has created animals and man–and Who has told us what to believe; how to live; and how to raise our children. Sadly, this world has it all backwards. It is high time that the light of God’s truth shines in this darkness (John 1:5), and that those, who have the light, make every effort to continue to believe and walk in it, lest darkness overtake them, as it has the rest of the world (John 12:35-36).

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Crises Loom for 2010

Reuters reported on January 4:

“For global markets, probably the main political risk would be one of the world’s more troubled economies defaulting or coming close to default on its sovereign debt… Worries over Dubai, Ukraine and Greece have all spilled over into global markets in the last month, and all three look set to remain under economic and political pressure in the coming year… Among those in the spotlight over public debt will be euro zone weak links Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain — dubbed insultingly the PIIGS — as well as non-euro Britain…

“A number of important elections loom this year, with U.S. mid-term congressional elections coming alongside likely changes of leadership in Britain and Brazil, as well as a host of votes in emerging Europe that could have wider consequences… Any signs Britain is heading towards a hung parliament will unsettle sterling…

“The United States and China are already by far the two most important countries in terms of political clout. In 2010, China is set to overtake Japan as the second-largest global economy… Pressure on China to allow the yuan to appreciate will become ever more intense in 2010 as economic storm clouds evaporate… Beijing will not want to jeopardise economic growth by letting the currency rise too quickly, and does not welcome being told what to do by Washington or the European Union… If President Barack Obama imposes more tariffs, under pressure from Congress and domestic industry, expect sparks to fly…

“Ongoing confrontation over Iran’s nuclear programme remains a risk, particularly for energy markets, and the situation is complicated by deepening domestic instability following last year’s disputed presidential election… North Korea continues to be dangerously unpredictable, with potential scenarios ranging for a war to the death of leader Kim Jong-il — an event that might prompt a reunification that could prove financially crippling for South Korea…

“Both Nigeria and Thailand could face market uncertainty over the health of their president and king respectively. Both were hospitalised in 2009. Analysts expect al Qaeda and its allies to try to spark conflict between nuclear-armed neighbours Pakistan and India… And Pakistan’s weak government, under threat on several fronts, may have its own reasons to focus popular anger on India.

“The attempted bombing of an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day shows that attacks on Western targets also remain a threat.”

The Yemen Debacle

Der Spiegel wrote on January 4:

“Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, [Yemen] is the place the latest generation of Islamist terrorists have chosen to make their ‘base’… In the US, the failed attack by the suspected bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on the Northwest Airlines flight has reawakened a fear of terrorism that had been painstakingly overcome. The focal point of this fear is no longer Afghanistan, where 68,000 US troops are stationed, or Iraq, with 120,000 US troops. Nor is it Pakistan, where it is assumed Osama bin Laden and the leadership of the old al-Qaida, are holed up. It is Yemen…

“Washington has been investing huge sums in military infrastructure in Yemen: In 2006 they provided the country with $11 million (€7.6 million) and by 2009 the sum had increased to $70 million (€48.5 million)…

“The more the Americans stepped up the pressure on al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the more attractive Yemen became as a place to retreat to. And even though many Islamist leaders were arrested in Yemen and others ended up in the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, the young Islamists kept coming in their droves, mainly from Africa and Southeast Asia. Hundreds of Somalis, Indonesians and Malaysians attended al-Zindani’s notorious Iman University in San’a and returned home as firebrand preachers. Yemen proved to be particularly useful for members of the Saudi Arabian branch of al-Qaida… Several members relocated to Yemen, including the two Guantanamo returnees…

“For Washington and the West, Yemen poses a challenge where all the possible courses of action are equally unattractive. Leaving the country to its own devices and its tribes could lead to a Somalia-style failed state. Increasing military operations and engaging more strongly in the fight against terrorism would, however, turn the population further against the US, as has happened in Pakistan.”

No Success in Yemen?

In an accompanying article, Der Spiegel Online stated on January 4:

“After the foiled attack on a US airliner, Yemen is suddenly the focus of the war on terror. As embassies shut and Yemeni security forces intensify their operations against al-Qaida, the US is doubling its counterterrorism aid to the impoverished country. German commentators, however, doubt that the West will be any more successful here than in Afghanistan…

“The United States, the United Kingdom and now France have taken the precaution of shutting their embassies in the Yemeni capital San’a, while US transport authorities have reacted by heightening security checks for passengers flying from 14 ‘terror linked’ countries on Monday. The foiled Dec. 25 attack may also have the knock-on effect of making it even more difficult to close the US detention center at Guantanomo, as half of the remaining inmates are from Yemen…

“Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, is friendly to [the] West, but its central government is weak outside the capital and it has a history of tolerating militants. Yemen was the site of the bombing of the USS Cole back in 2000 which killed 17 US sailors and an attack by al-Qaida on the US embassy back in 2008 killed one American…

“The conservative Die Welt writes: ‘The US public are now pretty upset to discover that for almost a decade their media, their intelligence agencies and their former President George W. Bush had ignored the strengthening terror network in Yemen…’

“The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes: ‘With its unstable societal and political structures, Yemen is very similar to Afghanistan. It is therefore hardly surprising that al-Qaida has shifted its base here following severe setbacks in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Yemen offers al-Qaida fighters a quasi natural headquarters on the Arabian peninsula… The US is reacting to this real threat by arming the central power in Yemen and by joining — still in a limited manner — the military fight against the Islamists. It is doubtful if this kind of war will be any more successful in Yemen than it has been in Afghanistan.’

“The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: ‘London and Washington want to arm the fragile government of President Saleh for the war against the terrorists. At the same time the Pentagon is honing in on targets for possible attacks by drones in the east of the country. However, just as they are in Afghanistan and Pakistan, America and the world are faced with a dilemma. The governments are too weak to take on the terrorists…'”

The Yemen Dilemma–“America Shares the Blame”

On January 4, Der Spiegel Online published the following comments by Yemeni Major General Jahja Abdullah:

“America also shares the blame for the al-Qaida danger: Washington built up the Islamic fighting units that were meant to bring the Soviets to their knees in Afghanistan during the Cold War. They were followed by the Taliban, al-Qaida and similar Islamic-aligned groups that are today fighting against America and the civilized world… In the north, the al-Qaida conspirators have taken advantage of the fighting between the army and the Houthis and taken the initiative themselves. But they are fighting against a sea of Yemeni people who hate them. Most of the militants aren’t even Yemeni citizens. We have captured some who come from Somalia and other African countries and even from Arabian brother countries — like Algeria and Libya, where things had gotten too difficult for them.

“… these bandits who falsely call themselves ‘defenders of Islam’ are being supported from outside of our borders — with weapons, money and propaganda… I am not referring to the Iranian government, but rather to ‘certain circles in Iran’ that have very much taken al-Qaida under their wings. We have come across ships in Yemen territorial waters with Iranian crews who were carrying weapons supplies. At the very least, the Iranian media have clearly sided with the rebels and they have portrayed the Houthis as having their own state. But it is no longer as easy to smuggle in goods and accomplices because the Saudi Arabian navy is providing our fleet with support in securing the Red Sea coast…

“A lot of militants definitely come from Somalia, which has spiralled out of control and where al-Qaida members are able to go into hiding with relative ease. And then they come across the sea to Yemen. Poverty, lack of opportunities, a distorted image of Islam, the disintegration of Iraq into bloody religious division — these are all factors that explain the continued survival and threat presented by violent Islamists… Our people — of all parties and faiths, and the opposition — have declared war on al-Qaida. No Yemeni will stand silently when extremists attack girls’ schools in Sanaa (the capital) and tear the legs off girls.

“… the destruction of the Iraqi state was a huge mistake. But to withdraw from Afghanistan now would be a catastrophe for the whole world, because al-Qaida will try to remain active there. The reports from news agencies confirm that every day. In Yemen, we need more support in the battle against militant Ultras at all levels. Those who aid Yemen are helping to defend the entire world against criminals disguised in religious clothes.”

President Obama’s Hopeless Challenges

The Financial Times wrote on January 3:

“Obama snowed under by his promises of action… national security has shot to the top of his to-do list with the attempted Christmas day terrorist attack and the holes in the US’s intelligence systems it exposed. His challenges in Afghanistan, meanwhile, deepened with a New Year’s day suicide attack that killed eight Central Intelligence Agency officers…

“The president’s desk was far from empty when he left Washington on Christmas eve – the healthcare reform legislation he wanted to sign before the end of 2009 still requires a lot of work, as does financial regulation, while the unemployment rate remains in double ­digits. This year Mr Obama will have to juggle two wars and a growing al-Qaeda threat against a slew of domestic tasks, all the while grappling with the reality that his political honeymoon is over…

“With so many pressing tasks on his agenda, the criticism of the president’s first year in office that he was trying to do too much at once looks set to be repeated… if the voting public perceive the president to be focusing too much on second-tier issues, even if they were presidential campaign pledges, he will be seen to be out of touch…

“‘What [Americans] are seeing is weakness, waff­ling, and wandering through the wilderness without an ideological compass,’ Drew Westen, professor at Emory University, wrote in a blog on the Huffington Post website. ‘That’s a recipe for going nowhere fast…'”

President Obama on the Defensive

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 7:

“President Barack Obama has slammed the ‘near-disastrous’ intelligence failures surrounding an attempted Christmas Day terror attack on a Northwest Airlines jetliner… A jury in Michigan on Wednesday indicted Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, on six counts for his bid to bomb the Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. The failed plot has raised a number of questions about the effectiveness of US security and intelligence. It has also put Obama firmly on the defensive.

“On Tuesday, Obama said that the review into the terrorist watch listing system had revealed ‘human and systemic failures.’ He said it showed that US intelligence agencies missed a series of alerts related to Abdulmutallab. The terror suspect was known to have extremist links, but was still able to board the plane. In addition, Obama has said that US intelligence agencies were aware that the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terror group aimed to attack targets in the United States over the holidays.

“Earlier this week, the US president summoned members of the security services to the White House and voiced his anger over their shortcomings. ‘The bottom line is this: The US government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack, but our intelligence community failed to connect those dots,’ he said. ‘This was not a failure to collect intelligence, it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had.’

“But German editorialists on Thursday asked whether Obama was too tardy in his reaction to the security debacle…

“SPIEGEL ONLINE Washington correspondent Gregor Peter Schmitz writes: ‘The images speak for themselves: Nearly a year after taking office, Obama has now become an anti-terrorist president. His spokesman Robert Gibbs already speaks of the “War on Terror,” as if George W. Bush were still in power. This speech leaves no doubt as to Obama’s determination… The only question which remains is whether his statement comes too late… Obama now must shake off this impression of mismanagement…’

“The left-wing Tageszeitung writes: ‘Barack Obama has never — not even during his electoral campaign — made a secret of the fact that he does not rule out war as a political tool. Otherwise he would not have been elected. Those in Europe who believed that his statement wasn’t serious, and was accompanied by a knowing wink towards the pacifists, only have themselves to blame. Military strength and the willingness to use it, are fundamental in the United States, which has not had territorial wars since the mid-19th century. You don’t have to like it, but ignoring this global political reality … reveals naivety. Whoever saw Obama as a prince of peace has made a mistake…’

“The business daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘All of a sudden President Barack Obama has presented himself as a determined fighter of terrorism… Obama has avoided dealing with the anti-terrorist theme for a year. Now it has caught up with him. Obama is facing the same issues as George W. Bush. But he has not come up with any new answers than those of his predecessor… Obama will only manage to restore confidence in the safety of the country if he succeeds in presenting a concept that is both efficient and lean. That is not an easy task given that the heads of the intelligence services often like to spend more time arguing than organizing the defense of their country. Following the recent debacle, Obama must realize that, alongside all his other problems, he now has a new issue to deal with — and urgently.'”

President Obama Appoints Transgender

ABC News reported on January 4:

“President Obama recently named Amanda Simpson to be a Senior Technical Advisor to the Commerce Department. In a statement, Simpson, a member of the National Center for Transgender Equality’s board of directors, said that ‘as one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, I hope that I will soon be one of hundreds, and that this appointment opens future opportunities for many others’…

“Simpson — a former test pilot who had worked for the company for more than a generation — transitioned from male to female and was instrumental in convincing the military contractor to add gender identity and expression to its equal employment opportunity policy. She later ran unsuccessfully for Congress and was a delegate for then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, to the Democratic National Convention in 2008.”

Where Are our Spiritual Leaders?

USA Today wrote on January 5:

“Annise Parker, the newly-elected happens-to-be-lesbian mayor of Houston was sworn in Monday and the opening prayer was given by … Rev. Joel Osteen. Is your head spinning? Osteen heads the nation’s most mega of evangelical non-denominational megachurches, Lakewood Church in Houston where about 45,000 people cycle through a revamped sports stadium for services every weekend.

“Osteen has been all over telling folks (Larry King, Whoopi Goldberg) for years that homosexuality is not ‘God’s best’… But ‘God’s best’ is a phrase Osteen never finishes…”

“It Was the Worst of Times”

The Lost Angeles Times wrote on January 2:

“The first decade of the 21st century saw the American dream slip further away from most Americans… No deceit was more malevolently corrosive than the fiction that this was a period of expansive prosperity in which significant numbers of our people were able to share in the American dream of financial security. All the triumphalist rhetoric emanating from Wall Street and the White House notwithstanding, this was — materially speaking — a disastrous decade for U.S. families.

“For the first time since World War II, according to the departments of Commerce and Labor, an average American’s net worth actually fell — by a whopping 13%. By way of comparison, and to demonstrate just how anomalous such a decline is, consider that net worth grew 44% in the 1990s; 35% in the 1980s; 12% in the 1970s (even with the Carter administration’s ‘stagflation’); 25% in the 1960s; and 26% in the 1950s.

“The employment picture was no better. Though the U.S. population has grown by 35 million since 2000, employment has increased just 0.5% over the last 10 years. For the first time since the federal government began keeping such statistics, the number of private sector jobs actually declined. (In both the 1980s and 1990s, employment grew by 20%, and in the 1960s it climbed by 31%.)

“Meanwhile, as the private sector’s flight from its pension obligations became virtually general, tens of millions of Americans were compelled to trust their retirements to the equity markets through 401(k) accounts. It was a bonanza for Wall Street, which raked in commissions and fees, and a disaster for working families, because the decade ended without any gains in the stock averages…

“Even though most American families had two working adults throughout the last decade, many had to borrow simply to maintain their standard of living. People maxed out their credit cards and tapped their home’s equity — something that proved catastrophic when the value of houses collapsed. With incomes and employment stagnant, families had nowhere to turn. Not so employers. While most lacked the managerial creativity to grow their businesses, they found a way to keep profits up by laying off huge numbers of people and simply working those who remained — too frightened to protest — harder…”

Bible prophecy has long predicted that in these end times, the American dream of prosperity will fade away. And as the next article indicates, the new decade will not bring us substantial recovery. For more information, please read our free booklet, “The Fall and Rise of Britain And America.”

U.S. Growth Prospects Deemed Bleak in New Decade

Reuters wrote on January 3:

“A dismal job market, a crippled real estate sector and hobbled banks will keep a lid on U.S. economic growth over the coming decade, some of the nation’s leading economists said on Sunday… Many predicted U.S. gross domestic product would expand less than 2 percent per year over the next 10 years. That stands in sharp contrast to the immediate aftermath of other steep economic downturns, which have usually elicited a growth surge in their wake…

“One reason is that U.S. consumers remain heavily indebted… Another is that many of the country’s largest banks are still largely dependent on funding from the U.S. Federal Reserve and the implicit backing of the Treasury Department. Kenneth Rogoff… of Harvard… cited government programs giving large financial institutions access to zero-cost borrowing as artificially padding their bottom lines.”

Germans Upset With Afghanistan War

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 4:

“The head of Germany’s Protestant church, Bishop Margot Kässmann… told the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper before Christmas: ‘Even by the broadest standards of the Protestant Church in Germany, this war cannot be justified and that the armed conflict must be ended as soon as possible.’ She also said that German troops should be withdrawn as soon as possible. [The] bishop repeated her view in a sermon on New Year’s Day and in an interview with the mass-circulation Bild newspaper on Monday…

“Opinion polls show most Germans agree with Kässmann that the troops should come home. But politicians from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right coalition government lined up to criticize her…

“Germany has over 4,200 troops in Afghanistan, the third-largest contingent in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The mission has become increasingly unpopular in Germany as violence has increased. Merkel’s second term has been dogged by controversy over Germany’s role in Afghanistan after a German-ordered air strike in September killed civilians. Merkel’s government has said it will wait to decide on whether to deploy more troops until after the international conference on Afghanistan in London at the end of January.

“Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle echoed the call for an exit strategy, telling newsweekly Focus in an interview published on Monday that the international Afghanistan conference should start the process of ‘handing over responsibility for security to Afghanistan from 2010 onwards.’ Westerwelle had said in an interview with Stern magazine last week that he may boycott the Jan. 28 conference if it focuses only on deploying more troops…

“The statement by Westerwelle… has highlighted divisions on Afghanistan in the German government. Philipp Missfelder, the foreign policy spokesman of the CDU’s parliamentary group, said: ‘I cannot imagine that the German foreign minister would boycott the Afghanistan conference, because Germany and France in [particular] have a special interest in the success of this conference and were among the initiators.’

“SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel said… Westerwelle was letting Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg take the lead in defining Germany’s foreign policy strategy. ‘That’s not in line with our constitution. We don’t want foreign policy to be militarized,’ Gabriel said.”

The Afghan War may prove to become one distinctive nail in the coffin of U.S.-German relationships.

God Knew It All Along…

The Telegraph wrote on January 3:

“A study found that youngsters smacked up to the age of six did better at school and were more optimistic about their lives than those never hit by their parents. They were also more likely to undertake voluntary work and keener to attend university, experts discovered. The research, conducted in the United States, is likely to anger children’s rights campaigners who have unsuccessfully fought to ban smacking in Britain. Currently, parents are allowed by law to mete out ‘reasonable chastisement’ on their children, providing smacking does not leave a mark or bruise. These limits were clarified in the 2004 Children’s Act.

“But children’s groups and MPs have argued that spanking is an outdated form of punishment that can cause long-term mental health problems. Marjorie Gunnoe, professor of psychology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said her study showed there was insufficient evidence to deny parents the freedom to determine how their children should be punished. She said: ‘The claims made for not spanking children fail to hold up…’

“Teenagers who had been hit by their parents from age seven to 11 were also found to be more successful at school than those not smacked but fared less well on some negative measures, such as getting involved in more fights. However, youngsters who claimed they were still being smacked scored worse than every other group across all the categories… The findings were rejected by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which has fought to ban smacking…”

Notwithstanding the “opinions” of God- and Bible-Defying “Experts” and “Psychologists,” the Holy Scriptures have much to say about proper child rearing, including the occasional need for spanking. For more information, please read our free booklet, “The Keys to Happy Marriages and Families.”

Britain Drowned in Alcohol

The Sun wrote on January 2:

“Experts reckon Brits got through a staggering £100 millions of booze as revellers drank pubs and clubs across the country dry – resulting in thousands being violently ill… In the West Midlands the Ambulance Service said they dealt with an emergency 999 call every nine seconds in the first three hours of 2010. Overall, New Year’s Day was the busiest in their history dealing with a staggering 1,418 calls…

“Overall, the cost of treating drunks has almost doubled in just five years, rising to £2.7billion in 2006/7 compared with £1.47billion in 2001/2.”

The book of Hosea has much to say about modern-day Britain, referred to in prophecy as Ephraim. Hosea 4:11 says that “harlotry, wine and new wine enslave the heart.”

Silvester or New Year’s–German Style

Netzeitung wrote on December 31:

“Silvester is the German name for New Year’s Eve – owing to the fourth century Pope Sylvester I. Eventually made a saint by the Catholic Church, his feast day is observed on December 31… Sylvester’s day became associated with New Year’s Eve with the reform of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, when the last day of the year was fixed at December 31. But despite the holiday’s Christian name, many German New Year’s traditions can be traced back to the pagan Rauhnächte practices of heathen Germanic tribes, which took place at the end of December and beginning of January.

“Instead of recognizing a single day as the winter solstice, the Germanic tribes observed twelve Rauhnächte – hairy nights, so called due to the furry forms of the deep winter demons – or Rauchnächte – smoky nights, due to the practice of smoking the spirits out of one’s house on January 5. Bringing very little sun to the northern regions, the twelve Rauhnächte were considered days outside of time, when the solar and lunar years were allowed to re-synchronise. Silvester took place right in the middle of the twelve Rauhnächte and was the night of the god Wotan’s wild hunt, a time of particular commotion and celebration.

“As in many other countries, the Germans celebrate Silvester with fireworks, champagne, and boisterous social gatherings. Making noise is key: the ruckus of fireworks, firecrackers, drums, whip-cracking and banging kitchen utensils has been driving away evil winter spirits since the days of the Germanic Teutons…

“Besides being a fun spectacle, the light of pyrotechnic displays also provides a surrogate sun during the dark Silvester night. Suffering the winter bleakness in their northern regions more than anyone, the Teutons feared that the sun, which they thought of as a wheel that rolled around the earth, was slowing to a stop during the darkest days of winter. Perhaps as a sign of protest, they lit wooden wheels on fire and sent them rolling down mountains and clubbed trees with flaming cudgels. These practices are likely forerunners to the Silvester firework tradition.

“The belief that the sun was slowing to a stop also led to the German tradition of doing no work on New Year’s Eve: everything should stand just as still on earth. Above all no one should do any laundry, because the god Wotan made his rounds with his army of devils for a wild hunt during Silvester and would be terribly angry if he got caught in any clotheslines.

“Because the twelve Rauhnächte – now associated with the twelve days of Christmas made famous by the partridge in a pear tree – were days outside of time, all manner of supernatural events were possible. Spirits of all sorts charged through the night, either embodying the horror of winter or chasing it away. These figures still emerge in the Perchtenläufen of the Alpine areas of Germany, when troll-like forms cavort about with bells to drive away winter. Perchtenläufen take place in different Alpine cities between Advent and January 5, the last of the Rauhnächte.

“The Rauhnächte were also a time when the future for the New Year could be divined. Silvester in Germany still calls for oracle traditions, which often take the form of party games. Bleigießen (lead pouring) is the most popular Silvester fortune-telling tradition. Party-goers melt small lead forms with a candle in an old spoon and pour them into cold water. The lead hardens into a shape that supposedly bears a certain meaning for the New Year… Other oracle traditions on Silvester include swinging a pendulous object, such as a necklace or watch, and asking it a yes-or-no question…

“For those who go out on Silvester, good luck charms and New Year’s greetings are often exchanged. Acquaintances may give good luck charms to each other in the form of ladybugs, four-leaf clovers, horseshoes and pigs…”

As can be seen, the origins of Silvester or New Year’s are thoroughly pagan and even demonic. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Is That in The Bible–Man’s Holidays or God’s Holy Days.”

Amazing Intelligence of Dolphins

Sunday Times wrote on January 3:

“Studies into dolphin behaviour have highlighted how similar their communications are to those of humans and that they are brighter than chimpanzees. These have been backed up by anatomical research showing that dolphin brains have many key features associated with high intelligence…

“Dolphins have long been recognised as among the most intelligent of animals but many researchers had placed them below chimps, which some studies have found can reach the intelligence levels of three-year-old children. Recently, however, a series of behavioural studies has suggested that dolphins, especially species such as the bottlenose, could be the brighter of the two. The studies show how dolphins have distinct personalities, a strong sense of self and can think about the future…

“In one study, Diana Reiss, professor of psychology at Hunter College, City University of New York, showed that bottlenose dolphins could recognise themselves in a mirror and use it to inspect various parts of their bodies, an ability that had been thought limited to humans and great apes. In another, she found that captive animals also had the ability to learn a rudimentary symbol-based language.

“Other research has shown dolphins can solve difficult problems, while those living in the wild co-operate in ways that imply complex social structures and a high level of emotional sophistication. In one recent case, a dolphin rescued from the wild was taught to tail-walk while recuperating for three weeks in a dolphinarium in Australia. After she was released, scientists were astonished to see the trick spreading among wild dolphins who had [learned] it from the former captive.

“There are many similar examples, such as the way dolphins living off Western Australia [learned] to hold sponges over their snouts to protect themselves when searching for spiny fish on the ocean floor.”

God created dolphins and apes with an animal spirit. This spirit is qualitatively different from the spirit of man, and of course from God’s Holy Spirit. However, these spirits explain, to an extent, certain abilities of animals and men; and the absence of the Holy Spirit in man also makes clear why unconverted people cannot understand godly truth. For more information on this highly intriguing and largely misunderstood topic, please read our free booklet, “The Theory of Evolution–a Fairy Tale for Adults.” 

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Could you explain the concept of "laying on of hands"?

The ceremony of “laying on of hands” is mentioned as one of the basic doctrines of God’s Church (Hebrews 6:2). However, when reading quite a few commentaries, the very existence of that doctrine is commonly denied–nor is there any understanding as to what this doctrine contains.

The “laying on of hands” is a symbolic act, setting individuals apart for God’s special intervention. Already in Old Testament times, it was understood as symbolizing the imparting of godly blessings (Genesis 48:13-20), His authority and spiritual power (Numbers 27:18; Deuteronomy 34:9). In New Testament times, especially after the establishment of the New Testament Church, the laying on of hands has been exclusively performed through God’s true ministers and serves to show that God works through His ministers.

The following sets forth several examples of laying on of hands, as practiced today by the Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates in Canada and Great Britain:

1) Baptism and Laying on of Hands

There is no promise in the Bible that since the foundation and establishment of the New Testament Church in 31 A.D., someone will receive the Holy Spirit without prior proper baptism as an adult–after repentance and belief in Christ’s Sacrifice–and the laying on of hands by God’s ordained ministers. This symbolic act sets the baptized person aside or sanctifies him or her for the divine purpose of receiving from God His Holy Spirit.

We stated the following in our Q&A on baptism through ordained ministers:

“The biblical record indicates that only ordained ministers of God should perform baptisms. The reason is that the baptism is done for the purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit. We need to remember that following baptism by immersing under water, the minister is to pray over the person and to lay his hands on their head so that the person can receive the Holy Spirit. The Bible shows that without the laying on of hands, a person normally does not receive the Holy Spirit.

“Notice this in Acts 8:12-17: ‘But when they believed Philip [one of the original seven deacons, Acts 6:5] as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized… Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He [better translated: it – the Holy Spirit, which is not a Person, but God’s POWER] had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit… Simon [Magus] saw that THROUGH THE LAYING ON OF THE APOSTLES’ HANDS the Holy Spirit was given…’ (Compare, too, Acts 19:5-6).”

2) Healing and Laying on of Hands

Luke 4:40 shows that Christ laid His hands on sick people when He healed them. We also find that only God’s ministers were given special authority from God to pray for the sick and to lay their hands upon them (while anointing them with oil). Notice James 5:14-15: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.”

Mark 6:13 describes how God used the apostles to heal the sick: “And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.” In Mark 16:18, Christ adds the following: “… they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

The laying on of hands accompanies an elder’s prayer for the afflicted. We read in Acts 9:17: “And Ananias… laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus… has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” We then read, in verse 18, that “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.” (For a thorough discussion that Ananias was in fact an elder, read our Q&A on baptism.)

We also read in Acts 28:8: “And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him.”

Taking all these passages together, God instructs us, when we are sick, to call for the elders of His Church to pray for us and to anoint us with oil – a symbol of the Holy Spirit – and to lay hands on us, so that we can be healed (James 5:14-15; Mark 16:18). If such a personal ministerial visit is not possible, then elders are permitted to use and pray over a cloth, anointing it with a drop of oil as the symbol of the Holy Spirit, laying or placing their hands on the cloth, and asking God to heal the sick person who will receive this cloth. This is based on numerous passages in the Bible, showing us that people were healed when touching the garments of Christ (Mark 6:56) or the aprons or handkerchiefs from Paul’s body (Acts 19:11-12).

Acts 19:11-12 shows that “God worked unusual miracles BY THE HANDS OF PAUL, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.” While many times Christ and the apostles cast out demons by their word (Matthew 8:16; Mark 6:13; Acts 16:16-18), without the laying on of their hands, we find that in Luke 13:11-16, Christ cast out a Satanic spirit of infirmity by laying His hands on the sick and afflicted person.

3) Marriage and Laying on of Hands

In our Q&A on Christian marriage ceremonies, conducted by God’s ordained ministers, we state the following:

“During the ceremony, the minister emphasizes the purpose of marriage, and that the couple is entering into a life-long COVENANT with God. He also places his hands on the couple, while asking God in prayer to sanctify the marriage and to set aside the couple for the holy purpose of the marriage relationship. (That God’s minister lays hands on the couple is highly significant: The Biblical procedure of laying on of hands is done for ‘sanctification,’ that is, for the purpose of setting the person or persons aside for a holy purpose.).”

4) Blessing of Little Children and Laying on of Hands

Jesus Christ, while here on the earth, specifically and ceremonially blessed little children: “And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:16; compare Matthew 19:13-15). The Church of God now follows this example by setting aside a time during the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebrations to bless little children, and especially, to ask God to grant them His protection and guidance. This, then, has become a “custom” or “tradition” of the Church.

5) Ordination and Laying on of Hands

Ordinations of deacons and deaconesses and elders are done strictly through the ministry, and they are always accompanied by the laying on of hands–setting the ordained person aside for the godly office of a deacon or deaconess or an elder (Acts 6:2-6; 1 Timothy 4:14; compare also 1 Timothy 5:22). Notice especially 2 Timothy 1:6: “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you THROUGH THE LAYING ON OF MY HANDS.” This procedure is also applied when a deacon is raised to the office of an elder, and when an elder is raised to a higher rank within the ministry, such as pastor or evangelist.

The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown commentary states about the ordination, as described in Acts 6:6: “… when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them–the one proclaiming that all official gifts flowed from the Church’s glorified Head, the other symbolizing the communication of these to the chosen office-bearers through the recognized channels.”

As we can see, the doctrine of “laying on of hands” is very important–it is in fact foundational for our very salvation. This doctrine requires and demands a functioning godly ministry. God has established this procedure for His Church: “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 2:7). It is an awesome responsibility to stand as representatives of God and Jesus Christ in matters such as these. Likewise, lest we look upon the administration of God’s Church lightly, let us also consider the warning of Hebrews 5:4 concerning what God has ordained: “And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.”

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

A German sermon was recorded this week and posted on the Web. It is titled, “Neid–ein toedliches Gift” (“Envy–A Deadly Poison”).

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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.

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