Update 432


The Seed

On February 20, Eric Rank will give the sermon, titled, respectively, “The Seed.”

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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Not Thought Through

by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

I wonder if it ever occurs to those atheists and agnostics who either deny the existence of God or who have no view one way or another about His existence, that the concerns that they have about perceived “global warming” would, if true, actually PROVE the existence of that greater power that they deny exists? They become so involved in their cause that it may itself become a religion to them!

At the recent Copenhagen “climate change” conference, the leaders of many nations around the world gathered together to discuss this matter, but had great difficulty in coming to an agreement to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to levels that were agreed by all, and in an acceptable timescale. This was so that a rise in temperature, as anticipated by them, and that could prove disastrous, as they would see it, wouldn’t actually come to fruition.  

The sun is about 93 million miles away from the earth, which is the PRECISE distance to ensure that we have the various seasons and to ensure that we neither burn to a cinder nor freeze to death. And so we get the temperatures that have preserved human life on earth for the last 6,000 years.

You might be forgiven for thinking that those who deny God’s very existence might have thought through this dilemma? They don’t believe that there is an all powerful, intelligent Being Who has set things in order (compare Psalm 19:1; Isaiah 40:22; and Romans 1:20-22). Instead, they believe that this order in the universe was, and is, the product of blind chance. The word “blind” accurately describes their stance, rather than how the universe came into being.

They think that a few degrees can signal the end of civilization as they know it, but believe that the perfect distance of the earth from the sun is the product of blind chance! What folly – but this seems to have been the case with so many since Adam and Eve were first put in the Garden of Eden.

There will be a rude awakening for so many in the not-too-distant future when the Being they don’t believe exists will actually return to this earth.  And that will be good news for them as well as for all mankind, as they finally see how foolish they were to deny God’s very existence in the first place!

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We begin by reporting on remarkable events in Europe. Due to a temporary decline of the euro and a surge of the dollar, voices were heard claiming the inevitable break-up of the euro zone. These voices do not understand biblical prophecy. The euro is here to stay, and it is predestined to become the most powerful currency of the world’s most powerful political and military entity. The EU has begun to show its new-found powers, as established in the Lisbon Treaty. In a surprising move which angered the USA, the European Parliament blocked an agreement with Washington on sharing European bank data.

Turning to events in Germany, the country’s coalition government is hopelessly divided. The (correct) position of Germany’s Vice Chancellor on the welfare “reform” is being openly criticized by the Chancellor and other high-ranking officials, and of course by the opposition. Politics can again be seen at its worst.

In the middle of the political turmoil in Germany, the Roman Catholic Church is facing another sex abuse scandal of perhaps historical proportions, while trying to “deal” with the sex scandal in Ireland. 

Focusing on the USA, with much of his legislative agenda stalled in Congress, President Obama is seriously considering using his executive powers in a wide variety of issues. This brings to light the unsettling question as to when democracy ends and dictatorship begins. The U.S. Marines leading one of NATO’s biggest offensives against the Taliban in Afghanistan are facing fierce resistance, and there are different opinions on how much progress NATO has made or will make.

Finally, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister expressed doubts about the usefulness of more sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, demanding instead “a more immediate solution,” and Israel finds itself in trouble again with Britain, France, Germany and other nations.

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Euro Flawed from the Beginning?

Mail-On-Line wrote on February 12:

“The European single currency is facing an ‘inevitable break-up’ a leading French bank claimed yesterday. Strategists at Paris-based Société Générale said that any bailout of the stricken Greek economy would only provide ‘sticking plasters’ to cover the deep- seated flaws in the eurozone bloc. The stark warning came as the euro slipped further on the currency markets and dire growth figures raised the prospect of a ‘double-dip’ recession in the embattled zone… Claims that the euro could be headed for total collapse are particularly striking when they come from one of the oldest and largest banks in France – a core founder-member… The euro slid almost 1 per cent to $1.357 yesterday, meaning it has lost 10 per cent of its value since November. The pound rose to 1.14 euros.

“David Cameron… told the Tories’ Scottish conference: ‘… If I am elected for as long as I am prime minister the United Kingdom will never join the euro.’ The French bank’s warning was echoed by Mats Persson, Director of the Open Europe think-tank, which campaigns for reforms in Brussels. He said: ‘The eurozone is facing a fully-fledged crisis. The Greece episode has made it painfully clear how flawed the euro project was from the very beginning…’

“Harvard University Professor Martin Feldstein, a long-standing skeptic on the euro, yesterday said the single currency ‘isn’t working’ because member governments have no incentive to keep their public debts under control. Axel Weber, President of Germany’s Bundesbank, warned the German economy will contract this year. The eurozone faces the danger of a ‘doubledip’ recession after Germany’s economy retreated into stagnation.

“Figures [from the European Commission] published yesterday revealed that the countries who have joined the euro collectively grew a mere 0.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year… The figures… are a blow to Britain’s embattled manufacturers, which count the eurozone as their biggest export market.”

However, this pessimistic viewpoint about the euro is refuted by others, pointing out that especially Britain should look at their horrific budget deficit, before blaming the eurozone, as the next articles show.

Britain Rejoices Over Decline of Euro–But Has Its Own Problems…

The LATimes wrote on February 13:

“It’s not hard to find some smug smiles in Britain these days as the rest of Europe grapples with a debt crisis that has cast doubt on the future of the euro. This island nation has fiercely resisted adoption of the single regional currency and has clung to the pound as a symbol of tradition and independence.

“Before a summit of European Union leaders this week, his usual Scottish dourness barely succeeded in masking Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s schadenfreude when he declared that the euro’s problems were for euro-using nations such as France and Germany to solve, not British taxpayers.

“But Britain is in no position to sit back and relax, much less crow, analysts say, not when its own economy is still in such shaky condition, its credit rating in danger of an embarrassing downgrade and its government sinking deeper into debt.

“The global downturn has hit Britain particularly hard, in part because of London’s status as an international financial center. Britain’s was the last of the major economies technically to emerge from recession, and that only barely: It grew by a tiny 0.1% in the final quarter of last year, and economists fear it could just as easily start contracting again.

“Like many other countries, including the United States, Britain went on a spending spree to stimulate demand during the recession’s darkest days, funding infrastructure projects and cash-for-clunkers-style rebates. And as elsewhere, that has compounded a budget deficit now at a level not seen since World War II.

“In fact, as a percentage of gross domestic product, Britain’s yawning deficit is close to that of Greece, whose 12.7% shortfall triggered the euro crisis. Athens’ deficit is more than four times the prescribed limit for countries in the so-called Eurozone and investor panic over a possible default has hammered the euro’s value…

“Just as Greece has unveiled an austerity plan to get its finances in order, Britain must soon bite the fiscal bullet as well. Exactly what and how deeply to cut is already shaping up as the dominant issue in the national election that must be held by early June. The opposition finance spokesman, George Osborne of the Conservative Party, caused a minor stir in December when he said that Britain might be on the same path to misery as Greece…

“As for Greece, Britain may yet be on the hook for bailing it out, despite distaste for the idea. If the EU as a whole, instead of just the Eurozone, decides to give credit assurances for Athens or to issue EU-wide bonds, then British taxpayers will have no choice but to be involved because Britain remains one of the 27 EU member states.”

In addition, BBC News reported on February 17 that the “UK inflation rate rose to 3.5% in January – the fastest annual pace for 14 months – from 2.9% the month before.” And Times on Line added on February 18 that “The [British] Government is on course to run up a higher budget deficit this year than Greece after dire figures on the public finances today showed that it borrowed £4.3 billion more than it received in taxes in January, the first time this has happened.”

The Strong Eurozone and Wrong US Politics

In a Spiegel interview, dated February 12, European Central Bank Chief Economist Jürgen Stark discussed the threat of a Greek bankruptcy, disruption in the euro zone and the growing problem of excessive national debts in countries that have adopted Europe’s common currency. We are bringing you the following excerpts from the interview:

“We have been in a global crisis for more than one-and-a-half years now. We still can’t say whether it’s over… There were many skeptics at the beginning of the currency union. Since then, the euro has experienced 11 successful years. However, the current crisis has shown that we are all moving in unknown terrain. For instance, the central banks have had to adopt measures that I would have considered to be impossible only two years ago. But all market players and currencies have been put to the same test since the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. That, by the way, happened on the other side of the Atlantic and led to the tsunami that then hit Europe.

“… the Greeks had a double-digit and not a single-digit budget deficit, which is close to 13 percent of the gross domestic product… Greece covered it up for a long time with an extremely generous spending policy… I would like to see better supervision. This is where Eurostat (the European Union’s statistical office) and the European Commission, in particular, can play a role. We should all learn from the mistakes of the past. Greece was living beyond its means. That has to be corrected now… [Greece] has to regain the confidence of the markets. Ireland was in a similar situation and has since regained some confidence… The responsibility for setting its house in order clearly lies with the Greek government…

“We began with 11 countries and we have 16 today. The euro zone was never a closed affair. The goal is and must continue to be that all 27 EU countries have the same currency in the end. However, this cannot result in the currency zone drifting apart… Great Britain has a budget deficit of the same magnitude as Greece’s. The US budget deficit is also more than 10 percent of GDP. All advanced economies are currently having problems. In fact, it is astonishing to see where most of the criticism of the euro is coming from at the moment… much of what they are printing reads as if they were trying to deflect attention away from problems in their own backyard.

“Yes, everyone is a sinner at the moment. But we also happen to be dealing with the consequences of the worst recession in 80 years. That’s one of the reasons so many governments have yielded to the enormous pressure, in some cases, to take on huge debts. A renaissance of the government’s role in the economy was celebrated. The politicians were proud that they could finally rescue something. But who will rescue the state in the end?… Things cannot be allowed to go so far that the state has to be rescued… We cannot take that approach [of the United States, where the Fed prints money and buys treasury bonds].”

Euro Is Here to Stay

This week, the EUObserver published the following comments:

“The financial turmoil arising from the Greek government’s indebtedness is likely to have a profound effect of the future constitutional development – and enlargement – of the European Union. So anyway it seems to me.  All the improbable articles in the British press about the threatened collapse of the euro and the end of civilisation as we know it are, in a sense, correct.  Apart, that is, from the euro collapsing.

“The euro will not collapse; it is one of the world’s reserve currencies, underpinned by the world’s largest trading block. And if in recent months there has been some readjustment against the dollar that is principally the result of the dollar recovering some of its value lost in the aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and other Wall Street institutions.

“Greece – and a number of other countries in the European Union – are, as we know, burdened with unsustainable budget deficits and high levels of public debt.  Britain, though not in the eurozone, is among them.  Whether Britain’s public finances would have been in better order had she not – in an act of hubris – turned her back on the Single Currency project in 1997 and 1998 – is a moot point.

“What is certain is that the pound has in the last year or two lost some 20 per cent of its external value – something that impoverishes us all and whose lesson – (you can’t make yourself richer by devaluing) we thought had long been learned. Certainly Britain’s finances will not again meet the qualifying terms for joining the euro for many a long year to come…”

Based on biblical prophecy, we can safely say that the euro is here to stay, and that more and more European countries will join the eurozone. Interestingly, in all likelihood, countries like Britain and Sweden won’t accept the euro. There are prophetic reasons for this. For more information, please read our free booklets, “Europe in Prophecy,” “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord,” and “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America.”

Greece and the Euro Zone

On February 15, Reuters reported the following:

“A majority of Germans want debt-ridden Greece to be thrown out of the euro zone if necessary and more than two-thirds oppose handing Athens billions of euros in credit, a poll published on Sunday showed. Vocal opposition to aid for Greece from members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition also grew at the weekend with several senior politicians expressing skepticism, especially as Germany’s own recovery is fragile… Merkel has adopted a cautious stance on support, saying while Greece will not be left on its own, it is up to Athens to sort out its own problems… Merkel’s coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) are even more resistant to helping Greece.”

The Associated Press reported on February 15:

“Germany has rejected the idea of setting up a special fund to bail out eurozone countries, like Greece, that run into budget trouble. Finance Ministry spokesman Michael Offer said Monday that a European Monetary Fund would not help a case such as Greece’s. He said there was ‘no way around’ painful austerity measures being pushed through by the Greek government.

“Offer said Greece must reduce its budget deficit by four percentage points this year and bring it down to 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2012. That is in line with requirements for participation in the common currency. Greece’s debt trouble has shaken confidence in the 16-country currency union and pushed the euro to a nine-month low against the dollar.”

Whether Greece will remain a member of the euro zone will have to be seen. Bible prophecy indicates that Greece will cooperate with a united Europe and especially with the last ten nations or groups of nations, as described in Revelation 17, but it is unlikely that it will be one of the ten nations.

The EU Shows “Strength”

The Telegraph wrote on February 16:

“The European Union has shown its righteous wrath by stripping Greece of its vote at a crucial meeting next month, the worst humiliation ever suffered by an EU member state.

“The council of EU finance ministers said Athens must comply with austerity demands by March 16 or lose control over its own tax and spend policies altogether. It if fails to do so, the EU will itself impose cuts under the draconian Article 126.9 of the Lisbon Treaty in what would amount to economic suzerainty.

“While the symbolic move to suspend Greece of its voting rights at one meeting makes no practical difference, it marks a constitutional watershed and represents a crushing loss of sovereignty.”

A New Era of Strong EU Politics?

On February 12, Der Spiegel reported about the reaction of the German media pertaining to the decision of the EU Parliament to block an agreement with Washington on sharing European bank data.

The magazine wrote:

“The move marks a new era in EU politics, write German commentators, who largely agree that the European people now have more power as a result of the Lisbon Treaty… What looked on Thursday like a setback for the war on terrorism — to members of the Obama administration — was cheered in Europe on Friday as a victory for citizens’ rights. The European Parliament moved Thursday to reject a George W. Bush-era agreement that allowed United States authorities to inspect European bank transfers… The unambiguous vote — 378 to 196 — comes against a background of shifting power in the EU…

“A crucial development is that the EU’s new constitution — the so-called Lisbon Treaty, which came into effect on Dec. 1, 2009 — gave the popularly elected parliament new powers over EU policy, which the representatives on Thursday showed they were eager to use. One of those powers is the requirement that any international EU treaty must be given parliament’s stamp of approval before it can be ratified. Most German commentators on Friday welcome the vote as a sign of health, strength and democratic right in an EU that long suffered from a democratic deficit.

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘… Some Washington officials will moan, but EU lawmakers have done a service to trans-Atlantic relations in the long run. Because now Washington will understand: Terrorism can be fought together, but not at the cost of European citizens’ rights…’

“The Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘… The SWIFT controversy is a perfect chance for the parliament to prove its effectiveness… This revolt against the SWIFT agreement is a foretaste of decisions in the coming years, particularly on security. The European Council and European Commission will now have to take the parliament seriously.’

“Business daily Handelsblatt likewise writes: ‘Good news at last from Europe: The controversial SWIFT agreement between the EU and Washington has collapsed.'”

Europe is destined to become more and more powerful, and it is predestined to become a real challenge to the USA.

German Government Divided…

Deutsche Welle reported on February 12:

“Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s foreign minister and vice-chancellor [as well as leader of Germany’s coalition party, FDP], remains defiant over controversial comments he made after the social welfare program Hartz IV was declared unconstitutional this week. After the ruling came out, Westerwelle said that the debate about Hartz IV had ‘socialist elements’ and that ‘those who promise effortless wealth, are inviting Roman decadence.’

“Germany’s highest court has ordered the government to recalculate the payments it makes under the Hartz IV program for the unemployed. The ruling has triggered a debate about whether to raise benefit payments for children, for example [Note: In Germany, every parent is paid a certain benefit amount for his child. The more children, the higher the payments.] Westerwelle’s comments sparked calls for an apology, but the foreign minister was sticking to his guns on Friday.

“‘Those who work must earn more than those who do not,’ he said in Berlin. ‘I must be allowed to say that in Germany. Everything else is socialism. I speak a language that people understand,’ he added. But chancellor Angela Merkel as well as coalition partners from the [Bavarian] Christian Social Union (CSU) have distanced themselves from Westerwelle…

“The opposition parties were even more vociferous in their anger. Social Democrat and premier of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, Kurt Beck, said Westerwelle was completely off track and should apologize. He also called him ‘arrogant’ and said that ‘his (Westerwelle’s) comments are a slap in the face of those who work hard but do not earn enough to live without state benefits.’ [However, this is not really the issue of debate.] The Greens were also up in arms. ‘This stirring up of social unrest is undignified for a German foreign minister and vice chancellor,’ said Renate Kuenast, who is the leader of the Green party in parliament.

“Politicians from the Left party agree [with the Greens]… Union representatives also condemned the comments… But, perhaps most importantly, voters also seem to be going off the Free Democrats. ‘Westerwelle has lost his compass,’ said the head of the Forsa polling institute, Manfred Guellner.”

Guido Westerwelle responded by calling his critics “hypocrites,” as many of those attacking him are “responsible” for the current disaster. According to Deutsche Welle, dated February 17, “Merkel herself finally admonished her foreign minister at the CDU rally Wednesday evening, after days of no public comment on the matter. ‘I have made it clear that, what Guido Westerwelle said, is not my words,’ Merkel said. ‘It is not my style.'”

However, the article continued:

“‘It had to be said what needed to be said,’ Westerwelle told FDP supporters… Of course, as foreign minister he was obligated to follow a diplomatic tone when abroad. But, he said when in Germany, he would ‘continue to belong to the club of clear debate.’ ‘The left-wing zeitgeist may criticize me for it, but the fact remains: work has to be worth it and someone who works more has to get more than someone who doesn’t work at all,’ he said… Westerwelle at least got some support from the head of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), Horst Seehofer…”

Guido Westerwelle is correct in what he says. But since politics is not only dirty and hypocritical business in the United States and Great Britain, but also, of course, in Germany, his political “friends” and opponents criticise him because they fear a substantial loss of votes in the upcoming state elections. And so, one cannot permit vice-chancellor Westerwelle to express what many believe, but don’t dare to say, because it is just not “politically correct.”

However, it is FACTUALLY correct! Germany IS embracing socialist elements (as are the United States and Great Britain), and it IS “inviting Roman decadence”–which ultimately led to Rome’s fall. The Bible tells us in 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” As mentioned above, parents with many children [especially from certain ethnic minorities] can easily live from benefit payments for their children, coupled with unemployment and/or welfare payments and payments for housing. And it is the hard-working gainfully employed or self-employed German citizens who support and finance this system through the payment of heavy and stiff taxes.

Catholic Church Scandal Widens in Germany…

Deutsche Welle reported on February 15:

“A lawyer representing victims of a sex abuse scandal at Catholic schools in Germany said on Monday that the number of cases was three times higher than at first believed. News of the abuse allegations involving around 30 former pupils first surfaced in late January, when a former priest admitted that he forced boys to have sex at the elite Canisius College in Berlin from 1975 to 1983.

“Since the revelation, many more former pupils have come forward with allegations against clerics and laymen at Jesuit colleges and other Catholic schools across the country. The Jesuits have since issued an apology, admitting they covered up abuse that had taken place at schools in Berlin, Hamburg, St. Blasien, Goettingen and Hildesheim in the 1970s and 1980s. The worldwide order also confirmed cases in Spain and Chile.”

The San Diego Tribune reported on February 10:

“The Catholic Church faces yet another child abuse scandal, this time in Pope Benedict XVI’s native Germany. The scandal began last month with allegations that three priests at the elite Canisius Jesuit high-school in Berlin had sexually abused students in the 1970s and ‘80s. The magazine Der Spiegel also published an article last weekend that said nearly 100 clerics and lay people had been suspected of abusing children and teenagers nationwide since 1995.”

Catholic Church Scandal in Ireland…

Deutsche Welle reported on February 15:

“Pope Benedict XVI began talks on Monday with a delegation of Irish bishops summoned to the Vatican to discuss a child sex abuse scandal, which has shaken the Catholic Church in Ireland.

“The talks, which are to last two days, stem from a report last November about unchecked child abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin over a period of nearly 30 years. The Murphy Commission report detailed a litany of abuse perpetuated by priests against more than 300 victims and strongly criticized the Irish church’s handling of the situation…

“Revelations of pedophile priests also have rocked the Church in recent months after similar scandals in the United States and Australia… Anti-abuse campaigners, meanwhile, have called on Pope Benedict to visit Ireland to meet the victims of the pedophile scandal. Christine Buckley, herself an abuse survivor… criticized that many of the accused Irish priests had left Ireland and gone to countries such as Australia and America, where they continued their abuse.”

BBC News added on February 16:

“As the Roman Catholic Church prepares to celebrate the penitential rites of Lent, during which the faithful beg forgiveness for their sins, an unprecedented act of private penance has been held behind closed doors at the Vatican.

“Pope Benedict spent two days in one of the Vatican’s sumptuous marble audience halls closeted with 24 Irish bishops who both individually and collectively confessed to him their shortcomings and omissions in the paedophile clergy scandal which has shocked the entire Catholic world.

“… we know from the official Vatican communique issued at the end of this extraordinary crisis meeting that the Pope strongly condemned the child abuse scandal which has been the subject of an official Irish government inquiry… Pope Benedict did not spare his words in addressing his Irish bishops. He said that child abuse was a ‘heinous crime’ as well as a ‘grave sin’. He lambasted the bishops for failing to act effectively over cases of sexual abuse of young people.

“Seated at two long tables, the red-clad bishops were invited by the Pope to describe individually… how they had dealt with cases of priestly paedophilia in their own dioceses, and to explain why so many cases had been systematically covered up during a period of decades. Although four Irish bishops have tendered their resignations over the scandals, only one of them has had his resignation accepted by the Vatican…

“At stake is not only the credibility of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, but also a lot of Church money… The Vatican fears that just as in similar scandals of priestly paedophilia in other parts of the world, including the United States, claims by paedophilia victims in Ireland could eventually bankrupt several religious orders as well as individual dioceses…

“The sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy has been reported from many countries, and dealing with these scandals has in fact been a worldwide problem for the Pope… But the crisis within the Irish church goes deeper perhaps than in any other country with a significant Catholic population.”

The Associated Press and USA Today reported on February 18:

“Pope Benedict XVI told Irish bishops at a special summit meeting Tuesday to be courageous in confronting the pedophile priest scandal that has rocked that Catholic nation’s church, but took no action on victims’ demands the Vatican take some responsibility… activists troubled by what they contend is a pattern of Vatican denial of responsibility were branding the talks a failure…

“Victims had already warned the talks would be a failure unless the pope demanded resignations of bishops who had any role in concealing wrongdoing. They also demand that the pope accept in full the findings of the Irish investigations, which some church officials in Ireland have criticized as unfair.

“[Irish Church leader Cardinal Sean] Brady said Irish church leaders needed to do penitence for the scandal that would be ‘the equivalent of sackcloth and ashes’ and have a ‘change of heart.'”

President Obama Preparing to Use His Executive Power

The New York Times wrote on February 13:

“With much of his legislative agenda stalled in Congress, President Obama and his team are preparing an array of actions using his executive power to advance energy, environmental, fiscal and other domestic policy priorities. Mr. Obama has not given up hope of progress on Capitol Hill, aides said, and has scheduled a session with Republican leaders on health care later this month. But in the aftermath of a special election in Massachusetts that cost Democrats unilateral control of the Senate, the White House is getting ready to act on its own in the face of partisan gridlock heading into the midterm campaign…

“Any president has vast authority to influence policy even without legislation, through executive orders, agency rule-making and administrative fiat. And Mr. Obama’s success this week in pressuring the Senate to confirm 27 nominations by threatening to use his recess appointment power demonstrated that executive authority can also be leveraged to force action by Congress.

“Mr. Obama has already decided to create a bipartisan budget commission under his own authority after Congress refused to do so. His administration has signaled that it plans to use its discretion to soften enforcement of the ban on openly gay men and lesbians serving in the military, even as Congress considers repealing the law. And the Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with possible regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for climate change, while a bill to cap such emissions languishes in the Senate…

“The use of executive authority during times of legislative inertia is hardly new; former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush turned to such powers at various moments in their presidencies… But Mr. Obama has to be careful how he proceeds because he has been critical of both Mr. Clinton’s penchant for expending presidential capital on small-bore initiatives, like school uniforms, and Mr. Bush’s expansive assertions of executive authority, like the secret program of wiretapping without warrants…

“Another drawback of the executive power strategy is that actions taken unilaterally by the executive branch may not be as enduring as decisions made through acts of Congress signed into law by a president…”

Those who might have thought that in times of crises, the USA could never become a dictatorship ruled by a few in office should perhaps reconsider.

War in Afghanistan

Reuters reported on February 15:

“U.S. Marines leading one of NATO’s biggest offensives against Taliban Islamic militants in Afghanistan are facing fierce resistance in some areas, bogged down by heavy gunfire, snipers and booby traps. Marine units have tried twice since Sunday to reach a bazaar in Marjah, the last militant stronghold in the country’s most violent province, Helmand, only to be pushed back. Coming under heavy gunfire and sniper attacks — one assault lasted over an hour — they were forced to call in Harrier jets and attack helicopters with Hellfire missiles.

“There have been conflicting assessments of how much progress NATO has made, but it seemed clear that the campaign to seize insurgent-held areas before a planned 2011 troop reduction could drag on for weeks… The assault, one of the biggest in the eight-year war, is the first test of U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, where the Taliban have made a steady comeback since a U.S.-led invasion ousted them in 2001.

“The Marines’ efforts to close in on Taliban snipers in Marjah’s bazaar came a day after the compound the U.S. troops are holding in the heart of the town was attacked several times, showing the Taliban are not confined to one area. Afghanistan is a top foreign policy issue for Obama so failure here could be seen as damaging to his presidency. Much of the operation’s success in Helmand province depends on whether the administration wins residents’ trust and Afghan troops are able to keep the Taliban from returning…

“NATO and the Afghan government’s credibility rests on limiting civilian casualties, and NATO commanders told Marjah residents to stay at home during the offensive. NATO rockets killed 12 civilians by accident on Sunday in the attack on Marjah, a farming area criss-crossed by canals, a breeding ground for insurgents and lucrative opium poppy cultivation, which Western countries say funds the insurgency.”

The Washington Post wrote on February 18:

“Although U.S. and Afghan forces have made steady inroads here since beginning the largest joint military operation of the war four days ago, they control only a few modest patches of this farming community, principally around the two biggest bazaar areas. Much of Marja has not yet been patrolled by troops on the ground, and video images from surveillance drones have shown Taliban fighters operating with impunity in those places.

“U.S. and NATO commanders were not certain whether the insurgents who have lorded over Marja for the past three years would stay and fight, or flee to parts of Afghanistan with fewer international security forces. It appears clear, however, that many Taliban members here have opted to stay — at least for now.

“That may mean many more weeks of arduous house-to-house clearing operations for Marines and Afghan forces in this 155-square-mile area, making this a far more complex and dangerous mission than initially envisaged…”

The Afghan war is dragging on. Conditions in the country are worse than they were before the invasion began eleven years ago.

Iran and Saudi-Arabia’s Ambiguous Stance

The Associated Press reported on February 15:

“Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Monday expressed doubts about the usefulness of more sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. Prince Saud al-Faisal told a news conference in the Saudi capital that the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions demands a more immediate solution than sanctions. He described sanctions as a long-term solution, and he said the threat is more pressing.

“The Saudi minister spoke at a joint appearance with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is in the Persian Gulf to shore up support for new sanctions against Iran. The Saudi minister also said efforts supported by the U.S. to rid the Middle East of nuclear weapons must apply to Israel… He didn’t identify a preferred short-term resolution.

“U.S. officials traveling with Clinton said privately they were uncertain what al-Faisal meant, since the Saudi government has been explicit in its support of sanctions against Iran. They said he appeared to be suggesting that sanctions may not be effective and that other action could be required.”

If he implies military actions against Iran, is he also implying military actions against Israel?

Israel In Trouble… Again…

The EUObserver wrote on February 18:

“The Israeli ambassadors to the UK and Ireland have been summoned to explain the use of fake passports by the hit squad that killed a senior Hamas leader in Dubai three weeks ago… the British Foreign Office has requested that the country’s ambassador to the UK ‘share information’ on how it was that six counterfeit versions of passports held by dual British-Israeli citizens came to be used in the operation…

“On 20 January, Mohammed al-Mabhouh, who was attached to the al-Qassam Brigades, the group’s military wing, and, according to Israeli sources, was the lead gun-runner from Iran to Gaza, died in mysterious circumstances in a Dubai hotel. The Dubai police investigating his death have revealed that Mr al-Mabhouh had been poisoned by eleven individuals travelling on European passports from the UK, Ireland, France and Germany…

“Separately, the case has widened to Austria, with Vienna on Wednesday announcing an investigation into the assassination after it was revealed that the killers used mobile phones with Austrian numbers.

“Israeli officials are concerned that the incident has opened a diplomatic rift between the Jewish state and the UK and that similar summonses could occur in Paris and Berlin, according to Haaretz, the Israeli daily newspaper. Dublin has suggested to London, Paris and Berlin that a joint investigation be carried out, according to one Israeli official.

“Meanwhile, foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said there was no proof that the Mossad was responsible for the murder, noting nevertheless Israel’s “policy of ambiguity” regarding its intelligence service. At a memorial rally for the slain Palestinian in Gaza on Wednesday, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal called on EU states to hold Israel to account… ‘Israel deserves to be placed on the terror list.'”

The Bible shows that Israel will be forsaken by all the nations, including its closest allies, the USA and Great Britain. Contrary to a wide-spread belief in a friendship agreement between Europe and Israel just prior to the beginning of the Great Tribulation, the Bible nowhere prophesies that there will ever be such an agreement.

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Would you please explain what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 5:5, saying that a sinner in the Church should be delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh?

Although the correct answer can be easily ascertained from the Scriptures, many commentaries are actually confused regarding the meaning of this passage. Paul said, in context, in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5:

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles–that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken from among you. For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

Paul wrote this letter during the annual Festival of the Seven Days of Unleavened Bread (compare verses 6-8)–at a time when Church members were abstaining from eating leavened products and were instead partaking of unleavened products. In the Bible, leaven is sometimes compared with sin and pride–which puffs up. The ritual of abstaining from leaven for seven days reminds the members that they have to continuously come out of sin–after their previous sins were forgiven by our Passover, Jesus Christ (compare verse 7). But rather than really concentrating on living righteously, the members in Corinth had become proud and not only condoned, but also perhaps even–to an extent–approved of the terrible conduct of that particular member (compare Romans 1:32).

(For more information on the meaning of the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, please read our free booklet, “The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days.”)

Paul said that it was “reported” to him that the man had “his father’s wife.” Some say that he lived together and engaged in continued sexual conduct with his stepmother. However, it appears that the sexual misconduct may have involved his real mother–as Paul said that even Gentiles abhorred this kind of action. Gentiles did not necessarily abhor sexual conduct with a stepmother, but most did reject sexual involvement with one’s own mother (even though, as it is known from the times of Roman decadence, even such misconduct was practiced by some Gentiles, and especially by wicked governmental leaders.)

In this context, Paul was saying that the elders of the local Church should have disfellowshipped the person, rather than tolerating his misconduct–especially, as it had become common knowledge amongst Church members. Apparently only a few reported this occurrence to Paul, since their local leaders were unwilling to deal with the situation.

This is Satan’s world. Before God called us out of this world, we were under Satan’s rule. When someone voluntarily leaves the Church or is disfellowshipped, he becomes once again very much subject to Satan’s influences. When the Church takes such drastic action, it is for the good of the Church as well as the excommunicated member, as it is always hoped that that person will see the error of his ways, while living again in this evil world, repent and return to God, while there is time. Fortunately, in the case of the member in Corinth, he did repent and was rightly accepted back into the fold (compare 2 Corinthians 2:3-11).

Paul made the following general comment in 2 Timothy 2:24-25: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”

It should be obvious that Paul was ordering the suspension or (temporary) excommunication of the sinning brother, with the hope that he might come to his senses, repent, escape the snare of the devil and his spiritual captivity to do Satan’s will, and return to the Church congregation in Corinth (as did happen in this case). Paul made this decision “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”–that is, with His power and authority. Christ, as the living Head of the Church, inspired Paul to make this decision, and He was backing it up. Paul said that he wanted to see the “spirit” of that person “saved” in the day of Christ’s return–strongly implying that this member had received the Holy Spirit, but was in danger of losing it–and that for that purpose, the “flesh” needed to be “destroyed.”

That is, his fleshly desires and his wrong sexual misconduct with his mother (or perhaps stepmother) had to be “destroyed”–his old man with his carnal nature, which died in the watery grave at his baptism but which had been allowed to resurface, had to be killed again. As the flesh and the spirit fight against each other (compare James 4:4-5; Romans 7:25), it is critical that the flesh would lose and the spirit would win. Sometimes, in order to even begin this fight and to end it victoriously, the Church may have to take drastic measures, including suspension, excommunication or disfellowshipment, with the hope that the person repents, swallows his pride, and returns to the Body of Christ.

This should be the clear understanding of the passage in 1 Corinthians 5:5, but it is amazing how far off and totally wrong most commentaries are, when trying to explain it.

Notice the following comments from Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible. He first stated correctly that even the Latin fathers understood this passage to refer to the procedure of “excommunication” (except that they misunderstood the kingdom of God, wrongly believing it to be the church), but he then offered a terrible misconception of what Paul was teaching:

“Beza, and the Latin fathers, suppose that this is only an expression of excommunication. They say, that in the Scriptures there are but two kingdoms recognized – the kingdom of God, or the church, and the kingdom of the world, which is regarded as under the control of Satan; and that to exclude a man from one is to subject him to the dominion of the other. There is some foundation for this opinion; and there can be no doubt that excommunication is here intended, and that, by excommunication, the offender was in some sense placed under the control of Satan.

“It is further evident that it is here supposed that by being thus placed under him [Satan] the offender would be subject to corporal inflictions by the agency of Satan, which are here called the ‘destruction of the flesh.’ Satan is elsewhere referred to as the author of bodily diseases. Thus, in the case of Job… A similar instance is mentioned in [1 Timothy 1:20], where Paul says he had delivered Hymeneus and Alexander to ‘Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme.’ …

“Many have supposed that by the ‘destruction of the flesh’ Paul meant only the destruction of his fleshly appetites or carnal affections; and that he supposed that this would be effected by the act of excommunication. But it is very evident from the Scriptures that the apostles were imbued with the power of inflicting diseases or bodily calamities for crimes… This was an extraordinary and miraculous power.”

As mentioned, this is a terrible misconception. It sounds as if Paul used some “voodoo” magic to “curse” others and to inflict sickness or diseases on them. This example illustrates how careful one must be when reading worldly uninspired commentaries, trying to gain from them insight and understanding of spiritual matters.

The explanations by the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary follow the same line of twisted reasoning as the previous one, except that they are much worse. Even their statement that the Corinthians had the power to excommunicate needs to be clarified in the sense that the ministry had that authority–but not all the members, and it was not done by majority vote either. But also note the additional outrageous annotations:

“Besides excommunication (of which the Corinthians themselves had the power), Paul delegates here to the Corinthian Church his own special power as an apostle, of inflicting corporeal disease or death in punishment for sin… Here it is… for the affliction of the body with disease, and even death…, so as to destroy fleshly lust…”

However, the commentary then explains correctly, but quite inconsistently, what Paul meant with the “destruction of the flesh”:

“The ‘destruction of the flesh’ answers to ‘mortify the deeds of the body’… Temporary affliction often leads to permanent salvation…”

Vincent’s Word Study comes closer to the truth, but even he allows, quite unnecessarily, for some kind of a “power” which went beyond excommunication, even though he is not willing to say what it is, and does not seem to support the ridiculous idea that Paul had and USED the power to inflict sickness and disease on others. He writes:

“To deliver… unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh. On this very obscure and much controverted passage it may be observed: 1. That it implies excommunication from the Church. 2. That it implies something more, the nature of which is not clearly known. 3. That casting the offender out of the Church involved casting him back into the heathen world, which Paul habitually conceives as under the power of Satan. 4. That Paul has in view the reformation of the offender: ‘that the spirit may be saved,’ etc. This reformation is to be through affliction, disease, pain, or loss, which also he is wont to conceive as Satan’s work… Hence in delivering him over to these he uses the phrase ‘deliver unto Satan.'”

However, no special voodoo-like curse-inflicting power of the Apostle Paul is implied here. Paul is ordering excommunication–which the local ministry in Corinth had FAILED to carry out. The goal was for the person to see that continuing to live that way might mean, continuing to wither away and be ultimately burned in the lake of fire; and realizing this, to come to his senses and repent and change and mortify his fleshly desires; and to become subject to God, so that he could be allowed to return to the Church congregation in Corinth.

Paul had in mind the salvation of the person, so that at the time of Christ’s return, “in the day of the Lord Jesus,” he would be given the privilege to enter the Kingdom of God as a spirit member of the Family of God. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul ordered excommunication of the member who was openly practicing horrible sins in plain sight of the other Church members, who were also indirectly effected by that sinful conduct. The person had to learn to use the Holy Spirit to put to death the DEEDS of the BODY, so that HE would live (Romans 8:13). Even after baptism, we have to continuously “mortify” the members of our body, by putting off the old man.

In contrasting those unwilling to repent with converted Church members, Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:17-24:

“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the LIFE of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

“But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

If we do this, then God promises us the following in 2 Peter 1:10-11:

“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

Our new booklet, “The Authority of the Bible,” has entered the first review cycle.

Norbert Link’s new message, “Scandals and Problems in Europe,” is on our Website and on blip.

A new German sermon, titled, “Der Mensch Prüfe Sich Aber…” [“But Let A Man Examine Himself…”], was posted on the Web.

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How This Work is Financed

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

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

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

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

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

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

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

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

©2024 Church of the Eternal God