Update 478


“Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, Part 2”

On February 5, 2011, Norbert Link will discuss the events in the Middle East and give the sermon, titled, “Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, Part 2.”

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.

Back to top

“Teach Us to Pray”

by Rene Messier (Canada)

This is not only the title of one of our booklets, but it was a genuine request by the apostles to Christ, which can be found in Luke 11:1. It expressed a sincere desire on their part to learn how to pray. In Matthew 6:7-14, we can find the outline as to how and for what to pray. This outline is not something we are to repeat routinely, word for word, but rather, it is a guide as to what to pray about, while we are to fill in the gaps, as it were.

I was once asked if I was embarrassed or ashamed to pray in public. The individual told me Christ prayed in public. He thus felt justified to pray publicly anytime and everywhere he wanted.

On the surface this might seem quite plausible until we peel back some of the layers and have a good look at it from a deeper perspective.

It has been a long-time practice of the Church of God not to generally pray in public, and we should look at the reasons why. It is true that Christ prayed at times in public, but one must look at the circumstances surrounding these events. Here is one example, in Mark 6:40-41:

“So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties. And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all.”

Here is another example, in Mark 8:6:

“So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude.”

The people were there to listen to the message of Christ. This was similar to a public lecture or to a wedding, where people are there by invitation and a prayer is given to open the session or to ask God’s blessing on the food. Christ also prayed publicly just before He resurrected Lazarus from the dead. He did so to prove to those who were present and mourned over Lazarus’ death that God was hearing Him (John 11:41-44). He also uttered “public” prayers when He was being crucified  (compare Matthew 27:46). He was mostly concerned about speaking to God during the final minutes of His life, and He did not care too much as to who might have been present at that time to overhear His prayers.

However, those who insist on praying in public everywhere and anytime they please, especially with a desire to show those who may happen to be there how “righteous” and “religious” they are, are ignoring the clear and explicit instructions of Christ whom they supposedly worship. He tells us in Matthew 6:5-6:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

Nothing could be clearer. Those who do not comply with this simple instruction are in disobedience, and they have their reward, being seen by men. The Pharisees loved to put on a big show, but it was all in vain. That is the reason why we do not generally pray in public. Our focus is not on a reward or temporary recognition which we might now receive from man, but we look to a future enduring reward that shall not perish.

Back to top

We begin reporting on the situation in Egypt and the entire Middle East. All kinds of facts emerge, opinions are uttered, scenarios are being designed and described, but one thing is certain: Egyptian wrath turns on the USA, which is showing itself to be utterly helpless—if not dubious in its dealings—while Europe’s duplicity and the threat of radical Islamist leadership in quite a few Middle Eastern countries will lead to wide-ranging military developments. At the same time, anti-government demonstrations are spreading to countries like Jordan; and Israel is very concerned and in need of new allies. Please make sure to view our new StandingWatch program, “The Future of the Middle East.” 

Turning to Europe, we can clearly see that the euro will survive and that slowly, but surely, a core Europe is developing WITHIN the broader European community… but that countries like Britain and Sweden might not be part of it.

We are reporting about two interesting personalities and their challenges and visions—German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and multi-billionaire Donald Trump—speak of Obamacare, the curse of war, weather conditions in Australia and the USA, scientific endeavors to clone a mammoth, and conclude with an inspiring article proving that the human brain requires the existence of a Designer.

Back to top

The Fall of the USA

We begin with a series of articles on America’s role in the Middle East. The articles show the helplessness and diminishing influence of the USA in that part of the world, as well as the disappointment and anger building up against the USA. At the core of the problem is America’s desire to buy allies for itself—and sadly in far too many cases, no matter what the costs. Our free booklet, “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America,” shows you what is in store for the USA, and why we are observing more and more the demise and fall of two countries which were at one time the greatest powers in the world.

America’s Losing Presidents

The Jewish paper, Haaretz, wrote on January 31:

“Jimmy Carter will go down in American history as ‘the president who lost Iran,’ which during his term went from being a major strategic ally of the United States to being the revolutionary Islamic Republic. Barack Obama will be remembered as the president who ‘lost’ Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, and during whose tenure America’s alliances in the Middle East crumbled.

“The superficial circumstances are similar. In both cases, a United States in financial crisis and after failed wars loses global influence under a leftist president whose good intentions are interpreted abroad as expressions of weakness. The results are reflected in the fall of regimes that were dependent on their relationship with Washington for survival, or in a change in their orientation, as with Ankara.

“America’s general weakness clearly affects its friends. But unlike Carter, who preached human rights even when it hurt allies, Obama sat on the fence and exercised caution. He neither embraced despised leaders nor evangelized for political freedom, for fear of undermining stability.

“Obama began his presidency with trips to Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and in speeches in Ankara and Cairo tried to forge new ties between the United States and the Muslim world. His message to Muslims was ‘I am one of you,’ and he backed it by quoting from the Koran… Obama apparently believed the main problem of the Middle East was the Israeli occupation, and focused his policy on demanding the suspension of construction in the settlements and on the abortive attempt to renew the peace talks. That failure led him to back off from the peace process in favor of concentrating on heading off an Israeli-Iranian war…”

Obama Failed in the Middle East

On January 31, the German magazine Der Spiegel published a guest editorial by David J. Kramer, who served under George W. Bush as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. Today he is executive director of Freedom House in Washington. The organization’s research director, Arch Puddington, also contributed to this article:

“Of the people living in the region [of the Middle East] , 88 percent live in countries that lack honest elections, a free press and rule of law. A few months into his presidency, Barack Obama delivered what still ranks as the most ambitious foreign policy address of his administration. Presented at Cairo University, the speech set forth the outlines of a ‘new beginning’ between the United States and the Muslim world… He said the United States would support ‘elected, peaceful governments’ and endorsed democratic values like free expression, honest government and ‘freedom to live as you choose’…

“By his words, the president demonstrated that he, like President George W. Bush before him, understood that the Middle East’s ‘democracy deficit’ contributes in important ways to the strategic problems that feed regional instability and pose threats to the rest of the world… Unfortunately, President Obama’s subsequent actions have failed to fulfill the promise of his Cairo vision, especially when it comes to confronting concerns over repression when committed by autocracies of the Middle East, to say nothing of China or Russia.

“This pattern was established during the protests over the 2009 Iranian elections when the administration mustered little more than a pro forma objection to the suppression of the opposition movement. It continued with the administration’s non-response to last November’s sham elections in Egypt, in which the ruling party orchestrated results comparable to those in such obvious dictatorships as Syria and, until recently, Tunisia. And we witnessed it in the initial reactions to the latest developments in Tunisia and Egypt…”

Egyptian Wrath Turns on USA

The Jerusalem Post wrote on January 31:

“The protests [in Egypt] have lacked a clear leader to unite them and provide an alternative to Mubarak, and demonstrators are beginning to focus their wrath not just on Mubarak and the country’s widespread corruption, but also on the United States and, to a lesser extent, Israel. They blame Israel and the US for supporting a government because it is convenient for them, not because it is good for the Egyptian people.”

ElBaradei Attacks USA

The French news agency, AFP, reported on January 30:

“The United States is ‘losing credibility by the day’ in calling for democracy in Egypt while continuing to support President Hosni Mubarak, leading dissident Mohamed ElBaradei said Sunday.”

USA Dubious and Helpless?

The Jewish news agency, A-7 News, reported on January 30:

“The United States in the past last three years supported ‘democracy activists’ who planned to overthrow the Mubarak regime, according to leaked cables quoted by the London Telegraph…

“‘The harsh reality of events in the Middle East have all decisively proven that the assumptions that underpinned President Obama’s Middle East policy initiatives were wrong,’ wrote Foreign Policy.com’s Peter Feaver Saturday. ‘The foreign policy team seems to be quite uncertain how to proceed and with good reason: our ability to predict what will happen is probably even less than our ability to shape what will happen.’”

USA Can’t Do Much…

Deutsche Welle reported on January 29:

“After the fall of the regime in Tunisia and with mass protests sweeping across many other Middle Eastern countries, most notably Egypt, the US has been conspicuously tight-lipped… The US has to tread carefully in a region where Washington while calling for democratic reforms and respect for human fights for decades, has supported and stabilized some of the same authoritarian regimes that are now being challenged. Egypt, for instance is the second-biggest recipient of military aid from Washington after Israel.

“The US has been supporting its staunch ally with $1.3 billion (0.9 billion euros) in military assistance per year for decades, strengthening not only its military’s capabilities as a potential fighting force in the region, but also its role inside the regime… even if it wanted to, the US has little it can do to influence the outcome in Egypt or elsewhere in the region where it is viewed negatively by many…

“Whatever the ultimate outcome of the events in the Middle East, the one thing Washington definitely doesn’t want to happen to the region is its descent into chaos. A prolonged phase of instability and tumult could threaten US economic and political interests…”

Egyptians Want “Freedom”—But What Kind?

The following articles discuss the uncertain future of Egypt and the Middle East, and the incredible blindness of some liberal and conservative U.S. politicians and commentators, when trying to “analyze” the current situation, the chances for democracy in Egypt, and the nature of radical Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 31:

“The demonstrators have dismissed Mubarak’s appointment of a new cabinet and prime minister. His promises of economic reform to address rising prices and unemployment appear to be too little too late… The hope for change has been coupled with fear of anarchy and chaos. The population was largely left to protect itself over the weekend as the police force, which had been involved in clashes with protestors during the week, disappeared. Neighborhood vigilante groups formed over the weekend, setting up checkpoints and patrolling the streets to defend their homes as thugs roamed the streets. Gangs have looted supermarkets and stores as well as homes, and there were breakouts from at least four prisons in Cairo in recent days, adding to safety concerns… The unrest is having an impact on the economy… with shops and businesses closing and tourists fleeing the country in droves. Tourism is vital to the Egyptian economy…

“Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘… The pharaoh in the Führerbunker: If he has to go down, he’ll take his country and his people down with him…’

“The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: ‘… An “Iranian solution” in Cairo would disqualify Egypt as a partner in the West…’

“Conservative Die Welt writes: ‘Chaos and anarchy are mounting… There are signs that the chaos wasn’t just caused by gangs of criminals and plunderers from the slums, but also by parts of the security forces. That happened in Tunisia too. That is what the regime is banking on: the worse the situation becomes, the more people will wish for the return of the strong arm of the law… The regime is waiting for the demonstrations to lose momentum and for the situation to calm down. But the more damage is done in the cities, the less the military will be able to remain passive.’

“The left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes: ‘… Washington lacks what Mubarak’s repressive policy has been fighting for years: a direct link to a democratic opposition — to people who could emerge from the democracy movement as an alternative to the dictator. In this atmosphere, which is marked by fears of a deja-vu of the Iranian revolution of 1979 and concern about the future neighbourhood of Israel, there’s a fierce dispute going on in Washington between the advocates of stability and those who are banking on democratic reform… it’s clear that the days of the Mubarak regime are numbered. And that the other authoritarian rulers and kings face turbulent days. The domino that fell in Tunisia has long since touched all the others.’

“Mass-circulation Bild writes: ‘We have reason to be worried. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians or more want a different kind of freedom from the freedom we mean. They want to be free to turn their country into a fundamentalist theocracy. They want the freedom to declare Israel as an enemy again after decades of peace. They want the freedom to tear down the solid bridges to America. That cannot be in our interest. We need Egypt as an ally in this chronically warlike corner of the world. We can only hope that the people in Egypt will take the right decisions in the coming weeks. For themselves and for peace in the region.’”

Will Radical Islam Overtake Egypt?

Haaretz reported on January 31:

“What happened in Iran could happen in Egypt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel… Netanyahu said he feared that a radical Islamic regime like the one in Iran could also come to power in Egypt…

“Senior officials in Merkel’s office have said recently during closed door briefings that the chancellor will be very tough with Netanyahu and will use the meeting as a chance to tell him that it is his responsibility to renew the peace negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Is the Muslim Brotherhood a Peace-Loving, Harmless Organization?

WorldNetDaily wrote on January 31:

“Islamists, in particular the anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood, seem poised to take power throughout the Middle East as a result of riots that have already toppled one Arab regime and are threatening others, in what some are calling only the latest wave of an Islamic ‘tsunami’ sweeping the globe…

“In fact, some Muslim clerics are already calling the riots in Egypt simply an extension of 1979’s Islamist conquests… The leader of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, Hammam Saeed, warned that the unrest in Egypt will spread across the Mideast until Arabs succeed at toppling leaders allied with the United States… Salafi cleric Abu Mundhir Al-Shinqiti issued a fatwa… encouraging the protests in Egypt, claiming Islamist jihadis are now on the verge of a historic moment in the history of the Islamic nation, an ‘earthquake’ he likened to the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City.

“As clerics are accurately noting, Egypt is only one of many recent cases where Islamic unrest has surged in the Middle East and North Africa. In Tunisia, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled following rioting and street protests and widespread looting. In Yemen, last week witnessed the largest protests in years against Yemen’s leader, Ali Abullah Saleh, who is considered a crucial ally in the U.S. fight against al-Qaida in his country and in the Middle East. The protests further escalated yesterday…

“Egyptian officials speaking to WND… warned the Muslim Brotherhood has the most to gain from any political reform… Hamas and al-Qaida are violent Brotherhood offshoots. An Egyptian security official noted the Muslim Brotherhood was directly involved in protest organization. Similarly, it is Islamists allied with the Muslim Brotherhood who stand to gain in Pakistan, Jordan, Tunisia and Yemen. Already, the Shiite fundamentalist Hezbollah organization is poised to exert enormous influence over Lebanon…

“A senior Egyptian diplomat told WND the regime of Mubarak suspects the U.S. has been aiding protest planning by Mohamed ElBaradei, who is seen as one of the main opposition leaders in Cairo. ElBaradei, former International Atomic Energy Agency chief, has reinvented himself as a campaigner for ‘reform’ in Egypt. He is a candidate for this year’s scheduled presidential elections. Last week, ElBaradei gave an interview to Der Spiegel defending the Brotherhood… the Muslim Brotherhood said it was in talks with other anti-government figures, including ElBaradai, to form a national unity government without Mubarak.

“David Rubin, former mayor of the Israeli town of Shiloh and author of the book ‘The Islamic Tsunami,’ however, warns that the Obama administration cannot continue to ignore the Muslim Brotherhood’s and other Islamist groups’ greater goals. ‘There is a plan to take over Western civilization,’ Rubin told The Washington Times…

“Multiple prominent U.S. commentators have… been claiming the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate organization and denying any Islamist plot to seize power. On Friday, President George W. Bush’s former press spokeswoman, Dana Perino, told Fox News, ‘Don’t be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This has nothing to do with religion.’ Bruce Reidel, a former CIA analyst and advisor to President Obama, penned a Daily Beast article in which he claimed, ‘The Egyptian Brotherhood renounced violence years ago’… Reidel’s assertion the Brotherhood renounced violence, however, is contradicted by the Brotherhood’s own statements in recent months, including a call to arms against the West…”

Choice Between Pro-Western and Anti-Western Dictatorship in Egypt

Der Spiegel wrote on January 28:

“Israel is watching developments in Egypt with concern. The government is standing by autocratic Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, out of fear that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood could take power and start supplying arms to Hamas…

“Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, in 1979, but the relationship between the neighboring countries remains delicate. Good relations are limited to government circles… Even 30 years after the peace agreement, annual trade between the neighboring countries only amounts to a value of $150 million (€110 million). (For comparison, Israel’s trade with the European Union was worth around €20 billion in 2009.)

“A recent incident involving the vice governor of the Sinai Peninsula reveals how many Egyptians think about Israel. After a shark attack off the coast, the official said that it could not be ruled out that the deadly fish had been released by Israeli intelligence to harm Egypt’s tourism industry. After the bloody attack on a church in Alexandria on Jan. 1, a spokesman for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood speculated that Israel could be responsible for the attack, with the intention of sowing discord between Christians and Muslims.

“Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the main reasons why official Israel seems to support Mubarak so keenly. It is considered the most popular political movement in Egypt, and its position regarding the peace treaty with Israel is clear: They want it revoked immediately…

“For Israel, more is at stake than the current so-called ‘cold’ peace with Egypt and a few tens of millions of dollars in trade… Much of the Arab world, and especially Mubarak, sees Shiite Iran and its allies, such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon, as an existential threat, just as Israel does…

“The Israeli government has noted with concern the fact that, even after 30 years of peace, Egypt’s army is still equipped and trained mainly with a possible war against Israel in mind. A cancellation of the peace treaty would open up a new front with the 11th largest army in the world, which is equipped with modern American weapons. But what Israel fears more than [an] armed conflict with Egypt is an alliance between an Islamist regime in Cairo and Hamas, which considers itself an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. An Egyptian regime that opened the border with Gaza for arms deliveries would pose a serious danger to Israel.

“[Some commentators consider] the West’s demands for more openness and democracy in Egypt to be a fatal mistake… It is an illusion to believe that the dictator Mubarak could be replaced by a democracy… The Muslim Brotherhood is the only real alternative… which would have devastating consequences for the West… Ultimately the choice is between a pro- or an anti-Western dictatorship…”

Egypt Becomes More Violent

Der Spiegel Online wrote on February 3:

“The crisis in Egypt took a sharp turn for the worse Wednesday almost immediately after 82-year-old President Hosnai Mubarak rejected calls for him to give up power and leave the country. Violent clashes on Wednesday and Thursday between opponents and supporters of his rule have left at least five dead… Although the army has struggled to maintain a neutral stance since the protests began 10 days ago, most observers still believe it will ultimately decide the country’s fate.

“On Wednesday, soldiers stood back and watched as things turned very ugly with pro-regime supporters attacking anti-Mubarak demonstrators. While some threw rocks from rooftops, others charged the crowds on horses and camels. The clashes continued into the early hours of Thursday, with automatic weapons fire pounding the anti-government protesters in the square. Egypt’s health minister said on state-run Nile TV that the number of injuries at Tahrir Square had reached 836 — including 200 within a single hour on Thursday morning. Later Thursday, Al-Jazeera reported that army tanks had created a buffer zone between the two sides to protect the pro-democracy camp from the carloads of regime loyalists seen heading toward the square…

“In Thursday’s newspapers, German commentators criticized the escalating violence and examined how events in Egypt have left the West in a conundrum.

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘Mubarak is inciting the political camps against each other and looks on as Egyptians attack Egyptians… How are the Americans and Europeans supposed to continue working with their long-time partner in Cairo?’

“The center-right Die Welt writes: ‘The fighting makes clear that the transition to a new era will be anything but smooth. And that the regime has not given up yet… Those on camels and horses who suddenly attacked the regime opponents were almost certainly not normal citizens who had spontaneously decided to launch a counter-demonstration. … It seems that many were members of the security forces. They were thugs mustered and paid by the regime to help foster the widespread impression that there is a civil war… After Mubarak’s offer not to contest the presidential elections in September, the military had made it clear that the demonstrations should end. The opposition doesn’t want to accept that…’

“The business daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘The political powder keg of the Middle East is facing a very dangerous period of instability. Given these circumstances, it is all the more important to avoid chaos and anarchy… The Europeans and Americans have done little in these days of fury to present themselves as partners in a time of need. They were not prepared for the transformation, backed the wrong forces and underestimated the rage of the people. Neither the US nor the EU has the power or means to have any far-reaching influence on the developments in these states. The transformation has to be carried out by the states themselves. However, the Europeans could back the democratic forces, help economic development through investment projects and enter into a closer political partnership with North Africa and the Middle East. In the process, Turkey could serve as a valuable mediator.’

“‘The US has to work hard to prevent the peace process from being buried in the ruins of the old power structures, and active involvement on the part of Israel is essential. The Netanyahu government is stuck in a bunker mentality. It has obviously not understood that nothing will be as it was before in the Middle East. Neither peace nor democracy nor a civil society can be achieved overnight. But if the region is to be freed of dictators and not fall into the hands of anti-Western Islamists, the right signals have to be sent. The EU has an opportunity to do just that right now.’

“The Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘At the moment, Washington, Jerusalem and Berlin are primarily concerned with the issue of Islamists, and correctly so. It’s clear that Mubarak has to go. But, at the same time, the West must do everything it can to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from taking a leadership role in the freedom movement and then later taking power through free elections… The threat of anarchy is dangerous for the entire region. Yet just as dangerous is the prospect of allowing Egypt to stagger uncontrolled toward freedom after three decades of autocracy. The most radical solution — immediate free elections — is not the best one. The transition to a functioning democracy has to be mediated in a measured way.’

“The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: ‘(Egypt) has played and still plays a key role in the efforts to prevent a region that is becoming more radicalized, that is riddled with seemingly unsolvable conflicts and that the world depends on for its oil from descending into chaos and war. The fact that Israel has stuck with Mubarak speaks volumes… However, the examples of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories do not exactly increase the hope that everything will turn out well…’”

Israel in Strategic Distress… in Search of New Allies

Haaretz wrote on January 29:

“The fading power of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government leaves Israel in a state of strategic distress. Without Mubarak, Israel is left with almost no friends in the Middle East; last year, Israel saw its alliance with Turkey collapse… Israel’s increasing isolation in the region, coupled with a weakening United States, will force the government to court new potential allies…

“After Israel’s war against Egypt in 1956, David Ben-Gurion attempted to establish alliances with non-Arab countries in the region, including Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia. The Shah of Iran became a significant ally of Israel, supplying the country with oil and money from weapons purchases…

“Israel’s next alliances were forged with Jordan’s King Hussein and Morocco’s King Hassan. These ties were operated in secret, as well as ties with leaders in Lebanon’s Christian community. The late 1970s saw the fall of the Shah of Iran, with an anti-Israel Islamic republic created in his stead. Around the same time, Egypt and Israel broke their cycle of conflict by signing a peace agreement. Egypt positioned itself on the side of Saudi Arabia, as head of the pro-American camp. Mubarak inherited the peace agreement after President Anwar Sadat’s assassination… Egyptian public opinion was openly hostile towards Israel and anti-Semitic terminology was common.

“Despite all of this, the ‘cold peace’ with Egypt was the most important strategic alliance Israel had in the Middle East… The friendship between Mubarak and Netanyahu is based on a mutual fear over Iran’s strengthening and the rising power of Islamists, as well as over the weakening and distancing of the U.S. government with Barack Obama at its head.

“Now, with Mubarak struggling over the survival of his government, Israel is left with two strategic allies in the region: Jordan and the Palestinian Authority… But Israel’s relationship with these two allies is complicated… Jordan’s King Abdullah refuses to meet Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is waging a diplomatic struggle against Israel’s right-wing government…”

Demonstrations in Jordan…

The apparently not-so-peace-loving Muslim Brotherhood is also trying to gain power and influence in Jordan:

AlJazeera wrote on January 29:

“Thousands of people in Jordan have taken to the streets in protests, demanding the country’s prime minister step down, and the government curb rising prices, inflation and unemployment… In the third consecutive Friday of protests, about 3,500 opposition activists from Jordan’s main Islamist opposition group, trade unions and leftist organisations gathered in the capital… Another 2,500 people also took to the streets in six other cities across the country after the noon prayers…

“Members of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jordan’s largest opposition party, swelled the ranks of the demonstrators, massing outside the al-Husseini mosque in Amman and filling the downtown streets with their prayer lines.”

Jordan’s Government Dismissed

The Associated Press wrote on February 1:

“Jordan’s King Abdullah II fired his government Tuesday in the wake of street protests and asked an ex-prime minister to form a new Cabinet, ordering him to launch immediate political reforms…

“When he ascended to the throne in 1999, King Abdullah vowed to press ahead with political reforms initiated by his late father, King Hussein… But little has been done since. Although laws were enacted to ensure greater press freedom, journalists are still prosecuted for expressing their opinion or for comments considered slanderous of the king and the royal family. Some gains been made in women’s rights, but many say they have not gone far enough.

“Abdullah has pressed for stiffer penalties for perpetrators of ‘honor killings,’ but courts often hand down lenient sentences. Still, Jordan’s human rights record is generally considered a notch above that of Tunisia and Egypt. Although some critics of the king are prosecuted, they frequently are pardoned and some are even rewarded with government posts.”

It was pointed out in the press that the dangers are enormous for Israel, as Jordan is the only Arab country—besides Egypt—which has signed a peace treaty with Israel. It was also reported that massive demonstrations are planned this weekend in Syria and Algeria.

EU and USA Divided on How to Proceed in Egypt

The Associated Press reported on February 2:

“EU leaders urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday to respond quickly to pro-democracy protests but stopped short of calling for him to resign before elections scheduled for September.

“President Barack Obama said he had told Mubarak the transition must begin at once and must include opposition parties. On Tuesday, the 82-year-old Mubarak rejected protesters’ demands that he step down immediately, ending nearly 30 years in office, but said he would not seek re-election in the fall…

“The European Union has had close relations with Egypt as part of its partnerships with other Mediterranean nations and tens of thousands of EU citizens flock to Egyptian beaches in wintertime. In recent days, the EU has been criticized for being too timid in supporting pro-democracy demonstrations and for trailing behind the U.S. in distancing itself from Mubarak’s regime.

“Unlike the United States and a number of other countries, the EU has not called on its citizens to leave Egypt. But a number of European tour operators have started carrying out plans to evacuate their clients. About 50,000 Europeans — mostly tourists — are believed to still be in Egypt.

“In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy…has been criticized for failing to strongly back the Egyptian protesters and for appearing to support the regime of former Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was toppled by mass protests last month.

“German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called Mubarak’s announcement that he would not run for a new term ‘a step that clears the way for a new political beginning…’ He did not, however, call for Mubarak to resign, saying only: ‘Who leads Egypt in future will be decided in Egypt by the Egyptian people.’”

Europe’s Dubious Role

The EUObserver wrote on January 29:

“Tony Blair, former UK prime minister and envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East – comprising the EU, the US, Russia and the United Nations – warned of the danger of ‘extremists’ taking advantage of the situation. ‘The danger is that when you open up a vacuum, anything can happen,’ he told the BBC…

“The EU is… a major donor to Egypt, with €449 million in the Egypt kitty for the next two years… Some of the weapons and vehicles such as helicopters, tanks and anti-riot trucks that may be used against the Egyptian people are sourced from the US and EU. US weapon sales to the country include Black Hawk helicopters, Abrams tanks and Humvees, while Egyptian anti-riot vans are supplied by Italy’s Iveco SpA… 18 EU member states sold a total of €75.7 million worth of arms to Egypt in 2009.”

Europe has deep-rooted interests in Egypt, and it will not sit idly by when it sees the threat and danger that those vested interests may disappear…

Will Europe Intervene?

The EUObserver wrote on January 28:

“Italy has said the EU should send a crisis mission to north Africa… Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said the EU should send a high-level ‘political support team’ to calm tensions in Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and other countries in the region hit by deadly civil unrest in recent days.

“’The European mission … [should make] contact with the highest levels… I do not think this can be dealt with by sporadic initiatives of this or that country in Europe, but only by a European initiative.’”

The Euro’s Survival… WITHIN a Core Europe

The following articles are quite remarkable. They do not only totally debunk the short-sighted and ill-conceived notion that the euro will fail, but they also show how the fight for the euro will contribute to the creation of a Europe of two speeds or a core Europe WITHIN the EU. This is exactly in line with biblical prophecy, and all other concocted scenarios show a terrible misunderstanding or ignorance of Scripture. For more information, please read our free booklets, “Europe in Prophecy,” and “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.”

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 31:

“According to the plan [of German Chancellor Angela Merkel], the euro-zone countries would coordinate their economic policies far more closely in the future, thus playing a leadership role within the entire EU. What Merkel has in mind is essentially nothing other than the ‘two-speed Europe’ that her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, similarly proposed many years ago… Merkel has made a political U-turn that is virtually as dramatic as the change in course made by her predecessor in office, Gerhard Schröder, when he introduced his radical — and hugely unpopular – ‘Agenda 2010’ reforms of the labor market and welfare system… Merkel has discarded a number of her fundamental convictions about Europe.

“Until recently, the chancellor had strictly opposed any closer cooperation among the 17 countries in the euro zone. She wanted to include all 27 EU member states. Her concern was that this would otherwise lead to a union within the Union. Her fear was that countries that are not members of the euro club, such as Poland, could be sidelined… Now it’s a different story altogether. Now Merkel wants to make the center of the current crisis, the euro zone, into the focus of efforts to combat the common currency’s woes. That notwithstanding, the pact is intended to be open to all EU countries, not just the members of the euro zone…

“Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will present the rough outlines of the plan at the EU summit in Brussels this Friday. The proposal is not on the official agenda. The 27 heads of state and government will confidentially and informally discuss the issue over lunch. Then it will primarily be up to Germany and France to hammer out the details of the plan. But other governments will also participate in the process. The plan is to be discussed in detail at the next regularly scheduled EU summit in late March. The chancellor, however, is also considering calling a special summit before then. Sarkozy is Merkel’s most important partner on this issue.

“The French president has long advocated intensifying cooperation among euro countries… If the chancellor manages to push through her plan, it would send a strong signal that the Europeans are really prepared to pursue a common approach, each in their own area of responsibility… The Chancellery estimates that 23 EU countries will go along with it. Denmark and Sweden are said to be on the fence, while the UK and the Czech Republic are reportedly reluctant…

“To foil France’s ambitions, Merkel long opposed a special role for the euro zone within the broader European Union. But since the onset of the financial crisis, Germany’s resistance has been crumbling. At first, Berlin was generally opposed to special summits for the euro-zone countries. Later, the German government agreed to meetings of national leaders in the event of particularly sensitive issues. Now such summits will be held on a regular basis. Just how often this will occur is something that Merkel and Sarkozy will have to agree to over the coming months. The French president would prefer to have the euro-zone leaders reach agreements ahead of each EU summit. Then the 27 members of the broader EU would, in principle, merely rubber stamp what the 17 euro-zone members had already decided… EU member states like Poland, the UK and Sweden… would be excluded, as they don’t have the euro…

“Merkel has been pushing for every EU member to be allowed to attend the euro summits. She also wants to prevent these events from being held too often. Ideally, she would like the euro meetings to take place after the regular EU summits. Then the euro-zone countries could not make any pre-arrangements that would affect the entire Union…

“But Merkel is not about to let such objections put the brakes on her plan. At the World Economic Forum in Davos last Friday, she made a plug for her plan in front of top business and political leaders from around the world. In order to protect the euro, new approaches must be adopted, she said. Merkel added that nothing less than Europe’s position in the world is at stake. The often hesitant chancellor appeared highly determined. She said the euro was ‘the embodiment of Europe today’… ‘We will defend the euro,’ she said. ‘There can be no doubt about it.’”

The Euro Will Never Fail

BBC News reported on January 27:

“French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said France and Germany will never let the euro fail… ‘Whether it be [German] Chancellor Merkel or myself, never will we turn our backs on the euro. Never will we abandon the euro,’ he said. He added that those who bet against the euro should watch out for their money.

“‘The euro spells Europe. The euro is Europe and Europe has spelled 60 years of peace on our continent, therefore we will never let the euro go or be destroyed,’ he insisted.”

Guttenberg Under Attack

The Local wrote on January 29:

“Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg this week angrily dismissed criticism of his handling of several military scandals, but newspapers in The Local’s media roundup wrote he risks losing control of his ministry.

“The popular and aristocratic Guttenberg relieved the commander of the Gorch Fock navy training ship from his duties over the weekend, as embarrassing details about conditions leading up to and after the death of a woman cadet in November continued to emerge. The minister is also under fire for two other military scandals, including the accidental shooting death of a soldier in Afghanistan and the unexplained opening of soldiers’ mail from the Afghan front.

“Opposition leaders have accused the minister of scapegoating the Gorch Fock commander Norbert Schatz to distract from his own failure to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the sailor’s death, while also allowing misinformation about the shooting death in Afghanistan to spread. Guttenberg responded angrily on Monday, calling his critics ‘clueless.’ But on Tuesday some commentators warned that such disdain would create enemies, while others said they saw signs that the slick Guttenberg may be acting out of self-preservation as he loses control of his ministry… Guttenberg… could be accused of… ignorance for not first summoning Gorch Fock commander Norbert Schatz to Berlin to hear his side of the story before relieving him of duty…

“Right-wing daily Die Welt said that while the recent scandals in the military reveal communication failures within the Defence Ministry, Guttenberg risks losing his authority if he admits this… It was also clear that he was not in control of his ministry, it added…

“Meanwhile financial daily Handelsblatt criticised Guttenberg for doing little to quell rumours about the different scandals within the German military as anger grows in parliament… ‘Guttenberg was either falsely briefed or didn’t concern himself with the bad news.’ Guttenberg has also kept officials on staff who have shown themselves to be untrustworthy in the past, the paper said… ‘his indifference over the frightful conditions behind the false messages will soon catch up with him. Because on his hardest front, the parliament, resentment over his behaviour is growing immensely.’

“… Guttenberg runs the risk of relying too heavily on his popularity to get through the current scandals… The centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote that… Guttenberg showed signs that he was interested only in protecting himself…

“The left-wing taz concluded that a particularly troubling revelation from the affair was Guttenberg’s closeness to the tabloid Bild, to whose Sunday edition he gave the story that he had dismissed the captain and ordered a review into military behaviour… Guttenberg decided to fire him on Friday night and immediately called the paper, it said. ‘Two days later the tabloid praised the minister’s decisiveness and denounced critics from the (pro-business coalition partners) Free Democratic Party and the socialist Left party as small-minded grumblers,’ taz wrote. ‘The question is not only what Guttenberg knew when, but also, to whom is the minister beholden: the parliament or Bild?’”

This article shows that we must be careful not to concentrate too quickly on one particular individual. There have been speculations being circulated over the Internet to the effect that Mr. Guttenberg is the “beast,” mentioned in the book of Revelation. Some even have proclaimed this quite dogmatically. Such premature pronouncements by self-appointed “prophets” are just plain foolish. God tells us to watch the news events and in His due time, He will reveal to His true servants what must be revealed and announced (compare Amos 3:7).

Watch Donald Trump!

Newsmax wrote on January 30:

“Donald Trump [says:] ‘We have a very weak policy. Whether it’s China, or the horrible agreement just signed with South Korea, or any of the other horrible deals that we make, we don’t have the ability to make good deals with other countries. We’re like a whipping post for other countries. We are standing there and being beaten by South Korea, by Mexico, by China, by India. If you have a problem with a credit card and you call somebody up, that person is based in India. And then they wonder why we’re not going to have jobs for another five or six years…

“‘All our jobs are going to China. We’re rebuilding China and other places… If we ever taxed Chinese products coming into this country, we would pay off the debt so fast. More importantly, we would start creating jobs in our country. They cheated at the Olympics with their gymnasts, they’re cheating us with their manipulation of the currency. They’re not our friends. I know them very well. I do business with them. I’m not angry at them. I just can’t believe that they can get away with it. My friends from China said to me just recently… we cannot believe how stupid your politicians are to allow us to get away with what we’re getting away with…’

“Trump says [about President Obama’s State of the Union Address:] ‘He didn’t talk about the deficit, he didn’t talk about how to pay off all the debt that we have. Instead he’s telling everybody what a great country China is, that China has the fastest computer in the world… Unless we get tough, and smart, and unless we stop having dinners for people that are destroying us… we’re going to have big problems.’

“Trump has a surprising response to speculation that the turmoil in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East could push oil prices to as high as $200 a barrel. ‘…the Middle East is a tinderbox. It’s going to explode. OPEC will probably be destroyed if it explodes… and that could have a positive impact on oil prices…’

“Trump has especially harsh words for OPEC and its grip on oil prices… ‘I think it’s unfair. I think it’s illegal… Here you have 12 men, in this case all men, they sit around a table and they set the price of oil. We have so much oil. There’s so much oil out at sea… We have more natural gas than anybody. Why we not using it is an amazing thing. Abu Dhabi, which has plenty of oil, just went to all natural gas for transportation because they want to sell us the oil at exorbitant prices… We have to do something about OPEC because that’s the life blood of the country. Right now, until we get on natural gas and other things, they really have us, and they’re sitting around inflating the price… I give a lot of the credit for the almost collapse of this country to the price of oil. It’s going to be up there again very soon and you’re going to have another catastrophic problem…

“Turning to Afghanistan and the timeline President Obama has proposed for withdrawal of American troops, Trump [says:] ‘We should be out of there as soon as possible. At the same time, when Obama announced that he’s going to be out at a certain date, these militants are just sitting back saying, “He gave us a specific date. This is fantastic. We’ll just sit back and then we’ll take it over the minute they leave.” So for him to give a date was a very dangerous, stupid, and foolish thing to do.’”

Donald Trump also announced that he is seriously considering running for the office of President in 2012. If he does and if he should be elected, his political stance and actions, based on his comments, would in all likelihood be quite different from those of some of the former U.S. presidents.

Florida Federal Judge Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional

Newsmax reported on January 31:

“A federal judge ruled Monday that the Obama administration’s health care overhaul is unconstitutional, siding with 26 states that sued to block it. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson accepted without trial the states’ argument that the new law violates people’s rights by forcing them to buy health insurance by 2014 or face penalties… The next stop is likely the U.S. Supreme Court. Two other federal judges have upheld the insurance requirement, but a federal judge in Virginia also ruled the insurance provision violates the Constitution. In his ruling, Vinson went further than the Virginia judge and declared the entire health care law unconstitutional…

“At issue was whether the government is reaching beyond its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce by requiring citizens to purchase health insurance or face tax penalties. Attorneys for President Barack Obama’s administration had argued that the health care system was part of the interstate commerce system. They said the government can levy a tax penalty on Americans who decide not to purchase health insurance because all Americans are consumers of medical care…

“Other states that joined the suit [in Florida] are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.”

The Washington Post added on January 31:

“In ruling against President Obama‘s health care law, federal Judge Roger Vinson used Mr. Obama‘s own position from the 2008 campaign against him, when the then-Illinois senator argued there were other ways to achieve reform short of requiring every American to purchase insurance. ‘I note that in 2008, then-Senator Obama supported a health care reform proposal that did not include an individual mandate because he was at that time strongly opposed to the idea, stating that, “If a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house,”’ Judge Vinson wrote in a footnote toward the end of his 78-page ruling Monday…

“The footnote was attached to the most critical part of Judge Vinson‘s ruling, in which he said the ‘principal dispute’ in the case was not whether Congress has the power to tackle health care, but rather whether it has the power to compel individual citizens to purchase insurance.”

The Curse of War

Good Culture reported on January 27:

“For the second year in a row, more American soldiers—both enlisted men and women and veterans—committed suicide than were killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Excluding accidents and illness, 462 soldiers died in combat, while 468 committed suicide. A difference of six isn’t vast by any means, but the symbolism is significant and troubling. In 2009, there were 381 suicides by military personnel, a number that also exceeded the number of combat deaths.

“Earlier this month, military authorities announced that suicides amongst active-duty soldiers had slowed in 2010, while suicides amongst reservists and people in the National Guard had increased. It was proof, they said, that the frequent psychological screenings active-duty personnel receive were working… This new data, that American soldiers are now more dangerous to themselves than the insurgents, flies right in the face of any suggestion that things are ‘working.’…

“One of the problems hindering the military’s attempt to address soldier suicides is that there’s no real rhyme or reason to what kind of soldier is killing himself. While many suicide victims are indeed afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after facing heavy combat in the Middle East, many more have never even been deployed. Of the 112 guardsmen who committed suicide last year, more than half had never even left American soil.”

The above-described cases of suicide are apparently linked to fighting in war or to the prospect of having to fight in war. Our eye-opening free booklet, “Should YOU Fight in War?,” shows you why God calls war a curse, and not a blessing.

Australian Cyclone Yasi Hits

The Associated Press wrote on February 3:

“Residents and officials were amazed and relieved that no one was reported killed by the monstrous Cyclone Yasi, which roared across northern Queensland with winds up to 170 mph (280 kph). Tidal surges sent waves crashing ashore two blocks into seaside communities, several small towns directly under Yasi’s eye were devastated and hundreds of millions of dollars of banana and sugarcane crops were shredded.

“Officials said lives were spared because, after days of increasingly dire warnings, people followed instructions to flee to evacuation centers or bunker themselves at home in dozens of cities and towns in Yasi’s path…

“Yasi crossed the coast around midnight at the most-destructive Category 5 rating and then immediately began to weaken. Still, it was strong enough to hold a Category 1 cyclone rating about 500 miles (800 kilometers) inland, where it was threatening to cause flooding late Thursday in the Outback town of Mount Isa. It was a terrifying night for thousands who waited out the storm in their darkened houses…

“The disaster zone was north of Australia’s worst flooding in decades, which swamped an area in Queensland state the size [of] Germany and France combined and killed 35 people during weeks of high water until last month. But the storm added to the state’s woes, and was sure to add substantially to the estimated $5.6 billion in damage since late November. The government has already announced a special tax nationwide to help pay for the earlier flooding…

“Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said initial assessments were that more than 280 houses were damaged in the three hardest-hit towns, and crews were unable to reach at least four others, so the tally would certainly rise. Australia’s huge, sparsely populated tropical north is battered annually by about six cyclones — called typhoons throughout much of Asia and hurricanes in the Western hemisphere. Building codes have been strengthened since Cyclone Tracy devastated the city of Darwin in 1974, killing 71 in one of Australia’s deadliest natural disasters. ‘This was the worst cyclone this country has experienced, potentially, for 100 years, and I think that due to very good planning, a very good response … we’ve been able to keep people safe,’ Roberts said.

“Still, signs of devastation were everywhere. The main coastal highway was a slalom course of downed trees and power lines, fields of sugar cane and banana were shredded and flattened, and lush hillside forests were stripped of every leaf.”

Hard to Believe—Global Warming Causing Snowfalls?

On February 1, 2011, Al Gore posted the following comments on his blog:

“As it turns out, the scientific community [says] that increased heavy snowfalls are completely consistent with what they have been predicting as a consequence of man-made global warming:

“In fact, scientists have been warning for at least two decades that global warming could make snowstorms more severe. Snow has two simple ingredients: cold and moisture. Warmer air collects moisture like a sponge until it hits a patch of cold air. When temperatures dip below freezing, a lot of moisture creates a lot of snow.

“A rise in global temperature can create all sorts of havoc, ranging from hotter dry spells to colder winters, along with increasingly violent storms, flooding, forest fires and loss of endangered species.”

Cloning a Mammoth

CNN reported on January 17:

“A team of scientists from Japan, Russia and the United States hopes to clone a mammoth, a symbol of Earth’s ice age that ended 12,000 years ago… The researchers say they hope to produce a baby mammoth within six years. The scientists say they will extract DNA from a mammoth carcass that has been preserved in a Russian laboratory and insert it into the egg cells of an African elephant in hopes of producing a mammoth embryo.

“The team is being led by Akira Iritani, a professor emeritus at Kyoto University in Japan… who successfully cloned a mouse from cells that had been frozen for 16 years… The U.S. researchers are in vitro fertilization experts.

“’If a cloned embryo can be created, we need to discuss, before transplanting it into the womb, how to breed [the mammoth] and whether to display it to the public,’ Iritani [said…] After the mammoth is born, we’ll examine its ecology and genes to study why the species became extinct and other factors.’”

What will be next? Will scientists, in their idle and vain endeavor to play God, attempt to clone flesh-eating predatory dinosaurs and other vicious animals?  Will Jurassic Park become a frightening reality? We should be able to see more and more clearly WHY God has to intervene soon to put an end to man’s madness (compare Matthew 24:22).

The Designed Human Brain

Pravda wrote on January 18:

“The brain has for a long time been compared to man-made computers in its astounding ability to process, store, and route information. But a new imaging technique has revealed that just one brain’s connections and capacities far outnumber and outpace those of all the world’s computers. And this makes the question of the origin of brains that much more difficult for naturalistic explanations… New computer software processed all the data to produce stunning three-dimensional images of never-before-seen brain cell connections…

“‘[The researchers] found that the brain’s complexity is beyond anything they’d imagined,’ according to an article appearing in the Health Tech section of the online news source CNET. For instance, they found that the total number of synapses in a brain roughly equaled the number of stars in 1,500 Milky Way galaxies! And memory patterns and tiny on/off switches, which were long thought to reside in the larger neuron cell bodies, were instead found to be smaller than the tiny synapse connections. Each of the neurons imaged in the study serves thousands of synapses.

“Stanford University professor and senior study author Stephen Smith said that ‘one synapse may contain on the order of 1,000 molecular-scale switches. A single human brain has more switches than all the computers and routers and Internet connections on Earth.’ This research multiplies the brain’s overall computing power far beyond what was previously known.

“The more complicated a system is, the stronger it argues for having been intentionally designed. And brains certainly qualify, despite assertions that random-acting natural processes somehow assembled them. In these cases, the burden of proof lies heavily on those who insist that such systems are not in fact what they plainly appear to be: the products of intentional ingenious design.

“The God of the Bible stands as the most tenable source of the specified complexity of interconnected neurons upon which human and much animal life depends. Until a naturalistic alternative can explain how a self-healing, adaptive, cosmic-sized internet of connectivity has been shrunk down to the size of a brain, then it is best to identify this hyper-tech design as being the product of a real Designer. And until an objective body of evidence can legitimately debunk the Bible’s historicity and proven accuracy, then it is best to identify this Designer as the Creator and Sustainer revealed in Scripture.”

Why can’t we just accept godly-inspired truth, as written down in the Bible? If you want to learn more about the reality and veracity of God’s Word, please read our free booklet, “The Authority of the Bible.” Also, if you want to learn the scientific and biblical proofs for man’s creation, please read our free booklet, “The Theory of Evolution—a Fairy Tale for Adults?”

Back to top

I understand that the Jewish people, at the Feast of Purim, are allowed and even encouraged to use this day to celebrate and get drunk. Surely this behaviour cannot be right even for just one day a year?

First, let us explain that the Feast of Purim is not one of God’s commanded Holy Days. It is celebrated by the Jews, and observing the Purim Feast by them is, per se, not against Scripture. As a Jew, Jesus would have kept the Feast of Purim, although there is no specific reference in the New Testament that He did. But as it is pointed out in the Question, many times the way in which it is celebrated is clearly against God’s commandments.

The date for Purim in 2010 was February 28th and this year will be on March 20th.

Wikipedia makes the following comments about this festival:

“Purim is a festival that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people of the ancient Persian Empire from Haman’s plot to annihilate them, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther. According to the story, Haman cast lots to determine the day upon which to exterminate the Jews.

“Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (Adar II in leap years), the day following the victory of the Jews over their enemies; as with all Jewish holidays, Purim begins at sundown on the previous secular day. In cities that were protected by a surrounding wall at the time of Joshua, including Shushan and Jerusalem, Purim is celebrated on the 15th of the month, known as Shushan Purim. Purim is characterized by public recitation of the Book of Esther, giving mutual gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor, and a celebratory meal. Other customs include drinking wine, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration.”

Many of these activities are praiseworthy. Giving charity to the poor is a trait that we must all practice (Deuteronomy 15:7, 11; Proverbs 22:9 and 28:27; Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33 and 14:13; Acts 10:4; and Galatians 2:10, among many other references in the Bible). Giving mutual gifts of food and wine to others shows good hospitality (Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7-8; 1 Peter 4:9). Dancing and celebration in themselves are not wrong (Exodus 15:20; 2 Samuel 6:16; Psalm 30:11; Luke 15:25), but when this leads to excess and wrong behaviour, then it is not in accordance with biblical instruction on how to live our lives.

In a programme broadcast on British television in February 2010, it showed what happened at the Feast of Purim in Jerusalem last year. The presenter said that this was the one day of the year that the Mea She’arim (the ultra-orthodox Jews who will stone your car if you drive into their area on the Sabbath) were allowed to get so drunk that they wouldn’t even remember it. They interviewed young religious men saying to the camera that they were going to get really drunk and seemed to revel in the idea.

In her book “This is Israel”, Sylvia Mann wrote the following in 1980: “…Mea She’arim is still looking as it did a century ago. The whole community is Ashkenazi – Jews of Eastern or Central European origin – and is fanatically orthodox. Only Yiddish is spoken, for Hebrew is observed as the language of prayer.”

Of course, the Mea She’arim are just one group of Jews who observe the feast of Purim.

One report about Purim in 2009 said: “A group of ultra-Orthodox men, black silk coats shining, fur shtreimels on their heads, stood yesterday on the corner of one of Tel Aviv’s bastions of secular life – Ahad Ha’am and Sheinkin streets – formed a circle and broke out in Hassidic dance. They pulled a secular man into the circle with them, singing at the top of their lungs, perhaps a bit tipsy. I had not seen such true joy in a long time. My eldest son was just then on his way back to Tel Aviv from a trance party at Hamat Gader in the north, which had begun at dawn and ended with last light. Six thousand young people, 28 arrests for possession of narcotics, and on the phone my son said it had been great. And yet the ultra-Orthodox dancing was more memorable for me. The day before I was thrown out with threats from Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim quarter.”

Another report said: “One is supposed to imbibe enough strong drink to blur the distinction between Mordechai and Haman, there was no sign on the streets of anyone being overtly drunk. Passing the large Yakiray Yisrael Yeshiva, however, we could see bottles being passed around amongst the men in the large study hall that had been converted into a makeshift all-male dance hall.”

We can see from all this information that this group conducts itself as being ultra conservative throughout the year, but on the Feast of Purim, drinking, smoking by the very young and drug taking is all permitted.

There are indeed a number of issues that we need to address and lessons that we can learn.

First of all, the modest and sensible use of alcohol is permitted. Psalm 104:15 talks about “wine that makes glad the heart of man.” The apostle Paul encourages Timothy to “use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23), and Jesus instituted the New Testament Passover with the bread and wine (Matthew 26:27-29; Mark 14:23-25; Luke 22:20). However, the excess of alcohol is condemned (compare Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-32; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 4:3). Drunkenness is one of the works of the flesh “and those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21; compare also 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Drug use can lead to or is intoxication. Illegal drugs are clearly prohibited in Scripture, but even the use of “legal” drugs can be dangerous, and the same Scriptural principles can apply as they do to alcohol. One report said that “The short term effects of any intoxication can be slurred speech, staggering, and poor judgment and reflexes. Large doses can cause unconsciousness or death. The user may become so confused he takes more drugs without realizing the consequences. Long term effects can be addiction. Users think they must have the drug to function. Obtaining drugs can then become the main function of life. Tolerance requires greater amounts to get the same effect. Stopping can cause extreme withdrawal, anxiety, convulsions and even death.”

With respect to cigarette smoking, God says that our bodies are the temple of God. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who [better: which] is in you, whom [which] you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

The Bible never directly states that smoking is wrong. But many biblical principles prohibit smoking. 1 Corinthians 6:12 tells us: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” Paul is not saying that it is lawful for him to commit murder. But even in regard to things which are “neutral” or permitted, he still refuses to come under their power or mastery. How much more it is true that we must not engage in things which are harmful.

Smoking is undeniably strongly addictive, and it is clearly very bad for our health, causing damage to the lungs and the heart. Smoking is in no way “helpful” or “expedient” (1 Corinthians 6:12, Authorized Version). We are not glorifying God with our body, when we smoke (1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31). Smoking does not reflect any love and care for ourselves and our health.

In addition, smoking is also not just merely unpleasant for passive by-standers, but medical research has shown that it is very dangerous for their health as well. It can even become, to an extent, more dangerous than for the smoker. Smoking does not show love for our fellow man; it is totally selfish and self-oriented.

It is important to note that the Bible teaches that true Christianity is a way of life. In Acts 9:2 we read: “…[Saul] asked letters from [the high priest] to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem..” Acts 19:23 further enforces this understanding: “And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way.”

True Christianity is a full-time commitment – a complete way of life, every second of every day – without taking any time off. If we let down our defences Satan will exploit any weaknesses that we have and any carelessness that we show if we are not close to God and stay that way. Unlike those who have not been called at this time and who do stray from their normal religious behaviour even if for only one day a year, we must take our calling very seriously at all times. We must remember that “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

1 Peter 5:6-10 tells us exactly what we must do: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”

Lead Writer: Brian Gale

Back to top

Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

Michael and Noelle Link are happy to announce the birth of their son, Mason Brody. He was born on February 1, 2011, at 7:25 pm, after 9 hours of labor. His weight was seven pounds, and he was 19 inches long. Everything went perfectly and everybody is doing fine.

A new StandingWatch program, titled, “The Future of the Middle East,” was posted on the Web. The program asks: What is the meaning of the tumultuous developments in Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt? Where is it all heading? What will Europe and the USA attempt to do to solve the fragile situation in that part of the world? Does the Bible give us answers as to what the future holds? 

Norbert Link’s sermon, “Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, Part 1,” was posted on the Web.

A new German sermon was recorded this week. It deals with the life of Jacob and Esau (and Israel and Edom today and in the near future) and is titled, “Die Geschichte von zwei Bruedern” (“A Tale of Two Brothers.”)

Back to top

How This Work is Financed

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

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

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

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

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

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

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

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

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

©2024 Church of the Eternal God