|Current Events||This Week in the News|
|Q&A||Is the true Church of God a Sect?|
|The Work||Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock|
by Dave Harris
Do you turn to faith as your last resort—only when you are desperate and without any other resource at hand?
Is this when you begin to think about God?
You know, it is really odd, but faith is so often referred to as something someone has when everything else has been stripped away. But is that really what biblical faith is about?
Jesus Christ expressed stern disapproval of His disciples for their lack of faith on more than one occasion (compare Matthew 6:30; 8:26; 16:8). A poignant example is that of Peter, who, when bid by Jesus to come to Him on the turbulent sea, for a time was able to do so but was quickly overcome with fear. Jesus rebuked him, saying, “‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31).
Peter did not then have enough faith, and even the little that he did possess failed. Yet, as the Church of God began to flourish following its establishment on the Day of Pentecost, Peter—as well as the other disciples—boldly stepped forward as the ministers of Jesus Christ in the face of imprisonment, beatings and relentless persecution. They grew in faith!
During this time, seven men were chosen to serve as deacons. One of those individuals was Stephen, “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). What follows is the account of Stephen’s testimony against false accusers and his martyrdom!
Stephen trusted God completely—even to the point of surrendering his own life! This is the same kind of faith we read about in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, and it is certainly the unwavering faith exemplified by Jesus Christ.
We are told that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6)! The record of the Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—resonates with the examples of godly men and women who did please God, and they did so through great faith!
If we are to have seeing eyes and hearing ears, then now is the time for us to be strengthening our faith. And if we truly understand, then we know that the faith that we are to have is not even our own but that of Jesus Christ!
When our trials come—as they do—will we be full of faith, or are we going to have to rely on the little faith—the faith of last resort?
We begin with a “revealing” article on the position of the Obama Administration towards Iran, which reveals nothing… except, that the position seems to be hopelessly confused and inconsistent. We also report on ongoing tensions with Iran. We continue relating American attacks on and mischaracterizations of Europe—especially by Republicans—which will undoubtedly anger the Europeans. We also report on Mitt Romney’s success and a frightening development in the USA, reminiscent of Big Brother activities.
We quote an interesting article about the deteriorating relationship between Britain and continental Europe, as well as Jamaica’s desire to cut ties with the British monarchy. Events like these confirm biblical prophecies about the rise and decline of the once mighty and powerful British Empire, which ruled over the British Commonwealth nations. For more information, please read our free booklets, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord,” and “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America.”
We report on the ongoing scandal surrounding Germany’s President, Germany’s rising prosperity and German desire to get financially and politically involved in North Africa. We conclude with a report on the Doomsday Clock and a remarkable piece about the Catholic Church’s Christmas declarations, which shows that that church seems to publish teachings based on “historical facts,” which it knows or should know to be incorrect.
This Week in the News
AFP wrote on January 8, 2012:
“The United States will respond if Iran tries to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Gulf, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta… told CBS television… Panetta was seconded by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said Iran has the means to close the waterway, through which 20 percent of the world’s oil passes. ‘But we would take action and reopen the Straits,’ the general said on the same show, ‘Face the Nation.’
“Their comments follow Iranian threats to close the strait if the European Union slaps an embargo on Iranian oil, the latest step in a U.S.-led campaign to pressure Tehran to give up their nuclear program. Western powers suspect Iran is bent on gaining atomic weapons, which Tehran denies. The rising tensions have driven oil prices soaring over 100 dollars a barrel, hitting an eight-month high earlier this week, and sent jitters throughout the oil-rich Gulf amid growing fears of a spiral into conflict…
“Panetta said the United States does not believe Iran is actively developing a nuclear weapon, and reaffirmed Washington’s preference for diplomatic and economic pressure over military action as the way to deter Tehran. But he bluntly warned Tehran against going from developing a nuclear capability to developing an atomic weapon. ‘I think they need to know that if they take that step that they’re going to get stopped,’ he said.
“At another point, Panetta said, ‘Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No…’ Dempsey sidestepped questions on the difficulty of taking out Iran’s nuclear capability, but said planning was underway for a military option… Asked whether the United States could take out Iran’s nuclear capability without resorting to the use of nuclear weapons itself, Dempsey said, ‘I absolutely want them to believe that that’s the case.’
“Panetta, meanwhile, suggested the United States would not welcome unilateral military action by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities. ‘If the Israelis made that decision, we would have to be prepared to protect our forces in that situation…’ he said.”
To analyze this hotchpotch of different and inconsistent answers: the USA does not believe that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon; the USA will stop them if they did, but not with nuclear weapons; the USA is concerned that Israel might act militarily towards Iran; the USA will protect American forces under those circumstances; the USA is going to reopen the Strait of Hormuz if Iran is going to close it, without saying how the USA would do that… With this double talk, we leave it to the reader to try to make some sense out of this…
Iran Accuses Israel and USA of Assassination
Bloomberg reported on January 12:
“The Iranian government said in a letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that a civilian nuclear scientist who was killed by a bomb yesterday was the latest victim of a foreign terror campaign… Iranian officials have accused the U.S. and Israel of targeting Iranian nuclear scientists in an effort to halt Iran’s nuclear program… Mostafa Ahamdi Roshan, who was killed in a Tehran bomb blast, was the fourth prominent Iranian scientist to be targeted in similar attacks…
“Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said by telephone that he had no comment on the reports… ‘I want to categorically deny any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran’, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters yesterday in Washington…
“Some Republican presidential candidates in the U.S. have supported efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program by attacking its scientists. In a November debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich endorsed ‘taking out their scientists,’ and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum called it ‘a wonderful thing’ when Iranian scientists are killed.
“Previous attacks against Iranian nuclear scientists involved the assassination of Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, killed by a bomb outside his Tehran home in January 2010, and an explosion in November of that year that took the life of Majid Shahriari and wounded Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, who is now the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization…
“The attacks on scientists may be the work of a foreign intelligence agency such as Israel’s Mossad, according to a U.S. official who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity because intelligence matters are classified. They also could have been carried out by an Iranian exile group such as the People’s Mujahadeen Organization of Iran working independently or in cooperation with a foreign intelligence agency, the official said in a telephone interview. Attributing the murder to the Mujahadeen is ‘absolutely false,’ the group said in an e-mailed statement…
“European Union foreign ministers plan to meet on Jan. 23 to discuss imposing an oil embargo on Iran. Iranian officials have threatened to shut the Strait of Hormuz, a transit route for a fifth of the world’s oil, if crude exports are sanctioned… Yesterday’s attack ‘comes in the middle of heightened tensions, and it helps Iran to play on a sense of threat that it is under a lot of pressure,’ Gala Riani, a Middle East analyst at London-based forecaster IHS Global Insight, said by telephone. ‘It can also be beneficial to more extremist elements in the government who are supporting further military drills in the Strait of Hormuz.’
“Iran conducted naval exercises near the Strait for 10 days that ended early this month. Iran also announced on Jan. 6 plans for ‘naval war games’ to be conducted by the Revolutionary Guard Corps next month.”
The Associated Press added on January 12:
“A hard-line Iranian newspaper called Thursday for retaliation against Israel, a day after the mysterious killing of a nuclear scientist in Tehran with a magnetic bomb attached to his car. Iran’s top leader blamed Israel and the U.S. Provocative hints from Israel reinforced the perception that the killing was part of an organized and clandestine campaign to set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions…”
America’s Attack on Europe
Der Spiegel Online wrote on September 9:
“Europe is socialist, bloated and a threat to the global economy. That appears to be the message from the ongoing presidential campaign in the US. Republicans in particular have discovered Europe as a convenient punching bag — and have even begun accusing each other of being too ‘European.’
“An apparition is stalking the United States. That, at least, is what the Republicans seem to believe in this election season. And the apparition has a name: Europe. US President Barack Obama, said leading Republican candidate Mitt Romney during the Republican debate on Saturday, wants to turn the US into a ‘European welfare state’…
“In an election year overshadowed by the threats posed by the European economy and concerns about the break-up of the European common currency, it is a message that Romney has been delivering every chance he gets. And he’s not alone. Europe bashing has become an important stump-speech cornerstone for the entire Republican field…
“Negative portrayals of Europe are, of course, by no means a novelty when it comes to American political campaigns… This time around, though, with Europe deep in crisis, the Continent has become an even more prominent element of Republicans’ stump speeches…
“‘You want to see America after the Obama administration is through,’ arch-conservative candidate Rick Santorum said on the campaign trail last week, ‘just read up on Greece’… The US president, in other words, is merely a European in disguise… Newt Gingrich, in particular, never tires of calling Obama a ‘socialist’… And Ron Paul, perhaps the most extreme of the Republican field full of extremists, advocates pulling US troops out of Europe, in part so that America is no longer in the position of subsidizing ‘socialist Germany.’
“Such attacks would, of course, be ridiculous were they not so effective at a time when the economic outlook in the US is far from rosy, particularly given the danger that the euro-zone debt crisis could put a quick stop to America’s fragile economic recovery… Indeed, even Obama himself has become a fan of Europe bashing… The Obama administration has… repeatedly demanded that European leaders — first and foremost German Chancellor Angela Merkel — take more decisive action. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has traveled to Europe several times in recent months to lend urgency to the message…
“But for the Republicans, the focus on Europe has a different motivation. The war on Europe is not merely one guided by economic concerns. It is presented as a cultural confrontation. ‘American elites are guided by their desire to emulate the European elites,’ says Gingrich. ‘As a result, anti-religious values and principles are coming to dominate the academic, news media and judicial class in America.’ Secular Europe, in other words, has become a threat to Christian America…
“Santorum prefers to take a slightly more historical approach, comparing the European welfare state to the absolute rule of monarchies. The founders of America, he says, left Europe because they no longer wanted to be ruled by monarchs…
“It is [a] statement that sounds absurd from a European point of view — even more so given the current state of the US economy…”
Europeans are not happy with such accusations. They will retort in kind—and worse—as long as those statements continue… and we can expect that “Europe bashing” will get much worse during this election year. Note the next articles as well:
Mitt Romney Makes History
Fox News wrote on January 11:
“Mitt Romney improved his own 2008 New Hampshire primary showing by about 20,000 votes and is the first Republican non-incumbent ever to win both the Iowa caucuses and in New Hampshire… The Democrats aren’t expected to ever praise Romney for anything, but it is revealing for the GOP frontrunner that conservatives are so unwilling to credit him for anything. And it shows some of the difficulty of the task ahead for an increasingly inevitable-looking Romney…
“The conservatives, sensing the imminence of their defeat, have resorted to the best, most damaging line of attack on Romney: that he was unethical and greedy in his work as a private equity dude at Bain Capital… Voters are already tired of this ugly process. It seems unlikely that they will opt to prolong it by unhorsing Romney now.”
If this is true, then Mitt Romney’s victory speech in New Hampshire should be taken note of. It is full of charges and promises—but ate they believable or even realistic? We are bringing the following excerpts from his speech:
The National Journal wrote on January 11:
“Americans know that our future is brighter and better than these troubled times… President Obama… wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society. We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity… This President puts his faith in government. We put our faith in the American people… I will cut, cap, and balance the budget… I believe a strong America must – and will – lead the future… I will insist on a military so powerful no one would think of challenging it… I want you to remember when our White House reflected the best of who we are, not the worst of what Europe has become.”
The Bible prophesies the exact opposite and warns us never to put our trust and faith in the people or in government. For more information, please read our free booklet, “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America.”
Reuters reported on January 12:
“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s command center routinely monitors dozens of popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks and news and gossip sites including the Huffington Post and Drudge Report, according to a government document… the operations center ‘will retain information for no more than five years.’
“The monitoring scheme also features a five-page list, attached to the privacy review document, of websites the Department’s command center expected to be monitoring… blogs related to terrorism and security are also on the list. Some of the sites on the list are potentially controversial. WikiLeaks is listed for monitoring… Another blog on the list, Cryptome, also periodically posts leaked documents and was one of the first websites to post information related to the Homeland Security monitoring program… Also on the list are various video and photo-sharing sites, including… Youtube and Flickr.
“While a DHS official involved in the monitoring program confirmed the authenticity of the list, officials authorized to speak for the Department did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.”
Will Britain Declare War on Europe?
The Express wrote on January 9:
“David Cameron has three weeks to decide whether to bless a new eurozone treaty or use Britain’s veto and place the country in a ‘very grave position’, a senior observer warned last night. Peter Ludlow, president of the European Strategy Forum think tank, said Germany and France are confident they will secure a deal to save the long term future of the euro by the end of this month. That would mean tougher financial rules for members of the eurozone and the use of existing EU institutions to enforce them, a move Mr Cameron has indicated is a step too far.
“However, veteran EU analyst Mr Ludlow said one ‘very senior member’ of the European Council had told him that if Britain were to try to block the deal it would be ‘tantamount to a declaration of war’. He said: ‘If Cameron is stupid enough to try and block the use of the institutions it would be a very, very dramatic development which could only have grave consequences in terms of ¬Britain’s own interests. It would be his nuclear weapon and that’s why all the messages I get from various people give the impression he will not do that.’
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy want a new ‘fiscal compact’ that commits countries to running a balanced budget. They want the rules enshrined in EU law so that sanctions can be levied on any member breaching them. That would mean a bigger role for the European Court of Justice and un-elected European Commission, which would also have a larger say on the ¬single market, not just matters relating to the euro.
“Mr Cameron said on Friday he would be against such a development but Mr Ludlow, who lectures around the world on EU affairs, told the Sunday Express: ‘The Germans and the French are absolutely serious. They are confident they can get the political agreement on this treaty by the end of this month and they will go ahead. I don’t think for a moment that Britain will join this scheme within 50 years, let alone five. However, I don’t think there is much that ¬Cameron can do. I don’t think there is any intention of the Germans or French or anyone else of pushing Britain out of the EU but there is nevertheless a realistic assessment that the ¬British may edge themselves out or at least redefine their position in such a basic way that they are to all intents and purposes in another category of membership.’
“Mr Ludlow also questioned the description of Mr Cameron’s ‘veto’ at talks in Brussels last month. He said: ‘He didn’t veto, the negotiations were terminated by his partners who could see he had no negotiating position.’”
Sooner rather than later, Britain will cease to be a full member of the EU.
Jamaica Wants to Cut Ties with British Monarchy
Al Jazeera wrote on January 7:
“Jamaica’s new prime minister has said that it is time for her country to cut ties with the British monarchy and declare itself an independent republic. Speaking at her inaugural address on Friday, Portia Simpson Miller said her government would ‘initiate the process of detachment from the monarchy’, establishing a republic with a president as head of state, and breaking off links with the former colonial power.
“Jamaica is a constitutional parliamentary democracy and also a Commonwealth realm… Currently under Jamaica’s constitution, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, and the prime minister is formally appointed by the governor-general, who represents the queen. The announcement comes ahead of celebrations to mark 50 years of the country’s independence from the UK.”
Britain’s once dominating role in the world is certainly diminishing.
“Germany No Longer Has a President”
Der Spiegel wrote on January 9:
“German President Christian Wulff refuses to step down amid a scandal involving a threatening phone call to a major newspaper and dodgy business dealings. German commentators warn that his resignation could cause Angela Merkel’s government to collapse…
“The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: ‘…The result of a new presidential election could persuade the humiliated FDP to try one last attempt to save themselves, namely by ending their coalition with the conservatives. That would mean the end of Merkel’s government.’
“The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes: ‘The opposition is right: Of course Wulff is Merkel’s president… The Wulff affair poses one big danger for Merkel’s party. Wulff’s behavior challenges Christian Democrats’ image of themselves. The president makes a mockery of values that the conservatives like to believe in, such as integrity, honesty and standing up for what you believe in.’
“… The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes: ‘Christian Wulff will lose this war, even if he doesn’t have an enemy. He himself is the enemy. He himself organized — or disorganized, if you will — his life in such a way that all of these questions must be asked of him. Three weeks after the affair began, he has created more confusion than clarity with his answers. He has misused his tool of the trade, the word. With that, he has done himself in. Germany no longer has a president.’”
Since Germany “no longer has a president,” the question must be asked who the next President will be… and will new presidential elections in fact destroy the Merkel government? The Local added on January 12 that “President Christian Wulff hosted what was reportedly a tense New Year’s reception on Thursday, as the first open calls for his resignation came from members of parliament in his own political party.”
Germany Benefits from “Euro Crisis”
Der Spiegel wrote on January 10:
“Its neighbors may be suffering, but the euro crisis has created conditions that actually benefit the German economy. Not only is the government enjoying the windfall of negative interest rates on bonds, but unemployment is down and exports are booming… the German government… borrowed €3.9 billion ($5 billion) for the next six months at the unbelievable interest rate of -0.01 percent. Even the German Finance Agency was stunned. ‘This has never happened before,’ a spokesperson said.
“The Finance Ministry should be pleased. In the last four years, they’ve had to shell out around 1.8 percent in interest for such bonds. But recently even interest rates on German bonds with longer maturities have decreased significantly. The federal government is saving a bundle. The reason for the windfall? Amid the ongoing euro crisis, Germany is one of the few borrowers that are still regarded as a safe haven. Many investors would rather lend the government money at bargain-basement rates than risk losses…
“It has become a rule of the euro crisis: While a number of euro-zone countries suffer, Germany profits… The German economy… is still expected to grow by 0.4 percent this year.
“The imbalance between Germany and many other euro-zone countries is most apparent on the job market, though. Euro-zone unemployment now averages 10.3 percent, but in Germany the figure sank to 7.1 percent for 2011… Indirectly, Germany also profits from a simple symptom of the crisis — the weak euro, which has fallen to about $1.27, its lowest value since Sept. 2010.
“For German companies, the sinking euro acts as a kind of crisis buffer. While it reduces demand for German products within the euro zone, these make up only around 40 percent of the country’s exports. But for the rest of the world, a weak euro means cheaper German products…Indeed, German exports grew by 2.5 percent month-on-month in November, reaching €94.9 billion. Compared to a year earlier, exports were up by an impressive 8.3 percent. The crisis notwithstanding, exports for 2011 as a whole surpassed the historic trillion-euro level, a benchmark not even reached during the boom year of 2008.”
Interesting, isn’t it? Bible prophecies come true, predicting Germany’s powerful leadership role in Europe.
Germany Gets Involved in North Africa
The Local wrote on January 10:
“German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has thrown strong support behind North Africa’s emerging democracies during an historic visit to Algeria, Libya and Tunisia, saying Germany wants to play a key role in helping them succeed. Westerwelle, who wrapped up his weekend trip with a visit to Tunisia’s capital Tunis on Monday, singled out the country for particular praise, calling it a potential ‘model,’ despite European concerns that Islamic parties are growing in strength there.
“‘I think the concerns have absolutely no justification,’ Westerwelle said. ‘Tunisia can become a model for transformation in the region if it succeeds in perpetuating the fledgling democratization process.’
“Germany has pledged €32 million in aid to Tunisia and is helping the country reschedule €60 million in debt, said Westerwelle, who also called for deepening economic ties between the two countries. Westerwelle’s travels have been portrayed as an important signal that Berlin is willing to invest key resources in the attempt to help democratic governments in North Africa.
“This comes after Germany took a largely hands-off approach in the ‘Arab Spring’ series of revolutions. Germany upset many allies by refusing to play a military role in NATO’s military campaign that eventually toppled Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Berlin has, though, offered significant material and financial support to new governments – including an offer of more than €100 million in humanitarian aid to Libya where German doctors are already working. In Tripoli, Westerwelle pledged continuing assistance on Sunday, saying ‘Germany stands beside this new Libya.’
“Amidst his democracy-building travels, the Foreign Minister has had strong words for Iranian authorities who have become isolated from the West because of their alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. On Monday he called a death sentence… handed down to a man in Tehren suspected of spying for the CIA ‘in no way acceptable.’”
We see how Germany is getting actively involved in exerting influence in several North African countries. Of course, Guido Westerwelle’s assurance that there is no danger emanating from the power grip of Islamic parties in the region is highly naïve and unrealistic—and the Bible prophesies that Germany will finally recognize their error in judgment and in turn become very aggressive in their dealings with those countries.
Doomsday Clock–Five Minutes to Midnight
Fox News reported on January 10:
“In a sign of pessimism about humanity’s future, scientists today set the hands of the infamous ‘Doomsday Clock’ forward one minute from two years ago. ‘It is now five minutes to midnight,’ Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) director Kennette Benedict announced today (Jan. 10) at a press conference in Washington, D.C. That represents a symbolic step closer to doomsday, a change from the clock’s previous mark of six minutes to midnight, set in January 2010.
“The clock is a symbol of the threat of humanity’s imminent destruction from nuclear or biological weapons, climate change and other human-caused disasters. In making their deliberations about how to update the clock’s time, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists focused on the current state of nuclear arsenals around the globe, disastrous events such as the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, and biosecurity issues such as the creation of an airborne H5N1 flu strain.
“The Doomsday Clock came into being in 1947 as a way for atomic scientists to warn the world of the dangers of nuclear weapons. That year, the Bulletin set the time at seven minutes to midnight, with midnight symbolizing humanity’s destruction. By 1949, it was at three minutes to midnight as the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union deteriorated. In 1953, after the first test of the hydrogen bomb, the doomsday clock ticked to two minutes until midnight.
“The Bulletin — and the clock ¬— were at their most optimistic in 1991, when the Cold War thawed and the United States and Russia began cutting their arsenals. That year, the Bulletin set the clock at 17 minutes to midnight. From then until 2010, however, it was a gradual creep back toward destruction, as hopes of total nuclear disarmament vanished and threats of nuclear terrorism and climate change reared their heads. In 2010, the Bulletin found some hope in arms reduction treaties and international climate talks and nudged the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock back to six minutes from midnight from its previous post at five to midnight.
“With today’s decision, the Bulletin repudiated that optimism… ‘The world still has approximately over 20,000 deployed nuclear weapons with enough power to destroy the world’s inhabitants many times over,’ said Lawrence Krauss, an Arizona State University professor and the co-chair of the BAS Board of Sponsors. ‘We also have the prospect of nuclear weapons being used by terrorist non-state actors’…”
Even though scientists have been wrong before with their prognostications, it should be rather obvious that we are getting closer to the time of the Great Tribulation, which would destroy ALL FLESH on this planet, if God were not to intervene and shorten these days.
Zenit reported on December 25:
“Benedict XVI has restored the tradition of proclaiming the birth of Christ with the chanting of the ‘Kalenda.’ The chant culminated the prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square on Christmas Eve, which was accompanied by the unveiling of the life-size Nativity Scene. Here is an English translation of the proclamation, provided by the U.S. bishops:
“THE PROCLAMATION OF THE BIRTH OF CHRIST
“Today, the twenty–fifth day of December, unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth and then formed man and woman in his own image.
“Several thousand years after the flood, when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.
“Twenty–one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah; thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt.
“Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges; one thousand years from the anointing of David as king; in the sixty–fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.
“In the one hundred and ninety–fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty–second year from the foundation of the city of Rome.
“The forty–second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; the whole world being at peace, Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.
“Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.”
By giving historical dates for all of the above-stated events (even though we are not saying that those dates are correct), and then culminating the proclamation with the sentence that “today” (December 25) is the nativity of Christ, it is clearly being postulated, as a historical fact, that Christ was born on December 25—not only, that orthodox Christianity celebrates Christ‘s birth on that day. Now, this is a false statement, and it could be construed as being made intentionally, since the Catholic Church knows that Christ was NOT born on December 25. Other religious leaders know this too, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, who recently admitted that Christ could not have been born in December.
All of this means that the Pope and the Catholic Church appear to knowingly mislead the masses about the date of Christ’s birth, and it is no surprise that many ill-informed Catholics who are trusting in the veracity of their church’s teachings, are believing the lie. In addition, by changing or at least participating in the change of the European calendar in such a way that Sunday is being designated as the last day of the week—even though the Catholic Church knows (and even teaches) that Saturday is the last day of the week and the biblical Sabbath—further misrepresentations appear to be perpetrated with the goal of deceiving their followers in believing that Sunday is the biblical Sabbath.
In this context, make sure to read our Q&A in this week’s Update.
Is the true Church of God a Sect?
A “sect” may be defined as “a body of persons agreed upon religious doctrines usually different from those of an established or orthodox church from which they have separated; non-conformist or other church as described by opponents.”
The terms “cult” and “sect” are often used interchangeably; a sect is usually connected with religion and a cult may be – but many things outside the religious arena can also be classified as cultish. Certain television programmes may have a cult following – never a sect following.
Very often, using the term “sect” or “cult” is an epithet – a term of derision, a put down, an insult or a way of dismissing others. A former leader of the Worldwide Church of God, Joseph Tkach Sr., stated repeatedly that he did not like to be called the leader of a cult—hence his desire to change doctrines to bring them more in line with orthodox Christianity. To call an organization a sect or a cult is how some deride or undermine, in their own eyes, another group, which could include the Church of God. And what term or terms so easily fall off the tongue by those who want to accuse the Church of God of not being true to mainstream Christianity? Their description can be scathing, often using the term “sect” or “cult”.
It is interesting that those who criticise the Church of God for not being faithful to Scripture are the very ones who break Scripture so often! So many in mainstream Christianity spawn homosexual priests or clergy – an act which God calls an abomination and which is mentioned, as such, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. But they accept it in spite of this being contrary to Scriptural admonition. The Bible is quite clear that women are not to speak – in a teaching capacity – in church, but again so many in mainstream Christianity allow and promote women priests and vicars. There have been ministers who don’t believe in God. One high ranking bishop in the Church of England thought that the resurrection was a “conjuring trick with bones”. There are those who know that Christmas and Easter are of pagan origin and still keep these feasts. There have been vicars who have advocated stealing in certain circumstances, and most churches trample all over the seventh day Sabbath.
Some years ago, “The New Christian Herald”, a newspaper published in Sussex, England, (which ceased publication in 2006) ran an article about the Worldwide Church of God. The article was headed “Back to the Plain Truth?” The paper stated that “the writer [of the article] charts the progress of a rare phenomenon – a cult making its way back into mainstream Christianity. The Worldwide Church of God’s journey makes intriguing reading…”
This “expert” then went on to give nine distinguishing points that define a sect or cult. Of course, other “experts” might agree with this assessment or have a different perspective, but for the purpose of this answer we will stay with the considered opinion of this “expert”. These nine distinguishing points were as follows: World rejecting, not world embracing; Clear strong leadership [depending on the degree of leadership, a group might be called a sect or a cult]; A high degree of commitment needed; Active “lay” participation; A strong sense of mission and purpose; A strong sense of belonging; Definite entrance to membership by personal faith, not by birth; Beliefs shape lifestyle; and Members often belong to the working class and identify with the poor and disinherited.
Let Scripture and some brief comments answer these points, and we will see that the “expert” was clearly deficient in his Biblical knowledge.
1) World rejecting, not world embracing.
Are we to embrace the world?
James 4:4 states: “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
James 1:27 states: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble,and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
As is stated in our booklet, “The Book of Zechariah – Prophecies For Today”:
“God’s true servants must be sober and of a sound mind, resisting the temptation of wanting to belong to and befriend the people of this world—this Babylonian system—in order to follow their bad example.”
2) Clear strong leadership.
God has always had strong leaders. God used Abraham, Joshua, Moses, Gideon, Elijah, Elisha amongst many others in the Old Testament and Peter, Paul and the other apostles were strong leaders in the New Testament.
Hebrews 13: 17 says (this is a variation of a command in verse 7): “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
Strong leaders and leadership in the church are a necessity!
3) A high degree of commitment
A high degree of commitment is vital because for those whom God has called to salvation in this day and age, today is their only opportunity to qualify for eternal life. We have to be committed to the cause.
1 John 3: 16 points out: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
James 1: 22-24 adds: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.”
4) Active “lay” participation
We all have to play our part as God has put us in the Body of Christ, as He sees fit. We cannot just be passive bystanders.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 refers to active member participation: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”
5) A strong sense of mission and purpose.
Again, such a strong sense is absolutely necessary.
Matthew 28:18-20 states: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”
Ezekiel 33:7-9 adds: “So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.”
6) A strong sense of belonging
In Acts 2: 1-4 we see that the future members of the early New Testament Church, even before their conversion, were in the same place, of the same mind and had a sense of belonging:
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
This attitude did not change after their conversion. We read in Acts 4:32: “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.”
7) Definite entrance to membership by personal faith, not by birth.
However, John 6:44 says: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
John 6:65 adds: “And He said, ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.’”
Acts 2:38 reports: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
8) Beliefs shape lifestyle.
We understand that our calling is a calling to a way of life. Our beliefs MUST shape our lifestyle – it can’t be any other way. Christianity is about the way that we behave, the way that we treat other people, esteeming others better than self and practicing the golden rule of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. It is also about being service orientated, having a kindly attitude, displaying the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 and behaving as Christ would do.
Acts 9:2 refers to true Christianity as “the Way.”
We also read in Acts 19:23: “And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way.”
9) Members are often working class and identify with the poor and disinherited.
But note 1 Corinthians 1:26-28: “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.”
1 Corinthians 4:10-12 adds: “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure…”
Perhaps a look at the ministry of Jesus Christ will show that He ministered to the poor and disinherited – and we are to follow His example.
And so, is the Church of God a sect or a cult? Based on these nine marks as this “expert” names them, and according to their definition, the answer that the world might give could be Yes. In this regard, Acts 24:5 is highly instructive: “For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.”
In Acts 28:22-24 we read another reference on this topic: “But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere. So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.”
It appears that the original, apostolic church was called a sect. And when Christ was on earth, He was at odds with the establishment. They didn’t believe Him then, and the majority do not believe Him now.
Of course, there will always be those who want to put a label on the true Church of God, and there will always be those who think that the Church should be lumped together with other non-conformist groups as they see it, simply because of non-conformity with mainstream Christianity. There will always be those who want to think the worst.
The apostolic church was called a sect. The true Church of God today is directly descended from the first century church. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised by the label that the world might attach to the Church today.
But there is an irony in all of this. As you will recall, a sect can be defined as “a body of persons agreed upon religious doctrines usually different from those of an established or orthodox church from which they have separated; non-conformist or other church as described by opponents.”
When we look at church history and the doctrines of the Bible, the Church of God is the true Church holding fast to the truth that is expounded in God’s Word, and all of those in mainstream Christianity have descended from the apostate church of the 1st and 2nd century. They have developed many traditions and an understanding that are simply not biblical!
In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter how the world refers to us, as long as we are doing the Work that God called us to do and that we, individually, are growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), as we progress towards the kingdom of God!
Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
A new member letter was written and will be posted and sent out shortly. In the letter, Dave Harris discusses the role of true Christians in this evil word.
A new StandingWatch program was posted on YouTube and on our Website www.standingwatch.org. It is titled, “Martial Law in America?” President Obama signed the new NDAA bill with great reservations, assuring us that it will not be applied in an unconstitutional way. But how sure can we be of this? The Huffington Post is not impressed, and neither is Fox News. Ron Paul feels the bill begins the official establishment of martial law in the USA, and his son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, warns that under the new law, just about anyone could be viewed as a terrorist suspect. What does the Bible have to say about these frightening developments?
Three more radio programs have been recorded, titled, “The Seventh Seal,” “The Seventh Seal, Part 2,” and “The Seven Bowls.” They will be broadcast, respectively, beginning Sunday, January 22, January 29, and February 5, 2012. Our radio broadcasts are being posted on our Website, www.standingwatch.org.
A new German AufPostenStehen program was posted on YouTube and on our German website, www.aufpostenstehen.de titled, “Schandhafte US Anti-Terror Gesetze” (“Shameful US Anti-Terror Laws”). It has by now received in excess of 3,500 views.
Our new German booklet, “Die Taufe—Voraussetzung fuer das Heil?” (“Baptism-A Requirement for Salvation?”) was posted on our German website.
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