Update 529


A Good Minister of Jesus Christ

On February 18, 2012, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “A Good Minister of Jesus Christ.”

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

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The Giving Way

by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), and His life was one dedicated to that very end. God the Father “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

What examples both God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, set for all those who follow their calling to God’s way of life. Giving is demonstrated by God’s actions, and His Word is replete with examples. They set the standard in giving, and we are to follow that lead in our own lives.

When Paul addressed the Aeropagus, he spoke about the attributes of God when he said: “Nor is He worshipped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything since He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25).

We have been taught in the Church, for decades, that there are two ways of life – that of the “give” way and that of the “get” way. But how giving are we?

We know that there are many that receive from us our weekly Update either by e-mail or a hard copy through the post, our monthly letters, sermon tapes and CD’s, new booklets and other material. But it does take money to keep giving away, free of charge, all of this material to all who ask—and far too many recipients outside the Church seem to take our service of love for granted.

Church members, inevitably, understand the principles of tithing and giving. Perhaps it never enters the minds of those who have received material from us for years that we rely on such income to be able to continue to give. Some, of course, may just not be able to give due to difficult financial circumstances. But for those who are serious about God’s way of life and who are capable of paying their share in the proclamation of the gospel, giving is a must.

How are we doing? Do we practice the give way? If so, then Scripture tells us that we are only doing what we ought to do. “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say: ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done that was our duty to do’” (Luke 17:10). If we are not practicing the give way, then it is time to reconsider our approach. We are responsible for the knowledge that we have been given!

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We begin with alarming trends manifesting the inevitable political and economic downfall of the United States of America, discuss the fragile relationship between the EU and the USA; Europe’s ambitions; and the volatile relationship between the EU and Greece.

We continue to warn of the frightening development pertaining to Iran. We relate the fact that a victory for Israel against Iran in a violent confrontation is far from certain and that the cocky attitude of the USA might suffer some serious humiliation. In addition, we see now that Iran is beginning to threaten Europe!

We report on the “Arab Spring” in Egypt, which is becoming a nightmare for Egypt’s women and the USA and Israel; and we speak of a shocking allegation that allegedly Interpol collaborated with Saudi Arabia in support of deadly Islamist radical fanaticism.

We also convey an interesting archaeological discovery regarding the legendary goldmines of the Queen of Sheba; comment on Whitney Houston’s death and the deadly interaction of alcohol and many illegal and even legal drugs, including prescription and non-prescription drugs; give an example of typical political hypocrisy; address the unbiblical teaching that all contraceptives are wrong; and conclude with a report on the terrible consequences of divorce on innocent children.

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Chaos After U.S. Decline?

On February 11, 2012, The Wall Street Journal published a lengthy article, titled, “Why the World Needs America.” Even though we do not agree with everything written in the article and disagree quite strongly with certain statements, which we do not quote herein, the following excepts are interesting and worth repeating:

“The downfall of the Roman Empire brought an end not just to Roman rule but to Roman government and law and to an entire economic system stretching from Northern Europe to North Africa… Many of us take for granted how the world looks today. But it might look a lot different without America at the top… After the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, British control of the seas and the balance of great powers on the European continent provided relative security and stability…

“With the outbreak of World War I, the age of settled peace and advancing liberalism… collapsed into an age of hyper-nationalism, despotism and economic calamity… The collapse of the British and European orders in the 20th century did not produce a new dark age—though if Nazi Germany and imperial Japan had prevailed, it might have—but the horrific conflict that it produced was, in its own way, just as devastating…

“Would the end of the present American-dominated order have less dire consequences?…The present world order was largely shaped by American power and reflects American interests and preferences. If the balance of power shifts in the direction of other nations, the world order will change to suit their interests and preferences… For several decades, the balance of power in the world has favored democratic governments. In a genuinely post-American world, the balance would shift toward the great-power autocracies. Both Beijing and Moscow already protect dictators like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. If they gain greater relative influence in the future, we will see fewer democratic transitions and more autocrats hanging on to power…

“The ancient democracies of Greece and the republics of Rome and Venice all fell to more powerful forces or through their own failings… If and when American power declines, the institutions and norms that American power has supported will decline, too. Or more likely, if history is a guide, they may collapse altogether as we make a transition to another kind of world order, or to disorder. We may discover then that the U.S. was essential to keeping the present world order together and that the alternative to American power was not peace and harmony but chaos and catastrophe—which is what the world looked like right before the American order came into being…”

With the loss of US power, this world will indeed change dramatically. Power blocs in Europe and the Far East will develop, which will plunge this world into a terrible and unprecedented series of wars.

No Real Solution

The Los Angeles Times wrote on February 14:

“President Obama released a budget proposal for the coming fiscal year that offers no real solution to the United States’ long-term fiscal problems. This country is hardly Greece, but Washington’s current policies put it on a path to accumulate far too much debt…

“Congress makes the ultimate decisions about taxes and spending, so the annual budget proposal from the White House typically serves as the opening bid in a months-long debate. This president, however, has waited for Republicans and Congress to go first on the tougher fiscal issues. On Monday, Obama even called on Congress to reverse one of the more difficult decisions it had made, which was to impose $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts on discretionary programs over the next decade.

“…even if lawmakers were to adopt all of Obama’s deficit-cutting measures, they wouldn’t go far enough to set the budget on a path toward balance… All told, his proposal comes up about $2 trillion short of the savings his own deficit-reduction commission called for over 10 years… the government needs a better plan for putting its fiscal house in order than Obama offered Monday.”

And in spite of sweeping irrational promises from Republican candidates to balance the budget, the inescapable truth is that, no matter who runs this country, the economic situation of the USA is doomed.

EU-US Relationship

The EUObserver wrote on February 14:

“With pressure coming from every direction, the EU and the US now, more than ever, need an honest discussion about their partnership… The electoral year in the United States poses a challenge to Europeans… Regardless of who will sit in the Oval Office for the next four years, three issues will take precedence on the transatlantic agenda.

“First, amidst the budgetary cuts in the US, any future global police-type military operations will be carried out more selectively. But when the US national interest is under threat, shrewd accounting goes out the window. In any confrontation between Israel and Iran, the US will be forced to prove its ‘iron clad commitment to Israel’s security.’ Although Obama remains committed to the diplomatic path to stop Iran from getting its hands on nuclear [weapons], he has not taken any options off the table.

“His Republican competitors speak even more openly about military intervention, accusing Obama of failing to ‘show Iran that [the US] ha[s] the capacity to remove them militarily from their plans to have nuclear weapons.’ Any military confrontation in the region will have direct implications for Europe, including military involvement if Iran retaliates.

“Second, concerns about the growing importance of China – and an increasing fear of China – in the US will need to be addressed… To act as an economic bulwark to China’s regional dominance, Obama proposed an ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership and intends to create a Trade Enforcement Unit to investigate unfair trade practices. But these plans have caused uneasiness among Europeans who are afraid that similar moves will be interpreted as a direct challenge to China, in turn launching new competition in the region.

“Even more worrying is the language of Republican contenders calling for a strong military capability in the Pacific and deepening cooperation with India and other regional allies.

“Finally, normalising relations with Arab countries and the Muslims will remain a huge challenge.

“Despite the many efforts of the Obama Administration, the US presence in Afghanistan and its clear position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict still make Muslims sceptical of the US intentions… his Republican opponents underline Israel’s growing security problems and call for increasing the level of military assistance and co-ordination (Romney) while at the same time describing the Palestinians as ‘an invented people’ (Gingrich). Such statements cause consternation among Europeans…

“How Washington responds to these challenges will no doubt have serious implications for Europe. But instead of hoping for the best, Europeans should finally get their act together and focus on three major objectives: launching a comprehensive review of the European Security Strategy; adopting a credible and enforceable strategy for Asia; and consolidating policies towards the southern neighbourhood and Palestinian statehood. What we have instead is a catalogue of half-measures. The establishment of the European External Action Service was a messy exercise but it cannot be used indefinitely as an excuse for inaction and a lack of policies…”

The relationship between the USA and Europe is bound to deteriorate, and Europe will begin to unify even stronger in political and military matters. Please also note the next article.

EU—a Full-Fledged Political Union in the Future

The EUObserver wrote on February 14:

“European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has told the Chinese public that the EU will become a fully-fledged ‘political union’ after the financial crisis… ‘I want to make this very clear to Chinese public opinion… Is the European Union really going to progress? I say: “Yes. No doubt about it” … Precisely because of the problems in the euro area the conclusion has been to further integrate and to complete the monetary union with a fiscal union and, I believe, in the future toward a political union.’”

Italy—a Future Major EU Driver

The EUObserver reported on February 15:

“Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti charmed all major political parties in the European Parliament on Wednesday (15 February), pledging to defend EU institutions at a time when national governments are increasingly blaming Brussels for austerity… His speech… was aimed at restoring his country’s standing as one of the founding members of the EU and the euro after years of political penumbra under his controversial predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi.

“The new Italy – in the words of Monti, a former banker and economics professor – will be committed not only to austerity, but also to growth and will not just ‘passively transpose EU guidelines, but wants to be a major driver of these guidelines.’ It is in this ‘spirit’ that he invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Rome on Friday, for talks which will ‘focus on the community method and recognise the priority of EU institutions’…

“He also pointedly switched to English when criticising a ‘deeply superficial insular culture that naively might believe EU integration means a superstate’ after the UK vetoed crisis-related changes to the EU Treaty last December.”

The EU and Greece

Der Spiegel Online wrote on February 10:

“Many observers are losing faith in the idea that Greece can be saved even if the second bailout goes through. With unemployment at 20.9 percent and the economy in its fifth consecutive year of recession, it is unclear how Greece will ever be able to generate growth or begin to pay down its debt…

“The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: ‘The Greek misery has no end… Greece presents a desolate picture, in terms of its economic structures, competitiveness, social cohesion and political system. In other parts of the world, it would be called a failed state. It is time that the Europeans admit that fact and take the necessary action. Whether the resulting conclusion is that Greece can no longer be saved from bankruptcy, or whether it should be persuaded — or forced — to leave the euro zone, is ultimately a question of math… No finance minister knows the answer, and no economist can calculate it reliably. This uncertainty is deadly, both for the markets and for countries. It must be ended quickly.’

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘The EU partners and the Greek government have a baleful fear of the truth. Which is the following: Greece cannot actually be saved (with the current approach), not by slashing the minimum wages, and not with cuts in salaries, which are supposed to remain frozen until the country has lowered its unemployment rate from nearly 21 percent to 10 percent. But where will the new jobs come from?…’

“The Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘Greece is currently trying to do something impossible: which is to reform the economy in the midst of a deep depression. That simply doesn’t work.’

“The conservative Die Welt writes: ‘The agreement reached in Athens between the Greek government and the international donors … has not prompted high hopes on either side. Greece promised what it had to, in order to get the new aid package. And the troika acted as if it — against its better judgment — actually believes that the Greek economy can be healed. But the pictures of the demonstrations and the burning German flags show that they didn’t reckon with the Greek population. Ultimately, the crucial thing is not the politicians’ willingness to carry out reforms … but the will of the people. And the Greeks seem unwilling and unable to accept, for the sake of the stability of the single currency, cuts that go far beyond what we in Germany have ever experienced in terms of austerity measures… From an economic perspective, the country needs to leave the euro zone, because it is economically too weak and its administrative structures are too underdeveloped to be able to keep up with the others…’

“The financial daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘During the poker game with their creditors, the Greeks have been acting as if they had a joker up their sleeve. That joker was the threat of declaring bankruptcy and triggering a panicked chain reaction among investors. … But that isn’t a trump card. The main victims of a disorderly bankruptcy would be the Greeks themselves. But the troika has also been deceiving the audience of the Greek drama with numerical trickery that is easy to see through… The question of how Greece is supposed to return to growth despite the harsh austerity measures remains the troika’s secret. Both sides are lying through their teeth. … The only way to ‘save’ Greece is through an orderly national default…’”

The Associated Press reported on February 14:

“Two steps forward, one step back. So goes the frenzied effort across Europe to bail out Greece and save it from a potentially devastating default on its debts. A meeting of the finance chiefs of the 17 euro countries to discuss Greece’s second multibillion bailout planned for Wednesday was called off after Athens failed to deliver on several demands made by its partners in the currency union… Tensions between Athens and other European capitals have hit new highs this week…

“Greece is still optimistic that it will eventually get the bailout… But after keeping Greece alive through bailout loans for almost two years — and seeing the country repeatedly miss its targets — some of the richer euro countries like the Netherlands or Germany are reluctant to commit new money without firm assurances…”

The Financial Times added on February 15:

“The battle of wills between Athens and its eurozone lenders intensified on Wednesday, with Greece’s finance minister accusing ‘forces in Europe’ of pushing his country out of the euro while his German counterpart suggested postponing Greek elections and installing a new government without political parties.”

As we have said from the outset, Greece might leave the Eurozone, but the euro won’t collapse.

Will Israeli Attack on Iran Be Unsuccessful?

y-Net News reported on February 12:

“Two weeks after US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reportedly said Israel is likely to strike Iran in the spring, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière said an Israeli attack will be unsuccessful. According to the minister, ‘a success of an Israeli strike on Iran nuclear facilities is highly unlikely and (will cause) obvious political damage’…

“President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met on Saturday with Hamas prime minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh, who is visiting Tehran. ‘The world will witness Iran’s major nuclear achievements soon’ said Ahmadinejad. Haniyeh met with supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei on Sunday. In the meeting Khamenei promised Iran’s support for the Palestinian resistance…”

In Any Event, It Would Be Terribly Complicated…

USA Today wrote on February 13:

“If Israel attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities, the strike would probably take the form of a complex air assault involving scores of planes that would have to penetrate Iranian air defenses and attack up to a couple of dozen targets simultaneously, analysts say. ‘This would be way more sophisticated than anything that’s ever been done before,’ said Charles Wald, a retired Air Force general who led the coalition air campaign in Afghanistan that helped topple the Taliban. By contrast, Israel’s strike on Iraq’s Osiraq nuclear reactor in 1981 and an attack in Syria in 2007 were simpler operations that required Israel to hit a single above-ground target. Neither country had sophisticated air defense capabilities…

“Iran’s nuclear facilities are dispersed throughout the country, some of which are being hardened to withstand bomb blasts, said Colin Kahl, a Georgetown professor and former Pentagon official overseeing Middle East policy. Pilots would face a network of radar and anti-aircraft missiles designed to protect Iran’s airspace… Wald said the Israelis would either have to use aerial refueling or land somewhere en route to refuel. It’s not known whether any country would provide permission or whether Israel could set up a covert refueling facility in the desert… Flying over Iraq is the most direct route for Israeli pilots. Since the U.S. withdrawal, Iraq is not capable of effectively protecting its airspace, which potentially would give Israel a way to reach Iran while maintaining an element of surprise…

“Israel has large bombs capable of penetrating bunkers, but some analysts say they need more sophisticated munitions to help knock out some of the well-protected facilities… Analysts say timing on a strike would be critical, since a lengthy operation would raise the likelihood of U.S. opposition and could trigger a wider conflict…

“The United States should be prepared for an Iranian counterstrike, Wald said. Iran has medium-range missiles that could reach Israel, Kahl said… Iran’s navy could interfere with commercial shipping in the narrow Strait of Hormuz, disrupting the world’s oil supplies. In 2009, about 17% of all oil traded worldwide went through the narrow strait… Iran would probably use its surrogates, Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, to attack Israel…”

USA: “We Will Stop Iran”

Newsmax reported on February 12:

“Iran has increased the number of small, fast patrol craft in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, some of which have been outfitted with a large warhead for a suicide run at U.S. vessels, the U.S. Navy’s top Gulf commander said… The U.S. Navy would move to stop any Iranian attempt to lay mines in the Strait of Hormuz or Persian Gulf as an ‘act of war’ the international community wouldn’t tolerate…

“The U.S. has four Avenger-class mine-sweeping ships in the Gulf… The U.K.’s Royal Navy has another four vessels… U.S. officials… estimated in 2008 that Iran possessed as many as 5,000 mines… The inventory also includes as many as 600 advanced mines bought from Russia, such as the MDM-3, which can be dropped from an aircraft…”

However, an easy and swift victory of the US Navy over Iranian naval forces is not assured by any means. It is being admitted that Iran could make life difficult for the US Navy. Note the next article.

Reuters reported on February 12:

“Iran has built up its naval forces in the Gulf and prepared boats that could be used in suicide attacks… Iran now has 10 small submarines…

“Military experts say the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet patrolling the Gulf – which always has at least one giant supercarrier accompanied by scores of jets and a fleet of frigates and destroyers – is overwhelmingly more powerful than Iran’s navy. But ever since al Qaeda suicide bombers in a small boat killed 17 sailors on board the destroyer U.S.S. Cole in a port in Yemen in 1996, Washington has been wary of the vulnerability of its huge battleships to bomb attacks by small enemy craft.”

Has It Already Begun?

ABC News wrote on February 14:

“With Iran allegedly striking out at Israeli citizens and Jewish targets around the world, Israeli and American security officials in the U.S. are on high alert. Israeli officials told ABC News that the level of personal security on high-ranking Embassy officials as well as other, lower profile officials in the U.S. is at its highest in at least five years, a response to what they called ‘a coordinated series of attacks’…

“Federal officials… noted that in cities like New York and Washington, D.C., ‘the targets are much harder’ than in countries like India, Georgia and Thailand, where Iran has allegedly attacked or attempted to attack in the past two days. But they also added that Iran can be ‘belligerent.’

“Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University in D.C., agreed that the recent incidents in India, Georgia, Thailand and Azerbaijan have ‘all the hallmarks of a concerted campaign’ that could extend to U.S. soil. ‘The recent attack on a Saudi official in Washington shows a willingness to attack in the United States,’ said Cilluffo…”

Iran Threatens Europe!

The New York Times wrote on February 15:

“Besieged by international sanctions over the Iranian nuclear program including a planned oil embargo by Europe, Iran warned six European buyers on Wednesday that it might strike first by immediately cutting them off from Iranian oil. Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency said the threat was conveyed to the ambassadors of Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Greece and Portugal in separate meetings at the Foreign Ministry in Tehran…

“‘Iran warns Europe it will find other customers for its oil,’ the Islamic Republic News Agency said. ‘European people should know that if Iran changes destinations of the oil it gives to them, the responsibility will rest with the European governments themselves.’… The European Union has been one of Iran’s biggest markets for oil, taking about 18 percent of total Iranian petroleum exports in 2011. Among the European Union members, the biggest buyers have been Italy, Spain and France…

“The Iranians also announced new advances in their nuclear program, including escalation of Iran’s enrichment practices, which if accurate could serve to further aggravate tensions… President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presided over ceremonies to mark advances in Iran’s nuclear program, partly to project an image of Iranian defiance against the Western sanctions. The new advances include centrifuges that Iran said were capable of enriching uranium at a much faster rate, and the insertion of the first domestically produced nuclear fuel rod into a nuclear reactor in Tehran.”

No “Arab Spring” for Egypt’s Women

Deutsche Welle reported on February 12:

“Side-by-side with fellow male protesters, Egypt’s women stood on Tahrir Square demanding freedom and democracy. But due to the military regime and the rise of Islamic factions the situation of women is deteriorating… The military is brutal in their treatment of women… The military regime is also trying to keep women from taking political office…

“The new parliament is even considering revoking the so-called Personal Status Law that women had been fighting for for years. If successful, it would mean that women could no longer divorce – only men would have the right to do so. Women would also lose the right to bring up their children beyond the age of nine. Fathers could then take away their children aged nine, not 15 as the law states now…”

So much for freedom, liberty and equality in the new Egypt…

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Threatens USA and Israel

CNS News reported on February 13:

“A top Muslim Brotherhood official has warned that any cuts in U.S. aid to Egypt could affect Cairo’s peace treaty with Israel…

“Egyptian judges have referred 16 Americans and 27 others linked to NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations] for trial, accusing them of using foreign funds to encourage disruptive protests… On Capitol Hill, the chorus of senior lawmakers calling for aid to Egypt to be suspended over the affair is growing, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned that the funds could be in jeopardy…

“‘This is only the beginning of the anti-American populism/nationalism/Islamism we are going to be seeing in Egypt from now on,’ Mideast expert Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Israel, wrote in a column Sunday. ‘What’s amazing is that nobody is pointing out that if an Egyptian government is willing to risk U.S. aid and have a confrontation on this small issue, what are they going to do regarding big issues?’ Rubin said. ‘What happens when the Egyptian government moves toward Islamism or helps Hamas fight Israel on some level?…’”

Reuters added on February 15:

“State-run newspapers splashed accusations of a U.S. plan to spread ‘anarchy’ in Egypt across their front pages on Tuesday… the headlines marked another low in the crisis between Washington and Cairo triggered by the investigation into U.S.-based non-governmental organisations that has led to criminal charges against Americans who have been prevented from leaving the country…The spat is one of the worst in more than 30 years of close U.S.-Egyptian ties…”

The Associated Press stated on February 15:

“Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday threw its weight behind the country’s military-backed government in an escalating dispute with the U.S. over the funding of pro-democracy groups… On Wednesday, the Brotherhood – whose political arm controls the largest bloc of seats in Egypt’s parliament – praised officials carrying out the crackdown and said it supported their ‘nationalist position.’ The Brotherhood said it ‘rejects all forms of pressure the U.S. is exerting,’ the statement published on the group’s website said.”

The USA and its allies supported strongly the “Arab Spring” movement. Since then, it has become obvious—which should have been clear from the outset—that the movement gave birth to the rise of radical Islamists, who are strongly opposed to the West and any style of Western democracy, and who are also very hostile towards Israel. Again, America’s foolish foreign policy has helped create a Frankenstein monster…

Shocking—Interpol Accused of Collaborating with Saudi Arabia over Islamist Radical Fanaticism

National Review reported on February 10:

“Interpol has been accused of abusing its powers after Saudi Arabia used the organisation’s red notice system to get a journalist arrested in Malaysia for insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Kashgari, a newspaper columnist, fled Saudi Arabia after posting a tweet on the prophet’s birthday that sparked more than 30,000 responses and several death threats. The posting, which was later deleted, read: ‘I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you … I will not pray for you.’

“More than 13,000 people joined a Facebook page titled ‘The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari’. Clerics in Saudi Arabia called for him to be charged with apostasy, a religious offence punishable by death…”

The Australian added on February 12:

“Malaysia has deported [to Saudi Arabia] a young Saudi journalist wanted in his home country over a Twitter post about the Prophet Mohammed, defying pleas from human rights group who said he faced execution… Kashgari’s detention sparked outrage from human rights groups, with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urging Malaysia not to send him back to face severe punishment and possibly a death sentence.”

When fundamentalists and fanaticism rule, such incredible and despicable conduct can be expected. When a “Christian” organization like Interpol lends a hand to such conduct, this is outrageous and speaks volumes of the indifference and blindness of our Western societies.

Enormous Ancient Goldmine of Queen of Sheba Found

The Guardian reported on February 11:

“Almost 3,000 years ago, the ruler of Sheba, which spanned modern-day Ethiopia and Yemen, arrived in Jerusalem with vast quantities of gold to give to King Solomon. Now an enormous ancient goldmine, together with the ruins of a temple and the site of a battlefield, have been discovered in her former territory… Sheba was a powerful incense-trading kingdom that prospered through trade with Jerusalem and the Roman empire.

“The queen is immortalised in Qur’an and the Bible, which describes her visit to Solomon ‘with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold and precious stones … Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, and a very great quantity of spices’… Her story is still told across Africa and Arabia, and the Ethiopian tales are immortalised in the holy book the Kebra Nagast. Hers is said to be one of the world’s oldest love stories. The Bible says she visited Solomon to test his wisdom by asking him several riddles. Legend has it that he wooed her, and that descendants of their child, Menelik – son of the wise – became the kings of Abyssinia.”

Please read our Q&A on Ethiopia and the Queen of Sheba.

Whitney Houston Played “Russian Roulette”—Meds and Alcohol Don’t Mix

Newsmax Health wrote on February 13:

“The death of Whitney Houston from an apparent drug and alcohol interaction was shocking to her fans, but Ozzie Delgado, the pharmacy director of Cleveland Clinic Florida, says it’s a tragedy he has seen played out many times. ‘The problem is that, when people drink, they think they have a tolerance level. But that tolerance level can vary on a given day, depending on what you’ve eaten, for example, so you really don’t know what your threshold is,’ Delgado tells Newsmax Health. Combining certain medications with drinking is ‘like playing Russian roulette,’ he warns.

“Houston was found dead in her Beverly Hills hotel room on Saturday. Although the results of the toxicology report on Houston could take weeks, reports say the singer was found dead in her bathtub after drinking while also taking Xanax. According to Delgado, Xanax (alprazolam), a common anti-anxiety drug, is particularly dangerous when combined with alcohol. ‘Xanax belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, all which have a side effect called temporary amnesia. So now you have temporary amnesia and you’re compounding it with alcohol,’ he notes. ‘As a result, you can lose track of the amount of alcohol you are drinking, and you lose consciousness. It’s a snowball effect… The drug slows your respiratory rate and, when you add alcohol, it slows your respiratory rate even more. You stop breathing at a normal rate, you stop oxygenating your body, and then your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen…’ Houston had struggled with drug addiction for years before her death.

“Xanax isn’t the only drug that can get you into trouble, says Keith Veltri, who is clinical pharmacy manager at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y. ‘There are a lot of medications that, specifically when mixed with alcohol, can depress the respiratory system and cause drowsiness…’ He says he believes such drugs are over-prescribed, especially anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and Valium. ‘Generally, Valium or Xanax for insomnia should only be taken for three weeks, or anxiety for four months…’

“But it isn’t only the anti-anxiety drugs (which are also prescribed for epilepsy) that can be dangerous when used with alcohol. Similar problems can also arise with prescription antidepressants such as Celexa, Prozac, Zoloft, and Wellbutrin, which is also prescribed for smoking cessation. Drugs used to fight insomnia, whether prescription or over-the-counter, also can be deadly when combined with alcohol. In addition, anti-psychotics such as Amplify, Seroquel, Risperdal, Haldol, and Thorazine should never be taken with alcohol. Patients should avoid drinking while taking painkillers such as oxycontin, morphine, and codeine, he says.

“It isn’t only prescription drugs that can be dangerous. Delgado says that care should also be taken if you’re using a cough preparation that contains dextromethorphan, as many common over-the-counter cough syrups do. ‘People should be concerned with any of these medications that have “DM” in the name,’ says Delgado. ‘When it comes to a lethal interaction with alcohol, most people don’t realize that it can take only one drug to do this,’ he says. ‘This is a common problem and many people have died. It’s just magnified when it happens to a Hollywood star.’ Performers who have died after mixing drugs and alcohol include rock stars Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones, actor Alan Ladd, and country singer Hank Williams…”

Whether or not Whitney Houston—a practicing Baptist–died because of drug and alcohol interaction, the combination of alcohol and drugs—whether illegal or even legal, as well as prescription and non-prescription drugs—can many times become deadly. It is a shame that a supposedly Christian nation like the USA and its citizens and Hollywood “icons” do not follow the Bible even in its most elementary injunctions and principles—that it is God who made our bodies which should become holy—rather than being abused.

Birth Control Fight—Hypocrisy Galore

The Los Angeles Times wrote on February 15:

“Since President Obama moved to require Catholic hospitals and universities to offer their employees contraceptive health benefits, Republicans have rushed to accuse the administration of an unprecedented attack on religious freedoms. None has been more forceful than former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who accused Obama of ‘a direct violation of the 1st Amendment.’ But years before the current partisan firestorm, GOP lawmakers and governors around the country, including Huckabee, backed similar mandates.

“Twenty-two states have laws or regulations that resemble, at least in part, the Obama administration’s original rule. More than a third had some Republican support, a review of state records shows. In six states, including Arkansas, those contraceptive mandates were signed by GOP governors.

“In Massachusetts in 2006, then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed a healthcare overhaul that kept in place a contraceptive mandate signed by his Republican predecessor. Now the GOP presidential candidate is calling the Obama rule an ‘assault on religion.’ At the federal level, President George W. Bush never challenged a similar federal mandate imposed in 2000…

“Congressional Republicans are pushing legislation to exempt all employers from providing contraceptive coverage if it goes against their beliefs. In 2000, when Iowa became one of the first states to enact a contraceptive mandate, the Republican Legislature overwhelmingly backed the bill, which has no exemption for religious employers of any kind…

“In Arizona, state Rep. Linda Binder, a pro-choice Republican, formed a bipartisan coalition to push her bill, which exempted churches but not other church-affiliated institutions, through the Republican-controlled Legislature. Then-Gov. Jane Hull, a Republican and a Catholic, signed the measure into law. In New York, a similar law also won GOP support in the Legislature. It was signed in 2001 by Gov. George E. Pataki, another Republican.

“Four years later, the Arkansas law easily cleared that state’s Legislature, with help from Republican lawmakers, including two GOP cosponsors. Huckabee signed it in April 2005. He defended the law in a statement. ‘Religious employers are not required to comply with this policy,’ he said. ‘My position is, and always has been, that religious entities shouldn’t be forced to pay for contraception.’ But like the original federal regulation proposed by Obama, the Arkansas law did not exempt church-affiliated hospitals and universities. It exempts only ‘religious employers’ that are nonprofit organizations whose primary mission is ‘the inculcation of religious values,’ and primarily employ people who share the same religion, a standard few Catholic hospitals meet.”

To top it all, arch-conservative Catholic Republican Presidential candidate (father of seven children) Rick Santorum stated in an interview in 2006 that any kind of contraceptives (including those preventing pregnancies) are “harmful to women” and “harmful to our society.”

ABC News printed his most recent “clarifications” on the matter in its article, dated February 15, 2012:

“And his personal position against contraception has solidified… he said he disagrees with others in the Christian faith who believe that contraception is OK. ‘It’s not OK because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,’ he said. ‘They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also, but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that’s not for purposes of procreation, that’s not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can’t you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure. And that’s certainly a part of it—and it’s an important part of it, don’t get me wrong—but there’s a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special.’”

To be very clear on this, this view point is opposed to the teachings of the Bible. To say that God prohibits birth control, preventing pregnancies, within the confines of marriage, and that the sexual act must always include the purpose of procreation and cannot be done for “mere pleasure” within marriage, is not only against biblical teaching; it is also an irresponsible position. But this concept finds, sadly, its origins in the biblical record about the Garden of Eden, when the first man and his wife became ashamed of their sexuality, considering it as evil, even though God declared that everything that He had made was good. It was  Satan—not God–who convinced Adam and Eve that sex was dirty and could only be viewed as somewhat “acceptable,” if it was to be used merely for procreation.

Divorce—The Terrible Suffering of Innocent Children

Zenit wrote on February 10:

“Each year in the United States over a million children are the innocent parties to the divorce of their parents. While divorce also hurts the parents it is the children who particularly suffer…  As would be expected, divorce affects the ability of parents to relate to their children. One study found that the stress caused by divorce damages the relationship between children and their mothers for as many as 40% of divorced mothers. This insufficiency is more marked by the time children are in high school and college…

“Another aspect… is the effect of divorce on religious practice among children. They found that following divorce, children are more likely to cease practicing their faith. This lessening of religious practice means that children suffer from a lack of the beneficial effects of religion, in areas as diverse as marital stability, education, income, and physical and mental health… At the level of elementary school there is an immediate decline in academic performance. At high school level children from intact families have significantly better test scores compared to children of divorced parents. One example in the study was that by the age of 13 there is an average difference of half a year in the reading ability between children of divorced parents and children from intact families.

“Other research cited included a study that found children from divorced families were 26% more likely to drop out of secondary school compared to children brought up in intact families… Divorce not only imposes costs on families but also on government and society. Children of divorced families are considerably more likely to engage in delinquent behavior, to be involved in fighting, robberies, and substance abuse…

“Higher levels of child abuse and neglect are further consequences of divorce… With the high level of divorce in recent times these debilitating consequences will continue to be played out in the years to come. Not a comforting thought as Western society continues to witness continued attacks on family life and attempts to re-define marriage.”

No wonder God thunders at us that “He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence… Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously” (Malachi 2:16).

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Why did Paul have Timothy Circumcised?

In Acts 16:1, we meet up with Paul during his travels north and west of Jerusalem in modern day Turkey. While here, Paul meets an up-and-coming disciple we know as Timothy.  Timothy had a good reputation among the brethren in the area – in the cities of Lystra and Iconium in particular. Paul was impressed with him as well and invited Timothy to join him on his travels through the region. However, before they commence their travels together, Paul has Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3). While this might not seem like a significant detail, it is important to examine in context because the implications are significant.

Reading Acts 16:1-3 in context, “Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.”

What makes this a notable event is that circumcision was a serious point of contention at the time. Holding fast to the traditions of their forefathers, some converted Jews had previously insisted that circumcision was a necessary ritual to be performed on the membership of the Church, some Pharisees in particular (Acts 15:5). Clearly, the individuals insisting upon the ritual did not understand the salvation made available to the Gentiles, and all men, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In fact, many Jews had such strong feelings about the need for circumcision that they later sought to kill Paul because he had brought Greeks into the temple (Acts 21:28-31). Paul was intimately aware of the real conflict taking place over this issue.

Circumcision was such a divisive issue at the time, even in the church, that the “apostles and elders came together to consider this matter” at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:6). This meeting was largely held to clarify the reasons why circumcision was not necessary for salvation. In attendance at the meeting was Peter, who helped clarify the truth of the matter. “And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: ‘Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they’” (Acts 15:7-11). Among other decisions made at the meeting, the fact that circumcision was not necessary for salvation was firmly established and documented.

With the clear doctrine that “in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6), why did Paul still have Timothy circumcised? Paul certainly knew and believed that it was not necessary for his salvation—in fact, he taught strongly that it would be wrong to be circumcised if it was done with the concept that it was necessary for salvation. The reason is included in the same statement about the event, stating that it was “because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”

The Nelson Study Bible explains:

“Salvation was not the issue here. Instead Timothy became circumcised so that God could use him to reach all people—even the Jews—with the message of the gospel.”

The New Bible Commentary: Revised added:

“Paul circumcised him; so that he might be the more useful in the work of the gospel… He fought against any suggestion that Christians should be circumcised in order to complete their salvation; but circumcision in itself, he held, was religiously indifferent [1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15]. Timothy had been brought up by his Jewish mother and grandmother to be a Jew religiously in every point but circumcision. Moreover, as his mother was a Jewess, he ranked as a Jew in Jewish eyes…”

Timothy was circumcised because Paul wanted him to be used effectively for the preaching of the gospel. While it is not necessary for salvation, it is not wrong to perform.

As stated earlier, Paul knew all too well that the Jews he came in contact with had difficulty accepting the doctrine of not requiring circumcision. Since Timothy was a Jew, and since Paul wanted Timothy to help preach the Gospel to them, it was an advantage for Timothy to be circumcised. Paul knew that the Jews would give him more respect and accept him if he was. For the sake of building the Church and bringing more people to salvation, Paul acted wisely without compromising the laws of God. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 we read about the approach he took, “… and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win the Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law…” Paul chose to adapt to those he came in contact with, without compromising the truth, in order to help bring them to salvation. By circumcising Timothy, he became accepted as a Jew, and avoided unnecessary disputes.

Even though circumcision was not necessary for salvation, Paul did not want Timothy to become a stumbling block to the Jews. As Paul advises, “But beware, lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9) In this regard, Timothy was successful. The result of this was that “the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily” (Acts 16:5). While adapting to the customs of the community was effective in this situation, blind conformity to the incomplete understanding of others for the sake of keeping the peace is not what Paul wanted to do. In fact, he came out very strongly against those who conformed to customs at the expense of the truth.

Paul had a strong contention with Peter who went too far in compromising the truth in order to not offend converted Jews. Peter had not totally overcome his prior habit of removing himself from meals with Gentiles when Jews arrived (compare Galatians 2:11-12). Among the faults with this behavior was the false impression it gave to the converted Gentiles, causing them to believe that they were inferior to converted Jews and rejected by them. Paul was upset with Peter and other converts, who “were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:14). Peter was causing an incorrect doctrine of disassociation between Jews and Gentiles to perpetuate. Paul was very strong in his belief that the truth should not be misrepresented. In an effort to avoid offending others, the truth of the gospel must not be compromised.

The circumcision of Timothy was an action performed to prevent unnecessary conflict. In the same way, it did not cause conflict or confusion. Timothy was a Jew, and therefore it was not inappropriate for him to become circumcised. Paul and Timothy understood that the physical act of circumcision had nothing to do with any spiritual requirement for salvation. In a similar situation, when Paul was going into Jerusalem with Titus, a Greek, he did not have him circumcised, because it would have given the wrong impression – that Gentiles need to be circumcised in order to obtain salvation (Galatians 2:3). The point of discernment is in knowing when the truth is being compromised.

In practical terms today, we can extend the principle in our own lives by having a willingness to make further sacrifices that may help us build a proper relationship with people around us. If an action is in accordance with, and not in conflict with the laws of God, and it helps to present ourselves in a respectable light to others who are learning about the truth without giving a false impression, it is not wrong to do it. In fact, a practice is appropriate and good if it does not violate God’s laws and helps others come to true salvation.

Lead Writer: Eric Rank

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

Individual reservations for the Feast 2012 with the Hilton Garden Inn in Pismo Beach, California, can commence on Friday, February 24, 2012. The hotel has been provided with a list of our members who are planning to attend. Further information will be forthcoming in the next Update, and those who have committed to attending with us will be individually contacted.

A new StandingWatch program was posted on YouTube and on our Website www.standingwatch.org. It is titled, “Foolish Science.” God created man to cultivate and take care of the environment. But man disobeyed and rejected God, while deciding on his own how to live. Today, God-defying scientists create genetically modified mosquitoes, which pose a real threat to humans, and carnal minds manufacture the most deadly form of the bird flu, which is now able to jump from birds to humans. Thankfully, this crazy, Satan-inspired world will soon come to an end, and when man undergoes a total change of his thinking, he will experience soundness and peace after 6,000 years of sickness, hatred and war.

Two new radio programs (Numbers 11 and 12) were recorded this week, titled, “Paradise—Lost and Found” and “Return to the Promised Land.” They will be broadcast, respectively, beginning Sunday, March 11 and March 18, 2012. Our radio broadcasts are being posted on our Website, www.standingwatch.org.

A new German sermon was posted on YouTube, titled, “Der Kampf um Jerusalem” (The Battle for Jerusalem”).

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To Nourish and Strengthen

by Laura Harris

In the book “The Unhealthy Truth: How Food is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It,” Robyn O’Brien discusses how companies have manipulated our food supply through genetic engineering and chemical additives.  These changes in our food system are linked to recent increases in allergies, cancer and other medical maladies, particularly in children.  In his sermon last year entitled “Signs of the Times,” Michael Bannen described the desecration of God’s perfect food source in the name of corporate greed. 

This revelation hit home when my family was diagnosed with food allergies, and we had to significantly modify our eating habits.  Instead of providing nourishment, the foods we ate were hurting us.  We have eliminated many common ingredients, such as wheat, dairy and eggs, from our daily consumption.  Although we are just beginning this dietary transformation, we are seeing some improvements in our health. 

To my chagrin, I have taken the food we eat for granted.  Often times I hear prayers that end with a blessing on the upcoming meal, yet I did not give it much thought or reflection.   Now more than ever, asking God to nourish and strengthen our bodies through the food He has provided has greater meaning for me.  I cannot take God’s blessings lightly, even the daily meal.

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How This Work is Financed

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

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

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

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