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A Good Message!
by Dave Harris
People have told me that they don’t watch the news or let their children view the awful violence that floods across the television reports. They choose to insulate themselves from all the negative influences—at least, as much as that is actually possible.
However, this approach is short-sighted. For readers of our weekly Updates, you know that we do report the news and that includes some things that are extremely unpleasant. This is a job which has been given to the Church of God, and it is a part of proclaiming the gospel which must incorporate a warning message of evil things to come. Included in the commission given to God’s faithful servants is this command:
“‘Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins’” (Isaiah 58:1).
This was the work given by God, and the prophet Jeremiah was among those chosen to deliver this message.
Following the rebellion of the House of Judah, God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to plunder their land and lead many of the survivors into captivity. They had been warned that their evil conduct would result in grave punishment from God, and it did! However, even while they were living as dispossessed slaves in Babylon, Jeremiah was inspired to send them a remarkable letter, in which God said:
“‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Jesus Christ came to this earth to bring a message of peace and hope to all of mankind, and His proclamation is called the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:15). Jesus also lifted His voice like a trumpet and told the people of His day that they must repent and obey God. The gospel is the central message of the Church of God—as witnessed in Peter’s dramatic preaching on the Day of Pentecost (compare Acts 2:14-39).
That first generation of the Church lived to see the destruction of the nation of the Jews—including the demolishing of the Temple of God in 70 AD. Yet, the good news of the Kingdom of God was preached then, and so it is again to be preached in our time (Matthew 24:14)!
While we certainly must confront the shocking and deplorable age in which we live, we must never lose sight of the promise God has set before us! And not only for our benefit but for the future and hope of all of mankind—note what we are told:
“So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, FOR MY SAKE AND THE GOSPEL’S, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time–houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions–and in the age to come, eternal life’” (Mark 10:29-30).
We begin with an alarming article manifesting the global decline of American power; the deteriorating relationship between America and Germany; and the controversial spying activities of the NSA.
We continue with internal struggles and fights within the Republican Party and conservatives; the mysterious death of an Hawaiian official; and the fragile “deal” between Iran and the superpowers.
We report on Germany’s “not-so-grand” governmental grand coalition without any meaningful opposition; developments in Ukraine and North Korea; the pope’s adoration of the (Mexican) “Virgin Mary”; the real danger of Yellowstone’s Super Volcano; astonishing weather conditions in the Middle East; and China’s space program.
This Week in the News
U.S. Power Is Fading…
The Washington Post wrote on December 13:
“Is President Obama an American version of Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader whose well-intentioned reforms led to the demise of his country’s global power?… This concern about erosion of American power is powerfully stated in ‘The End of History Ends’ by Walter Russell Mead in the American Interest.
“… there’s no denying that the worries he expresses in the article are widely shared by some of the United States’ traditional allies. ‘Does the administration understand that, in this part of the world, its credibility has collapsed?’ warns one well-connected Arab who speaks often with the region’s leaders… ‘I wish I could sue the Obama administration for criminal negligence.’
“Partly this scornful tone reflects the well-publicized unhappiness in Saudi Arabia and other Sunni powers of the Persian Gulf about Obama’s diplomatic opening to Shiite Iran and what’s seen as his feckless policy in Syria. But there’s a deeper anxiety that Obama… has begun a process that is undermining America’s global role and making its traditional allies more vulnerable… One Arab analyst argues that as Obama has sought to rebalance U.S. power, he has adopted ‘the Ostrich doctrine’ — meaning that he has ignored the reversals that have followed U.S. attempts to disentangle itself in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“In Iraq, where the United States spent more than a trillion dollars and thousands of lives, the government is now effectively an Iranian client, but that hasn’t drawn a U.S. reaction. In Afghanistan, where the United States also devoted enormous effort, President Hamid Karzai thumbs his nose at America and gets away with it. Foreign leaders worry that Obama doesn’t see that U.S. power is fading…
“Military historians note that retreat, even to a more defensible position, is among the most difficult and dangerous of maneuvers… repositioning a superpower is a tricky business.”
The above-quoted article referred to Walter Russel Mead’s piece, who wrote this on December 2, 2013, in “The American Interest”:
“… optimism is so ineradicably grounded in American intellectual culture that even our great power realists are instinctively hopeful. Troubled by the costs and the risks associated with two unsatisfactory foreign wars and longing to redirect resources from the defense budget to domestic priorities, a significant number of foreign policy analysts inside and outside the current administration have developed a theory of benign realism. This theory holds that the United States can safely withdraw from virtually all European and all but a handful of Middle Eastern issues and that as an ‘offshore balancer’ the United States will be able to safeguard its essential interests at low cost.
“This view, which seems to guide both the administration and some of the neo-isolationist thinking on the right, assumes that a reasonably benign post-American balance of power is latent in the structure of international life and will emerge if we will just get out of the way… What is missing from the ‘peaceful withdrawal’ scenarios is an understanding that there are hostile and, from our point of view, destructive powers in the world who will actively seize on any leverage we give them and will seek to use their new power and resources to remake the world in ways we find fundamentally objectionable and unsafe…”
The Bible is very clear that America’s power will decline, and that ultimately, the USA will be defeated in a war. For more information, please read our free booklet, “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America.”
US Endangering German-US Partnership
The New York Times wrote on December 16:
“American officials have refused to extend the ‘no spying’ guarantee beyond Ms. Merkel… How aggressively to continue targeting the leaders of countries allied with the United States is one of the most delicate questions facing Mr. Obama…
“But as Mr. Obama considers his options, the effort to repair the damage to the United States’ relationship with Germany appears to have stumbled. American officials have so far refused to pull back from electronic spying in the country, save for Ms. Merkel’s own communications, even though German officials argue that the United States is violating German law. At the same time, Germany is equally reluctant to enter into a deeper cooperation agreement, at least on American terms…
“The distaste within the German political establishment for the United States’ approach extends beyond former citizens of East Germany, like Ms. Merkel. Sigmar Gabriel, chairman of the Social Democratic Party and deputy chancellor in Ms. Merkel’s new government, took time in a speech last month to emphasize Germany’s dismay that the United States could engage in the kind of surveillance Mr. Snowden has disclosed. ‘The United States, the country we Germans have so much to thank for,’ Mr. Gabriel said at a party congress in Leipzig, ‘is at the moment endangering the most important foundation of our trans-Atlantic partnership.’”
Merkel Compared NSA to STASI
The Guardian wrote on December 17:
“In an angry exchange with Barack Obama, Angela Merkel has compared the snooping practices of the US with those of the Stasi, the ubiquitous and all-powerful secret police of the communist dictatorship in East Germany, where she grew up. The German chancellor also told the US president that America’s National Security Agency cannot be trusted because of the volume of material it had allowed to leak to the whistleblower Edward Snowden…
“Snowden is to testify on the NSA scandal to a European parliament inquiry next month, to the anger of Washington which is pressuring the EU to stop the testimony. In Brussels, the chairman of the US House select committee on intelligence, Mike Rogers, a Republican, said [that] [i]nviting someone ‘who is wanted in the US and has jeopardised the lives of US soldiers’ was beneath the dignity of the European parliament…”
NSA Phone Collection Likely Unconstitutional
The Verge wrote on December 16:
“A US district court has ruled that the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records is likely unconstitutional. Today, Judge Richard Leon granted a preliminary injunction to plaintiff Larry Klayman and a group of other Verizon customers, saying that they were suffering harm from having his records collected and that he had made a strong case that the NSA’s secret court orders, which require carriers to provide metadata on virtually all US phone calls, were likely to violate the fourth amendment.
“In his opinion, Leon cites the huge pool of numbers that could be included in the three “hops” that analysts are allowed to make beyond a single suspicious number, as well as the mistakes, misconduct, and obfuscations described in declassified documents from the FISA court. Most importantly, he says that the NSA’s policy has direct harmful effects on Verizon subscribers — a marked contrast from previous rulings. Because of this, the case can move forward.”
Boehner Declares War on Tea Party
The Hill wrote on December 13:
“Tea Party Patriots said Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has ‘declared war on the Tea Party’ with his ‘smug and pretentious rant’ against certain right-wing organizations… In the past two days, Boehner has repeatedly attacked the conservative groups that championed the October effort to defund ObamaCare and are now opposed to the recent budget deal negotiated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). He has criticized the groups for being more interested in raising money than actually solving problems.
“The letter quotes Boehner’s statement that ‘outside groups’ were ‘using our members and … the American people for their own goals.’… The letter goes on to refer to Boehner as a ‘ruling class politician’ who only pretends to be conservative while remaining a ‘tax-and-spend liberal’ at heart.
“It castigated him for passing a ‘back-room budget deal which increases discretionary spending, does nothing to reform entitlements, and fully funds Obamacare.’ The deal, it said, ‘is an out and out betrayal of the American people.’… The group was an early backer of the push to defund ObamaCare that led to the government shutdown in early October.”
Newsmax wrote on December 15:
“House Speaker John Boehner would not be House Speaker John Boehner if it were not for the tea party and the other conservative groups he now criticizes. He says that they ‘lack all credibility’ and accuses them of ‘using our members [Congressmen] and the American people for their own goals.’ If it were not for these groups — the Tea Party Patriots, Heritage Action for America or others — the Republicans would have lost the elections of 2010 and he never would have been speaker… For Boehner to cast aside these party enthusiasts and conservative workhorses is shortsighted and ungrateful in the extreme.
“The tea party types are amateurs. They are small businesspeople, retired military, doctors and so forth that are professionals in their occupations but amateurs in politics. We need to be patient with their learning curve… In this light, the speaker’s comments are outrageous and cast real doubt on his ability to lead the House in the future.”
America’s political landscape is one of chaos and confusion, with NO human hope for meaningful change in sight.
Controversial Bi-Partisan Deal Passes
The Washington Post wrote on December 18:
“Congress declared a holiday truce in the budget wars Wednesday, sending President Obama a blueprint for funding the government through 2015. But the next skirmish was already on the horizon: an election-year fight over the national debt. The budget deal that passed the Senate on Wednesday amounts to a handshake agreement to avoid a government shutdown when a temporary funding measure expires Jan. 15.
“However, the accord does not address the need once again to raise the debt limit, setting up a potentially complicated confrontation in late February or early March. That fight would come just months before midterm congressional elections, and the GOP is deeply divided over tactics to deal with the debt, a core issue for the Republican base. Some conservatives are calling for another showdown, insisting on an additional round of spending cuts in exchange for granting the Treasury Department more borrowing authority to pay the nation’s bills. But GOP leaders, especially in the House, have no appetite for another Washington fiscal crisis…
“Congressional leaders appointed Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to negotiate a cease-fire… The deal makes no effort to solve the nation’s biggest budget problem: a social safety net strained by an aging population… Last week, the deal sailed through the House and, on Wednesday, it easily passed the Senate, 64 to 33. Nine Republicans joined all 55 members of the Senate Democratic caucus in voting yes.
“… attention will turn to the national debt, which stands at $17.2 trillion. Enforcement of the debt limit has been suspended until Feb. 7…”
The Daily Mail added on December 13:
“[The deal does not] have the force of law. What Ryan and Murray proposed Wednesday is merely a framework for a budget that has yet to be written. Members of Congress who sit on appropriation committees will still be required to craft – and pass in both houses – a final budget bill by January 15. Unless they can pull it off, the federal government will be headed for its second shutdown in three months.”
“What the Budget Deal Means for Ordinary Americans”
The Washington Post wrote on December 13:
“… Airline tickets will become more expensive… the airlines are livid. Delta’s chief executive, Richard Anderson, wasted no time in making investors aware of his displeasure, saying that his company would pass the cost to its customers. At a conference on Wednesday, he was especially careful to call the higher fees a ‘tax increase’…
“… If you’ve been unemployed for a long time, you’re on your own. The budget deal does not include an extension of expiring unemployment benefits, and it doesn’t look as though Republicans will agree to an extension anytime soon. About 1.3 million people who have been without jobs for at least 26 weeks will lose their unemployment insurance, and another 3.5 million people are likely to lose their insurance next year.”
Hawaiian Official Linked to Release of Obama’s Birth Certificate Dies in Plane Crash
The Wire wrote on December 12:
“On Thursday morning, USA Today reports that Loretta Fuddy was the sole fatality in the crash of a Makani Kai Air plane off the coast of one of the Hawaiian islands.
“Fuddy was the acting health director in the state of Hawaii in 2011, when she oversaw the release of the detailed version of Obama’s birth certificate to the White House. Obama hoped that the document’s release would curtail the long-standing rumor that he wasn’t born in the United States… [but it didn’t]…
“Within minutes of the USA Today story, World Net Daily — epicenter of anti-Obama conspiracy theories — ran the headline… on its main page…”
According to Der Stern, Donald Trump immediately responded to the news, asking whether it wasn’t amazing that Fuddy died in a plane crash, while all other passengers survived.
Tighter US Sanctions on Iran—and Iran Halts Further Talks
The website of freebacon.com reported on December 12:
“The Treasury Department on Thursday tightened the economic screws on Iran by sanctioning a range of companies and individuals for their efforts to bolster Iran’s nuclear and WMD programs. The crackdown comes as the Obama administration pushes Congress to hold off on passing a new round of economic sanctions on Iran that it argues could destroy a recently reached nuclear accord meant to temporarily freeze Tehran’s uranium enrichment program…
“The new designations were issued at a critical juncture in the Iranian-U.S. relationship… The move by Treasury is being viewed by some as a way for the Obama administration to appease lawmakers anxious for more sanctions… At least five of those entities targeted by the Treasury Department’s latest sanctions have been found to be aiding Iran’s rogue weapons programs…”
The website of freebacon.com reported on December 13:
“Iranian negotiators abruptly ended nuclear talks with Western powers in Vienna on Friday just a day after the Obama administration announced tighter sanctions on Tehran. Iran had threatened that new or tighter sanctions would nullify the recently reached Geneva interim deal, which is not yet in effect.
“The Iranians abruptly ‘halted’ the talks and left Vienna so that they could consult with higher-level officials about how to proceed with talks following the tighter sanctions… ‘America’s move is against the spirit of the Geneva deal,’ Iranian chief negotiator Abbas Araqchi reportedly told the Iranian press… Iranian and Western negotiators were in the middle of talks about ways to implement the interim agreement when the sanctions were announced…”
This ridiculous “deal” was destined to fail from the outset.
Saudi Arabia Prepared to Act Alone Against Iran and Syria
AFP wrote on December 18:
“The West’s policies on Iran and Syria are a ‘dangerous gamble’ and Saudi Arabia is prepared to act on its own to safeguard security in the region, a top Saudi diplomat said. ‘We believe that many of the West’s policies on both Iran and Syria risk the stability and security of the Middle East,’ the Saudi ambassador to Britain, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, wrote in a commentary in the New York Times…
“The bluntly-worded warning was the latest in a series of public statements by senior Saudi figures expressing displeasure with US and Western diplomatic initiatives towards Syria and Iran… The Gulf monarchy had ‘global responsibilities,’ both political and economic, and he said: ‘We will act to fulfill these responsibilities, with or without the support of our Western partners.’ In a thinly veiled jab at US President Barack Obama, the Saudi ambassador said that ‘for all their talk of “red lines,” when it counted, our partners have seemed all too ready to concede our safety and risk our region’s stability.’”
New German Government With Virtually No Opposition
The Associated Press wrote on December 14:
“Germany’s main center-left party cleared the way on Saturday for Angela Merkel to start her third term as chancellor, announcing that its members had voted by a large majority to join the conservative leader in government… It set the stage for Parliament to re-elect Merkel on Tuesday – ending nearly three months of post-election political limbo in Europe’s biggest economy…
“The Social Democrats already served as Merkel’s junior partners once, between 2005 and 2009 in her first term, and emerged weakened from the experience. In September, they finished a distant second to Merkel’s Union bloc… The new government will have an overwhelming parliamentary majority. It holds 504 of the 631 seats in the lower house; the rest are held by the left-leaning Greens and the hard-line Left Party.”
The Local added on December 14:
“The coalition is to make formal announcements on the cabinet on Sunday, but leaks to media revealed many of its most prominent members.
“Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, one of the main architects of Germany’s tough-love response to the eurozone crisis, is to stay on. Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the SPD is awaited back at the foreign ministry, where he served during Merkel’s first 2005-09 term. Meanwhile [SPD chief Sigmar] Gabriel is to head up a ‘super-ministry’ in charge of the economy and Germany’s ambitious energy transformation away from nuclear power and toward renewables.
“In one surprise, Germany appears poised to tap its first woman defence minister, mother-of-seven Ursula von der Leyen. She had until now held the labour brief. And Merkel’s chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla, unexpectedly announced his exit. As coordinator of the secret services, Pofalla had been widely ridiculed for a mild response to the scandal over mass snooping by the US National Security Agency, culminating in the explosive revelation in October that it had tapped Merkel’s mobile phone…
“The pro-business Free Democrats, Merkel’s junior partner during her second term, crashed out of parliament for the first time since 1948… A poll for public broadcaster ZDF published Friday showed that 49 percent of Germans are looking forward to a grand coalition government while 33 percent oppose it.”
The Not-So-Grand Grand Coalition
Deutsche Welle wrote on December 17:
“… one of the not so grand consequences of the ‘grand coalition’ or ‘GroKo’… is that there will be no real opposition left in both houses of parliament… Another not so grand consequence is that the new cabinet list had to allow for many considerations to create a politically-correct balance between the top representatives of the three parties, in addition to the usual male-female, protestant-catholic, East-West balance.
“As a result, we now have a labour minister who never worked in a profession (outside of her party organization) and a minister for defense who has never been near the army. Of course a ‘grand coalition’ could do grand things… Looking at the coalition treaty, however, reveals that these great challenges – not to mention the future of the EU and the Eurozone – have not really been addressed… For the German on the street, the mere formation of the ‘grand coalition’ after three months of political inertia and uncertainty is reason for great relief but it is no reason for grand expectations.”
The history of Germany’s grand coalitions has been one of disaster and failure. This time, it will be no exception. Germany’s mass tabloid “Bild” already announced that in light of the lack of any parliamentary opposition, the newspaper will now become the public “conscience” and the instrument holding the feet of the governmental politicians to the fire.
Merkel for More European Control
Der Spiegel Online wrote on December 18:
“In the first parliamentary speech of her third term, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Europe needs to take more action to make its single currency crisis-proof and urged states to undertake binding economic reforms… Germany wants closer economic policy coordination and will push… for changes to the Lisbon Treaty to give greater European control over policy…”
EU and Ukraine Drifting Further Apart
The EUObserver wrote on December 13:
“EU and Ukraine drift further apart despite new talks… The EU has said it will give Ukraine more money if it signs a trade pact, but its list of political conditions is getting longer… the moment of good will has evaporated… [An] EU diplomat warned that some EU countries might no longer be willing to sign even if Yanukovych bends over backwards…”
Russia to the Rescue…
The New York Times wrote on December 17:
“In a sharp rebuff to the West in the diplomatic wrangle over Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin said Tuesday that Russia would come to the rescue of its financially troubled neighbor, providing $15 billion in loans and a steep discount on natural gas prices.
“It was a bold but risky move by Russia… Mr. Putin seemed to gain the upper hand over Europe and the United States in their contest for Ukraine, a former Soviet republic of 46 million that Russia sees as integral to its economic and security interests. It is by far the region’s most populous and influential country that has remained outside the European orbit.”
The EUObserver summarized on December 18:
“Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych has opted for a no-strings-attached Russian bailout instead of the EU alternative.”
North Korea’s Rule of Terror
Deutsche Welle wrote on December 13:
“South Korea has voiced concern after North Korea’s announcement that it had executed the uncle of its leader, Kim Jong Un. Jang Song Thaek had been considered the second-most powerful person in the country… Seoul will prepare fully for ‘all possibilities in the future’ while coordinating closely with its allies, a ministry statement said… South Korean President Park Geun-hye has accused Kim Jong Un of resorting to a ‘reign of terror’ to cement his leadership.
“The United States also expressed concern at the execution. ‘If confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime,’ US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said… The North Korean state news agency KCNA announced on Friday that Jang had been executed, calling him a ‘traitor for all ages’ and ‘despicable human scum’ who had targeted leader Kim Jong Un with a planned coup. Earlier in the week, North Korea… branded him as a drug user and a profligate playboy who had gambled away millions in state funds at foreign casinos. The description is a complete reversal of the previously propagated image of Jang as a mentor and father figure to Kim Jong Un in the early stages of his rule…
“Although the Kim family has regularly purged those showing the slightest signs of dissent during its six-decade-long rule, Jang’s execution, if confirmed, was the highest-level one in the country in decades. Jang’s death has raised fears of a further-reaching purge in the country… Japan’s defence minister warned this week that the purge could herald an unheaval comparable to the Cultural Revolution in China, which led to widespread persecution and destruction.”
Worldwide Persecutions of Religious Minorities
Reuters reported on October 9:
“In 13 countries around the world, all of them Muslim, people who openly espouse atheism or reject the official state religion of Islam face execution under the law… And beyond the Islamic nations, even some of the West’s apparently most democratic governments at best discriminate against citizens who have no belief in a god and at worst can jail them for offences dubbed blasphemy…
“A first survey of 60 countries last year showed just seven where death, often by public beheading, is the punishment for either blasphemy or apostasy – renouncing belief or switching to another religion… But this year’s more comprehensive study showed six more… there was systematic or severe discrimination against atheists across the 27-nation European Union. The situation was severe in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Malta and Poland where blasphemy laws allow for jail sentences up to three years on charges of offending a religion or believers…”
This persecution is not limited to atheists, but includes those who dare to question the actions of “established” religions or who want to change their religious affiliation.
The Pope and the Mexican Virgin Mary
CNS wrote on December 12:
“In a message sent to the Americas on Dec. 12, a day the Catholic Church celebrates in honor of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Pope Francis, who was named Person of the Year this week by Time magazine, said that America is called to be ‘a land prepared to accept life at every stage, from the mother’s womb to old age.’… Dec. 12 is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe because the Church approves and millions of Catholics believe that the mother of Jesus appeared to a Mexican peasant, Juan Diego, in Guadalupe in 1531.
“Commenting on the special day, Pope Francis said, ‘When Our Lady appeared to Saint Juan Diego, her face was that of a woman of mixed blood, a mestiza, and her garments bore many symbols of the native culture. Like Jesus, Mary is close to all her sons and daughters; as a concerned mother, she accompanies them on their way through life.’…
“In Mexico, Dec. 12 is a bank holiday celebrated with public celebrations (fiestas) in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The day is not a federal holiday, but a religious festival where children dress in traditional garb and are blessed in churches; and thousands show up at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City to pray… For Catholics, Our Lady of Guadalupe is also called the Patroness of the Americas. She is also honored as the patroness of the unborn, and her image, from the Guadalupe depictions, is frequently used in pro-life marches and prayer vigils…”
Unbiblical Mary worship is surely a development to be prepared for.
Yellowstone’s Super Volcano Could Wipe Out America
The New York Post wrote on December 12:
“We’ve long known that Yellowstone is merely the skin on top of a supervolcano – a giant pool of magma sitting just under the Earth’s surface. Exactly how giant has been the subject of much speculation. Until now.
“A team from the University of Utah have [found out]… that Yellowstone’s magma chamber is 2.5 times larger than previously thought. It is an underground cavern measuring some 55 miles by 20 miles and containing between 125 and 185 billion cubic miles of molten rock. If it blows it will wipe out America – and have enormous impacts on the rest of the world…
“From analysis of rock and sediment layers, scientists say another eruption is almost due – at least by geological standards… So what would happen if Yellowstone was to erupt? Something close to Armageddon. Soil samples reveal that the last time it happened the whole of North America was smothered by ash. The lava flow was almost as great. The streams of molten rock were hundreds of miles long, and miles thick. Such was the extent of the smoke and debris cloud generated by the eruption that the climate of the entire world was affected for several centuries…”
Our free booklet, “The Theory of Evolution—a Fairy Tale for Adults,” describes past natural catastrophes like the one referred to in the article, and shows that future catastrophes are prophesied to occur.
Unprecedented Snowfall in the Holy Land and the Middle East
The Los Angeles Times wrote on December 13:
“Nearly three feet of snow closed roads in and out of Jerusalem, which is set in high hills, and thousands in and around the city were left without power. Israeli soldiers and police rescued hundreds trapped in their cars by snow and ice. In the West Bank, the branches of olive trees groaned under the weight of snow.
“In Cairo, where local news reports said the last recorded snowfall was more than 100 years ago, children in outlying districts capered in white-covered streets… In other parts of the city, rain and hail rocketed down…
“Storm-driven waves lashed Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, and fishermen in the ancient port city of Alexandria were warned by authorities against putting out to sea. In the Sinai Peninsula, snow fell on Mt. Sinai and St. Catherine’s monastery at its foot. Sleet washed the dusty fronds of desert palm trees.
“The inclement weather worsened the situation for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, where many live in makeshift camps, abandoned buildings and other temporary sites lacking heat and protection from the elements. In Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, many refugees were digging out snow from their provisional shelters amid subfreezing conditions. The situation is likely worse for multitudes of displaced people inside rebel-held and contested areas of Syria, where clashes and blockades by both sides in the country’s civil war have severely hampered delivery of aid.
“In Israel, where the storm was described as the heaviest December snowfall since 1953, thick clouds temporarily closed Ben-Gurion International Airport, causing the diversion of two international flights to Cyprus. Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, likened the storm to a snow tsunami.”
One is reminded of Christ’s admonition to pray that the flight of His disciples is not to occur on the Sabbath or in winter (Matthew 24:20).
China Lands on the Moon—in Honor of Moon Goddess and Her Rabbit Pet
The Associated Press wrote on December 14:
“China on Saturday successfully carried out the world’s first soft landing of a space probe on the moon in nearly four decades, state media said, the next stage in an ambitious space program that aims to eventually put a Chinese astronaut on the moon. The unmanned Chang’e 3 lander, named after a mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, touched down on Earth’s nearest neighbor… The probe carried a six-wheeled moon rover called ‘Yutu,’ or ‘Jade Rabbit,’ the goddess’ pet. After landing Saturday evening on a fairly flat, Earth-facing part of the moon, the rover was slated to separate from the Chang’e eight hours later and embark on a three-month scientific exploration…”
CNN wrote on December 14:
“Chang’e-3, an unmanned spacecraft, will release Jade Rabbit (called Yutu in Chinese) — a six-wheeled lunar rover equipped with at least four cameras and two mechanical legs that can dig up soil samples to a depth of 30 meters… The robot’s name was decided by a public online poll and comes from a Chinese myth about the pet white rabbit of a goddess, Chang’e, who is said to live on the moon.”
Pagan Easter traditions are alive and well. For more related information, please read our free booklet, “Don’t Keep Christmas.”
What does it mean, practically, not to add to or delete from God’s Commandments?
God’s command, not to add to or take from His Law, has wide-ranging applications and practical consequences in many areas of daily life. For instance, when we look at the question, why we are not to observe Christmas or Easter, then the first answer might be that they are pagan, not Christian, and that the Bible nowhere commands their observance. In fact, God prohibited His followers to worship Him, as pagans worshipped their gods (Deuteronomy 12:29-32), and Christ warned us that we are not to uphold human traditions while rejecting God’s commandments (Mark 7:8-9).
But there are additional important reasons to consider, which are not limited to the question of Christmas and Easter observance, and they affect our worship of God in other ways.
In our free booklet, “Don’t Keep Christmas,” we state the following:
“Moses reminded ancient Israel of a timeless principle when it comes to true worship. We read in [Deuteronomy] 4:1-2: ‘Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving to you. You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you’ (Cp. Deut[eronomy]. 12:32, Rev[elation]. 22:18 [and] 19).
“We find the same admonition in Proverbs 30:5-6: ‘Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.’… So if we contend that Christmas is a festival that honors God, then we add to God’s Word, which has nothing to say about the celebration of Christmas. God will rebuke us, and we will be found ‘liars,’ since we have misrepresented God.
“Let’s also note how the apostle Paul approached the Christians in Corinth… he tells them in 1 Cor[inthians] 4:6: ‘Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ (NIV)
“A similar reminder is recorded in the second letter of John. He states in verse 9: ‘For if you wander beyond the teaching of Christ, you will leave God behind; while if you are loyal to Christ’s teachings, you will have God too.’ (Living Bible). Those who do celebrate Christmas ‘go beyond what is written,’ and ‘wander beyond the teaching of Christ,’ thereby leaving ‘God behind.’”
This concept is not limited to Christmas celebrations. It can affect us in many different ways in our daily lives. We might take weekly Sabbath observance as an example. Are we becoming too liberal in our conduct, or are we becoming too strict? If we add to or delete from the commandments that God gave us regarding the true worship of the Sabbath, we are guilty of SIN.
It is true, without any doubt, that TRUE Christians ARE commanded today to keep the Sabbath. Those who refuse to do so, and who claim that Christ abrogated the Sabbath and replaced it with Sunday, are guilty of sin and of lying, and Christ told them that they are worshipping Him in vain, “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7; Isaiah 29:13). But notice too what we are saying in our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days,” when describing the sinful conduct of the Jews at the time of Christ, in regard to Sabbath observance:
“From God’s perspective, the Sabbath is a Feast Day, intended to be a day of joy and happiness, as well as physical and spiritual renewal. We can learn from the mistakes of the Pharisees and avoid repeating them today. By adding humanly devised restrictions to God’s Sabbath commandment, the Pharisees did, in fact, violate God’s law (Matthew 23:4; Mark 7:8–9, 13)…
“The Pharisees totally misinterpreted the prohibition against carrying burdens on the Sabbath. They decreed that a person was guilty of breaking the Sabbath if he carried a sheet of paper, or any food that weighed as much as a dried fig, or if he carried more than one swallow of milk, or enough oil to anoint a small part of the body. If a fire broke out in a person’s home on the Sabbath, he could carry out only the necessary food to be consumed on the Sabbath. This meant that if the fire broke out at the beginning of the Sabbath—right after sunset—the person could take out enough food for three meals; but if the fire broke out on the afternoon of the Sabbath, he could only take out enough food for one meal. The rest could not be carried out and had to be left behind, to burn with the building. Further, only necessary clothes could be taken out of a burning house on the Sabbath.
“Very likely, the Pharisees had been subconsciously influenced by their former Babylonian environment when they devised those Sabbath rules. The Babylonians had set apart the seventh day of the Babylonian week, called ‘Shabattum,’ as ‘ill omens’ or ‘evil days.’ For instance, it was forbidden on those days to eat flesh cooked upon coals. One must wonder whether we find a reason here why some Orthodox Jews have misunderstood the above-described passage in Exodus 35:3 regarding ‘kindling a fire,’ falsely concluding that even turning on a light switch was prohibited. The Babylonians also forbade the change of garments on those days, as well as calling for a physician. As we will see, Christ had to deal with a similar Pharisaic concept. The Pharisees in His day insisted that He should not heal anyone on the Sabbath—that people were not supposed to request healing on that day. Again, the parallel to Babylonian superstition is evident.
“We might laugh about those restrictions today, but these were no laughing matter at the time of Christ. He had confrontations with the Pharisees on numerous occasions when He refused to abide by their man-made Sabbath rules. We must be careful today not to create for ourselves, and others, similar rules on how to keep—or not keep—the Sabbath, when such rules cannot be found in Scripture.”
Again, it is all based on the biblical injunction, not to add to or delete from God’s commandments. Richard Elliott Freedman makes the following statements in his “Commentary on the Torah,” regarding Deuteronomy 4:2:
“One may think that, by doing more than the law requires, one is doing better, being more religious, more observant, when one is in fact thus violating the law… Adding to a command is as dangerous as taking away from it… in postbiblical Judaism a principle developed of ‘building a fence around the Torah’”…
Although this practice may seem logical to the human mind, in its final analysis, it is in violation of God’s command not to add to His Law.
We find that Moses was very careful not to add anything to God’s commandments, and he reminded the people before his death that they must not do so, either (Deuteronomy 5:33). He added that they must not turn to the right or to the left, but that they had to be careful and watchful to stay on the narrow road (Deuteronomy 5:32). This injunction complements of course the command not to add to or take away from God’s Law.
When we are tempted to add to or delete from God’s commandments and develop a guilty conscience when we do not follow the dictates of our human hearts (which are not in harmony with God’s Law), then we are sinning. We need God’s wisdom to show us exactly, in a given situation, what His command is, rather than replacing God’s lead with our own self-righteous and presumptuous human imaginations.
We should also accept the fact that God leads His Church through His ministry. For instance, the question as to whether or not to eat in a restaurant on the weekly and annual Sabbaths has been a stumbling block for some.
We wrote this in our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days”:
“If Church members today eat occasionally in a nice, quiet restaurant on the Sabbath or a Holy Day after Church services, for instance, while, at the same time fellowshipping with other brethren and speaking about the things that pertain to God, then we must not condemn them for that. For instance, Church members might be traveling for quite a distance to attend Church services, looking forward to spending additional time with their brethren after services.
“If, on the other hand, your conscience does not allow you to go to a restaurant on a Sabbath or a Holy Day, then you must not do so, since ‘whatever is not from faith [or conviction] is sin’ (Romans 14:23). It would be advisable, though, to review the Scriptures to see whether your conscience is based on the Bible or merely on man-made traditions. God never accepts our conviction as justification for the violation of His law, and man-made regulations can… cloud the intent of God’s commandments in the minds of men.”
The last sentence should also be viewed in light of the fact that God gave the ministry of His Church the authority to bind and to loose, and with it, the responsibility to explain biblical passages which might not be that clear at first sight. In our Q&A on Matthew 16:18-19, Matthew 18:18 and John 20:23, we state the following:
“The ministry has been given the authority from God, to ‘bind and loose,’ and to ‘remit’ and ‘retain’ sin. It is critical that we understand correctly the scope of this authority… The Nelson Study Bible comments on Matthew 16:19 and on Matthew 18:18: ‘In rabbinical literature, binding and loosing refers to what was permitted or not permitted. So this passage may refer to judgments that Peter [and the other apostles] would make about what would be permitted or forbidden in the church… As in [Matthew] 16:19, the tenses [in Matthew 18:18] imply that what is loosed or bound on earth will have been determined already in heaven. In other words, this is a promise of divine direction…
“‘The New Bible Commentary: Revised, agrees and adds the following remarks: ‘… Judicial rulings, like the promulgation of rules of conduct, are binding.’… The Broadman Bible Commentary, commenting on Matthew 18:18, explains the meaning and scope of ‘binding and loosing,’ as follows: ‘The authority to bind and loose, given to Peter in [Matthew] 16:19, is here extended to the whole church [that is, its ministry]. In [Matthew] 16:19 it seems to relate primarily to instruction, what conduct is permitted and what not [We might insert here that this would include conduct that is not clearly defined in Scripture. The Church is not permitted, however, to do away with any of God’s commandments, judgments or statutes, compare Matthew 5:17-19; James 2:10; Mark 7:6-13. Likewise, the Church is not to add prohibitions regarding conduct that the Bible permits, compare Revelation 22:18; Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6]. Here [in Matthew 18:18] it relates primarily to church discipline…’
“In summary, Christ empowered the leadership of the Church, throughout the Church’s history and existence, to discern God’s Will regarding binding Church decisions as to what God permits and prohibits, based on His law, and who is to be excommunicated and reinstated, based on the Church leadership’s discernment of the person’s repentance and God’s forgiveness…”
Over the centuries, the true Church of God has declared, based on the directions and instructions of the Bible, that it is wrong to observe Christmas and Easter, or to participate in any of their customs. Furthermore, it has declared as binding God’s injunction to observe the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days. In this context, it has recognized and therefore dogmatically pronounced that God gave the Jews the sole responsibility of maintaining the Hebrew calendar.
God’s Church has also declared God’s Law of abstaining from unclean food, while clarifying that it is wrong to insist that we must be vegetarians today. Rather, that it is not wrong to eat the flesh of clean animals (while rejecting the consumption of fat and blood). The true Church of God has determined for a long time that it is wrong for a Christian to vote in governmental elections and to serve on a jury, and it has pronounced God’s revelation of circumstances when God binds a marriage, and when a Church member is free to divorce and remarry. God’s Church has also clarified that we are not obligated to observe new moons, and it has determined, based on the Bible, that the Passover is to be kept in the beginning of the 14th of Nisan, as this was the correct time when ancient Israel, Jesus and the apostles observed it.
In addition, as mentioned, God’s true Church and its ministers have also declared with godly authority that it is not wrong or a sin to eat out in a restaurant on the weekly Sabbath or annual Holy Days, including during the Night to Be Much Observed on the First Day of Unleavened Bread. Even though the Church respects the conscience of (newer) members who may not be comfortable with going out on a weekly or annual Sabbath, because the Church realizes that their faith may (still) be weak (compare the principle in Romans 14:2; 1 Corinthians 8:7-13), it expects that they, in time, will grow in the knowledge of God and, in submitting to the guidance of the Church ministry, will come to understand the truth in the matter. It is clarified, of course, that they must never try to convince other Church members of their unique individual religious conviction (which is not based on Church teaching), and that they must be very circumspect in the practical application of their conscience, as this could otherwise create division within the congregation.
In conclusion, we should carefully heed God’s admonition to His followers in Ecclesiastes 7:16-18:
“Do not be overly righteous, Nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself? Do not be overly wicked, Nor be foolish: Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp this, And also not remove your hand from the other; For he who fears God will escape them all [NIV: “will avoid all extremes”].”
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
“Will Yellowstone’s Super Volcano Wipe Out America?,” is the title of our new StandingWatch program presented by Evangelist Norbert Link. Here is a summary:
The New York Post wrote on December 12, 2013, that if Yellowstone’s Super Volcano erupts, it will wipe out America and have enormous impacts on the rest of the world. But is this possible? Our free booklet, “The Theory of Evolution,” explains that in the past, historic natural catastrophes, including volcanic eruptions, have destroyed large parts of the earth, and the Bible warns that similar events will happen in the near future.
“Tiere in der Bibel,” is the title of a new German language sermon to be played this coming Sabbath in services conducted in Germany. It begins a new series on the biblical teaching about animals. Title in English: “Animals in the Bible.”
A new “SW Talking Points” program with Rene Messier has been posted. It offers our free booklet, “Is That in the Bible? The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation.”
Our new Member letter, has been posted and sent out this week. In it, Dave Harris reminds us of the understanding and promises God has given to His faithful people in order for us to face the tumultuous events that are now signaling the end of this age.
A new Member Letter has been sent to the brethren in Germany. It includes a German translation of Mr. Link’s Editorial, “Is It God’s Will to Quit?,” which appeared in last week’s Update. Plans have also been made for Mr. Link to address the German brethren via Webex this coming Sabbath.
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