Update 73


Endure to the End?

This Sabbath, Edwin Pope will ask the challenging question whether WE will be able to endure until the very end.

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at the appropriate time, just click on “Connect to Live Stream.”

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Xmas — And Its Spinoffs

by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

This is a time of the year that true Christians don’t greatly care for. Many have celebrated Xmas, supposedly in honor of the “birthday” of Christ, on December 25. Others, especially those in the Greek Orthodox churches, will keep Xmas on January 6. In addition, even for members of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, Xmas celebrations are not over even yet. The Xmas tree and other Xmas decorations will still remain in many houses until after New Years. And then, January 6 will be kept by Catholics (and increasingly by Protestants) as the day when the “three holy kings” arrived in Bethlehem (who, according to the Bible, were neither three nor kings, nor did they arrive in January).

We have been bombarded with advertising about the Xmas period. Our children (or grandchildren) have been subject to the usual functions at school from which they have to be removed. We just cannot let them be involved in carol singing, advent calendars, drawing pictures of the gentleman in red with a white beard or of nativity scenes, and in all the other paganism associated with this time of the year. We have to set them the example and we, ourselves, should be above reproach in this area.

It can be easily proved that Christ was born in the autumn, but public acceptance of this festival seems to outweigh any ethical considerations. Tied up with this pagan festival season are a number of spin-offs There are at least four areas that come with the territory — four areas that we can be critical of the world, and the way they behave. The question is, are we, ourselves, guiltless in those areas? They are:

· Lying and deceit
· Hypocrisy
· Compromise, and
· The spirit of the time of the year

1. Lying and deceit.

There are many wrong things associated with the Xmas season but lying has to be at the heart of it. It’s a false celebration — a lie in itself — and it is compounded by more lying and deception in so many areas. Santa Claus is a mythical character but lied about to deceive innocent children. Deceptive advertising is a further example of lying. We know that Satan is the father of lies and deception. We do well to stay clear of all of it. But how do we do in this area of our Christian lives? Keeping the 9th commandment — not to lie — is far more important than having any association with this pagan season or the world’s ways, as we strive to live the way of life that will help us in our quest to make it into the Kingdom of God. Let us make sure that lying and deceit is not something that we ever practice — at this or any other time of the year.

2. Hypocrisy.

The churches and the clergy know full well that Jesus was not born on the 25th of December (or on January 6, for that matter). They know full well that these dates are totally associated with paganism; they know full well that they compromised in order to try and attract pagans to the faith. But, what does God’s Word have to say about it? He tells us not to learn the way of the heathen. God hates pagan customs and rites which today are practiced under a cloak of so-called Christianity.

In Matthew 23:13-29, Christ pulled no punches whatsoever. He told it as it was – and rightly so. Seven times in this chapter, the Scribes and the Pharisees were called hypocrites. In spite of their outward piety, however, the Pharisees imposed standards on others that they themselves did not keep — hence, the reasons why they received such condemnation from Christ regarding their hypocrisy and customs, which transformed God’s way of life into something tedious and burdensome.

Hypocrisy is, in no way, part of the Christian life. If these religious leaders were taken to task for it, how much more are we to avoid this – we who have God’s Holy Spirit? It is essential that at no time can we be accused of hypocrisy.

3. Compromise:

Too often over the years, church members have compromised because of family, business or other pressures. Of course it can be difficult if a member is:

· married to an unconverted spouse, or · is living at home with parents who do not share their religious convictions, or · is the only one in a large family that knows God’s truth, or · has family antagonism, or · has business interests that can make things difficult.

BUT…what is most important? Obedience to God and His way, without compromise – or giving in to keep the peace because of pressure?

It goes without saying that we have to use a great deal of wisdom in this area. Seeking the appropriate counsel or input from true ministers of God may be very necessary. We can all be put into a difficult position, but how do we react? We need to ask ourselves at all times, “What would Jesus Christ do in such a situation?” This is the first step to good decision making. But, conscientious follow through is vital. In Luke 14:25-33, Christ meant that we must place Him above all other relationships. These short stories are about considering the cost before doing various things and considering what it will cost to be a true Christian. The world compromises on so many issues at Xmas time where this spirit of compromise really does seem to escalate. With the truth we should never compromise. With Satan’s ways, we should never bow to any pressure from any quarter. We have been called to a way of life where compromise with the truth and the way we live should, and must, never be countenanced.

4. The spirit of the time of the year

It is a time of excess. Many children seem to get everything they want – which cannot be good for them. As they grow up in such an environment, they come to expect everything which is not the way it should be. Adults indulge themselves in many ways. It is an excuse for bawdy, riotous office parties where people can behave in a way that they would only do at this time of the year. There seems to be an excess of food, drink, riotous and wanton behavior. This all seems acceptable in this society. Well, it is Xmas, after all! But it isn’t just the two or three weeks where many countries seem to shut down. It is the long lead-in over several months.

We need to be focused at this time of the year — not on Xmas and what it means to the world — but on the right way to live. This time of the year is very worldly. Let us take the following verses in Romans 12:1-2 to heart:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world.”

We are not to be conformed to this world. Who, in God’s church, would want to be anyway?

Matthew 5:13-16 shows that we are to be a walking, talking commercial for God’s way of life.

By avoiding Xmas and its spin-offs, we can be just that!

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The international press announced on December 20 that Germany was appointed as Chairman of the U.N. Security Council’s Iraqi Sanction Panel (cnn.com — “Germany wins key U.N. role.”). The German press celebrated this appointment as a victory for Germany and as a defeat for the Bush administration. As Spiegel ONLINE reported on December 20, President Bush had opposed the German appointment in lieu of Germany’s opposition to a war with Iraq and the fact that Germany is one of the 20 most important trading partners with Iraq.
Focus ONLINE reported on December 18 that the Iraqi weapons report contained the list of numerous international companies that had supported Iraq’s nuclear weapons program since 1996. The report listed thirty German, eleven British and ten American companies, in addition to several companies from Switzerland, Japan, Italy, France, Sweden and Brazil.
Newspapers in the United States and abroad speculated this week whether the war with Iraq would begin by the end of January. President Bush called off a planned trip to Africa next month (that had been scheduled for January 10-17) to focus on his looming decision — expected to be made on January 27 or shortly thereafter — whether to go to war to disarm Saddam’s Hussein’s regime, according to USA Today.  On January 27, United Nations weapons inspectors are due to report their findings on Iraqi compliance with the recent U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Saddam give up his weapons voluntarily.
BILD Online reported on December 22 that the United States asked Germany for special protection of American military institutions in Germany by the end of January. The paper also announced that America is threatening to retaliate with nuclear weapons if America or its allies should be attacked. An American strategy paper was especially directed at Iraq, Iran and North-Korea.
Some would consider Saddam Hussein’s speech on December 24, 2002, a futile attempt to redirect world opinion as he faces down the reality of war with the United States.  However, some of what he said is beginning to have a familiar ring. Going a step beyond the infamous “ugly American” tag pinned on the U.S. from post World War II times, there has now emerged a finger pointing campaign that portrays Americans as the world’s newest and biggest bully.
From www.msnbc.com, 12/25/02, here are some excerpts from the speech:  “In an address read by a television announcer marking Christmas Eve, Saddam said the world was entering a new year ‘under unique circumstances…which have been manufactured by the forces of evil and darkness in order to create a situation of instability, chaos and tension.’
“Saddam said the United States and Israel were bent on waging war against Iraq in a first step to spread their authority ‘across the world and control fortunes and futures’ of other countries.”
That some of this name calling is sticking is reflected by the half-hearted support from U.S. allies–and, in some cases, outright opposition.  The thankless role of being the world’s policeman–and that because of a truly impotent United Nations–is causing the United States growing consternation.  With Korea breaking out to challenge and threaten Asian stability, yet another possible war confronts the American military.  As MSNBC News reported, “U.S. may hit rough patch in Koreas,” continuing that “South’s new president [is] not a natural ally of [President] Bush.” The report continued that some fear that the “U.S.-South Korean military alliance is likely to face its greatest challenges ever in 2003, the year of its 50th anniversary…. Although still unlikely, a breakup of the alliance is not impossible.”
This comes at a terribly inopportune time, as the world observes an increasing threat from North Korea to build up nuclear weapons. According to Spiegel ONLINE, dated December 25, North Korea is willing to reactivate its nuclear reactor, “Yongbyon.” If successful, North Korea could produce annually about 55 nuclear weapons, according to U.S. statistics. No wonder that some newspapers, in looking at the North-South-Korean situation, are already talking about the fact that we are standing at the brink of nuclear war.
Additionally, Russia has overridden U.S. objections and has committed itself to help the Iranians build a nuclear facility for the “generation of electric power”–yet, with the latent potential for weapons production.
At the same time, Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany have been overcrowded this Christmas by adherents who are afraid of a war with Iraq, according to Der Spiegel ONLINE, dated December 25. In his traditional Christmas address, the pope made an appeal for peace. Several German Catholic priests and Protestant ministers preached from the pulpit against war, asking the believers to “stand up against war” and to engage themselves in active resistance against war. Meanwhile, Turkey, one of America’s necessary allies in a war against Iraq, has announced that they will try to prevent war through diplomatic means.
Being crowned the world’s only super power is coming at a cost.  World opinion is shifting away from the U.S.  Indeed “forces of evil and darkness” are inspiring events all over the earth.  As these things increase, we must understand that this is really only the beginning of “instability, chaos and tension.” 


In a recent interview with Der Stern Online, internationally-known actor David Hasselhoff made public his lengthy personal battle with alcoholism. He is now actively involved in bringing the problem of alcoholism to the attention of a wider audience. Some of his comments were quite interesting and are worth repeating:
Hasselhoff pointed out that most alcoholics begin to drink between the ages of 42 and 50. 98% of all drowning accidents are caused by alcohol. In 90% of alcoholics, family members of former generations had problems with alcohol.
Hasselhoff also mentioned that alcoholism is not limited to Hollywood (although it apparently runs rampant there), but that it is a universal problem, affecting people of all walks of life. He talked about an acquaintance who drove under the influence and killed another person. “His life is ruined,” Hasselhoff said.
One of the causes for drinking is the inability to deal with stress. Hasselhoff explained one of the ways that is helping him to overcome his problem:
“To write a diary is part of the therapy. We should write down daily our thoughts — the positive and negative experiences. Things like: What could I have done better today? Whom was I angry with? Was I too egoistic today? It’s a daily inventory of our emotions. It has helped me a lot, I am continuing to do it. When I am frustrated or angry, I go to my office, and write down my thoughts. That compensates aggressions, and I get more quiet.”


Der Stern Online published this week a series of 20 photographs by Tom Jacobi, under the headline, “Where God Lives.”  Amongst pictures showing Mount Sinai and the Valley of Elah, the place where David killed Goliath, one published photograph portrayed the famous area of Petra.


An especially moving article was published this week by Der Spiegel Online, titled, “It would be best if I would not exist.” Dealing with the subject of illegitimate children stemming from fornication committed by Catholic priests, the magazine brought comments from a 15-year old girl, Anna:
When in elementary school, “‘the others all had their dad at home, and I did not even know where mine lived. So, I began to invent stories, how he looked like and where he lived… One year later my mom told me that I could now get to know my dad… I was very astonished that he was the one who had been visiting my mom every six to eight weeks…
“‘I began, when I was five, to lie to the people. Finally, I could do it quite well. Nobody noticed anything. But one loses the ease of childhood. I had to pretend — that was very difficult. I rarely felt good…. My dad was and always remained to be a visitor… Sometimes we visited him. The people there appalled me — especially the women who put him on a pedestal… I still believe in God, but I don’t believe in the church. They preach that we are to love our neighbor, but they violate what they preach. The priests play the father for others, but in my case, he is not allowed to be a father for his own child. How can I accept such a church to tell me how I should live?… After my dad ended his 13-years-long secret relationship with my mom and left her for another woman, I wrote in my diary: ‘I want to be normal and have a dad who carries me on his arms, and who protects me. My mom and he should never have had an intimate relationship. Then I would not exist. It would have been better for all. I never want to see him again.'”

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Q. Is Deuteronomy 24:1-4 still applicable today, prohibiting a divorced wife, who married a second husband, to return to her first husband?

A. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 reads, “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.”

We need to understand several principles when dealing with questions such as these, relating to divorce and remarriage.

(1) Marriage between two truly converted Christian partners

Quoting from our booklet, “The Keys to Happy Marriages and Families,” page 2, “God wants our marriages to succeed. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16)… Two truly converted married Christians (as long as both remain alive and converted throughout their marriage to each other) must never divorce and subsequently marry somebody else! Their marriage, which has been bound by God, is for life (1 Corinthians 7:10-11; Romans 7:1-3; Luke 16:18).”

From this it follows that Deuteronomy 24:1-4 would not be applicable today, IF the (first) “divorce” occurred, while both parties were and remained to be converted. The converted husband cannot unbind today a valid marriage to a converted wife by writing her a certificate of divorce (compare Matthew 19:7-9). In God’s eyes, such a “divorce” is not accepted, and husband and wife are still “bound” or married to each other (compare, again, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11). They can separate, but they cannot marry someone else. They either have to remain “single,” or they have to unite again and continue their marriage relationship.

(2) Marriage between a truly converted Christian and an “Unbeliever”

What about a situation, however, when the mate becomes or is an “unbeliever”? We continue quoting from our booklet:

“Even in such a case, divorce and subsequent remarriage is not Biblically permitted, unless the ‘unbelieving mate’ departs from the marriage, by not fulfilling his or her marriage duties, and the ‘unbeliever’ is no longer willing to live with the converted mate (cp. 1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Such total departure from the marriage by the ‘unbeliever’ can be seen in serious continuous violations of his or her marriage duties and responsibilities, such as the sinful practice of ‘sexual immorality’ (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:9). But even then, counseling with one of God’s ministers is highly recommended, with the goal to restore, rather than to sever, the marriage.”

Applying this principle to Deuteronomy 24:1-4, if husband and wife divorced because the wife is or became an unbeliever and departed from the marriage (which might be indicated, in principle, by the fact that the husband found “some uncleanness in her”), then the husband is free to remarry (The same would apply, of course, to a wife, that is, the wife would be free to remarry if the husband is an unbeliever and departs from the marriage.) It needs to be emphasized that this would only be the case, however, if the unbelieving mate is no longer pleased to dwell with the believer and departs from the marriage relationship. As long as the unbeliever is pleased to dwell with the believer, the believer cannot sever the marriage. (The only exception would be “fraud at the time of the marriage” — that is, when one partner conceals essential facts about him-or herself from his or her future mate. In such a case, God would not bind a marriage to begin with, and the deceived mate, upon discovery of the fraud, would be free to leave such a relationship. Such departure, though, has to occur immediately upon discovery of the fraud).

Further, the converted mate would only be free to remarry “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39), that is, to a “believer” (compare Ezrah 10:10-11 — that is, to someone who has truly repented of his or her sins of transgressing God’s Ten Commandments; who has believed in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as payment for his or her sins; and who has become baptized as an outward sign of inner repentance). Unless the divorced wife, whose subsequent marriage has also ended (see under #4), comes to or returns to the faith as a true believer, the first husband could not remarry her.

(3) Marriage between two unconverted partners

But let us suppose that the divorce took place while both parties were still unconverted. As we came to understand in 1975, God looks at the status of the person when he or she is called into the truth. If a “divorced” person is called by God in that state of his or her divorce, he or she is not required to return to the former mate (who may not be converted and who may be remarried) –compare the principles described in 1 Corinthians 7:20-24. Rather, such a person, upon conversion, is free to marry a converted partner.

(4) Can the converted mate re-marry the (now) converted mate?

The question arises, however, in light of Deuteronomy 24:1-4, whether the converted husband is free to remarry the (now) converted wife (or vice versa), if the wife had been married in the meantime to another partner. Several Biblical principles suggest that he could remarry his first wife, if she is also free to marry, and that therefore, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 would not be applicable today in such cases:

The main principle is that God wants a marriage restored, rather than broken up. Using a spiritual parallel to this example, although God makes it clear that He, as a converted husband, would not receive back His first unconverted wife Israel, as long as she remains unconverted, “playing the harlot” (Jeremiah 3:1-5), He WILL marry her upon her repentance and conversion (since Christ will marry spiritual Israel upon His return). Some have suggested that Christ was only free to remarry His former wife, because He died — thereby bringing the marriage relationship to an end. However, Christ did state that He gave His first wife a bill of divorce. In addition, we need to understand that the concept of Christ, being married to ancient Israel, and going to marry spiritual Israel, is an analogy. One cannot carry an analogy too far, of course, since Christ made clear that in the resurrection, we will not marry or be given in marriage — literally. Also, not only Christ died, but we too, upon our conversion, “died” in a spiritual sense, and although we are already “betrothed” to Christ right now, Christ will only consummate our marriage with Him, when we are fully Spirit, like He is.

Still, the analogy shows us certain principles. Christ, Who is the same yesterday, today and forever, is willing to take back His unconverted wife and “marry” her again, upon her conversion, even though she married other men and played the harlot in the meantime. This would show, then, that a converted husband is free to remarry his converted wife, even though his wife was married to another man in the meantime, as long as the wife is also free to remarry her first husband (or vice versa).

(a) This is clearly the case when the second husband dies (Deuteronomy 24:3).
(b) This is also the case when the unconverted wife divorces from her second unconverted husband prior to her conversion (see under #3).
(c) This would NOT be the case, however, if the wife becomes converted, while married to her second unconverted husband (see under #3). With her conversion, God accepts her in the state in which she is, that is, as a woman married to her second husband. Unless the second husband dies or is an unbeliever who is not any longer pleased to dwell with his wife (see under #2), the wife would not be free to sever that
(second) marriage relationship to return to her first husband. This would be the case where Deuteronomy 24:1-4 would still apply today, in principle.

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