Update 763


Yes or No; The Fools and the Foolish

On December 10, 2016, Kalon Mitchell will present the sermonette, titled, “Yes or No,” and Michael Link will present the sermon, titled, “The Fools and the Foolish.”

The live services are available, over video and audio, at http://eternalgod.org/live-services/ (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time; 8:30 pm Greenwich Mean Time; 9:30 pm Central European Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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Seek in Action

by Eric Rank

Persistence tends to pay off. By continuing to work tirelessly on a goal, great or small, progress will be made towards its successful outcome. Even if the progress is incremental, it still counts. I like to say, “If you push hard enough in the same direction, you eventually move that way.” The Bible establishes the same principle, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). Careers have been reinvented, addictions have been beaten, fortunes have been made, and most importantly, sins have been overcome by applying persistence. In the most challenging of circumstances, it is encouraging to know that when we continue to apply our efforts on a focused goal, we have some direct influence on obtaining the outcome we seek.

So then, if we set goals – great or small – and if we can influence progress towards the successful outcome with a persistent effort, it is clearly important to start by setting the right goals! We cannot be tricked into seeking goals that might seem virtuous and good, but are actually void of true value. These kinds of goals are fools’ gold. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:21 that “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This offers us a good starting point to test the goals that we have in our lives. Is the fulfillment of our goals measured by worldly means or spiritual? While there is nothing inherently wrong with seeking personal achievement in the world, these goals must not overshadow our spiritual achievements. As 1 John 2:15-17 proclaims, seeking worldly goals is temporary and if we have love for these accomplishments, we are misdirected. We need to love the goals that have an eternal and holy result. These are the kinds of goals that are worth our time.

We don’t have to look very far to find an example of a specific goal that fits this profile. Matthew 6:33 clearly and succinctly instructs us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness….” It is an oft-cited Scripture because it is central to the life of a Christian. Yet, it can be challenging to comprehend the practical meaning. Certainly, the act of seeking the Kingdom of God involves more than paying lip service, and therefore requires that we put some real work behind it. Is the time and effort that we spend in our lives bringing us closer to inheriting the Kingdom of God? It is our job to find ways to respond to this question with an affirmative answer.

The best way to begin making progress towards seeking the Kingdom of God, and to continue once we have started, is to actively work on overcoming sin (compare Colossians 3:1-7). Doing this involves building our understanding of obedience, thereby continuing to learn and grow in righteousness. And, once we deepen our understanding of obedience, we are obliged to change our behavior accordingly. In addition, participating in the Work of God is important as well. Towards the end of Paul’s ministry when he was under house-arrest, he acknowledges and thanks several individuals by name, calling them “fellow workers for the kingdom of God” (Colossians 4:11). These individuals assisted Paul in his work, ministering to Christians in far-reaching corners of the world. In order to actively seek the Kingdom of God, we need to work on overcoming our sins, but also commit ourselves to the Work of the Church of God, whose commission is to preach the gospel to the world as a witness.

Our life’s work will find a successful outcome if we actively put a genuine effort behind targeted goals. However, we must choose our goals very carefully. If we choose a worldly goal, we may very well achieve it, but fail to find eternal life. By setting our sights on things above with a spiritual outcome and actively working at it, our success will be eternal.

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In this issue, we are reporting on the presidential election in Austria and the referendum in Italy. Both outcomes have been deeply misunderstood and misinterpreted by the media. While the defeat of Norbert Hofer in Austria has been – wrongly – celebrated as a vote against “right-wing populism” and as a victory for the “establishment,” the defeat of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has been – wrongly – portrayed as a victory of populist voices against the establishment and – even worse – a vote by the Italian people against the euro and the EU. Nothing could be further from the truth, as many articles in this issue will explain. Please view our new StandingWatch program, titled, Why Italy Will NOT Leave the EU!” 

We continue to focus on developments in and pertaining to Germany and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. We speak on the West’s condemnation of Russia, China and Syria; and we address Time’s choice of Mr. Trump as the “person of the year”—which is by no means the magazine’s endorsement of Mr. Trump, but rather the opposite. We also speak on Mr. Trump’s “twitter fight” with China and his meeting with Al Gore regarding “climate matters.”

We conclude with an essay asking the pertinent question whether under the law, an American President could shut down the U.S. Internet.

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Austria’s Norbert Hofer Lost… for Now

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 4:

“… independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen has been elected as Austrian president after winning 53.6 percent of the vote. Right-wing candidate Norbert Hofer conceded defeat after garnering 46.6 percent of the electorate, confirming that he would not challenge the result… Hofer said he was ‘infinitely upset.’ ‘I would have liked to take care of our Austria,’ he wrote.

“Van der Bellen’s victory on Sunday will come as a huge blow to Europe’s right-wing populist movements which were anticipating a boost ahead of next year’s elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands. Austrian Chancellor and Social Democrat Christian Kern congratulated Van der Bellen shortly after the exit poll was announced… In neighboring Germany, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel also congratulated Van der Bellen, saying that a ‘huge weight had been lifted off of Europe… the result of the Austrian election will be a clear victory of reason against right-wing populism,’ the Social Democrat (SPD) told German newspaper ‘Bild.’

“Van der Bellen had the backing of Austria’s Green Party, but ran as an independent in Sunday’s election. A pro-European liberal, the 72-year-old aspires to a fence-free ‘United States of Europe’…”

Norbert Hofer Will Fight Again

Breitbart wrote on December 4:

“While Freedom Party candidate Mr. Hofer has conceded defeat, he has vowed to run again… he said he didn’t anticipate the Austrian government surviving long and would stand for president again.

“While the failure to gain the largely ceremonial presidency is a setback for the Freedom party, things are looking good for the coming general election in 2018 [for Austria’s chancellorship]. Their poll ratings have been steadily climbing for years and they now stand ten points clear of their next nearest rivals the left-wing mainstream SPO, and 20 points clear of the Greens.”

Austria One of the Most Politically Influential States in the EU

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 5:

“Norbert Hofer may have lost the presidential election to Alexander van der Bellen, but his Freedom Party has its sights set firmly on the chancellorship. Norbert Hofer, the presidential candidate of the right-wing populist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), only lost because he wasn’t able to mobilize all his supporters… Nonetheless, the FPÖ remains at 35 percent in the opinion polls, making it by far the strongest political force in Vienna. This is why even the Social Democrat (SPÖ) chancellor, Christian Kern, recently opened up to the shady right-wingers. He met the chief populist and FPÖ chairman Heinz-Christian Strache for a conversation that was broadcast live on radio.

“Politically, Vienna’s Grand Coalition of SPÖ and the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) is deeply divided, and is pretty much on its last legs… Germany is its most important foreign trade partner by far, and numerous German companies manufacture in Austria… Despite its small size, Austria, with its 8.5 million inhabitants, is one of the most politically influential states in the EU…

“The FPÖ… is making its promises of salvation more confidently than it has done in a very long time…”

Meet the New Austrian President

The Local wrote on December 4:

“Van der Bellen vowed not to swear in FPO chairman Heinz-Christian Strache as chancellor if the poll-leading party wins the next general election scheduled for 2018. The remark, which Van der Bellen later rowed back on, prompted Hofer to call him a ‘green dictator’.
“Critics have also accused Van der Bellen of being a ‘turncoat’ because he was a member of the Social Democrats before joining the Greens in the early 1990s and eventually becoming their president…

“An outspoken supporter of gay marriage, the divorced and recently remarried father-of-two has received strong backing from celebrities, artists and the country’s top politicians… Van der Bellen will be Austria’s second-oldest head of state at the time of his election. His age, combined with a heavy smoking habit, have repeatedly raised questions about his health.

“In late August, Van der Bellen was forced to dispel cancer rumours by releasing his medical records proving he had ‘wonderful lungs’. He insisted he had no intention of giving up smoking. ‘I once quit for four months… but why should I torture myself at my age!’ he said.”

Italian Prime Minister Resigns

The Washington Post wrote on December 4:

“Europe’s embattled political establishment lost another round Sunday in its effort to thwart the anti-elite movement, as Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned following a voter rejection of his constitutional reforms.  [Italy’s President delayed accepting his resignation until after the Parliament approved the new financial budget, which occurred on Wednesday.] The thorough rejection of Renzi’s efforts to streamline lawmaking was a significant boost for the country’s surging anti-establishment forces just weeks after Donald Trump prevailed in the United States. Renzi’s loss also risked unleashing financial upheaval in Europe’s third-largest economy, as Italy’s weak banks struggle to contain the fallout…

“A populist takeover of Italy is still an uncertain prospect, since Renzi’s center-left Democratic Party remains in control of the parliament and national elections do not have to be called until 2018… What comes next will depend partially on Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who is charged with picking a new person to try [to] form a government and whether to hold early elections…”

The Media’s Propaganda

CNN wrote on December 5:

“The stage is slowly being set for a possible Itexit.”

This gives a distorted picture. The current referendum had nothing to do with the survival of the euro in Italy, or an Itexit, and it cannot be compared with the British referendum for or against the Brexit—even though some British papers, such as the Daily Mail, liked to “explain” it that way. For instance, Express wrote the following on December 4:

“Opposition parties [in Italy] are determined to push forward a breakaway from Brussels, and with Brexit increasing anti-EU sentiment across the continent, they will prepare for a fight to topple the Union. If there is a snap election, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement could rise to power and call a referendum over Italy’s membership of the eurozone. This would pave the way for Italy quitting the euro, plunging the eurozone into chaos and leading to the disintegration of the EU.”

This is clearly not going to happen.

Italian Referendum Was Not Even About the Euro

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 4:

“At stake were a number of governmental changes pushed by Renzi and his center-left Democratic Party (PD), which was hoping to reign in an unwieldy parliament by cutting the number of representatives in the upper-house Senate, getting rid of unproductive constitutional bodies and centralizing more power with the executive. But Renzi had faced an uphill battle from the start. By vowing to step down in the case of a ‘No’ victory, he conflated constitutional change with support for himself and his party. In addition, his opposition came from all sides: former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-leaning Forza Italia Party, populists Lega Nord and the 5-Star Movement (M5S), and even some members of his own PD were against the move.

“Ahead of the polls, many analysts voiced their concern over the possible instability a ‘No’ vote could usher in, and what effect that might have on global markets. A further concern among those familiar with Italian domestic politics was the possible rise of M5S, a nebulous left-leaning anti-establishment party that has little governing experience and no clear politic agenda. Despite ostensibly being leftist, M5S spokesman Beppe Grillo welcomed last month’s election of Donald Trump, saying that the people were beginning to show their discontent with the status quo.”

The Times of Israel added on December 5:

“After the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, the No vote is likely to be interpreted as another victory for populist forces and a potential stepping stone to government for Grillo’s Five Star. But the campaign was not just about popular discontent with the state of Italy. Many Italians of a similar political bent to Renzi had deep reservations about the proposed changes to the constitution.

“Under the proposals, the second-chamber Senate, currently a body of 315 directly-elected and five lifetime lawmakers, would have been reduced to only 100 members, mostly nominated by the regions. The chamber would also have been stripped of most of its powers to block and revise legislation, and to unseat governments.”

Italian Referendum Different from Brexit and Donald Trump’s Election

The Local wrote on December 5:

“While there are some obvious similarities between the victory for No in the referendum and two other political upsets of the year – Britain’s vote to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s election as US president – there are also several crucial differences…

“[James Newall, a UK-based professor and expert in Italian politics] warned against interpreting the result as an ‘anti-establishment, populist revolt’… ‘Matteo Renzi wasn’t an establishment figure and had in fact been proposing reforms to sweep away vested interests.’ Indeed, it was difficult to say exactly who represented the ‘establishment’ in the referendum, and Renzi attempted to portray his reforms as ‘anti-establishment’, given that he argued they would cut bureaucracy and parliamentarians’ salaries…

“Several constitutional experts and politicians – including prominent figures from Renzi’s own Democratic Party – thought the changes would leave too much power in the hands of the premier, removing checks and balances. Others were unimpressed by the lack of scope in the reforms… If it’s uncertain exactly what the electorate were voting against – the establishment, Renzi himself, or the reforms on the table – there is even more confusion over what Italians were voting for.

“British Europhobic tabloid the Daily Mail erroneously referred to the referendum on constitutional change as an ‘EU referendum’, saying ‘now for Italexit!’. Members of British rightwing party Ukip, including its former leader Nigel Farage who campaigned for Brexit, celebrated the victory, with Farage saying Italy’s vote was ‘more about the Euro than constitutional change’. There’s no denying that the referendum and Renzi’s resignation will have consequences for the European Union, and Brussels had backed the PM’s reforms, but Italy is still a long way from fresh elections, let alone questioning its membership of the EU or the euro.

“It’s true that one of the main beneficiaries of Renzi’s defeat is likely to be Beppe Grillo and his anti-establishment Five Star Movement Party, which spearheaded the campaign for No and is openly critical of the EU. However, while the Movement has called for a referendum on Italy’s membership of the euro, Grillo stressed in a blog post after the UK’s Brexit vote that his party believed in the Union and wanted to reform it from within. Furthermore, the party would have to win a general election in order to be able to hold any referendum. Grillo has called for immediate elections following Renzi’s resignation, but it’s unlikely that these will be held until 2018; first, Italy needs to update is electoral law. ‘There’s no reason to be immediately alarmed about the future of the EU, though whether that remains the case will depend on developments over the coming days, weeks and months,’ Italian politics expert James Newall said.

“On the other side of the political spectrum, Italy’s far right were quick to claim the result as a victory all their own – despite the fact that it was a cross-party campaign, including prominent figures from Renzi’s own Democratic Party. Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right Northern League, sent out a series of tweets celebrating the result, including one which read: ‘Long live Trump, long live Putin, long live Le Pen and long live the Northern League!’…

“However, as Newall notes, one thing Italians certainly didn’t vote for was radical change. ‘The result sends a clear message of “business as usual”, because the reforms have been voted down. Paradoxically, the decisiveness of the result means we will likely see less uncertainty than might have been expected – as to what happens next, we will just have to wait and see,’ he said.”

No Euro Crisis after Italian Vote

The EUObserver wrote on December 5:

“EU officials are trying to defuse concerns that the Italian prime minister’s resignation after a failed referendum will spur a new eurozone crisis.  ‘I think there is no reason to speak of a euro crisis,’ German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Monday (5 December) before a meeting of eurozone ministers in Brussels… Schaeuble and other eurozone leaders insisted that Italian voters rejected only constitutional reform on Sunday, and that there was no political crisis in Italy after prime minister Matteo Renzi announced his resignation…

“Financial markets seemed to confirm Schaeuble’s… assessment, with the euro regaining during the morning the ground it had lost during the night against the dollar.  At midday, the main indexes in Frankfurt, London and Paris had increased by more than 1 percent, while the Milan stock exchange was losing 0.1 percent.
The Standard & Poor’s rating agency said that Sunday’s result ‘does not have an immediate impact on Italy’s creditworthiness’…

“EU finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici… dismissed the idea that the No vote in Italy was an anti-EU vote. ‘It’s not a Brexit vote, it makes no sense,’ he said, insisting that the referendum was on a domestic issue. ‘Populists in Europe are always trying to turn any vote into a pro-EU or anti-EU vote, but they are wrong,’ he said.”

Angela Merkel May Have to Fight for More than Just Germany

The Associated Press wrote on December 5:

“Unless EU juggernauts like France and Germany find ways to turn the tide, it could leave the defeat of the extremist right wing in Austria’s presidential election on Sunday as a mere blip on an increasingly muddled screen… When the Dutch go to the polls in March, [Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom in the Netherlands] could well be next to ride the mood of discontent that has trampled the status quo since the June 23 referendum in Britain stunned all powers-that-be and forced Britain to seek an exit from the EU…

“By the time the German elections come around in late September, three-time Chancellor Angela Merkel could well be fighting for something more than just Germany…”

Angela Merkel Re-Elected as CDU Party Leader–Wants to Strengthen the EU and Ban Burka

Deutsche Welle, December 6, 2016

“Germany’s conservatives have re-elected Angela Merkel as their party leader but by a smaller margin than expected. The chancellor received 89.5 percent of delegate votes at the CDU’s party convention in Essen. The outcome may have been a foregone conclusion, but Angela Merkel’s margin of victory was not. After getting 96.7 percent support four years ago, the chancellor was re-elected by a shade less than 90 percent this time around – a minor embarrassment for the woman who has led the party for 16 years.

“The vote came after a keynote address by Merkel… Merkel began her speech by defending her most controversial policy, her welcoming stance toward refugees to Germany from crisis regions like Syria. ‘Not all of the 900,000 refugees who arrived last year will be able to stay,’ the chancellor said. ‘But every single case will be reviewed.’ Merkel stressed that her refugee policy was necessary to combat human traffickers and said it was a ‘scandal’ that the war in Syria had been allowed to rage on for so long. But she also said she supported increased efforts to deport migrants whose asylum applications were rejected.

“It was a nod to conservative forces within her own party as well as the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU. But that was the only major concession to hardliners…

“Merkel did prominently address the general feelings of insecurity that have encouraged right-wing populism in many Western countries. ‘2015 was a year uniquely full of events,’ Merkel said. ‘Many people feel as though the world is coming apart at the seams.’ She launched what was by her standards an emotional plea for international trade agreements like TTIP, which looks to be dead in the water since Donald Trump’s election to US president…

“Merkel said Germany would need to do more to strengthen the economy throughout the European Union. And on the Brexit, she said that she would demand that Britain respect free trade and other EU freedoms, if London wanted to remain in the European common market. She criticized other EU member states for refusing to take a fair share of refugees to the bloc. ‘2016 has made the world weaker, and we need to emerge stronger from crisis,’ Merkel said. ‘We need to do everything we can to strengthen Europe because the world does better if Europe does well. There’s no returning to the world before globalization.’ She said Germany needed to protect those things that made Germany and Europe stronger…

“The first time the crowd responded with extended applause was late in the chancellor’s speech, when she came out against Islamic Sharia law and the wearing of burqas. But she immediately moved on to condemn hate speech on the Internet…

“Looking ahead to next year’s national election, Merkel said she expected a bitter fight…

“The response of the roughly 1,000 convention delegates to her 1 hour, 17 minute speech was very enthusiastic, if not euphoric. But a surprising number of them decided to abstain in the vote for party chairwoman. Angela Merkel clearly still has some work to do to fire up the CDU grassroots ahead of next year’s national election.”

The Sun, December 6:

“ANGELA Merkel today completed an astonishing U-turn as she formally endorsed a full burka ban following a backlash over her open-door migration policies… ‘The full veil must be banned wherever it is legally possible,’ she said to a large round of applause. Merkel also stressed her determination to ensure that there’s no repeat of last year’s huge migrant influx… Numbers have since declined sharply, but Merkel’s approach to the migrant crisis has provoked discord within her Christian Democratic Union, which has seen a string of poor state election results this year…

“While Merkel has continued to insist that Germany will take in people in genuine need of protection, her government has moved to toughen asylum rules and declare several countries ‘safe’ meaning people from there can’t expect to get refuge in Germany… It comes as the country reacts with horror at the murder of 19-year-old Maria Ladenburger – the daughter of a senior EU official. An Afghan migrant has confessed to raping her and then drowning her in a river in the city of Freiburg, German police say.”

Angela Merkel’s CDU Moves to the Right of Its Leaders

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 7:

“Delegates at the CDU’s party conference in Essen have approved a 20-page position paper… It will serve as a preliminary party platform ahead of the national election next September. With it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party has moved slightly to the right…

“The paper… opposed dual citizenship for those who hold a German passport. ‘Multiculturalism has failed,’  CDU General Secretary Peter Tauber told the delegates before Wednesday’s vote. ‘We need a guiding, native culture in Germany…’

“The moderate shift to the right is intended to mollify the conservative wing of the party that had grown increasingly worried about Merkel’s welcoming stance toward refugees from Syria and other crisis regions, which saw nearly 900,000 migrants arrive in Germany last year. But there was no mention of an annual upper limit on the number of refugees to Germany, something demanded by the CDU’s Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) in the paper or at the conference as a whole…

“In her keynote address on Tuesday, Merkel charted a centrist course, but in the speeches in the two following sessions, it was clear that the majority of the party is more conservative than the chancellor. The right-wing of the party was particularly pleased by Merkel’s promise that the biggest wave of refugees was over and by her support for a partial ban on wearing burqas in public in Germany… Merkel’s position on the partial burqa ban – experts agree a total ban would violate the German constitution – dominated the headlines, particularly outside Germany. But it was only a small part of the convention. Both Merkel and the position paper stressed the CDU’s support for cultural diversity and personal liberty.

“This conference was about giving all wings of the party something, while no faction got everything it wanted. That includes the more liberal segments of the conservative party. CDU members of the European Parliament were pleased that their party had stressed the importance of Germany’s leading role in the European Union…”

German’s Migrant Crisis in the News Again

AFP wrote on December 5:

“The German government pleaded for calm Monday after the arrest of a teenage Afghan asylum seeker for the alleged rape and murder of a German [female] student triggered fresh criticism of the country’s liberal refugee policy. The anti-migrant AfD party blamed the crime on the ‘uncontrolled’ influx of foreigners, while the head of a police union warned of the ‘dangers that always go along with massive immigration’. But Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said the murder of the 19-year-old medical student should not be used to whip up hatred against all refugees…

“The 17-year-old suspect, who arrived in Germany in 2015 as an unaccompanied minor, was arrested in the southwestern town of Freiburg on Friday after his DNA was found at the crime scene and he was identified on CCTV. The victim was found dead on a river bank on October 16. An autopsy found that she had drowned.

“News of the arrest triggered strong reaction on social media with some people saying an ironic ‘thank you’ to Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose open-door asylum policy brought a record number of migrants and refugees into Germany last year…”

The West Condemns Assad, Putin and China Over Aleppo

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 7:

“Leaders from several Western states pushed for an immediate ceasefire in the embattled city of Aleppo on Wednesday as Syrian government troops advanced against the rebels. ‘The most urgent goal remains an immediate ceasefire so that the United Nations can bring humanitarian aid to people in East Aleppo,’ said the leaders of Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Italy in a statement released in Berlin.

“The leaders also accused Russia of obstruction at the UN Security Council and urged the UN to investigate reports that war crimes are being committed in Syria…

“Assad’s renewed offensive has come under heavy international criticism for the humanitarian crisis it has exacerbated. Tens of thousands of city residents have become trapped between warring factions, with no way to receive much-needed food or medicine…

“The US… accused Moscow and Beijing of stalling the end of the conflict by refusing to back a UN Security Council measure on Monday that would have called for a seven-day ceasefire… German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the situation in Aleppo ‘a disgrace,’ particularly the failure to create safe corridors for residents to receive humanitarian aid or to flee. She also slammed Russia for the many civilian victims of its airstrike campaign in support of Assad.”

Donald Trump—Time’s Person of the Year

Time.com wrote on December 7:

“This is the 90th time we have named the person who had the greatest influence, for better or worse, on the events of the year. So which is it this year: Better or worse? The challenge for Donald Trump is how profoundly the country disagrees about the answer.

“It’s hard to measure the scale of his disruption. This real estate baron and casino owner turned reality-TV star and provocateur—never a day spent in public office, never a debt owed to any interest besides his own—now surveys the smoking ruin of a vast political edifice that once housed parties, pundits, donors, pollsters, all those who did not see him coming or take him seriously. Out of this reckoning, Trump is poised to preside, for better or worse.

“For those who believe this is all for the better, Trump’s victory represents a long-overdue rebuke to an entrenched and arrogant governing class; for those who see it as for the worse, the destruction extends to cherished norms of civility and discourse, a politics poisoned by vile streams of racism, sexism, nativism. To his believers, he delivers change—broad, deep, historic change…; to his detractors, he inspires fear both for what he may do and what may be done in his name.

“… Trump’s assault on truth and logic, far from hurting him, made him stronger… Yet his victory mirrors the ascent of nationalists across the world, from Britain to the Philippines, and taps forces far more powerful than one man’s message…

“The year 2016 was the year of his rise; 2017 will be the year of his rule, and like all newly elected leaders, he has a chance to fulfill promises and defy expectations. His supporters and his critics will discover together how much of what he said he actually believes. In the days after the election, everything was negotiable: the wall became a fence, ‘Crooked Hillary’ is ‘good people,’ and maybe climate change is worth thinking about. Far from draining the swamp, he fed plums to some of its biggest gators…

“For reminding America that demagoguery feeds on despair and that truth is only as powerful as the trust in those who speak it, for empowering a hidden electorate by mainstreaming its furies and live-streaming its fears, and for framing tomorrow’s political culture by demolishing yesterday’s, Donald Trump is TIME’s 2016 Person of the Year.”

Mr. Trump Takes on China

Newsmax wrote on December 4:

“Donald Trump took on the Chinese government via social media on Sunday, rejecting criticism of his decision to take a phone call from Taiwan’s president at the risk of triggering backlash from Beijing. The U.S. president-elect told his 16.6 million Twitter followers that he wouldn’t be told by China who he should or shouldn’t talk to, and reiterated some of the grievances about China used in his winning presidential campaign. ‘Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don’t think so!’ Trump tweeted.

“Over the weekend China complained to the U.S. after Trump flouted almost four decades of diplomatic protocol by directly speaking with the leader of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a rogue province. Its measured response suggested China’s desire to keep the incident from escalating into a full-blown crisis before Trump entered the White House or even appointed a full foreign policy team — in particular, a secretary of state.

“Trump’s retort was consistent with what one of his allies, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, signaled earlier on Sunday. ‘Beijing does not dictate who the president of the United States speaks to,’ Gingrich said on Fox News Channel’s ‘Sunday Morning Futures.’ ‘The United States is not always going to do what China wants them to do.’ Gingrich said the ‘old, timid State Department’ would have advised against taking the call from Taiwan’s president, adding, ‘We elected him not to listen to the current State Department.’”

Donald Trump and Al Gore Meet to Discuss Climate Issues

The Huffington Post wrote on December 5:

“President-elect Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump met with former Vice President Al Gore on Monday to discuss ‘climate issues,’ the Trump transition team said…  Gore disclosed he had also met with the president-elect, describing the conversation as ‘very productive’ and a ‘sincere search for areas of common ground.’ ‘I had a meeting beforehand with Ivanka Trump,’ Gore said… ‘The bulk of the time was with the president-elect, Donald Trump. I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued…’

“Ivanka Trump is angling to make climate change one of her ‘signature issues’ as a way to build a bridge to ‘moderates and liberals…’

“Gore, an outspoken voice on climate change, supported and campaigned for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In October, the climate crusader warned that Trump would create a ‘climate catastrophe’ if elected president. Trump and his team have signaled that his administration will undo some of President Barack Obama’s policies aimed at fighting climate change. Trump has also made comments in the past that cast doubt on the link between human activity and climate change. For example, he previously called it a ‘hoax’ invented by China to make U.S. manufacturing less competitive.

“In an interview with The New York Times after his election, however, Trump appeared open to accepting that there’s ‘some connectivity’ between human activity and climate change. But he also warned that combating climate change would ‘cost our companies.’”

Could an American President Shut Down the U.S. Internet?

Forbes wrote on December 2:

“Timothy Edgar, the academic director of law and policy at Brown University‘s Executive Master in Cybersecurity program, has outlined the legal basis for how a President Donald Trump could potentially shut down the U.S. internet in response to a national security crisis… Edgar wrote, ‘The view that the internet should be open, interoperable, and free from state censorship has been a pillar of American policy since the 1990s. Mr. Trump sharply departs from this establishment consensus…

“If Trump decides to build a great firewall, he may not need Congress. Section 606 of the Communications Act of 1934 provides emergency powers to seize control of communications facilities if the president declares there is a ‘war or threat of war’ or ‘a state of public peril.’ In 2010, a Senate report concluded that section 606 ‘gives the President the authority to take over wire communications in the United States and, if the President so chooses, shut a network down.’ With a stroke of a pen, Trump could invoke it… Section 606 has never been applied to the internet, but there is nothing in the law that explicitly says it cannot be… If Trump wants to ‘close that internet up,’ all he will need is an opinion from his Attorney General that section 606 gives him authority to do so, and that the threat of terrorism is compelling enough to override any First Amendment concerns.

“… Other liberal, democratic governments, including the U.K., France, Germany, and Australia, have imposed increased surveillance or flirted with the idea of internet censorship. Desire for such moves are not unprecedented in the United States and are not limited to Trump and Republicans. Let’s not forget Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman‘s 2010 attempt to create an ‘Internet kill switch’ for the President. Sen. Lieberman pointed to China as his inspiration for giving the President such capability…”

Pope Francis: “Europe Needs a Leader”

Express wrote on December 8:

“Pope Francis condemned European leaders for their lack of leadership… In an angry outburst, the head of the Catholic Church, said calls for ‘no more war’ have been ignored.  He said: “‘No more war!’ was something that Europe said sincerely, I believe Schumann, De Gasperi, Adenauer, they said it sincerely. ‘But afterwards, nowadays there is a lack of leaders; Europe is in need of leaders, leaders who go ahead…

“‘I think that ‘No more war!’ has not been taken seriously, because after the First there was the Second, and after the Second there is this third war we are experiencing now, piecemeal. We are at war. The world is conducting a third world war: Ukraine, Middle East, Africa, Yemen. It is very grave. Therefore, we say the words ‘No more war!’, but at the same time we manufacture weapons and sell them, and we sell them to those who are fighting, as arms producers sell them to this and that, to those who are at war with each other…

“‘There is an economic theory that I have not tried to confirm, but which I have read in several books: that in the history of humanity, when a State saw that its accounts were not in good shape, waged war to balance its budget. That is, it is one of the easiest ways to produce wealth. Certainly, the price is very high: blood… One cannot wage war in the name of God or in the name of a religious position.’”

The 21st Century Cures Act—Blessing or Curse?

The Washington Post wrote on December 7:

“Congress passed sweeping legislation Wednesday that boosts funding for medical research, eases the development and approval of experimental treatments and reforms federal policy on mental health care.

“The 94 to 5 Senate vote Wednesday followed a 392 to 26 House vote last week. The bill, known as the 21st Century Cures Act, now heads to the desk of President Obama, who praised the bill Wednesday and said he would sign it…

“The bill, however, had vocal progressive critics… who said the bill’s changes to drug approval processes gave too many concessions to pharmaceutical companies.

“Public Citizen, a progressive activist group that opposed the bill, called it ‘sorely disappointing that Congress gave Big Pharma and the medical device industry an early Christmas present’ that ‘comes at the expense of patient safety by undermining requirements for ensuring safe and effective medications and medical devices.’”

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How Should We Answer Those Who Ask About Our Beliefs?

Good question!   Let us look at what Scripture has to say about this whole matter.

First of all, let us look at what that storehouse of wisdom, the book of Proverbs, has to say on this matter.  Proverbs 26:4 tells us: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him.”    In the following verse we read: “Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

A dictionary definition of a fool is a person who acts unwisely or imprudently; a silly person.  In the past, many have seen this as a contradiction but those who have been members of the Church of God have had this explained on many occasions.   However, it is worth reiterating the value and meaning of these two verses.

First of all, there is no contradiction; otherwise, the Bible itself could not be trusted.   The Bible does not contain contradictions and there are always answers if one allows the Bible to interpret itself.

We should ask God in prayer to help us, should we ever be asked or confronted about our beliefs.  1 Peter 3:15 states: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”  When anyone asks us about our beliefs, a quick prayer to God, asking for His help in discerning what and how much to say, will certainly help.

We should ask for this discernment as to whether the questioner is asking out of politeness, is generally interested or is looking for a chance to argue and debate.  Our assessment then determines what our approach should be.

Proverbs 26:4 warns us against engaging with a fool on his own terms, because we could be seen as foolish as he is, which would not be a good example of Christian behaviour.   A fool despises wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7); fools hate knowledge (Proverbs 1:22); fools die for lack of wisdom (Proverbs 10:21); the folly of fools is deceit (Proverbs 14:8); fools mock at sin (Proverbs 14:9); and, perhaps most revealingly of all, the way of a fool is right in his own eyes (Proverbs 12:15).   When we ascertain that someone is trying to draw us into a discussion that he wants on his terms, we could well be falling into the trap of answering him according to his folly.   We would do well to recall what Jesus said in Matthew 7:6 that we are not to cast our “pearls before swine”.

In Proverbs 26:5 we read that we should answer “a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.”   At times a fool has to be addressed when such a person may be thoroughly convinced of the correctness of his argument, even though he is completely wrong.   In such a case we should show him accurately where he is in error—not as a “put down”, but to make him think about his erroneous stance.

As one commentator put it: “In short, in negligible issues we should just ignore fools, but in issues that matter, they must be dealt with so that credence will not be given to what they say.”

Another area of consideration is to find out what a word, phrase or statement means, as this can vary from person to person.   For example, you could be asked if you were homophobic What you may understand by that phrase may be different to the next person.   A fairly standard definition of homophobia is “the hatred or fear of homosexuals – that is, lesbians and gay men – sometimes leading to acts of violence and expressions of hostility.”   However, as we know, if the biblical understanding of this behaviour is quoted, it can be regarded as hate speech.   Therefore, it is important to find out what the other person understands what “homophobia” means to them.   We can then know how to answer accordingly, showing that a true Christian must love the person but hate the immoral action.

We may be called a bigot but, again, what does that word mean to the other person?   Being bigoted means, according to the Oxford Dictionary of English, as “having or revealing an obstinate belief in the superiority of one’s own opinions and a prejudiced intolerance of the opinions of others.”   As our understanding is based on the Word of God, we must be firm in our convictions without being objectionable.   Finding out the other person’s understanding of the word will be helpful in forming a response.

Finding out where the other person is coming from may diffuse potentially difficult situations.  Alan Greenspan once commented humourously: “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”  We need to ensure that both parties have the same understanding of the word or phrase, so that any response cannot be misunderstood.

Another way of dealing with any enquiry is to find out why the question is asked.  Sometimes that can lead to finding out that the enquirer may just have been asking a question without really wanting an answer.

Let us remember that Jesus answered in the wisest way possible because he could ascertain the purpose and intent of the one who was to be answered – or otherwise.   In Luke 20:1-8, Jesus had His authority questioned and He refused to answer; in Mark 12:13-17, the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus about the paying of taxes to Caesar, and He answered indirectly in a very unexpected way.   In these two instances (and there are others) Jesus decided not to answer directly because of the attitude and intent of the questioners.

Wherever we can, we should use Scripture to answer any religious question that may come our way.   Let us look at how Jesus dealt with Satan in exactly this way, as recorded in Matthew 4:1-3:  “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.  Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’”

Jesus did not argue and debate with Satan but answered him from Scripture (verse 4): “But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”’” (quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3).

The adversary then tried another approach, as we read in verses 5-6: “Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you,” and, “In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.”’” Here, Satan quotes Scripture too (citing Psalm 91:11-12), but he totally twists the meaning of the passage.

Again, Jesus answered from Scripture (Matthew 4:7): “Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, “You shall not tempt (better “test”) the Lord your God”’” (quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16 in the correct context and with the intended meaning).

In verses 8-9 we read: “Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’”

Then Jesus said to him (Matthew 4:10): “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (quoting from Deuteronomy 6:13). Satan had been defeated three times by Jesus by the use of Scripture. “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (verse 11).

We have seen in this brief Q&A that we should discern whether or not to answer and, in addition, it may be advisable to ask what is meant by the question or the definition of a word or phrase if this could be contentious.  Further, answering with Scripture as Jesus did, is always the best way to respond so long as it is appropriate, correctly used and in context.

We should use wisdom at all times and be gentle and friendly and not provocative or confrontational at all; Proverbs 15:1 tells us that “A soft answer turns away wrath.”   Taking that approach will enable us to do “all things decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

“Why Italy Will NOT Leave the EU!”, is the title of a new StandingWatch program presented by Evangelist Norbert Link. Here is a summary:

Even before Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi lost the constitutional referendum on December 4, 2016, many claimed that a euro exit (Itexit) was inevitable for Italy. Now, the voices of those uninformed “experts” have become louder, but they totally misinterpret and misrepresent the nature of the referendum, alleging that Mr. Renzi’s defeat was a victory of populists against the establishment and – even worse – a vote by the Italian people against the euro and the EU. It is high time that you learn the biblical truth of the matter.

“Warum Italien die EU NICHT verlassen wird!”, posted on AufPostenStehen, also covers the same subject as above. The German APS program also promotes our new video, which was produced by Michael Link, advertising and offering the German Europe in Prophecy booklet. In addition, we have begun an advertisement campaign with a press release and Facebook ads in German-speaking areas, offering our above-mentioned booklet on prophecy.

“Was sagt uns Gott über die Arbeit?”, is the title of this Sabbath’s German sermon and is Part 1 with Part 2 to be presented the following Sabbath. Title in English: “What does God tell us about Work?”

“Were Jesus and His Parents Poor?”, the sermonette presented last Sabbath by Norbert Link, is now posted. Here is a summary:

Many assume that Jesus and His parents lived in poverty, and they point to a few Scriptures which allegedly back up their belief. But what does the Bible really say about this question? And does it matter?

“A Life of Repetition,” the sermon presented last Sabbath by Kalon Mitchell, is now posted. Here is a summary:

Do we ever feel like we do the same things over and over again? Do our lives sometimes resemble a game that constantly repeats? We see the use of repetition in nature, in life and even in the Bible. But why? Why is repetition so important for us? What can we learn by examining nature, our lives and the Bible, based on this thought of repetition? What is it that repetition will accomplish in our lives?

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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

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

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

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