Update 782


Suppertime; The Time of the End

On May 13, 2017, Eric Rank will present the sermonette, titled, “Suppertime,” and Dave Harris will present the sermon, titled, “The Time of the End.”

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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A Great Apostasy Coming Soon

by Kalon Mitchell

After the death of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the doctrinal changes which were made, many people who once believed and held on to the truth simply walked away. They accepted false teachings such as eating unclean food, keeping worldly holidays, forsaking the weekly Sabbath and God’s annual Holy Days, as well as tithing, and, in essence, they lost everything they once held to be true.  But the craziest thing is how FAST they lost the knowledge of the truth when they turned away from it.

How does something like this happen?

How do people, who have devoted their entire lives to something, just give up and walk away?

The answer, simply put, is they never truly loved God’s Way of Life. They never inculcated it into their everyday doings. And so, when lawlessness came, their resolve, their LOVE for God was not truly there (Matthew 24:12).

1 Timothy 4:1-2 accurately describes the condition of those who left—and those who WILL leave in the not-too-distant future. We see that their conscience is seared. Once someone’s conscience is no longer willing to be led by the truth, because they refuse to overcome or ask for forgiveness, then God cannot work with that individual anymore and so the veil that had prevented godly understanding but that was lifted, once again covers that person (2 Corinthians 3:14-16; 4:3).  Ephesians 4:18-19 goes on to describe the life of Gentiles who live as we once did, who have become callous because they don’t understand, and so their repeated sins have no means of escape.

When the man of sin manifests himself (2 Thessalonians 2:1-9), he will come with the deceptive powers of Satan and he will cause those who are NOT strong in the faith—those who are not fully loving God—to fall away. Deception comes in many forms.

Now is the day and the hour for us to change our ways and seek a relationship with God—to set our minds and our hearts on full obedience. Matthew 24:13 says that while many will turn away, those who endure and press on in faith and confidence, will be saved. Those  who love God with everything that is in them will escape the terrible times to come and will stand before the returning Jesus Christ (Matthew 22:37). We have to be found loving God more than anything else in this world. Family, work, money, anything can take the place of God in our lives if we allow it to. But we must not permit this to happen. Verse 14 also shows that the gospel of the Kingdom of God will continue to be preached in all the world so that the end can come. If we don’t show God that we care now, then we too may fall away in the future.

The Work of God will not fail. It will be accomplished, just as all the other things that He has prophesied.  We can choose to either be a part of God’s plan, or we can choose to not be. No minister, no member, no other person can make that choice for each of us. It is a very individual decision. Let us make sure we have our hearts tuned correctly and our minds and souls ready for the return of Jesus Christ, so we can be told: “Well done, good and faithful servants.”

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by Norbert Link

We begin with reports on Emmanuel Macron’s convincing victory in the French election and the defeat of Marine Le Pen… which is viewed as a vote for European unity and the euro zone; and the rejection of national populism.

We continue with President Trump’s controversial termination of FBI director James Comey, which, given the timing, manner and underlying circumstances, as well as glaring inconsistencies in the reports from the White House and the President, has already been described as a “massive cover-up” and a “perilous moment in American history,” with parallels to “Watergate” and the “Saturday Night Massacre”

We address the less-than-convincing condition of the US economy under President Trump and speak on the “Trumpcare” disaster… with early celebrations of the Trump Administration’s and Republicans’ victory in the House as being very premature.

We address a Russian-Iranian-Turkish project to create safe zones in Syria, which is opposed or at least criticized by the USA and the “armed opposition.”

We focus on the deteriorating relationship between Israel and UNESCO, Europe and especially Germany; the deteriorating relationship between Israel and Turkey; a contemplated bill that would officially define Israel as a Jewish state; and growing concerns within the German army. We quote an article asking the question whether Brexit will lead to a complete break-up of the UK; and address controversies regarding Gibraltar.

We conclude with articles pertaining to the relationship between American churches and the IRS; a ridiculous plan by the Trump Administration to make travel to the USA more unpleasant for Europeans; disunity within the United Methodist Church over the issue of homosexuality—the Methodists being the third-largest denomination in the USA; and religious persecution of Christians in Indonesia.

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Emmanuel Macron Wins French Presidency by Wide Margin

Reuters wrote on May 7:

“European leaders hailed the victory of centrist Emmanuel Macron in the French election on Sunday as a vote for European unity and a blow to political forces that had sought to build on last year’s Brexit vote to tear apart the European Union. Macron, a 39-year-old former economy minister who urged the French to embrace the EU and globalization, defeated far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen by a score of roughly 65 percent to 35 percent, early results showed…

“Europe’s political establishment limped into 2017 fearful that the Trump and Brexit votes, fueled by anger over immigration and rising economic inequality, could be replicated on the European continent in a mega-election year in which the Dutch and Germans were also voting. In March, far-right Dutch candidate Geert Wilders came in a distant second to liberal incumbent Mark Rutte, easing the concerns somewhat. But the election in France, the second largest economy in the euro zone after Germany, was always seen as the litmus test for European politics. Had Le Pen won, many European officials acknowledged, it may have been the beginning of the end of the EU, Europe’s 60-year-old experiment in closer integration which delivered peace and prosperity for decades before succumbing to a series of crises over the past decade…”

Macron’s victory is indeed a victory for European unification. As we have stated for many years, Germany, with the help of France, will be the engine running the European project and a core Europe consisting of ten nations or groups of nations. A victory for Le Pen would have seriously jeopardized these developments; hence, she did not win. Note the next article.

Worldwide Reactions

The Telegraph wrote on May 7:

“The US president was quick to congratulate Mr Macron and said he looked forward to working with him. Mr Trump had previously expressed support for Ms Le Pen because she was ‘strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France’…

“In comments released immediately after exit polls showed Mr Macron’s victory, Mrs May said that France is one of Britain’s closest allies and ‘we look forward to working with the new president on a wide range of shared priorities’… Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hailed Mr Macron’s ‘amazing victory’ and added: ‘We look forward to continuing the great partnership between our two nations.’ Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who backed Ms Le Pen’s bid for the Elysee Palace, said: ‘Macron offers five more years of failure, more power to the EU and a continuation of open borders…’

“Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, said the result made him ‘happy that the ideas that you defended of a strong and progressive Europe that protects all its citizens will be those that France will cherish under your presidency’. Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister who chairs summits of European leaders, tweeted: ‘Congratulations to French people for choosing Liberty, Equality and Fraternity over tyranny of fake news’…  Guy Verhofstadt, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said: ‘We supported him from the very start. I am relieved by his defeat of demagoguery and populism. I am also proud of his commitment to a social, liberal European project.’

“… Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said: ‘Your victory is a victory for a strong united Europe and for the Franco-German friendship.’ Her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted: ‘vive la France, Vive L’Europe!’ Mrs Merkel’s chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert… said it was ‘a victory for a strong and united Europe’.

“… Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni tweeted: ‘Hurrah Macron President! There is hope for Europe!’ The country’s former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, echoed Mr Gentiloni’s message saying: ‘Macron’s win represents an extraordinary hope for France and Europe!’…

“Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister who won an election in March against opponents including right-wing populist Geert Wilders, has congratulated Mr Macron on his victory. Mr Rutte said in a post on his official Facebook page that in Macron, French voters ‘made a clear progressive and pro-European choice.’… In a tweet Sunday night, Dutch foreign affairs Minister Bert Koenders said that ‘France chooses for reform, for Europe and against xenophobia. We look forward to working together with the new French government.’

“… Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, said that France, with Emmanuel Macron as its new president, will help strengthen the European Union at a key moment for the 28-nation bloc… Mr Rajoy praised Mr Macron for… his ‘firm defense of the European integration process.’ Those principles and his solid backing from French voters, Mr Rajoy said, mean ‘France – a friend, neighbor and strategic partner of Spain – will actively contribute to the advancement and reinforcement of the European Union in a key moment of its history.’

“… Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s prime minister, has tweeted his satisfaction over the election result: ‘victory is a fresh breath for France and the whole of Europe. I am certain we will work closely together for Europe…’

“Bohuslav Sobotka, the Czech prime minister, said that Mr Macron’s win is a ‘positive signal for France, the entire European Union and the Czech Republic.’… Andrej Kiska, the Slovak President… says it’s a ‘victory for all who believe in Europe.’

“Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian prime minister, also congratulated Mr Macron on his win: ‘…  We will build even stronger ties between our two great nations.’…

“Macron has promised a France that would stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin…”

Macron’s victory has indeed created renewed momentum for the European project.

Will Macron’s Victory Influence Germany’s Election?

AFP wrote on May 8:

“[Macron] has said he is for setting up a separate budget for the eurozone, the 19 countries that use the common currency, and also proposes giving the eurozone its own parliament and finance minister. ‘In Brussels the hopes are high. But it’s not so easy with the French-German duo. Berlin’s CDU circles (Merkel’s party) are sceptical about, if not deeply opposed to, Macron’s ideas,’ said the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. ‘For such wide-reaching reforms, it would be necessary to change the treaties, which in turn would require a referendum in France that carries with it uncertainties. That alone, in Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble’s view, is unrealistic,’ added the daily.

“… German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a leading SPD figure, seized on Macron’s win to take aim at Merkel’s conservatives who have pushed a hard line on reducing national budget deficits… ‘Emmanuel Macron’s victory carries a task for us in Germany – because Macron must succeed,’ said Gabriel, warning that ‘if he fails, Madam Le Pen will be president in five years’ time and the European project will go to the dogs’. ‘We Germans must now help him…'”

Trump Fires FBI Director James Comey

We are setting forth below numerous articles discussing the reasons behind President Trump’s termination of FBI Director James Comey. President Trump’s allegation that he fired Comey because he treated Hillary Clinton unfairly is believed by just about nobody. This opens wide the floodgates of speculation as to the underlying motives, and the picture which emerges is not flattering for the President and his Team, portraying them as a laughing stock and a government which cannot be trusted. In the articles quoted below, we highlighted some of the most telling statements.

Grotesque Abuse of Power by the President?

CNN wrote on May 9:

“CNN’s Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin… was not buying the idea that Comey was sacked over the Clinton investigation, saying it was ‘absurd.’ Toobin branded the move a ‘grotesque abuse of power by the President of the United States.’ ‘This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies,’ Toobin said, referring to the fact that Comey was dismissed while leading an investigation that ‘reaches near’ the President. ‘We do not fire FBI directors when they are closing in on the White House.’”

A Perilous Moment in the History of the USA… Parallels to Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre?

The Editorial Board of The New York Times wrote on May 9:

The American people — not to mention the credibility of the world’s oldest democracy — require a thorough, impartial investigation into the extent of Russia’s meddling with the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump and, crucially, whether high-ranking members of Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded in that effort. By firing the F.B.I. director, James Comey, late Tuesday afternoon, President Trump has cast grave doubt on the viability of any further investigation into what could be one of the biggest political scandals in the country’s history.

The explanation for this shocking move — that Mr. Comey’s bungling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server violated longstanding Justice Department policy and profoundly damaged public trust in the agency — is impossible to take at face value… certainly, that’s not the reason Mr. Trump fired him.

“Mr. Trump had nothing but praise for Mr. Comey when, in the final days of the presidential campaign, he informed Congress that the bureau was reopening the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails. ‘He brought back his reputation,’ Mr. Trump said at the time. ‘It took a lot of guts.’

“… Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president… So far, the scandal has engulfed Paul Manafort, one of Mr. Trump’s campaign managers; Roger Stone, a longtime confidant; Carter Page, one of the campaign’s early foreign-policy advisers; Michael Flynn, who was forced out as national security adviser; and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself in March from the Russia inquiry after failing to disclose during his confirmation hearings that he had met twice during the campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States…

“This is a tense and uncertain time in the nation’s history. The president of the United States, who is no more above the law than any other citizen, has now decisively crippled the F.B.I.’s ability to carry out an investigation of him and his associates…

“The obvious historical parallel to Mr. Trump’s action was the so-called Saturday Night Massacre in October 1973, when President Richard Nixon ordered the firing of the special prosecutor investigating Watergate, prompting the principled resignations of the attorney general and his deputy. But now, there is no special prosecutor in place to determine whether the public trust has been violated, and whether the presidency was effectively stolen by a hostile foreign power. For that reason, the country has reached an even more perilous moment.”

The Real Reason for Comey’s Termination—Stop the FBI Investigation?

The Week wrote on May 10:

“President Trump’s sudden decision to fire FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday was a genuine bombshell from an administration that seems to produce one on a daily basis… the real reason he was fired should make Americans more than a little nauseous…

“The Trump administration citing Comey’s indefensible interference in the election as the reason for firing him essentially amounts to trolling… Attorney General Jeff Sessions had previously argued that Comey had an ‘absolute duty’ to send the October letter. It’s pretty hard for an action to be an ‘absolute duty’ in October and a reason to fire someone in May. Trump also effusively praised Comey’s decision to send the letter. And, indeed, Trump reportedly told Sessions to start looking for a pretext to fire Comey last week

The real reason is almost certainly Trump’s desire to stop the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence the election, possibly in collaboration with members of Trump’s campaign… With the Republican Congress having clearly signaled that it will not conduct meaningful oversight of the Trump administration, this represents a political crisis. Trump has sent a message about what will happen to anyone who threatens to stand up to him. It’s hard to imagine this ending well.”

In a related article, the Week wrote on May 10:

“If the goal in firing Comey was to move on from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia ahead of the 2016 election, that goal was kneecapped as soon as the president released a letter pointedly, directly, and unashamedly linking his own animus towards Comey to the Russia investigation even though the point of the letter was to undercut that very claim. ‘While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation,’ Trump wrote in his termination letter to Comey, ‘I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.’

“What is more unnerving: A president who is this oblivious to his own obliviousness? A staff that cannot convince him to remove such a self-damaging sentence? Or the removal of the director himself? It is hard to say.”

Another Reason for Comey’s Termination?

The Hill wrote on May 10:

“Former FBI Director James Comey reportedly told associates in March that President Trump was ‘crazy’ for suggesting former President Barack Obama had wiretapped him. Comey also called the president ‘outside the realm of normal,’ according to a report from The New York Times on Wednesday. The Times said that, in return, Trump was furious when Comey publicly refused to back his claims that he was wiretapped during the 2016 campaign before the House Intelligence Committee in March. Comey said during the March 20 hearing that the FBI had ‘no information’ supporting Trump’s allegations.

“The Times report highlight lingering tensions between the president and Comey that led Trump to decide to fire the FBI chief on Tuesday, a decision that stunned Washington. Trump reportedly became increasingly angered by Comey’s remarks in the weeks after the March hearing and began discussing his possible firing…

“Comey reportedly, though, told associates that he thought Trump was unlikely to fire him, believing his removal would make people revisit how he handled the probe into Hillary Clinton’s email server – in particular the announcement days before the election that they were reopening the investigation. Comey thought that treating his decisions as wrong would call into question Trump’s election victory.”

Did Comey Ask for More Resources in FBI Investigation against Trump Team?

The Washington Post (as linked by the Drudge Report) reported on May 10:

“Last week, then-FBI Director James B. Comey requested more resources from the Justice Department for his bureau’s investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, according to two officials with knowledge of the discussion. Comey… made the request in a meeting last week with Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and Senate Intelligence Committee members were briefed on the request Monday, the officials said.

However, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said reports that Comey had requested more funding or other resources for the Russia investigation are ‘totally false’…”

In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 11, acting FBI Director McCabe said that there was no need for additional resources for the Russian probe.

Fear of a Cover Up

Deutsche Welle wrote on May 9:

“US President Donald Trump has surprisingly fired FBI director James Comey, charged with investigating the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia. The move has set off shock waves in Washington amid concerns of a cover up.”

Comey’s Termination Unleashes Bipartisan Firestorm

Deutsche Welle added on May 10:

“Politicians from across the American political spectrum have reacted strongly to Trump’s sudden dismissal of FBI director Comey. The firing jeopardizes an investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia, many said… [It] unleashed a bipartisan firestorm.

“Top Democratic senator Chuck Schumer said he had told Trump it was a ‘big mistake’ to fire Comey during the probe into Russia’s alleged interference in last year’s election. ‘Earlier this afternoon, President Trump called me and informed me he was firing Director Comey. I told the president, “Mr President, with all due respect, you are making a big mistake,”’ Senate Minority Leader Schumer told reporters.

“Schumer and several of his Democratic colleagues are calling for an independent prosecutor or commission to investigate claims of Russian interference, as well as possible collusion between Trump’s campaign team and Russian officials. In a live statement, Schumer also said it was “troubling” that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was involved in the decision to dismiss Comey, having previously recused himself from the Russian investigation…

“Among Republicans, Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative and Republican candidate who ran against Trump in the primaries, warned that Comey’s dismissal could compromise the ongoing probe. Arizona Senator John McCain said he supported calls for a special committee to take over the investigation into Russia’s alleged interference of last year’s election campaign. Republican Senator from Michigan Justin Amash echoed McCain’s sentiments and highlighted a ‘bizarre’ section of Trump’s dismissal letter where the President emphasized he was not under investigation. Jeff Flake, Republican from Arizona, voiced pure perplexity at Comey’s removal.”

Never Before in American History—Ulterior Motives Behind Comey’s Termination?

Deutsche Welle wrote on May 10:

“There has never before in American history been anything like this: The head of the White House has fired the head of the FBI at a time when he is leading investigations which may turn out dangerous to the president. James Comey has been investigating attempts by Russia to influence the US election, the ultimate goal being to pave the way for Donald Trump to enter the White House and to undermine his political opponent, Hillary Clinton.

“In recent weeks, the Trump administration has rejected all allegations that it cooperated with the Kremlin during the election campaign in 2016. Yet FBI investigations were still ongoing. To fire the FBI head before they had been concluded leaves a bitter political aftertaste

“Trump’s decision has shattered the credibility of the political institutions in Washington. The reputation of the political class will reach new low levels, and with it will come an increase in political disenchantment

“Trump’s reason for firing Comey is his conduct regarding the Hillary Clinton email affair. But no one is buying that, not even his own party members. After all, it was none other than Trump himself who praised Comey’s conduct on that matter – after the investigations heavily affected his rival’s election campaign in its final stages. Heaven forbid that there may have been ulterior motives behind firing the head of the FBI now, months later.

“Comey’s forced retirement could cause a political earthquake in Washington…”

Parallels to Watergate?

Bild Online wrote on May 10:

“Trump’s FBI-massacre has parallels to Watergate Scandal. Political suicide?” Bild also questioned the accuracy of the statement that Comey informed Trump three times that there was no investigation against him. The tabloid wrote: ‘Did Comey really assure Trump three times that there was no investigation against him as claimed by Trump in his letter? The FBI-Director? During ongoing investigations?”

In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 11, acting FBI Director McCabe said that it is not usual standard operating procedure to inform anyone that there is an investigation or no investigation against him. In an interview with NBC on May 11, President Trump claimed that Comey had told him during a dinner and two phone conversations that there was no investigation against Trump. Nothing was said about the time of these alleged conversations.

“The President Lies Again!”

Die Welt wrote on May 10:

“‘The President of the United States lies again,’ [quoting from a New York Times article], continuing, “Even Fox News considers Trump’s explanation as ‘extremely untrustworthy.’”

But sadly, this is not true for all of Fox News moderators. Incredibly, Sean Hannity stated in his show on May 10 that “deranged liberal crackpots” invented the idea that Comey’s termination could have anything to do with the Russia investigation.

Did Comey Become a Danger to the President?

Der Stern wrote on May 10:

“Why did Comey have to go? … Several indications point at Moscow,” continuing: “Comey had made it clear that the FBI would try to find out the truth, regardless as to how long it would take. Possibly, Comey had become a danger for the US President.”

“White House Contradictions Continue”

Deutsche Welle wrote on May 11:

“Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe has refuted claims that ousted Director James Comey had lost the confidence of the bureau. He also stressed the probe into Russian election meddling remained ‘highly significant.’ McCabe and other intelligence chiefs were questioned by the committee in a bid to get to the bottom of Comey’s surprise ousting Tuesday.

“The White House had justified the move, stating that the former director had lost the confidence of rank and file within the bureau. However, McCabe contradicted the White House, calling its assertions ‘not accurate.’ ‘Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day. The vast majority of FBI staff enjoyed a deep, positive connection to director Comey.’ …

“McCabe said the Russia investigation remained ‘highly significant’ and that the FBI would not tolerate any White House interference in the matter, adding that he would not update the Trump administration on the status of the investigation…

“That investigation may have deepened Wednesday after Moscow released photos of a closed-door meeting between Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Scheduled to only meet with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Lavrov’s ad-hoc meeting with the president compounded the perception among critics that the Kremlin had scored a diplomatic coup — just months after being hit with sanctions by the previous administration under President Barack Obama…

“In an interview with US news network NBC on Thursday, Trump also appeared to contradict the White House’s earlier statement that he had asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy General Secretary Rod Rosenstein for their opinions on Comey and acted on those recommendations. The president stressed that he had decided to fire Comey himself, irrespective of Sessions’ or Rosenstein’s recommendation, because the former FBI Director was a ‘showboat’ who had brought the bureau into ‘turmoil.’…”

We suspect that McCabe will not be the acting FBI Director for long. It is noteworthy that President Trump wrote this in his termination letter to Comey:

“I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.”

Subsequently, the White House and Vice President Mike Pence repeatedly stated that President Trump fired Comey because he took the recommendations of the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General and “had no choice but to fire him”; and that he did so “based on these recommendations.” When confronted with these glaring inconsistencies, the White House spokesperson said on May 11 that she did not have a chance to speak to the President before making her comments.

US Economy Not that Great under Trump

The Week wrote on May 6:

“Campaign promises aside, ‘the U.S. economy was not great again in the first quarter of Donald Trump’s presidency’, said Ben White at Politico. Economic growth slowed to an anemic 0.7 percent in the first three months of 2017, the Commerce Department said, down from 2.1 percent during the final quarter of last year. The disappointing figures, ‘the economy’s worst performance since the first quarter of 2014,’ pose a political dilemma for President Trump. Republicans have already blamed the weak data on the Obama administration, and argue the report demonstrates the need for Trump’s agenda of tax cuts and deregulation. But they also understand that the optics for the White House aren’t good…

“‘First-quarter slowdowns have become such a regular feature of the U.S. economy’ that it’s tempting to ignore this one, said Justin Lahart at The Wall Street Journal. We shouldn’t. There’s a big red flag buried in the data: Consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of the economy, is slowing down. Americans cut back sharply on big-ticket purchases like cars and appliances, causing overall spending to grow at just 0.3 percent, the worst showing since 2009. This slowdown is troubling…

“Likewise, the stock market keeps ticking skyward, with no real evidence that business fundamentals are improving. The disconnect can’t continue forever. If Trump’s economy doesn’t start delivering, ‘this levee is going to break.’”

The economy under President Trump will not become the great success which has been promised in some circles. Rather, the economic bubble will burst soon… the downfall of the USA is inevitable.

The Trumpcare Disaster

The Editorial Board of the New York Times wrote on May 4:

“The House speaker, Paul Ryan, and other Republicans… accused Democrats of rushing the Affordable Care Act through Congress. On Thursday, in a display of breathtaking hypocrisy, House Republicans – without holding any hearings or giving the Congressional Budget Office time to do an analysis – passed a bill that would strip at least 24 million Americans of health insurance.

‘Pushed by President Trump to repeal the A.C.A., or Obamacare, so he could claim a legislative win, Mr. Ryan and his lieutenants browbeat and cajoled members of their caucus to pass the bill. Groups representing doctors, hospitals, nurses, older people and people with illnesses like cancer opposed the bill. Just 17 percent of Americans supported an earlier version of the measure, and Republicans have made the legislation only worse since that poll was conducted. Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Ryan seemed bothered by this overwhelming criticism of their Trumpcare bill, the American Health Care Act. They seemed concerned only about appeasing the House Freedom Caucus, the far-right flank of their party…

“The bill would cut $880 billion over 10 years from Medicaid, the program that provides health care to about 74 million poor, disabled and elderly Americans. That’s one-fourth of its budget. As a result, 14 million fewer people would have access to health care by 2026, according to a C.B.O. analysis of the earlier bill, which contained similar Medicaid provisions. The cuts would also hurt special education programs, which receive about $4 billion from Medicaid every year…

“It would provide $300 billion less over 10 years to help people who do not get insurance through employers and have to buy their own policies. This would hurt lower-income and older people the hardest. For example, a 60-year-old living in Phoenix and earning $40,000 would have to pay an additional $12,370 a year to buy a policy, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Many people who find themselves in this situation would have no choice but to forgo insurance…

“An amendment by Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey would allow states to waive the requirement that insurers sell policies to people with prior health problems and not charge them higher rates. The chief executive of Blue Shield of California said the bill ‘could return us to a time when people who were born with a birth defect or who became sick could not purchase or afford insurance.’ Republicans say they will require that states with waivers offer high-risk pools and find other ways to help treat these people. The bill offers $138 billion over 10 years to help states pay for such programs.

“Experts say this is far too little; Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Foundation estimates it would take at least $25 billion a year…

“The bill would also let states waive a requirement under Obamacare that insurers cover a list of essential services. This means people in some places might not have access to maternity care or cancer treatment. This provision could also hurt people who get insurance through work, because federal regulations allow employers to opt into the rules of any state for the purposes of determining annual and lifetime limits on coverage, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution…

“The bill now moves to the Senate, where several centrist Republicans are opposed to it… But Mr. Trump and far-right groups will put tremendous pressure on them to pass this dreadful bill or something similarly terrible. The health of millions of Americans is now in their hands.”

The Washington Post wrote on May 4:

“Trump’s promise to cover everyone more broadly and for less money was always an impossibility, akin to saying that you were going to have your cake, eat your cake — and give everyone in America the same cake, which would feed them forever. But based on the comments he made at the unusual Rose Garden ceremony to celebrate the passage of the House bill, it’s still not clear that he admits that what was passed diverges from what he promised.”

The debacle of Trumpcare may prove to be a great loss for the Republicans in the mid-term elections in 2018.

Trump’s Healthcare Success Might Be Short-Lived

The Associated Press wrote on May 6:

“Senate Republicans wasted no time on Friday showing they have little use for the House bill to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act amid fears among Americans that people already sick won’t be able to get affordable insurance. ‘I’m going to read the House bill, find out what it costs and where I find good ideas there, why we’ll borrow them. But basically we’re writing our own bill,’ Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate health committee, said in an interview.

“‘At this point, there seem to be more questions than answers about its consequences,’ said moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, whose vote may prove one of the hardest to get for President Donald Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“And Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said over Twitter: ‘A bill — finalized yesterday, has not been scored, amendments not allowed, and 3 hours final debate — should be viewed with caution.’”

Safe Zones in Syria Not that Safe

Fox News wrote on May 6:

“A State Department official on Friday said that the Russian proposal calling to bar U.S. military aircrafts from flying over designated safe zones cannot ‘limit’ the U.S.’s mission against ISIS in the country in any way. ‘The coalition will continue to strike ISIS targets in Syria,’ the official told The Wall Street Journal… A deal hammered out by Russia, Turkey and Iran to set up ‘de-escalation zones’ in mostly opposition-held parts of Syria went into effect Saturday… The United States is not party to the agreement and the Syrian rivals have not signed on to the deal. The armed opposition, instead, was highly critical of the proposal, saying it lacks legitimacy.

“Russian officials said it will be at least another month until the details are worked out and the safe areas established… A potential complication to implementing the plan is the crowded airspace over Syria. The deal calls for all aircraft to be banned from flying over the safe zones.

“Syrian, Russian, Turkish and U.S.-led coalition aircraft operate in different, sometimes same areas in Syria. It is not yet clear how the new plan would affect flightpaths of U.S.-led coalition warplanes battling Islamic State militants and other radical groups — and whether the American air force would abide by a diminished air space.

“Russia and Iran — two of the plan’s three sponsors — are key allies of President Bashar Assad’s government and both are viewed as foreign occupation forces by his opponents. Rebels fighting to topple Assad are enraged by Iran’s role in the deal and blame the Shiite power for fueling the sectarian nature of Syria’s conflict, now in its seventh year. Turkey, the third sponsor, is a major backer of opposition factions and has also sent troops into northern Syria, drawing the ire of Assad and his government. Yet troops from the three countries are now expected to secure four safe zones. An official with Russia’s military general staff said other countries may eventually have a role in enforcing the de-escalation areas.”

It does not appear that this “deal” will have any chance for success.

Steinmeier and Netanyahu Weathering the Storm?

The Times of Israel wrote on May 7:

“German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday delivered a subtle but harsh rebuke to Prime Minister Netanyahu over the latter’s refusal to hold talks with foreign dignitaries who meet with the controversial Breaking the Silence group… Steinmeier defended his foreign minister’s decision to meet with the group critical of Israel’s West Bank activities despite losing out on a sit-down with Netanyahu…

“Earlier in the day Steinmeier met with Netanyahu and during a joint press conference spoke of ‘weathering’ the diplomatic storm caused by a run-in between the Israeli prime minister and the German foreign minister. Last month, Netanyahu cancelled on short notice a meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel over the latter’s refusal to abort a planned meeting with Breaking the Silence…

“Referring to but not naming the members of Breaking the Silence — which Netanyahu denounced as a group trying to get Israeli soldiers tried for war crimes — Steinmeier said that anyone who expresses criticism is not a traitor, but rather a ‘preserver’ of the nation.

“For that reason, I believe that civil-society organizations that are part of the social debate deserve our respect as democrats, even when they take a critical view of a government – in Germany, but also here in Israel,” he said.

“The German president said that he thought long and hard about the scandal surrounding Netanyahu’s snub of Gabriel, adding that he was urged to postpone or even cancel his trip to Israel as a result… Steinmeier… said it would have been cowardly of him not to come to Israel due to the spat over Breaking the Silence…

“In a lengthy speech about Israeli-German relations and the state of democracy in both countries, Steinmeier also reiterated Berlin’s opposition to ‘illegal settlement activities’ and endorsed the two-state solution as the only way that could secure Israel as a Jewish and democratic state… He also announced the creation of a prize named after Israel’s late ninth president, Shimon Peres…”

The relationship between Israel and Germany (as well as Europe) will deteriorate, as the Bible clearly prophesies. Note the next article.

UNESCO, Brussels and Germany under Attack

The Hill wrote on May 5:

“Forget fake news. UNESCO is promoting an entire fake universe.

“Like so many other UN agencies with an assured anti-Israel majority, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) regularly votes to deny some aspect of Israel’s legitimacy. Their diplomatic machinations at UNESCO serves as the backbone of much of the Muslim world’s refusal to recognize the Jewish people’s historic links to Israel, the Holy Land.

“To [legitimize]  their denial of the past and today’s reality of a Jewish state with more than 8 million citizens, history itself must be re-written, holy sites rebranded… UNESCO’s new resolution, timed to coincide with Israel’s 69th Independence Day on Tuesday, May 2, rejects Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem, including modern West Jerusalem. The resolution passed with 22 nations supporting the measure, 10 opposing it, 23 countries abstaining, and three absent.

“In its text, Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rivka, Jacob and Leah are buried were repackaged as Muslim mosques… What is particularly galling was the role Germany reportedly played in enabling fellow European Union members to be free to support… this outrage. If the German Foreign Minister or any other European diplomat thinks this cynical maneuver which further fuels dreams of an alternative universe sans Israelis will impact Jews in Israel or around the world, they are dead wrong.

“Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people. Centuries ago, long before anyone heard of Mohammed, Jews understood the importance of the city that King David… made his capital. They built two temples there, which became focal points for their religion and their peoplehood, maintaining that centrality, even in times that it lay in ruins. ‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand fail me,’ spoke the prophet…

“Reality and mutual respect, not fantasy, are the first building blocks of trust and treaties. It is a toss-up as to who has done more damage with the latest UN Middle East fiasco — Arab regimes that continue to deny that the Jewish people has risen from the ashes, or dapper European diplomats who think they can still denigrate cowering Jews. Take note Berlin and Brussels. Those days are over.”

Sadly, the days of serious hostility between Israel and Europe are just beginning.

Turkey Attacks Israel

JTA wrote on May 8:

“President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  accused Israel of ‘massacres’ against the Palestinians and chided the international community for its silence. Erdogan made his comments on Monday at the Al-Quds Forum in Istanbul… to discuss the state of Muslim heritage in Jerusalem.

“Speaking of Israel, the Turkish leader was quoted as saying… ‘They feel they are immune to any punishment for their crimes, but the international community needs to stand up against them. It is impossible to establish peace in the region if the international law remains indifferent to massacres and cruelty.’”

Israel Responds to Erdogan’s Inflammatory Comments

Times of Israel wrote on May 9:

“President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday rebuked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his diatribe on the ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem, noting that the city has had a Jewish majority for over 150 years, including under Ottoman rule… Modern Turkey is the successor of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the Holy Land from the late 15th century until 1917…

“At the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem earlier on Tuesday telephoned Turkish Ambassador Kemal Okem for a ‘clarification conversation,’ the ministry said, in the first major confrontation since the two countries re-established ties last year…

“Erdogan’s comments elicited a host of angry responses from Israeli politicians… ‘Erdogan’s grave words of incitement will not change the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people, and the capital of Israel,’ Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely tweeted. The Temple Mount will remain open to all religions but ‘under Israeli sovereignty,’ she added. ‘It is surprising that Erdogan, who leads a state that occupied Jerusalem for 400 years, wants to preach to us about how to manage our city,’ said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

“The Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem is 3,000 years old, Barkat said, adding that Jewish roots can be seen ‘in every corner of the city.'”

The Bible prophesies that the relationship between Turkey and Israel will end up in outright war.

Knesset Preliminarily Approves Bill Defining Israel as a Jewish State

JTA wrote on May 10:

“The Knesset in a preliminary reading approved a bill that would officially define Israel as a Jewish state. The Knesset vote on Wednesday was 48 to 41…

“The so-called Nationality Law is intended to serve as Basic Law, similar to a constitutional law, and would declare Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people. It addresses national symbols, including the flag and the national anthem, the right of return for Jews, holy sites and the Hebrew calendar. It also calls for the government to work to strengthen ties between Israel and Diaspora Jewry… It must pass two more readings to become law, but first has to go to the Justice Ministry, which has 60 days to draft its own version and combine the two before the vote.”

This will be interesting to watch as it could easily result in Arabic aggression.

Conflict Within the German Army

The Local wrote on May 4:

“The bizarre case of a racist soldier allegedly plotting an attack while posing as a Syrian refugee and several abuse scandals have sparked a war of words between Germany’s defence minister and the military.  It is a dangerous political battle for Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman in charge of the armed forces, who is often mentioned as a potential successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“The escalating conflict started with the arrest a week ago of 28-year-old army lieutenant Franco Albrecht, who was stationed at a Franco-German base near Strasbourg. He came to the notice of the authorities after Austrian police caught him with a loaded handgun at the Vienna airport in February. The subsequent investigation found that, amid Germany’s 2015 mass influx of refugees, he had created a fake identity as a Damascus fruit seller called ‘David Benjamin’ Incredibly, the German who speaks no Arabic managed to gain political asylum, a spot in a refugee shelter and monthly state benefits for his fictitious alter ego…

“On Wednesday, von der Leyen — who cancelled a scheduled US trip to deal with the widening scandal — visited Albrecht’s base in France. She angrily denounced the fact that Wehrmacht memorabilia was displayed in a common room there, emphasising that the World War II-era German army ‘has nothing in common’ with today’s Bundeswehr… Her comments offended many soldiers who already feel insufficiently appreciated for missions from Afghanistan to Mali in a country which, with its guilt over the Nazi era, still shows little love for the military…”

At this point, Germany has abandoned the draft in favor of a professional army (“Berufsarmee”). But voices in the media have been heard demanding a return to the draft.

A Divided UK—the Beginning of the End?

The Week wrote on May 6:

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has left the kingdom’s four countries deeply divided. While England and Wales voted for Brexit last June, both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, by majorities of 62 percent and 56 percent, respectively. Now faced with being dragged out of Europe, both are seriously reconsidering their historic position within the U.K. In March, the Scottish Parliament voted for the right to hold a second independence referendum, which could lead to Scotland seceding from the U.K. and rejoining the EU. Irish nationalists are demanding their own border poll on unification with the Republic of Ireland. If the Scots and Irish choose independence, England and Wales will stand alone. Ironically, the vote for Brexit was supposedly a vote for a resurgent Britain — one that would wrest back power and national pride from Brussels. Instead, says Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, it may have triggered ‘the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom.’…

“The British Isles have a complicated history, filled with conquests, rebellions, and reconquests. But the loose origins of the U.K. date back to the early 10th century, when the Anglo-Saxon King Athelstan unified England’s disparate kingdoms and secured the reluctant allegiance of the Scots and the Welsh. But the relationship between England, Scotland, and Wales only became official in 1707, when the Acts of Union formally created ‘One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain.’ That kingdom merged with Ireland in 1801 to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. When most of Ireland seceded in 1922, with just six Ulster counties in the north remaining under British control, that left the U.K. as we know it — stretching from Land’s End in the south to John o’Groat’s at the tip of Scotland…

“Scotland currently receives more than $260 million a year in EU funding, and sends about $16 billion in exports to the Eurozone; in addition, many Scots resent the ruling conservatives in London far more than they do the bureaucrats in Brussels. To hold another plebiscite, though, [Scotland’s First Minister Nicola] Sturgeon needs the permission of British Prime Minister Theresa May, who refuses to give it before Brexit negotiations have been completed in 2019. But momentum for independence is growing…

“While Westminster frets about Scotland, Northern Ireland is quietly undergoing its own constitutional turmoil. Northern Ireland doesn’t want to lose billions in regional development and farming funds from the EU — though it depends on billions in U.K. subsidies too. But Brexit poses another disturbing consequence for the Irish: the prospect of a hard, 300-mile land border between the North and independent South, which remains a member of the EU…

“British politics are too volatile now for anyone to make reliable predictions. But before 2011, nationalists were just a noisy minority in Scotland. Today, they are a powerful force, and are on the cusp of a second historic independence referendum in just three years. Brits seem pessimistic about staying together: More than half think the U.K. will no longer exist in a decade in its current form, according to a BBC poll…

“The breakup of the U.K. would raise some immediate questions for the English. Would the former world power retain its permanent seat — officially held by the U.K. — on the United Nations Security Council, and its influential positions within NATO and the World Bank?… The English would also keep their military capabilities — though they would face troubling questions over their nuclear weapons, which are currently based in Scotland with no viable location to re-house them in England. After all of that, ‘Little England’ would face its own identity crisis. Would people in Manchester or Bristol consider themselves English, or British? Would they continue to sing the U.K. national anthem at England’s football games, or sing the English anthem, ‘Land of Hope and Glory,’ instead? In the post-Brexit era, says British historian Norman Davies, the English ‘are appallingly confused about who they are.’”

However it will play out, it is clear that Britain’s former glory is gone.

Gibraltar Back in the News

The Sun wrote on May 5:

“THE SPANISH government has been accused of ‘completely unacceptable’ behaviour after flying military aircraft into Gibraltar’s airspace today. A British Airways flight on its way to Heathrow was delayed after the Spanish military’s P3 Orion flew within just two miles of Gibraltar’s coastline… Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said the incursion was merely the latest in a string of deliberate incidents.

“However, he went on to describe Friday’s incident as an example of Spain taking the ‘harassment of Gibraltar to new heights’… Picardo continued: ‘It is completely unacceptable that the Spanish military have interfered with the movement of civilian aircraft in this dangerous manner. Gibraltar International Airport is an extremely busy base for civilian passengers who are significant contributors to the tourism economy of the campo area. Delays caused by the politically-motivated manoeuvres of the Spanish military are intolerable but thanks to the swift action of Gibraltar’s Air Traffic Control, delays were the only consequence…”

Gibraltar Between Rock and a Hard Place

Deutsche Welle wrote on May 9:

“Gibraltarians are preparing to face hardships in the wake of Brexit. Their very mixed city, the most EU-enthusiastic in the UK, feels disappointed and betrayed by Brussels. Santiago Saez reports from Gibraltar… Crossing Gibraltar’s border is easy. People trickle into town and wait for the bus to the center or just walk across the airport’s landing strip and past the adjacent Victoria Stadium (the national football team’s home ground) to the Main Street. All they need is a valid piece of ID from an EU country to get in…

“Of all the British territories, Gibraltar was the most EU-enthusiastic at the Brexit referendum. An overwhelming 96 percent of voters voted for the UK to remain. That’s a much larger proportion than Scotland (62 percent), London (60 percent) or Northern Ireland (56 percent). However, as pro-Remain as Gibraltar is, the EU decision to grant Spain veto powers over a special trade deal with The Rock hasn’t been well received… Gibraltarians don’t want to follow Scotland or Northern Ireland into possible independence, and won’t even talk about getting closer to Spain…

“Next month’s general elections in the UK are widely regarded as Prime Minister Theresa May’s bid for more power and legitimacy to negotiate British withdrawal conditions from the EU. However, Gibraltarians don’t get to vote: As an overseas territory, The Rock doesn’t have parliamentary representation in Westminster…”

Express added on May 9:

“The tiny British enclave on Spain’s southern tip, with a population of 30,000, is home to around 15,000 companies and is a major provider of insurance and gambling services. Its low tax rates have been a big bone of contention with Madrid, which ultimately claims sovereignty over the Rock, even though Spain runs similar offshore tax havens in Ceuta and Melilla.

“… people were concerned that its large financial services industry would be affected, but… many companies based on the Rock predominantly serve the British market anyway… about 20 percent of motor vehicles in the UK are underwritten by Gibraltar-based insurance companies, making insurers the largest financial sector in the territory…”

The fight regarding Gibraltar will not go away easily.

Executive Order Protecting Churches Woefully Inadequate?

The Hill wrote on May 7:

“Some conservatives are frustrated by President Trump’s new religious liberty order, saying it is dramatically scaled back from what they were expecting and doesn’t enact the protections he promised during the campaign… Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Ryan Anderson called the order ‘woefully inadequate’… The Christian nonprofit group Alliance Defending Freedom released a statement describing the order as ‘disappointingly vague’…  And writing on the National Review, David French… called the order ‘constitutionally dubious, dangerously misleading, and ultimately harmful to the very cause that it purports to protect’…

“The order essentially directs the Treasury Department to not enforce the relevant element of the tax code… [Some] say the Johnson Amendment requires a legislative or judicial fix. Instructing an agency to ignore it is no different from President Obama telling agencies not to enforce certain immigration laws, conservatives say. Worse, the order could encourage churches to participate in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, only to see a future Democratic president put the Johnson Amendment back in place. ‘The answer to the Johnson Amendment … is to either repeal the statute or overturn it in court,’ French wrote. ‘This order does neither … a later administration can tear up Trump’s order and begin vigorous enforcement based on actions undertaken during the Trump administration … Thinking they were protected, churches would find themselves in the worst of predicaments, with their rights and possibly even existences dependent on the capricious mercies of the federal courts.’”

This is indeed an important warning, as executive orders can be easily revoked.

“U.S. Weighs a Ban on Laptops on Flights from Europe”

The Los Angeles Times wrote on May 11:

“Department of Homeland Security officials met with airline industry representatives Thursday to discuss the possibility of expanding a ban on laptop computers and other large electronic devices as carry-ons on planes flying to the U.S. from Europe… The potential move would expand restrictions imposed in March by the U.S. and Britain on electronic devices larger than a smartphone in passenger cabins of flights from eight Middle Eastern and African countries…

“Earlier in the day, the European Union called for urgent meetings with U.S. officials to discuss any potential expansion… The U.S. ban already in place requires passengers on international flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa to put all laptop computers, electronic tablets and other devices larger than a smartphone into luggage checked into the cargo compartment…”

Will this nonsense ever stop? It seems like the Trump Administration is determined to make it more and more difficult for tourists to visit the USA. This is most certainly not the way to make America great again.

United Methodist Church Far From Being United

The New York Times wrote on April 28:

“The United Methodist Church’s highest court has ruled that the consecration of its first openly gay bishop violated church law, compounding a bitter rift over homosexuality that has brought the 13-million-member denomination to the brink of schism. In a 6-to-3 vote made public on Friday, the church’s Judicial Council found that a married lesbian bishop and those who consecrated her were in violation of their ‘commitment to abide by and uphold the church’s definition of marriage and stance on homosexuality.’…

“The Judicial Council also decided, in separate rulings, that the New York and Illinois regions must ask candidates for the ministry about their sexuality and rule out those who are gay ‘or in any other way violating the church’s standards on marriage and sexuality.’…

“The country’s third-largest religious denomination, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church adopted language in 1972 declaring that ‘self-avowed practicing homosexuals’ may not be ordained because ‘the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.’ Methodists have debated that language every four years at meetings of the church’s top decision-making body, the General Conference…

“Other mainline Protestant denominations, including the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), have decided to allow same-sex marriage and openly gay ministers…”

This is what happens when compromise is allowed—a major US denomination potentially being split apart!

Indonesia’s Persecution of Christians

NBC News wrote on May 9:

“The minority Christian governor of Jakarta was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday for blaspheming the Quran, a jarring ruling that undermines the reputation of the world’s largest Muslim nation for practicing a moderate form of Islam… The accusation of blasphemy engulfed Ahok in September after a video surfaced of him telling voters they were being deceived if they believed a specific verse in the Quran prohibited Muslims from voting for a non-Muslim leader…

“Massive street protests in the past six months against Ahok and Tuesday’s verdict are among the signs of an increasing religious conservatism in Indonesia… Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch described the verdict as ‘a huge setback’ for Indonesia’s record of tolerance and for minorities. He added: ‘If someone like Ahok, the governor of the capital, backed by the country’s largest political party, ally of the president, can be jailed on groundless accusations, what will others do?’…

“The two-year prison sentence was a surprise outcome after prosecutors had recommended two years of probation. The maximum sentence for blasphemy in Indonesia is five years in prison.”

Increased persecution of religious minorities all over the world can be expected. Please view our recent StandingWatch program, “Russia’s persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

 Acknowledgement and Disclaimer

These Current Events are compiled and commented on by Norbert Link. We gratefully acknowledge the many contributions of news articles from our readership. The publication of articles in this section is not to be viewed as an endorsement or approval as to contents or accuracy of the selected articles, but they are published for the purpose of pointing at worldwide developments in the light of biblical end-time prophecy and godly instruction. Our own comments are provided in italics.

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Were the Resurrected Saints in Matthew 27:52 Contemporaries of Those Who Saw Them?

In a previous Q&A about Matthew 27:52, we stated that many saints who were raised at the time of Christ’s resurrection were raised to ordinary physical life, continuing, “The fact that the people who were raised appeared to many in the holy city implies that they had been contemporaries of the people who saw them.” Doesn’t this contradict our teaching that during the life of Jesus Christ here on earth as a human being, no one received the Holy Spirit? How could the saints then have been “contemporaries of the people who saw them”?

In our Q&A on Matthew 27:52, we explained:

“… the Bible includes numerous examples, prior to Christ’s death and resurrection, of dead people coming to life again. 2 Kings 13:21 relates the record of a dead person who ‘revived and stood on his feet,’ when the bones of Elisha touched him. Also, John 11:38-44 records the story of the resurrection of the dead Lazarus. We also read, in Luke 8:49-56, that Christ brought a dead girl back to life. In all these cases, however, we must realize that these were resurrections to temporary physical lives — not to eternal, immortal life. In the case of the young girl, we read that Christ commanded the parents ‘that she be given something to eat’ (verse 55) — indicating that this was a resurrection to physical life, as immortal beings have no need to eat physical food.

“When we carefully analyze the nature of the resurrection of the saints, described in Matthew 27:52… we must conclude that these were likewise resurrections to physical life, not to eternal life… The resurrected saints in Matthew 27:52-53… came out of the graves ‘after His resurrection’ (verse 53), and they appeared to many in the holy city, apparently to confirm the fact that God DOES resurrect the dead. Nothing more is reported about those saints — but we know that they did die, in due time, to await the resurrection to eternal life…

“The Nelson Study Bible points out: ‘Because the Lord Jesus is the firstborn from the dead… and the firstfruits of those who are asleep…, these people could not have received their resurrection bodies. They probably were raised, as Lazarus was, to ordinary physical life. The fact that the people who were raised appeared to many in the holy city implies that they had been contemporaries of the people who saw them.'”

As we can see, the passing comment regarding “contemporaries” was a quote from the Nelson Study Bible. The purpose of our Q&A on Matthew 27:52 was not to prove that point, but rather to show that the resurrected saints were raised to physical life… not to eternal life.  However, in this Q&A, we will explore the question as to whether the Nelson Study Bible was correct in stating that the resurrected saints were or might have been contemporaries of the people who saw them.

As was pointed out above, we do indeed teach that no one received the Holy Spirit while Christ was alive as a human being. This question was addressed in a Q&A dealing with John 7:39. We stated the following:

“In John 7:38, Christ spoke of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the apostle John added in verse 39: ‘But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom [better: which] those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’… Christ’s glorification and His ascension to heaven were necessary BEFORE the Holy Spirit could be given to His disciples. While He was alive as a human being, He told His disciples that He was WITH them, but He also said that there would come the time when He would be IN them. He referred, first, to His presence as a Man who was WITH them, but in the future, to the gift of His Holy Spirit which would dwell IN them (John 14:17). But in order for Christ to dwell IN His disciples (John 14:18; Galatians 2:20), through the Holy Spirit, He had to be first glorified with the glory which He had BEFORE He became a human being (John 17:5). As a mere human being, He could not live IN somebody else. That could only happen after He became again a glorified being.

“When a true disciple of Christ receives God’s Holy Spirit, it is the Spirit of the Father AND the Son which emanates from both glorified God beings, and which dwells in the disciple (John 14:23; Romans 8:11, 14-17; Romans 8:9, second part; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19).  When Christ was here on earth as a Man, it was the Holy Spirit of God the FATHER that dwelled in Him. He did His mighty works because of the Father’s Spirit in Him (Acts 10:36-38; John 14:10-11). When He became a human being in the womb of Mary through the power of the Father’s Holy Spirit, He ceased to be a glorified being. He became flesh–He changed into flesh (John 1:14). With that change, His Holy Spirit–the Spirit emanating from the glorified God being called the Son, the second Member of the God Family–no longer existed! Rather, it was the Holy Spirit of the Father which was within Him, without measure, from His inception; and which was with and in Him throughout His human life. And we read that God the Father, through His Spirit, resurrected Christ from the dead (compare again Romans 8:11).

“Christ was resurrected as a glorified God being, and from then on, His Holy Spirit emanated from Him again in the same way as it did prior to His human conception. That is why the apostle John said, in John 7:39, that the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. It was not only the Holy Spirit of the Father, but also of the Son, which would be given to true disciples AFTER Christ’s glorification…

“What John’s statement in John 7:39 means, then, is that in New Testament times, nobody who was born after Christ’s conception as a human being would receive the Holy Spirit until after Christ’s glorious resurrection. We read that John the Baptist had God’s Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb–but he was conceived six months BEFORE Christ’s human conception. One might ask what happened to the Holy Spirit emanating from Christ, which was dwelling in John the Baptist, when Jesus became a human being. But we need to remember that the Holy Spirit emanates from both God the Father AND Jesus Christ, and the Bible teaches that it is ONE; that is, it is the SAME Spirit, as God the Father and Jesus Christ are ONE in mind, goal, purpose and action.

“Even though, upon Christ’s becoming a Man, the Spirit of Christ ceased to exist as emanating from the glorified Son–the second member and God being within the ‘Godhead’ or Family of God. But the Spirit of the Father continued to dwell IN John the Baptist. However, as is pointed out herein, once Christ became flesh and blood, the Holy Spirit would not be given henceforth to human beings until after Christ’s glorification.”

To clarify and to repeat, the Holy Spirit is “one,” insofar as mind, goal, purpose and action are concerned. But it is still Holy Spirit emanating from the Father AND from Christ. It is NOT one “entity” (the Holy Spirit is not an entity or a person), but it is Spirit flowing from the Father and the Son which has the same characteristics (being “one” in that sense), as the Father and the Son have the same characteristics.

With this background, we proceed to consider further who the “saints” were who are mentioned in Matthew 27:52.

We have addressed the meaning of the word “saint” in a Q&A about this topic. We stated the following, pointing out that the word “saints” refers to living persons (not dead ones who “went to heaven”):

“When the Bible speaks about saints, it addresses LIVING Christians. Paul wrote to ‘the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who ARE in Colosse’ (Colossians 1:2). He also wrote to the ‘saints who ARE in Ephesus’ (Ephesians 1:1), or to ‘ALL the saints in Christ Jesus who ARE in Philippi’ (Philippians 1:1)… He also wrote, in Romans 16:15: ‘Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who ARE with them.’ In 1 Corinthians 16:1, he spoke about ‘the collection for the saints,’ who were, at the time, in need of physical help. In Acts 26:10, Paul is quoted as saying: ‘This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison… and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.’ (Compare, too, Acts 9:13.)…

“Christians are called saints in the Bible BEFORE they die. We are told, in Psalm 116:15: ‘Precious in the sight of the LORD is the DEATH of His saints.’  According to the Bible, a saint is a person who is ‘holy’ or ‘sanctified’; that is, he is set aside or set apart for a special purpose. Once a person is ‘sanctified,’ he is ‘holy’ — or a saint…

“W.E. Vine explains in ‘Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,’ that the word ‘saint,’ as used in the New Testament, is derived from the Greek word, ‘hagios,’ meaning ‘holy’… Psalm 16:3 tells us that the ‘saints… are on the earth’…”

Using this explanation for the saints mentioned in Matthew 27:52, we must conclude that they had received the Holy Spirit PRIOR to Christ’s conception as a human being in the womb of Mary. This would not invalidate the above-quoted comments in the Nelson Study Bible, as they could have lived for a while after Christ’s conception, then died and were subsequently resurrected to physical life after Christ’s resurrection (Christ was about 33 ½ years old when He died), and they still could easily have been contemporaries of those who saw them after their resurrection.

There is an additional explanation regarding the use of the word “saints” in Matthew 27:52. As mentioned, the Greek word for “saints” is “hagios,” which is translated as “holy.” This word is used in a variety of cases. It is used for “holy” angels (compare Mark 8:38); for a “holy” place (Acts 6:13); and for the unconverted mate of a Christian and the children of Christians. We read in 1 Corinthians 7:14: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.” In that passage, the Greek word for “is sanctified” is “hagiazo” (derived from “hagios,” i.e., to be sanctified), and the word for “holy” is “hagios.” It is the same Greek word which is translated quite often as “saints” in the New Testament, including in Matthew 27:52.

But the English word “saint” is a translation of the Greek word “hagios,” as is the reference to “holy” children or a “holy” unconverted mate. The point is, children or unconverted mates do not have the Holy Spirit, but they are still called “holy” (or one might say, “saints”), because they are set aside or sanctified for a holy purpose (the possibility of having a holy relationship with God).  Applying this understanding to Matthew 27:52, the “saints” who were raised could have been those who had been set aside for a special holy purpose without having God’s Holy Spirit within them when they died… the holy or special purpose for them could have been to appear to many after their resurrection to physical life, testifying and validating the concept of the resurrection. We read that after Christ’s resurrection, they came “out of their graves” and went into the holy (“hagios”) city and appeared to many” (verse 53). In that case, they could easily have been “contemporaries” of those who saw them when they entered the holy city of Jerusalem.

The use of the word “saint” is somewhat of an interpretation. The New International Version states, “The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.” The New Living Translation reads: “The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead.” The Weymouth New Testament writes: “… and many of God’s people who were asleep in death awoke.” In Old Testament times, for example, Israelites who did not have God’s Holy Spirit would still be called “God’s people,” as they were set aside for a godly purpose.

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible writes: “Of course, it is not known who these were… It is probable that they were persons who had recently died, and they appear to have been known in Jerusalem; at least, had the ancient saints risen, they would not have been known, and would not so soon have been credited as those who had recently died.” Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible adds:  “But it should seem rather, that they were some later saints, such as Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, John the Baptist himself, good old Simeon, Joseph the husband of Mary, and others, well known to persons now alive.”

In conclusion, the quote in the Nelson Study Bible about “saints” appearing to contemporaries after their resurrection, seems to have much validity.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

compiled by Dave Harris

Our monthly Ministerial Meeting via SKYPE was conducted last Sunday morning (May 7, 2017). We focused on needs in Germany as the work continues to grow in that area. Also, we discussed the challenge of more fully responding to requests from Africa.

“Russia’s Persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” is the title of a new StandingWatch program, presented by Evangelist Norbert Link. Here is a summary:

New appalling developments are happening in Russia, showing the relentless persecution of religious minorities by the State apparatus in collaboration with the Russian Orthodox Church. Today they are focusing on the Jehovah’s Witnesses, justifying their intolerance with ridiculous and blatantly false “reasons.” Who will be their next targets?

“Russlands Verfolgung der Zeugen Jehovas,” is the German version of the program described above.

“Missverständnisse über König David, Teil 2,” is the title of this Sabbath’s new German sermon. Title in English: “Misunderstandings about King David, Part 2.”

“Great Pain,” the sermonette presented last Sabbath by Kalon Mitchell, is now posted. Here is a summary:

This life is full of pain. It is something that has been this way for a long time. But will pain and agony last? What will happen in the Kingdom? Will people feel pain like they do today?

“For Life,” the sermon presented last Sabbath by Norbert Link, is now posted. Here is a summary:

When we decided to become baptized and live God’s Way, we made a life-long decision. We counted the cost and chose God over everything else. But in time, our first love and enthusiasm might have diminished. Other priorities might have taken hold of us. Sin might have become less serious in our minds, and ongoing repentance might have been looked at as rather unimportant. How dedicated are we today to hold fast until the end?

Pentecost will be observed on Sunday, June 4, 2017.

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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

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

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