Update 94


How Does God View His People?

Edwin Pope will give the sermon this Sabbath, May 24, 2003. The sermon is titled, “How Does God View His People Today?”

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

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God's Power Makes It Possible

by Norbert Link

In light of mounting adversity, ever-growing discouragement and seemingly unsolvable problems, we might be tempted, at times, to think of just “throwing in the towel” and “giving up.” We might, perhaps, feel that it is too difficult to go on — or that it is impossible to do what we ought to do, including overcoming and conquering our weaknesses.

Two weeks from Sunday we will be celebrating the annual Holy Day of Pentecost. This Feast day pictures the gift of God’s Holy Spirit to the Body of Christ, which is the Church. When the early apostles received the Holy Spirit, they were given with it God’s power to accomplish the task that was set before them. Jesus had promised them, “But you shall receive POWER when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:8). By the power of God, they were able to work mighty miracles (Acts 3:12; 4:7-10). We also read that “with great power” they witnessed Christ’s resurrection (Acts 4:33).

God has promised and given His Holy Spirit of power to ALL of His children whom He has called during this day and age. We read in 2 Peter 1:2-4: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine POWER has given to us ALL THINGS that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

It is the power of the LIVING God that dwells within us, through the Holy Spirit. For God, nothing is too hard or impossible. You might want to read the following encouraging Scriptures, telling us about the unlimited power and might of our great God: Matthew 19:26; Luke 18:27; Luke 1:37; Genesis 18:14 (We understand, of course, that there are certain things that God has CHOSEN not to do. For instance, we read in Hebrews 6:18 that it is “impossible for God to lie.” Titus 1:2 confirms that God “cannot lie.”).

The beautiful news is that God’s power can live within us. Therefore, nothing needs to be impossible for us. Christ gives us this promise in Matthew 17:20, “…I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it WILL move; and NOTHING will be IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU.”

With God, ALL THINGS are possible. However, we must believe this to be true. We must believe that God CAN do everything — and that, as a consequence, WE can do everything as well. Jesus said in Mark 9:23, “…all things are possible to him, who believes.” We are not going to be overcomers and accomplishers based on human strength, but we will have the victory because of the mighty power of God dwelling within us through His Holy Spirit. We will be victorious because we let God do HIS mighty works through us.

We have to understand, of course, that our actions and desires must be in harmony with God’s will. Jesus knew that nothing was impossible for God; nevertheless, He prayed that God’s will, not His, would be done (Mark 14:36).

Next time we are tempted to give up in light of a seemingly insurmountable challenge, let us remember Mr. Armstrong’s response to people who felt that a certain task would be impossible for them to accomplish. He told them, “Nothing is impossible. Impossibilities only take a little bit longer.”

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After weeks of desperate attempts to convince Europe, Russia and China to support a resolution regarding Iraq, the United States could breathe a sigh of relief on Thursday when the U.N. Security Council almost unanimously backed the U.S.-led administration of Iraq and lifted economic sanctions. Only Syria did not show up for the vote. Although many American newspapers and newscasts hailed the U.N. resolution as a victory for the United States, “the final resolution represented a compromise but left the underlying goal of the United States and its allies intact: Washington and London, as occupying powers, remain firmly in control of Iraq and its oil wealth ‘until an internationally recognized, representative government is established,'” according to Yahoo! News of May 22, 2003. The article continued: “The resolution gives the United Nations a stronger role in establishing a democratic government than initially envisioned, and the stature of a U.N. special representative in Iraq is increased.”

As USA Today reported, “French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, standing beside his German and Russian counterparts…, said the three countries decided to vote for the postwar resolution because it ‘opens the road’ for a central U.N. role. The text ‘does not go as far as we had hoped’ but ‘the United Nations is back in the game,’ he said. ‘We are convinced that the U.N. will tomorrow be the focus for international action, due to its legitimacy, experience and capabilities.'” The article continued to explain that, although the United States would not accept any time limits on how long it could administer Iraq, “in a key concession, however, the United States agreed to let the Security Council ‘review the implementation of this resolution within 12 months.'”

Strong Criticism from Senator Byrd…

Prior to the events on Thursday, Senior Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia (85) “unleashed a stinging attack Wednesday on President Bush’s Iraq policies and said the administration may have lied to justify their war,” according to USA Today. Byrd was the only highly profiled democratic senator who opposed a war with Iraq before, during and after the war. While other democrats had warned against a war with Iraq prior to the war, many became deafly silent, once the war had begun. Byrd said, “The American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of long-standing international law, under false premises… It has raised serious questions about prevarication and the reckless use of power.” He also stated that it has become “painfully clear” that Iraq posed no immediate threat, and that searches for weapons of mass destruction have “turned up only fertilizer, vacuum cleaners, conventional weapons and the occasional buried swimming pool.” He also criticized colleagues in Congress who “cower in the shadows while false statements proliferate,” rather than challenge President Bush because to do so would be “unpopular or maybe politically costly.”

…and from “The Independent” in Great Britain

A strong editorial against the current administration of Iraq was republished this week in the “Seattle Post-Intelligencer.” It had originally appeared in “The Independent” in Great Britain. Patrick Cockburn, British columnist and book author, titled his article, “It’s apparent that Washington has no clear plan for Iraq.”

Cockburn stated, “Everywhere there are signs of the breakdown… If the United States was so uninterested in what happens in Iraq after the war, why on Earth did it fight it in the first place? After all, it paid an immense diplomatic price in terms of the disruption or destruction of its traditional alliances. George Bush and Tony Blair tend to treat their previous justifications for the war as a bit of ancient history, but they matter still because they are pointers to what may now happen in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. The United States seems to have fought the war essentially because it wanted a war. It did so because the political fuel on which the present U.S. administration runs is to emphasize the external threat. Through this means it has won control of the Senate and may well win the next presidential election. Other explanations for the war do not really work… The civilian leadership of the Pentagon… are uniquely reckless, arrogant and ill informed about Iraq… These past mistakes matter because the situation in Iraq could easily become much worse. Iraqis realize that Saddam may have gone but that the United States does not have real control of the country… There will be more… attacks… Supposed links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, heavily publicized by the White House before the war, were largely journalistic concoctions. But in the present anarchy al-Qaeda will find that Iraq, where people are suffering all the disadvantages of occupation but without civil order, is a fertile recruiting ground.”


The last weeks have seen increased terrorist attacks around the globe, including in Turkey, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and in Casablanca, Morocco, killing numerous innocent people. Of course, then there are the almost usual suicide bombs in Israel, and occasional explosions in schools and universities, such as the most recent one this week at Yale University law school (President Bush graduated there, and his daughter Barbara is a junior at the university). No connection has been made so far between the explosion at Yale and al-Qaeda. It is strongly believed, however, that al-Qaeda was clearly the mastermind behind the attacks in Riyadh and Casablanca, and possibly Turkey. As USA Today reported, “a broadcast voice purportedly that of al-Qaeda’s second-in-command signaled Wednesday that major terrorist action may be about to occur and exhorted Muslims to attack western interests across the Middle East… The tape was apparently recorded after the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in mid-March.” The article mentioned that the recorded message encourages Muslims to take action “against the embassies of America, England, Australia and Norway, their interests, their companies and their employees.” The German Bild ran the following editorial on Thursday, “You devil – bin Laden. I only know that you live, because 41 people died in Riyadh and Casablanca. You are the demon without residence… In the United States, terror alert has been raised to ‘Orange.’ You have smeared our world with that color… One of our greatest freedoms was to be able to go where we wanted to go. You are worse than AIDS or SARS, since we can protect ourselves against those. The sickness with which you have infested the world is fear. Only when the whole world abhors you, your power will cease.”


While Secretary of State Colin Powell worked relentlessly to improve the relationship between the United States and its European allies, President Bush lashed out against Europe this week, accusing Europe “of perpetuating starvation in Africa by subsidizing agricultural exports and by objecting to the use of bioengineered crops,” according to the Washington Post. The paper remarked that in doing so, President Bush added “another grievance with Europe at a time of already tense transatlantic relations.” The German magazine, Der Spiegel, immediately responded, stating that “US President Bush has discovered another opportunity to humiliate Europeans. Now he is accusing his old friends of blocking the fight in the world against hunger.”


During the last two weeks, the world witnessed another seemingly endless cycle of violence in the Middle East. Israeli attacks on Palestinians were followed by Palestinian suicide bombings, prompting additional Israeli military repercussions and invasions. A meeting between President Bush and Israel’s Ariel Sharon, scheduled for this week, was cancelled, with no new date set. It is known that Ariel Sharon does not support the peace plan, as proposed by the United States, the United Nations, and Europe. It is also known that Arab terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, will try to do everything in their power to prevent peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas called President Bush this week, pleading for his help and intervention. President Bush spoke with Ariel Sharon and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, apparently reiterating how important it is to work for peace in the Middle East, according to articles published by Yahoo! News.


“The nation’s deep trade deficit… is the ‘fundamental cause’ behind the weakness of the dollar against foreign currencies, billionaire investor Warren Buffett…said Wednesday at Microsoft Corp.’s seventh annual summit of chief executives.” This article from the Fort Collins Coloradoan (5/22/2003), goes on to note the ominous slide of the U.S. currency: “In the past year, the dollar has weakened sharply against the Japanese yen and the euro, which traded at $1.1678 on Wednesday.”

The only comparable period of deflation occurred in the depression of the 1930’s. Although Europe is experiencing its own growing pains as it seeks to unite, there is, nevertheless, an unrelenting sense of destiny being forged within the European Union. We will certainly see ups and downs in this historic development, but we need to understand that Biblical prophecy shows that dominant power will shift to the E.U. Furthermore, the U.S. and Britain will be forced to look to Europe for help.


A powerful 6.7-magnitude earthquake on Wednesday killed at least 1,000 people and injured thousands in Algeria. The death toll is expected to rise. It was the largest quake in Algeria since 1980, constituting “the largest tragedy to visit this North African nation where an Islamic insurgency that has left some 120,000 people dead has raged for more than a decade,” according to USA Today.

A sudden new outbreak of SARS was reported on Wednesday in Taiwan, where within one day, 65 new cases were discovered. By now, 60 people have died of the disease in Taiwan, while 483 are infected. Only in China and Hong Kong, more cases have been reported. While it has been said that China has gained better control over the disease, more than 27,000 people are still quarantined there. Worldwide, 667 people have died of SARS, and more than 7,900 known infections have been reported.

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Q: The international press recently reported that Catholics, Orthodox, and many Protestants believe that Mary was a virgin throughout her life. It is claimed that those called "Jesus' brothers" in the Bible were in fact His cousins (Zenit, May 15, 2003). Is this also your understanding?

A: It is not. The Biblical record clearly reveals that Mary, although a virgin when “she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18-20; Luke 1:27-35), had additional children after the birth of Jesus Christ. Matthew 1:24-25 tells us that Joseph “did not know” Mary [a Biblical expression for sexual intimacy, including intercourse, compare Luke 1:34] “TILL she had brought forth her FIRSTBORN Son.” The word “till” or “until” signifies that Joseph DID know Mary sexually after Christ’s birth. The same Greek word for “till” or “until” is used in Matthew 2:15 and Matthew 5:26, showing a change in circumstances after a certain event.

Further, Mary gave birth to her “firstborn” son (compare, too, Luke 2:6-7). The Greek word for “firstborn” is “prototokon.” It means “FIRST-born,” indicating that others would be born subsequently. It does distinctively NOT mean, “only-born.” The Greek word for “only-born” is “monogenes.” It is used in Luke 7:12, referring to a dead man who was “the only son of his mother.” Christ, however, was NOT the only Son of His mother.

The Jews knew that Christ had brothers and sisters, and that He was not Mary’s only child. Notice Matthew 13:54-56:

“When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogues, so that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses [Joseph], Simon and Judas [Jude]? And His sisters, are they not all with us?'”

The Jews’ testimony was that Christ had four brothers and at least two, and perhaps even more than two, sisters. After all, they had asked, “And His sisters, are they not ALL with us?”

In spite of this clear Biblical record, some argue that Christ did not have brothers, but that He merely had cousins. However, the Greek word for “brother,” used in Matthew 13:55, is “adelphos.” (Compare, too, Matthew 1:2; 4:21). The Greek word for “cousin” is “exadelphos,” literally meaning, “from brothers.” This word is NOT used in reference to Christ’s brothers.

During His life, Christ’s brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:3-5). After His death and resurrection, however, we find at least some of His brothers among Christ’s disciples (Acts 1:13-14; compare, too, 1 Corinthians 9:5). Christ appeared after His resurrection to His brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7), the oldest of Christ’s brothers. James later became an influential apostle in the New Testament church (Galatians 1:18-19; 2:9, 11-12; Acts 12:16-17; 15:13-21; 21:18). He was also the author of the “Epistle of James” in the New Testament.

After James’ violent death (he was apparently stoned, around 62 A.D.), he was replaced in his role in the Church by Christ’s brother Simon. According to tradition, Simon died around 100 A.D.

Nothing has been preserved regarding any role of Christ’s brother Jose or Joseph in the Church. However, Christ’s youngest brother, Judas or Jude, wrote the “Epistle of Jude.” He identifies himself in his letter, in verse 1, as the “brother of James,” the oldest of Christ’s brothers.

The Bible clearly reveals that Jesus had four brothers and at least two, perhaps even more, sisters. The teaching that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life is clearly not Biblical.

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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

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