Update 102


A Contentious Spirit

Dave Harris will give the sermon this Sabbath, July 19, 2003. The title of the sermon is, “A Contentious Spirit.”

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

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"Where To Go?"

by Norbert Link

From time to time, we receive letters or email messages from our readers, sharing with us their surprise when they began to realize where they were in their spiritual lives. One such message reads, “It would appear as though I am/was one of the Laodiceans and how I got there is anyone’s guess. I thought I was doing the right thing studying and praying etc., yet somewhere along the line I got off track since I left WCG.”

Sadly, this is only too true for many who were forced to leave the apostasy that was introduced into the church after Mr. Armstrong died. Many who left WCG did not know where to go. They found themselves in the situation described by Jesus in Matthew 9:36, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”

Some did not go anywhere. They decided to stay at home and to have their own private services — without the presence of a faithful ordained minister. There is a danger with this approach, however. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:11-16 that Christ gave to His Church ministers to feed and edify the flock, so that “we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”

Brethren need Christ’s ministers. Romans 10:14-16 tells us that we cannot hear “without a preacher.” We are also told, however, that God must send the “preacher.” We are encouraged to “test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets [or preachers] have gone into the world” (1 John 4:1).

So, we need to go “somewhere.” The question remains,” Where to go?”

Some brethren decided to follow ministers who seemed to uphold the teachings of Mr. Armstrong. Some ministers claimed that they would not change anything since Mr. Armstrong’s death. This claim proved to be incorrect in many cases, when reviewing their doctrines and practices. However, to even make such a claim neglects the fact that we are to “grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18; compare Ephesians 4:13). When the BIBLE proves to us that we may have to alter a certain teaching or understanding, in order to follow God more perfectly, we must do so. Otherwise, we are placing a man ahead of God, which we must never do. At the same time, one of those “leaders” claiming — albeit incorrectly — that he won’t change anything that Mr. Armstrong had taught, applies to himself titles which belong exclusively to God the Father and Jesus Christ, such as “that Prophet” or “the Lawgiver.”

On the other hand, it must be the BIBLE — God’s Word — that convinces us of a need to grow in the knowledge of Christ. Far too often, ministers and brethren change their understanding of God’s truth because of certain pet ideas they have developed in their own minds, based on their own research of historical and other worldly records.

The understanding of prophecy is a key example. Many are proposing alternate prophetic concepts, calling them speculation, but teaching them, nevertheless, as truth and new understanding. In virtually every case, their understanding is based on human reasoning and on a limited view of present circumstances and world conditions, but not on the clear prophetic word of the Bible (compare 2 Peter 1:19-21). God’s Word tells us, however, “Bind up the testimony, Seal the law among my disciples… To the law and to the TESTIMONY! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:16, 20). Revelation 19:10 states that the “TESTIMONY of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” We are also told, in Jeremiah 6:16-17: “Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, and where the good way is, And walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.’ But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.'”

Again, we ask, “Where to go?” Some decided to follow ministers who were disfellowshipped by Mr. Armstrong for rebellious attitudes, or for the preaching of heresy, and no evidence has been presented that they have repented of such conduct. In some cases, they have instead justified their conduct, claiming that they were right, and that Mr. Armstrong was wrong. A rebellious attitude is, however, contagious. It affects others. The Bible warns us, “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).

Others decided to join a rather big organization [in comparison with other groups] which provides many social activities for its members. They did perhaps not realize that ministers were actively preaching in that group that had compromised with the truth of God, had taught wrong things, and had thereby misled the flock, while in WCG. Some ministers had disfellowshipped brethren in WCG who tried to stand up for the truth. Very few of those ministers apologized openly and publicly for their wrong conduct. Very few declared publicly that they had repented of their false biblical understanding and teaching, and that they had returned to, and were now deeply convicted of the “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Some followed ministers who claimed that they were Christ’s servants or “God’s anointed,” only to learn later that Mr. Armstrong had stated strongly, for various reasons, including personal ones, that these men should never lead the church. In some cases, it was learned that Mr. Armstrong felt that these ministers were not even converted.

The question remains, “Where to go?” Some have started a campaign, asking the members of their group to reach out to a number of “our former brethren” and encourage them to return to the truth, that is, supposedly, to their particular group. We in CEG and our affiliated corporate organizations will not do that. We are certainly praying to God that He will cause “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, [to] shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). We are reminded, however, in the same passage, that we “do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v.5-6).

The ministry in CEG and its affiliates is not here to commend ourselves (2 Corinthians 10:17-18: “But he who glories, let him glory in the LORD. For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.”). We are here to help, and we are happy to answer whatever questions there might be. We will not directly contact our “former brethren,” however, trying to “convince” them to join with us. Our literature and sermon material are freely available to everyone, via our Webpage or upon request. However, we feel we need to leave it to God to move anyone to make personal contact with us. It is God who has allowed the sheep to be scattered by their shepherds, and it is God who will gather them together again (Jeremiah 23:1-4).

We believe that God must call, and that God will lead His people to the place where He wants them to be — whatever and wherever that place might be. Christ said, “‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber [This would also apply to some self-appointed “leaders,” writing books and disseminating their false teachings, who were never Biblically ordained to the ministry.] But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens; and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers'” (John 10:1-5).

So, “where to go?” To answer this, we need to look at ourselves. Where are we now, personally? We need to examine ourselves whether we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). If we find ourselves lacking, we need to become zealous again for the truth and repent (Revelation 3:19; compare, too, Revelation 2:4-5; 2:14-16; 2:20-21; 3:1-3). At the same time, one needs to pray to God that HE points out where to go. We truly believe that God will make it clear, also in light of Matthew 7:20, where to go, if one really wants to know.

The question remains — “Where to go?” In answering this, we need to understand first, “Where are we now?”

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U.S. National Defense System Useless?

According to a study of the American Physical Society, published on July 15, 2003, the current U.S. “missile defense strategy” is “not feasible against potential threats.” The finding states, “Intercepting missiles while their rockets are still burning would not be an effective approach for defending the U.S. against attacks by an important type of enemy missile,” especially stemming from North Korea and Iran. The study continues, “Issues of timing severely limit the feasibility” of a so-called “boost-phase defense (disabling ballistic missiles while they are still under power).” The study found, too, that “defending the United States against solid-propellant ICBMs would be impractical in many cases, because of their short burn times.” In addition, the “Airborne Laser would not be able to disable solid-propellant ICBMs at ranges useful for defending the United States… Although a successful intercept would prevent munitions from reaching their target, live nuclear, biological, or chemical warheads could strike populated areas short of the target in the United States or in other countries.”

Der Spiegel Online commented on this report on July 16, 2003. It pointed out that “in case of North Korea, a protection through the National Missile Defense system would be impossible…. In case of [a successful intercept of a] North Korean attack on the United States, biological, chemical and nuclear warheads could still strike Alaska, Canada or the Western parts of the United States.”

The findings and other relevant information can be reviewed at the official Webpage of the American Physical Society, at www.aps.org

Problems in Iraq and Afghanistan

Bild Online published a damaging article on July 10, quoting Donald Rumsfeld as allegedly admitting that “weapons of mass destruction” were NOT the reason for the U.S. to invade Iraq. According to the article, Mr. Rumsfeld stated that the coalition “‘did not attack Iraq because we had entirely new proof for Iraq’s attempts to obtain weapons of mass destruction.’ Rather, the administration acted because they viewed the threat in a different light, based on ‘the experience of September 11th.'”

Der Spiegel Online reported on July 10 and July 16 that the U.S. so far spent 48 billion dollars for the Iraq war. The Pentagon expects to spend an additional 3.9 billion dollars per month. By the end of September, the costs are expected to top 58 billion dollars. These costs do not include money for the reconstruction of Iraq. The Netzeitung reported on July 10 that Donald Rumsfeld unofficially invited Germany to participate in sending troops to Iraq. The German government declined to comply, stating that they are already providing humanitarian aid, and that they do not have the capability to send troops.

Since May 1, more than 74 US soldiers have died, and more than 382 were injured.

In addition, according to Der Spiegel Online, U.S. costs are also rising in Afghanistan, from 900 to 950 million dollars per month.

Is the U.S. Buying Its Allies?

MSNBC News reported that the U.S. is going to transfer $20 million to Palestinians “to strengthen the hand of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in a new peace process with Israel… The U.S. State Department approved the direct aid earlier this month to help restore and improve basic services in Palestinian areas vacated by Israeli military forces under a new U.S.-backed peace plan known as the ‘road map.'” A U.S. embassy spokesman was quoted in the article, saying, “‘This is the first time we have ever given 20 million bucks straight to the Palestinian Authority.'”

War Between U.S. and North Korea Inevitable?

“Former Defense Secretary William Perry warned that the United States and North Korea are drifting toward war, perhaps as early as this year, in an increasingly dangerous standoff that also could result in terrorists being able to purchase a North Korean nuclear device and plant it in a U.S. city,” according to MSNBC News. “‘I think we are losing control’ of the situation, said Perry, who believes North Korea soon will have enough nuclear warheads to begin exploding them in tests and exporting them to terrorists and other U.S. adversaries. ‘The nuclear program now underway in North Korea poses an imminent danger of nuclear weapons being detonated in American cities,’ he said in an interview.” Later in the article, he was quoted as saying, “‘Time is running out, and each month the problem gets more dangerous.'”

Any End to German Economic Problems?

Der Spiegel Online reported on July 16 that two-thirds of Chancellor Schroeder’s ambitious tax relief program for 2004 are to be financed by additional governmental debt. “The tax relief program will cost more than 7 billion euro. Almost 5 billion euro are planned to be financed through additional debt,” according to the article. The magazine pointed out, too, that because of the structural changes in his program, Chancellor Schroeder is promising the German people a decrease in the governmental debt of 50 billion euros by 2010.

The Richest And The Poorest

Bild Online published on July 10 a list of the richest and the poorest countries, based on the average personal income, life expectancy and education of each country’s citizens. The poorest countries are all to be found in Black Africa, Sierra Leone being the poorest of them all. It is interesting that most of the richest countries belong to the lost tribes of the house of Israel. We realize, of course, that this list is somewhat arbitrary, based on the three factors chosen on which the list was based. Strictly focusing on the economy, for example, the list would of course look differently. Still, according to the list, the 20 richest countries are, in this order:

(1) Norway
(2) Iceland
(3) Sweden
(4) Australia
(5) The Netherlands
(6) Belgium
(7) USA
(8) Canada
(9) Japan
(10) Switzerland
(11) Denmark
(12) Ireland
(13) Great Britain
(14) Finland
(15) Luxembourg
(16) Austria
(17) France
(18) Germany
(19) Spain
(20) New Zealand

Draft of European Constitution Signed

As Netzeitung reported, the European Convention signed last week the draft of the European Constitution. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer called the document an “historical compromise that will make the European Union with its 25 member states more transparent and more capable of action.” The article pointed out that the draft constitution proposes an official European holiday on May 9. On that day, former French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann had described a united Europe as a necessary element for the establishment of peace on the old continent. The European flag will continue to portray 12 golden stars with a blue background. The official European hymn will be Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, known as “An die Freude” or, “Ode to Joy.”

As Stern Online reported, highly controversial Minister President of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, has begun on July 1 to occupy the chair over the European Parliament for the next six months. Berlusconi, who is sometimes referred to as “little Caesar,” is determined to finalize the European Constitution, while still in power. His hope is to have the first European Constitution signed in Rome by December of 2003, thereby establishing the Second Roman Treaty. The First Roman Treaty was signed in Rome in 1957. Der Stern pointed out that the First Roman Treaty signalized the “beginning of the success-story of Europe.”

Europe Begins to Show Its Muscles

As Netzeitung reported on July 10, the European Council has sharply criticized Russia for its anti-humanitarian policy in Chechnya [including the dismemberment of corpses and the kidnapping, the use of electro shocks and the beating of prisoners of war by the Russian Army]. The article commented, “Statements by the European Council with such severity are rare. The Council may do so, following the anti-torture convention, when a country does not cooperate or refuses to improve the situation based on the recommendation of the European [anti-torture] Committee.”

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Q: Romans 9:13 states: "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated." Malachi 1:3 states: "But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness." The New KJV commentary points out: "The expression Esau have I hated cannot simply mean to love less but must mean, in the context of Malachi 1:1-5, that God has actually directed his wrath toward Esau and his descendants. The judgments upon Edom are positive judgments and not merely the absence of blessing. God displays His wrath upon the sins of Edom not in unholy rancor but in righteous judgment. He does the same with individuals." However, Galatians 2:6 states: "But from those who seemed to be something — whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man — for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me." Luke 20:21 confirms: "Then they asked Him, saying, 'Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth…'" The question is that, by loving Jacob and hating Esau, wasn't God showing favoritism when the references to Galatians 2 and Luke 20 show that God has no favorites? Can you please explain.

A: We are glad to. To understand all these passages in their proper context, we must realize that God has decided to call a few people during this day and age, to offer them salvation, while the overwhelming majority of mankind will be called at a later time — during the Millennium, and during the Second Resurrection and the Great White Throne Judgment period (Revelation 20:6, 11-12). Everyone will get his or her chance to respond to God, but everyone in his or her own order (compare 1 Corinthians 15:23). God has not preordained anyone to eternal death — those who are not called yet are not judged yet — they will be judged later, when their time of calling has come.

The quote from the New KJV commentary conveys a blatantly false concept. The authors simply do not seem to understand God’s character, nor God’s purpose for mankind. God most certainly does not hate anyone, “before having done any good or evil” (Romans 9:11). Rightly understood, God does not hate anyone at all, but He does hate the evil that a person commits.

In Romans 9:13, God explains that He CALLED Jacob, and that He did NOT CALL Esau at that time. We need to understand that God had decided to call or choose for salvation certain ones “before the foundation of the earth” (Ephesians 1:4). We don’t know exactly, and God does not reveal, on what basis He chooses and elects those, but we know that He does make such an election, as the Bible tells us so.

In calling Jacob, God loved him in a special way, by opening to his understanding His truth, and by ultimately granting him His Holy Spirit. God did not call Esau AT THAT TIME. He WILL call Esau and all of his descendants later — during the Second Resurrection and the Great White Throne Judgment period.

By comparison, God “loved” Jacob more than Esau. God’s “love” needs to be understood in light of God’s calling at that time — as God loves everybody with the same kind of love. “For God so LOVED the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him [now or later, including during the Second Resurrection] should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God also made clear that once someone is called, he or she must REPENT, or else perish (Luke 13:3, 5).

In not calling someone to repentance and to the understanding of His truth, God “loves” such a person “less” by comparison — at that moment in time — but not forever. God knows that such a person, still cut off from Him, will engage in sinful ways, bringing about automatic penalties. When we read about Esau’s future devastation right prior to Christ’s return, we need to realize that this will happen during the Day of the Lord — when God begins to intervene in the affairs of this world. Then, God will directly pour out plagues on sinful and unrepentant mankind to show them that sin only brings about misery and pain, unless repented of. Again, all of these people WILL be resurrected to be given their first chance to accept God’s truth and to follow it — they are NOT condemned forever (except those few who HAD been called and chosen, and who HAD received the Holy Spirit, and who THEN fell away from God — compare Hebrew 6:4-6).

God’s statement that He loved Jacob and HATED Esau must be understood as saying that God loved Esau LESS BY COMPARISON. The New KJV commentary is wrong, when it rejects this Biblical understanding. We might also note that the Bible itself sometimes defines “hate” as “love less by comparison.”

In Luke 14:26 we read that Christ tells us, “‘If anyone comes to Me and does not HATE his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.'” In the parallel passage, in Matthew 10:37, the word “hate” is defined as “love less by comparison.” We read, “‘He who loves his father or mother MORE than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter MORE than Me is not worthy of Me.'” In other words, we must love them LESS, by comparison, than Jesus Christ. We are to love the Father and the Son with all our heart and our strength and our mind (compare Matthew 22:37). God must always come first in our lives. At the same time, we are to LOVE — not hate — our neighbor AS ourselves (compare Matthew 22:39). We are not to hate our neighbor, including our own family. We are to love them LESS than God, though, by comparison.

When God said that He “hated” Esau, by loving him less than Jacob, He was talking about His decision to call Jacob, but not Esau, to salvation at that time. The time for Esau’s and his descendants’ salvation is still coming.

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