Update 171


This Life

On Saturday, December 11, 2004, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “This Life.”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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Where Are Your Loyalties?

by Edwin Pope

Jesus Christ cautions His Church in Matthew 24 that there would come a time when loyalty would become a real problem for many who have been called to God’s Way of life. He noted that “…many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another” (Matthew 24:10). This potential problem for many in the Church is a matter all of God’s people need to be aware of. We all must be careful that we do not get caught up in this problem.

When we examine the life of David, we observe a wonderful example of loyalty on David’s part in his relationship with Saul and with God, as described in the books of 1st and 2nd Samuel. We see the details of this example of loyalty described in 1 Samuel 24:6-10 and 26:6-16, and in 2 Samuel 1:14. Yet Saul, by his example, did not demonstrate that he was one deserving of this loyalty and devotion on the part of David.

The Scriptures noted also reveal David’s loyalty to the position of authority God had given to Saul as king of Israel. David reveals his subjection with the words whereby he states: “The LORD forbid that I should stretch out my hand against the LORD’s anointed.”

This loyalty on the part of David may well have inspired some of his own men, at a later time, to demonstrate similar loyalty and devotion to David. We read of this example in 2nd Samuel 23:15-17, where we see three of David’s men willing to sacrifice their lives for David.

We each need to be cognizant of those who deserve loyalty and we need to take every opportunity to be faithful in such loyalties. First and foremost, we must be loyal to our God, Who has revealed Himself and His Way of life to us. Christ explains the principles in Matthew 10:22-41.

Second, we must all be loyal to our brethren in the Way to which we have been called. The principles for such loyalties are described in Galatians 6:10, which admonishes us as follows: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially those who are of the household of faith.”

Third, while we may not think about this often, we must have certain loyalties to those that rule over us in the various governmental jurisdictions within which we live. The basic principles are outlined in Jude, verses 8 and 9, and in 2nd Peter 2:9-11, clearly revealing our responsibility in this area. While we do understand that Satan is in charge of this world’s systems at the present time; Romans 13:1-2 clearly reveals that: “…there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” In 1 Peter 2:13-15 we are instructed to: “…submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God…”

We must, therefore, follow the rules of these governing authorities, as long as those rules do not come in conflict with the laws of God. As much as is possible, within God’s established rules, we are to follow the laws of the land. As Paul notes in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

Noted last here, but certainly not least, next to our loyalty to God and to His Work, He holds us particularly responsible for our loyalties to our mates and to our children, whom God has given to us for our personal care. In the process, we need to teach loyalty as an integral part of the training of our children. Husbands must demonstrate love and concern for their wives, and wives are to be submissive to their husbands.

Of course, the most positive method of instruction relative to our families, as well as to all others we come in contact with, is our own personal example of loyalty, as we live our lives according to the ways of God. If we husbands expect our children and our mates to follow in God’s Way, we must be walking in God’s Way as living examples to them of our approach to His Way of life!

Thus, loyalty is an important part of the Christian character which must be developed if we are to be pleasing to our God as we walk in His Way!

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2004 — a year of disasters

AFP reported on December 8, 2004, that “typhoons, earthquakes and war made 2004 one of the toughest years for aid workers… This year began with the aftermath of a powerful earthquake in Iran that killed more than 26,000 people, and is ending with a string of storms in the Philippines that have left more than 1,500 people dead… ‘It has been one of the most challenging years ever for the humanitarian community in part because we have had tremendous natural disasters,’ the UN deputy secretary general for humanitarian affairs [Jan Egeland] told a news conference… An announcement at the start of the year that the war-torn region of Darfur in western Sudan was the world’s worst humanitarian crisis remained true 12 months later, despite mammoth relief projects, he noted. Some 1.5 million people have fled fierce fighting that flared between government and rebel forces in the province in February 2003. A bloody conflict between rebels and government forces in northern Uganda has also triggered a humanitarian crisis, but hopes were rising for peace as both sides have opened discussions through mediators, Egeland said… In addition, the UN relief coordinator lamented the bloodshed in Iraq where an insurgency against the US-backed government claims lives daily. ‘We are very concerned for the situation of the civilian population and the continuous killings of civilians in Iraq,’ Egeland said.”

Russia’s Vladimir Putin

On December 13, 2004, Newsweek published a telling article about Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The magazine pointed out:

“Russia’s leader thought Ukraine was in his pocket — until Ukrainians showed how badly he had miscalculated. But the former KGB colonel still isn’t about to abandon his dream of bringing back the Kremlin’s glory days of worldwide influence.”

The article continued: “The last thing Putin wants to see is another chunk of the old U.S.S.R. disappear down the maw of the ever encroaching West. (Yushchenko has indicated he might try to bring Ukraine into the European Union, and possibly follow the Baltic states into NATO.) Ever since Putin rose to the presidency in 2000 pledging to crush Chechnya’s separatists, he’s sought to halt further disintegration of the former Soviet superpower and its sphere of influence.”

In a related article of the Associated Press, dated December 6, 2004, it was reported that “President Vladimir Putin said [in Turkey] Russia was willing to work with whoever is elected in Ukraine’s new presidential runoff, but strongly warned the West on Monday not to try to force its vision of democracy on other nations.”

The article continued: “Putin said countries were welcome to help mediate Ukraine’s crisis, but should not meddle…Some Western countries have issued veiled criticism of Russia for what they contend was meddling in Ukrainian politics… Putin rejected Western accusations, saying Russia acted ‘absolutely correctly’ in disputes throughout the former Soviet Union. He suggested forces in the West were seeking to create new divisions in Europe for their political purposes.”

Russia’s Missiles

AFP reported on December 6, 2004, that “Russia revealed it was fitting its strategic bombers with cruise missiles capable of delivering a massive precision strike thousands of miles away… ‘We have broken the US monopoly on the use of long-range conventional cruise missiles,’ an unnamed senior air force commander told ITAR-TASS. The technology appears to be similar to cruise missiles that the United States has long attached to its own intercontinental bombers…”

The article continued: “Russia has been developing a range of new missiles capable of penetrating US defenses as a result. Generals announced earlier this year the successful tests of a hypersonic intercontinental missile that has no officially-confirmed rival in the United States. Moscow is also believed to be developing a multi-stage intercontinental ballistic missile that uses cruise missile technology to zigzag and avoid being shot down once it re-enters the earth’s atmosphere. Finally Russia announced that it was making its most feared and powerful trans-Atlantic missile mobile within the next two years… ‘These cruise missiles have a range of more than 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) and can miss a target by no more than a few meters while carrying a warhead of hundreds of kilotons,’ the source said.”

Earthquake in Germany

On December 5, 2004, Associated Press reported that “An earthquake struck western Germany near the French border early Sunday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, officials said. The magnitude 4.9 quake, with an epicenter near the German town of Waldkirch [in the Black Forrest], occurred about 2:52 a.m., France’s national seismological center said.” Bild Online reported on December 5 that the earthquake reached in fact the magnitude of 5.4 on the Richter scale, and that several people were injured.

Second Earthquake in Japan

Following the powerful earthquake with the magnitude of 7.1 that struck Japan last week, another earthquake hit the main island of Hokkaido on December 6, 2004. The quake reached a magnitude of 6.8 or 7.0, according to Bild Online and Der Spiegel Online. When the quake hit last week, it was stated by the Japanese government, according to Der Spiegel Online, that such a strong earthquake “only happens once within 10 years.” How wrong human predictions can be!

Typhoons in The Philippines

We received the following report from a subscriber in The Philippines:

“We appreciate your prayers for the Filipinos especially in Real Quezon that have been directly hit by three consecutive typhoons. The government is doing its part, and many volunteer to help the victims. But your prayers are greatly appreciated.”

Europe and Africa

According to Zenit of December 2, 2004, “Europe has a key role in Africa’s development, even though the Old World seems to have lost its own Christian identity, says Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kisangani, Congo.” He also stated in the interview: “Where is Europe going, legitimizing homosexual marriages? Where is it going, taking steps forward and backward? This already existed in Sodom… Africa needs not only the Europe of material goods but above all the Europe of values, such as work, the sense of research, the price of the eternal value of our life on earth, because when one keeps them in mind, one cannot remain seated.”

Europe and Russia

According to the EUobserver of December 3, 2004, “The European Union is too reliant on gas supplies from Russia, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned. According to the Financial Times, the IEA said that the EU’s energy security is at risk due to a growing dependence on Russian gas supplies piped through politically unstable Ukraine… Russia is the world’s largest gas producer. EU countries buy 40 percent of their gas imports from the former Soviet Union…The IEA’s call for diversification follows confirmation this week that Berlin was actively encouraging German energy companies to invest in the Russian oil sector.”

Italy’s “distant” past?

A recent article posted by www.haaretz.com discussed the recent appointment of Gianfranco Fini as Italy’s new foreign minister. Adar Primor stated in the article: “Fini, who in 1987 inherited the leadership of the neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano, who in 1992 marched in front of tens of thousands of people, who with a raised-arm salute marked the historic march of Benito Mussolini on Rome, and who in 1994 still considered Il Duce the ‘most important personality of the 20th century’ — that same Fini is now in charge of Italian diplomacy, and the sky isn’t falling. On the contrary. It seems that everyone — both in Europe and in Israel — is reacting positively.”

The article continued: “I met Fini for the first time in the summer of 2002. As someone who kept track of the representatives of the extreme right, the vestiges of Nazism and fascism in Europe, with great interest, I had interviewed Jorg Haider, Jean-Marie Le Pen, Rolf Schlierer (the head of the extreme-right Republikaner Party in Germany) and Gerhard Frei (his colleague-rival, the head of the German People’s Party).”

As the article pointed out, by the time of the described meeting, Fini had turned 180 degrees. “He shook himself free of Mussolini, condemned fascism and anti-Semitism, expressed enthusiastic support for Israel, and primarily, he declared that if he was permitted to come to Jerusalem, he would accept there the responsibility for the crimes of fascism and would ask forgiveness of the Jewish people. The Italian press was very excited. It considered his words ‘a historic turning point,’ ‘the breaking of the taboo that had paralyzed national memory in Italy.’ It compared his declarations to French President Jacques Chirac’s acceptance of responsibility for the crimes of the Vichy regime. The press, like Fini, understood that the way to Jerusalem had been paved. And, in fact, a year later Fini came on an official visit to Israel. At Yad Vashem he once again condemned the horrors of the Holocaust and the ‘disgrace of the 1938 racial laws.’… [At] a press conference that he held later… Fini condemned the Salo Republic – the puppet government established by Hitler in 1943, headed by Mussolini – and defined it as ‘one of the most disgraceful chapters in the history of our nation.’ In reply to a question, he even agreed to call fascism ‘absolute evil.’… The Italian media were beside themselves again. They spoke of a ‘victory for Italian democracy’ and of ‘a final reconciliation between Fini and the Jewish people.’ Alessandra Mussolini [Benito Mussolini’s granddaughter] slammed the door in Fini’s face and left his party in anger. Fini’s path — this time to the ministry of foreign affairs in Rome — had been paved.”

The article concluded with some interesting predictions. It stated, by first quoting Fini: ‘When we first met, I was still considered by some as the enemy of the Jewish people. Two years later, they are already calling me Israel’s best friend in Europe.’ Fini knows that his chances of serving as the prime minister of Italy are greater today than ever before. His way to the Palazzo Chigi looks like clear sailing.”

EU and Britain

AFP reported on December 7 about comments made by Great Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, which might have reached almost prophetic proportions and significance. According to the article, “Britain will be ‘weak and marginalized’ within Europe if it fails to ratify the EU constitution in an expected 2006 referendum, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.” The article continued:

“‘If we approve this constitution, we will be making our kind of Europe, a Europe in which Britain is strong,’ he told a seminar of lawyers, diplomats and business executives… ‘If we reject it, we will end up with a weak and marginalized Britain in a worse kind of European Union.’.. Opinion polls consistently show the British electorate to be hostile to the EU constitution, a sentiment that the main opposition Conservative Party is keen to exploit… ‘History shows that we have shaped Europe in our interests when Britain has been strong, engaged and influential,’ he said. ‘When we have resorted to a policy of blocking and wrecking, we have lost out.'”

As AFP reported, critics labeled Straw’s speech and comments as “utter nonsense.” However, Straw’s predictions may come much closer to the Biblically prophesied truth, than they realize.

Iraq and Iran

On December 8, 2004, msnbc.com posted the following on their Website: “Insurgents launched assaults around the city of Samarra on Wednesday, trading gunfire with U.S. forces, attacking a convoy, and blowing up a police station after looting its armory. The Pentagon said the number of U.S. combat deaths climbed to 1,001… The military also said a Marine died in a vehicle accident in western Baghdad. The two deaths brought the number of U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003 to 1,278, according to an Associated Press tally.”

The article continued: “The developments in Samarra show that the insurgents still remain a force in a city where American forces launched a large-scale operation several months ago in a bid to end the militants’ control there. The U.S. military hailed its September-October operation to retake control of Samarra as a success, but violence there has persisted. American and Iraqi forces have killed 127 fighters and 20 civilians.”

The article also pointed out the following: “Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Iraq’s interim president, both Sunni Muslims, singled out Shiite Muslim-dominated Iran, accusing it of trying to influence the elections, in which Iraq’s majority Shiites are expected to perform strongly. Abdullah told The Washington Post in an interview published Wednesday that more than 1 million Iranians have entered Iraq, many to vote, and said they were being encouraged by the Iranian government. Iran has said it has no interest in fomenting instability in Iraq and it tries to block any infiltration into Iraq by insurgents – while noting that the borders are hard to police. But Iraq’s interim president, Ghazi al-Yawer, sees things differently. ‘Unfortunately, time is proving, and the situation is proving, beyond any doubt that Iran has very obvious interference in our business,’ al-Yawer told the Washington Post.”

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Should only ordained ministers of the Church of God baptize, or is it sufficient to get baptized through unordained members?

In our booklet, “Baptism–A Requirement for Salvation,” we address and answer this question, as follows, beginning on page 27, under “Who Should Baptize?”

“Once a person is truly ready for baptism, a true minister of Christ should perform the baptism, though it may sometimes require a waiting period by virtue of the fact that a minister of Christ is not immediately available. We need to understand, though, that God is in charge and that when He calls someone and leads them to baptism, He will also work out the necessary details to send one of His ministers to perform the baptism. For instance, God sent Peter to Cornelius, and He sent Philip to the eunuch so that they could be baptized.

“The biblical record indicates that only ordained ministers of God should perform baptisms. The reason is that the baptism is done for the purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit. We need to remember that following baptism by immersing under water, the minister is to pray over the person and to lay his hands on their head so that the person can receive the Holy Spirit. The Bible shows that without the laying on of hands, a person normally does not receive the Holy Spirit.

“Notice this in Acts 8:12-17: ‘But when they believed Philip [one of the original seven deacons, Acts 6:5] as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized… Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He [better translated: it – the Holy Spirit] had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon [Magus] saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given…’ (Compare, too, Acts 19:5-6).

“We read later in the same chapter that Philip was sent, through an angel, to the eunuch, and that Philip baptized him. If this baptism led to the gift of the Holy Spirit, then Philip, who by that time would have been a minister, would have prayed over the eunuch and laid his hands on him. We note that Philip is called an ‘evangelist’ in Acts 21:8.

“We cannot reach a different conclusion by virtue of the fact that Christ’s apostles baptized others before they received the Holy Spirit themselves. The twelve apostles were in quite a different position than the rest of us are today, having been specifically chosen by Christ for a very unique and particular purpose. They were sent out by Christ to heal the sick, cast out demons and preach the gospel, prior to their conversion (Luke 22:32, AV; compare regarding conversion, 1 Samuel 10:6, 9). These activities, especially healing the sick and casting out demons, are reserved today for God’s ordained ministers. You may want to read the stirring account in Acts 19:13-16, reporting about the futile and unsuccessful attempt of unordained people to cast out a demon.

“The fact that Christ allowed His apostles to baptize does not mean that unordained people have the authority to do so today. This would also include ministers from churches that do not teach and practice the law of God, including the observance of the Sabbath and the Holy Days. (Note that in unusual circumstances, God might grant His Holy Spirit to someone who is baptized by a minister outside the Church of God, or by an unordained person within the Church, if the baptized person fulfills all the requirements for proper baptism, as discussed earlier in this booklet. There is no promise, however, that God would grant the Holy Spirit under those circumstances, especially when the person to be baptized understands the role and function of God’s true ministers in His Church.)

“Every example pertaining to the New Testament Church identifies Christ’s chosen ministers as those who would baptize people, pray over them and lay their hands upon them, so that the Holy Spirit could be given to them. We find, for instance, that only God’s ministers were given special authority from God to pray for the sick and to lay their hands upon them (while anointing them with oil). Notice it in James 5:14-15: ‘Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.'(This is not to say that God might not give power to heal to some other people, but how sure can we be of that? We can be sure, however, that the elders of God’s Church have the authority and power to pray for healing of the sick.).”

Some have questioned this teaching, claiming that repentant Saul, whose name was changed to Paul, was baptized by Ananias. They state that Ananias was not an elder, and that it is therefore acceptable that unordained Church members baptize.

However, we must understand that the Bible interprets the Bible, and that God’s Word cannot be broken (compare John 10:35). This means, the Bible does not contradict itself. Each passage on a given subject must be read together with all the other passages, and they must be understood as complementing each other in harmony, rather than creating disharmony and confusion.

We already saw that baptized people did NOT receive the Holy Spirit, UNTIL the ministry laid hands on them. A letter from the Letter Answering Department of the Worldwide Church of God sets forth the long-understood teaching of the Church in this regard:

“The laying on of hands is a symbolical act which sets individuals apart and signifies the imparting of spiritual blessings, authority, and power… In the New Testament, a newly baptized person had laid hands on him for the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Notice in Acts 8:16-17 that after God’s ministers had baptized repentant converts, then [they] ‘laid… hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. And… through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given.’… The laying on of hands also accompanies an ELDER’s prayer for the afflicted. We read in Acts 9:17: ‘And Ananias… putting his hands on him said, [Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus… has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit].'”

We then read, in verse 18, that “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.”

The Bible describes Ananias as “a certain disciple in Damascus” (Acts 9:10), a “devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there” (Acts 22:12).

Some commentaries claim that Ananias was a lay person. But even if that were the case, then this episode could still not be used for a carte-blanche authority, given to unordained members to baptize. Please note that Ananias received a direct order from Christ Himself, in a vision (Acts 9:10-12), so that Paul “may receive [his] sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17). However, based on other Scriptures, as discussed above, the conclusion in the above-quoted letter of the Letter Answering Department seems to be correct that this disciple Ananias was an ELDER, when he laid his hands on Paul to heal him, and when he baptized Paul (The Bible does not specifically say that it was Ananias who baptized Saul, but this seems to be highly probable).

As our previous comments have shown, only ELDERS of God’s Church are charged to anoint the sick with oil, lay their hands on them, and ask for God’s healing. Since Ananias did just that, it appears that he was an elder.

The above-cited letter of the Letter Answering Department concluded: “The laying on of hands, then, serves to show that God works through His MINISTERS. This ceremony is mentioned as one of the basic doctrines of His church in Hebrews 6:2.”

Unordained members who decide to baptize others and “lay hands on them” (Acts 8:17-18; 19:5-6) should realize that they would not have a Biblical basis to justify their action. This would be true, even if their particular Church organization, or a particular minister, may “authorize” such behavior, as it would not be supported by God’s written Word, and we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29; 4:19).

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Preaching the Gospel & Feeding the Flock

The new booklet on tithing, titled “Tithing Today?,” has been placed on the Web.

The Global Church of God in the UK has received 374 requests for our advertised booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World.”

We are preparing a new member letter for the month of December, addressing the erroneous concepts associated with Christmas and “Peace on Earth.” A new booklet is being written on the topics of Military Service and War; Participation in Jury Duty; and Voting in Governmental Elections.

We are preparing for our next annual conference, scheduled to be held in San Diego during the month of February, 2005. We would like to ask you to pray for God’s guidance for the preparations. Any ideas to be discussed during the conference would be welcome.

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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:

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