Update 427


Are You Ready–Today?

by Norbert Link

Many years ago, I heard a religious pop song. It was not particularly artful or that appealing, but one line was repeated over and over, and it stuck in my mind. Even today, I sometimes think of that song and its reiterated question. It was a simple one: “Are you ready…?”

In Matthew 24:44, Jesus gave all of His disciples this sobering warning: “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Christ referred to our need to be ready at all times–because nobody knows the day of his death. When we die, we will be awakened within the next second of our consciousness. For those, who die in Christ, it is as if they were immediately with Christ (Philippians 1:23)–even though, in reality, years may pass, before they hear the voice of the Son of Man calling them out of their graves (John 5:28-29). Christ’s warning to be ready is an ongoing and continuing one: “He is coming” to His disciples at an unexpected hour, as Matthew 24:44 says.

The question is, Are we ready NOW–TODAY–for His Coming? Or are we delaying and waiting for tomorrow to become serious or make necessary amends? Consider this: Tomorrow may never come for you. You may DIE tonight! Think of the rich man who was anxious to lay up many goods for many years, but God said to him: “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you… So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-21). James gives us a similar warning: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14).

We need to make sure that we are ready “today.” That we obey God’s Word today! That we are ready TODAY to give a defense to everyone who asks us about our faith (compare 1 Peter 3:15). At the same time, as Ecclesiastes 5:1 says in the Authorized Version, we must be attentive in Church services and “READY to hear” and to listen to the message, “with a view of obedience” (Ryrie Study Bible), and we must apply the words of instruction and correction to ourselves.

It is important that we reject TODAY any rebellion and unbelief. Rather than delaying, Hebrews 3:7, 13 admonishes us: “TODAY, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion… exhort one another DAILY, while it is called, ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin…” (compare Hebrews 4:7; Psalm 95:7).

When God speaks to us today, we must respond immediately. Exodus 34:11 tells us: “Observe what I command you THIS DAY.” Shortly before his death, Joshua challenged the people of Israel: “… choose for yourselves THIS DAY whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). God tells us that He is READY to judge us (1 Peter 4:5)–but are WE ready for His judgment? We might think so, but Jesus Christ reminded us that even though our spirit might be ready, the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38).

Christ told the church in Sardis to be “watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are READY to DIE” (Revelation 3:2). This is not the kind of readiness we want to have! He continued: “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you” (Revelation 3:3).

Nobody knows the day of his death. Today is the time for change. Today is the time to embrace and uphold the right and reject the wrong.

When we give our word, let us not delay to keep it. Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 tells us: “When you make a vow [a promise] to God [or another person], do not delay to pay it… Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands?”

When we have opportunity to do good, let us not delay to do it. Proverbs 3:28 tells us: “Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go and come back, And tomorrow I will give it,’ When you have it with you.” Paul admonished the wealthy to be “rich in good works, READY to give, willing to share… that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:18-19).

How often have we missed today’s opportunities to do good to others–thinking that we can do it tomorrow–or the day after that? Let’s not wait. Let’s give flowers to the living, as we have opportunity. Let’s be “READY for every good work” (Titus 3:1; compare Galatians 6:10).

Are you ready…? An old Latin proverb says, “Carpe diem.” It means, “Seize the day!” Make the most of it. Take advantage of the moment. Don’t delay. Don’t wait for tomorrow–because your tomorrow may never come.

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We begin by addressing the irresponsible “opinion” of some “experts,” saying that the U.S. recession is over, and quote from a British paper, showing that America is actually sliding deeper into depression. Another article is wondering whether the USA will have to declare bankruptcy one of these days.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s alleged racial comments have prompted interesting reactions from politicians of all parties and persuasion–showing again the deeply self-serving nature of politics. We also report on a possible religious exemption from mandatory health care insurance, and show in articles about the most recent major earthquakes in Haiti and California, what may be in store for the entire globe.

Turning to the war-stricken areas of Afghanistan and the Middle East (including Iran and Israel), several articles show the ability of man to devise more and more sophisticated weapons and war machinery and his inability to live in peace. All of this points to the prophesied scenario of a soon-coming man-made Great Tribulation which will threaten the very survival of all human life.

We conclude with an interesting discovery that the Great Pyramid of Giza was not built with the help of forced labor. The Bible may indicate what famous biblical personage built that pyramid.

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“America Slides Deeper Into Depression”

The Telegraph wrote on January 10:

“December was the worst month for US unemployment since the Great Recession began… [Is] History repeating itself? President Obama has been accused by some economists of making the same mistakes policymakers in the US made in the Great Depression, which followed the Wall Street crash of 1929… The labour force contracted by 661,000. This did not show up in the headline jobless rate because so many Americans dropped out of the system. The broad U6 category of unemployment rose to 17.3pc. That is the one that matters…

“The home foreclosure guillotine usually drops a year or so after people lose their job, and exhaust their savings. The local sheriff will escort them out of the door, often with some sympathy… defaults and repossessions have been running at over 300,000 a month since February [of 2009]. One million American families lost their homes in the fourth quarter. Moody’s Economy.com expects another 2.4m homes to go this year…

“The home seizures are occurring despite frantic efforts by the Obama administration to delay the process… It takes heroic [naivete] to think the US housing market has turned the corner… The fuse has yet to detonate on the next mortgage bomb…Professor Tim Congdon from International Monetary Research said the Fed is baking deflation into the pie later this year, and perhaps a double-dip recession…”

Even though overly optimistic “experts” are telling us that the RECESSION is over, the reality is that we are sliding deeper into DEPRESSION! Irresponsible sugar-coating notwithstanding, we must face the facts. Almost two years ago, we warned in our StandingWatch program that DEPRESSION for the USA is a distinct possibility, and we gave advice to our viewers as to how to prepare for the times ahead. 

Will Americans Flirt Soon With Bankruptcy?

The Financial Times wrote on January 11:

“When Americans are asked what they want – lower taxes, more lavish social spending or the world’s best-funded military machine – their collective answer tends to be ‘all of the above’. The result is that the US is piling up debt… What should worry Americans is that, with entitlement spending set to surge, there is no credible plan to bring the budget deficit under control over the medium term.

“But if the US keeps running huge deficits, sooner or later the country will start flirting with bankruptcy… Sometimes, if a government is truly rotten… it is a good thing if a fiscal crisis leads to political collapse. But for most normal countries, it is much better to get close to the edge of national bankruptcy than actually to go over the Niagara Falls of sovereign default… An actual sovereign default… can destroy confidence and trust among citizens and investors for years.”

It is perhaps beyond imagination that the greatest nation on earth might have to face the possibility of economic ruin! But as we are moving farther and farther away from God, our economic prosperity is by no means guaranteed.

Politics and Racism in America

The Wall Street Journal wrote on January 12:

“[U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid is apologizing to all and sundry for saying in private in 2008 that Barack Obama should run for President because he was ‘light-skinned’ and spoke with ‘no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’ Republicans are calling for Mr. Reid to resign, on grounds of the Trent Lott precedent.

“When the Republican leader in 2002 joked at a birthday party for Strom Thurmond that America might have been better off had the one-time Dixiecrat won his 1948 Presidential campaign, Democrats demanded Mr. Lott’s resignation… Mr. Lott resigned, notwithstanding his profuse apologies.

“In contrast, Mr. Obama and various black Democrats have rushed to Mr. Reid’s defense… here’s hoping the President will be equally quick to absolve the next Republican who says something stupid about race… it would be edifying to the American public to hear this President say so on behalf of someone who isn’t a partisan ally.

“Some Americans, white and black, might be more insulted by Mr. Reid’s implication that most Americans—45 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964—are still so residually racist that they would only vote for a black candidate who isn’t really . . . black. In reality, we saw in November 2008 that Americans were more than ready to elect a black politician who campaigned to be President of all Americans…

“The irony is that Democrats are increasingly the victims of this kind of racial politicking. Bill Clinton’s dismissal of Mr. Obama as a Jesse Jackson-style ‘black candidate’ hurt his wife’s candidacy in 2008. Democratic Congressman Artur Davis, vying to become the first black governor of Alabama, has been declared a traitor to his race for having voted against Nancy Pelosi’s health bill.

“Mr. Reid’s allies are even now responding to critics by playing the race card. Democrats are pointing to the NAACP’s voting assessments of Republicans who have called on him to resign. ‘Senator Reid’s record provides a stark contrast to actions of Republicans to block legislation that would benefit poor and minority communities—most recently reflected in Republican opposition to the health bill,’ says Congressional Black Caucus leader Barbara Lee (D., Calif.). Thus do Mr. Reid’s ill-chosen words morph into the accusation that Republicans are racist for opposing government health care…”

Politicians of all “color” are indeed looking for whatever “argument” or accusation they could use for their advantage. Politics is indeed a dirty business.

Religious Exemption from Mandatory Health Care Insurance?

The Watertown Daily Times wrote on January 9:

“Federal health care reform will require most Northern New Yorkers — but not all, it turns out — to carry health insurance or risk a fine. Hundreds of Amish families in the region are likely to be free from that requirement.
“The Amish, as well as some other religious sects, are covered by a ‘religious conscience’ exemption, which allows people with religious objections to insurance to opt out of the mandate. It is in both the House and Senate versions of the bill, making its appearance in the final version routine unless there are last-minute objections…

“Lawmakers reportedly included the provision at the urging of Amish constituents, although the legislation does not specify that community and the provision could apply to other groups as well, including Old Order Mennonites and perhaps Christian Scientists…

“Marci A. Hamilton, who teaches at the University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, wrote at Findlaw.com in August, ‘If the government can tolerate a religious exemption, then it must do so evenhandedly among religious believers with the same beliefs…

“Congressional aides said the exemption is based on a carve-out the Amish have had from Social Security and Medicare taxes since the 1960s. Whether Amish businesses, however, would fall under the bill’s mandates is still an open question. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who was a key negotiator on the Senate bill, supports the religious exemption, said a spokesman… who called the provision a ‘no brainer.'”

Major Earthquake in Haiti

ABC News reported on January 12:

“A major earthquake struck just off the coast of Haiti late this afternoon, reportedly causing extensive damage in the capital of Port-au-Prince… The quake had a magnitude of 7.0…”

AFP added on January 13:

“Already the poorest nation in the Americas, Haiti has been hit by a series of disasters recently and was battered by hurricanes in 2008… Seventy per cent of Haiti’s population lives on less than two dollars per day, and half of its 8.5 million people are unemployed… food insecurity already affects more than a quarter of Haiti’s population.”

The Associated Press wrote on January 13:

“The strongest earthquake in more than 200 years rocked Haiti on Tuesday… USGS geophysicist Kristin Marano called it the strongest earthquake since 1770 in what is now Haiti. In 1946, a magnitude-8.1 quake struck the Dominican Republic and also shook Haiti, producing a tsunami that killed 1,790 people… ‘Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed,’ [President Rene] Preval told the Miami Herald… Even the main prison in the capital fell, ‘and there are reports of escaped inmates,’ U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said in Geneva. The Roman Catholic archbishop of Port-au-Prince was among the dead, and the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission was missing.”

The Los Angeles Times wrote on January 14:

“On Wednesday, President René Préval described the destruction as ‘unimaginable.’ Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said a preliminary assessment led him to fear that the number of dead could be ‘well over 100,000.'” The German press reported that the number of dead could be over 500,000.

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 14:

“US Secretary of State Clinton has compared the catastrophe to the 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia… the Red Cross estimates that a total of 3 million people have been affected… Police and soldiers from the UN peacekeeping troops cleared the rubble, directed the traffic and security. But they were unable to prevent the looting of the many damaged shops.

“Meanwhile, there were fears of more plundering in the city. ‘At present, people are only thirsty, but when they start to starve we will have an apocalypse here,’ German journalist Anne Rose Schön said in an interview over Skype. During her journey to Port-au-Prince, she said she had witnessed a rising aggression among the city’s inhabitants. ‘Half of this city has been devastated,’ said Schön, who has lived in Haiti for more than a decade. She warned of an increase in the risk of disease…”

Major Earthquake in California

The Los Angeles Times wrote on January 10:

“The day after a powerful earthquake rocked the Northern California city of Eureka, residents woke today to a mess: toppled chimneys, downed traffic signals, and shattered nerves as minor aftershocks continued to rattle windows… there were no reports of major injuries caused by the magnitude 6.5 temblor, which struck offshore at 4:27 p.m. about 33 miles southwest of the coastal city of 26,000. More than 25,000 people were initially left without power…

“Centered about 13 miles deep, the quake was felt as far north as central Oregon, as far south as Santa Cruz and as far east as Reno, the U.S. Geological Survey said. ‘It was a monstrous one,’ said Phil Burns, owner of Mity Nice Bakery Cafe Restaurant in Eureka, which is about 80 miles south of the Oregon border. ‘Usually, they’re sharp, but this one was very wiggly. It was rolling in all directions.’

“In the south Eureka fishing village of King Salmon… residents raced to the only access road to the closest higher ground, the 150-foot-high Bell Hill, in case of a tsunami… None materialized, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Residents of Northern California coastal communities have reason to worry about tsunamis. In 1964, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake off the Alaskan coast sent a catastrophic tsunami to Crescent City, north of Eureka.

“… the area where the earthquake occurred was in the Mendocino Triple Junction, where three tectonic plates collide: the Pacific, North American and Juan de Fuca. It is one of the most seismically active parts of the San Andreas fault system that runs through the state… The last major quakes in the offshore region… were magnitude 7.2 and 6.6 temblors in June 2005.”

God warns of major earthquakes here and there in these end times. These will be one sign of the “beginning of sorrows.” We can indeed expect big earthquakes to rattle this globe in the not-too-distant future.

China’s Ally–Iran

Deutsche Welle wrote on January 12:

“The so-called P5+1 nations (UN Security Council permanent members the US, Russia, China, Britain and France together with Germany) are set to meet later this week to discuss Iran’s failure to agree to a solution that would assuage concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program…

“The meeting has been called after Tehran did not meet a deadline set by the US at the end of 2009 to accept a deal that would have seen uranium being taken out of Iran and returned as enriched fuel rods needed in the production of nuclear energy…

“But chances of any progress toward… punitive measures are slim. China, in particular, does not see eye to eye with the US on the potential threat posed by Iran… The Chinese leadership is also no great believer in sanctions in general.

“… the question of sanctions is not the only issue on which Beijing is closer to Tehran than to Washington… the popular protests in Iran that arose last year after the controversial reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad probably remind Chinese leaders of the pro-democracy demonstrations in China in 1990, which Beijing suppressed with military force…

“Iran is China’s third-largest supplier of crude oil… Iran also supplies the Asian giant with significant quantities of natural gas… China is also one of the leading exporters of products to Iran, and the relationship between the two countries has rapidly been growing closer in recent years.”

With the possibility of China’s veto, we should not expect anything meaningful resulting from the meetings of the P5+1 nations. Israel and the USA are being pushed more and more into the position of having to attack Iran militarily.

Iran Accuses USA and Israel of Terrorist Attack

BBC News reported on January 12:

“Iranian state media have accused Israel and the US of being involved in a bomb attack which killed an Iranian physicist in Tehran… saying there were signs of Israeli and US involvement ‘in the terrorist act’. The US state department dismissed the allegation as ‘absurd’.

“Masoud Ali Mohammadi… was killed by a remotely-controlled bomb. Reports in the Iranian media described Mr Mohammadi as a nuclear physicist, but it appears that his field of study was quantum theory… reports said his name appeared on a list of academics backing opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi before the 2009 presidential election.

“Tensions have been high in Iran since the disputed election led to mass protests against the government… The opposition in Iran will fear that Tuesday’s blast will be used against it as part of a crackdown…”

The current Iranian regime might indeed try to “capitalize” on the death of Ali Mohammadi–as Hitler justified the “Reichskristallnacht” (“Night of the Long Knives”) against Jews after a Jewish socialist had allegedly burned down the Berlin Reichstag building. We might see further terrible oppression and violence in Iran, as well as terrorist attacks against Israeli and American facilities. Iran has vowed that Mohammadi’s murder will have “consequences” for Iran’s enemies.

Science Fiction Nightmare–Armies of Robots…

The Wall Street Journal wrote on January 13:

“Israel is developing an army of robotic fighting machines… In 10 to 15 years, one-third of Israel’s military machines will be unmanned, predicts Giora Katz, vice president of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., one of Israel’s leading weapons manufacturers…

“Over 40 countries have military-robotics programs today… Even Hezbollah… flew four Iranian-made drones against Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War… U.S. forces have around 7,000 unmanned vehicles in the air and an additional 12,000 on the ground… In 2009, for the first time, the U.S. Air Force trained more ‘pilots’ for unmanned aircraft than for manned fighters and bombers…

“Military analysts say unmanned fighting vehicles could have a far-reaching strategic impact on the sort of asymmetrical conflicts the U.S. is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and that Israel faces against enemies such as Hezbollah and Hamas. In such conflicts, robotic vehicles will allow modern conventional armies to minimize the advantages guerrilla opponents gain by their increased willingness to sacrifice their lives in order to inflict casualties on the enemy.

“However, there are also fears that when countries no longer fear losing soldiers’ lives in combat thanks to the ability to wage war with unmanned vehicles, they may prove more willing to initiate conflict… Israel and the U.S. have already faced backlash over civilian deaths caused by drone-fired missiles in Gaza, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those ethical dilemmas could increase as robots become more independent of their human masters.”

There does not seem to be an end to man’s ability to devise weapons and machines for war. In the end, man will cause a time of such Great Tribulation that no “flesh” would be saved alive, if it weren’t for God’s intervention. But God will make an end to man’s war-like ambitions, and Christ will come to “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18) and to make “wars cease to the end of the earth” (Psalm 46:9).

The Wild West of Afghanistan

ABC News reported on January 12:

“Guns displayed in public in this part of the world [Afghanistan] are not usually reason for a second glance. They’re everywhere… Lawlessness is part of the culture, and everyone seems to own at least one weapon. Centuries ago, the Silk Road, the major trade route between Europe and Asia which passed right through here, helped eventually [turn] this place into the eastern version of the Wild West.  

“Today, there is a virtual arms race among the nearly 2,000 militias which abound in this country, all armed to the teeth. The Northern Alliance alone, historically one of the most powerful militias, is still said to have more than 7,000 weapons. To fill the void created by inadequate police and courts, guns settle many disputes here, whether tribal, domestic or personal — and there is often little doubt who the winner is.

“… there is not much of a gun control debate here… Cultural change in this part of the world is glacial. ‘The vision of a gun free Afghanistan,’ says the UN, ‘remains as elusive as ever.'”

This Satan-inspired world believes that guns are a major solution to our problems. When Jesus Christ rules this earth, then man will understand the error of his ways. Then, the people will “beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).

Slaves Did Not Build the Great Pyramid

Times on Line wrote on January 11:

“The long-held image of slaves toiling in the Egyptian desert to build the Great Pyramids of Giza was challenged this week by the discovery of new tombs along the pyramids. Egypt’s chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, said that the tombs supported the view that the pyramids were built by free, paid workers — not slaves. ‘These tombs were built beside the king’s pyramid, which indicates that these people were not by any means slaves,’ said Mr Hawass. ‘If they were slaves, they would not have been able to build their tombs beside their king’s.’

“The 4,150-year-old tombs belonged to workers who toiled on the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre, he said. Graffiti on the walls of the tombs calls them ‘friends of Khufu’. Experts say that workers’ tombs from the 4th Dynasty were cone-shaped constructions of mud bricks covered in white plaster — probably meant to mimic the nearby pyramids of the kings.

“The discovery sheds new light on the labourers of that time, said Hawass, showing that the makers of the pyramids ate and toiled. The men who took part in building the pyramids ate well — consuming meat regularly. Hawass said that the ten thousand labourers working on the pyramids ate 21 cattle and 23 sheep sent to them daily from farms in northern and southern Egypt. The work was done in three-month shifts, after which labourers were given the honour of building their mud tombs within the shadow of the pyramids…

“The Greek historian, Herodotus, visited Egypt several thousand years after Khufu’s pyramid was built. He wrote that Khufu forced his people to ‘labour as slaves for his own advantage’ thus prompting the first accounts that the pyramids were built by slaves.

“The myth that Jewish slaves built the pyramids began towards the end of the first century AD, when the Jewish historian Josephus listed pyramid building among the hardships that ancient Hebrews had to endure during their years in Egypt. His idea has persisted, though modern-day historians have concluded that the Great Pyramids were built thousands of years before the Hebrews would have arrived in Egypt.”

We have said for many years that the Great Pyramid of Giza was possibly built by the biblical Job–long before the Israelites became slaves in Egypt. Biblical indications can be found in Job 38:4-7, where God compares the creation of the earth with the building of a pyramid. As a righteous man, Job would not have forced slaves to build the Pyramid. For more information, please watch or listen to Norbert Link’s two video-and audio-recorded sermons, titled, “Lessons from the Book of Job,” Parts 1 and 2, as posted on our Website, dated April 25 and May 2, 2009.

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What is your position regarding the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. Flag?

Our answer addresses strictly the situation in the USA. In regard to other countries, any pledge or its wording would have to be examined on an individual basis, although the principles expressed herein would most certainly apply.

The short answer whether or not it is permissible for a Christian to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag is that the Church of the Eternal God does not feel that it is biblically problematic for a Christian or his children to do so. However, if someone has conscientious problems in that regard, he must of course follow his convictions (compare Romans 14:23).

For our non-American readers, the current version of the Pledge of Allegiance states the following: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our short answer is in accordance with the position which was stated by the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), under its late human leader, Herbert W. Armstrong, who died in 1986. As we are upholding the teachings of WCG under Mr. Armstrong, unless the letter or the spirit of Scripture shows the understanding to be in need of modification (see our Statements of Beliefs), we do not feel that we ought to deviate from this teaching. We also note that in regard to issues which are perhaps less clearly expressed in Scripture, God has given His Church the right to make binding administrative decisions (see Q&A on binding and loosing authority).

The teaching of the WCG under Mr. Armstrong has been as follows, as stated in a letter from the Letter Answering Department:

“Since the words ‘one nation under God’ are used, we are certainly free to take this pledge. It is then understood that our allegiance is pledged only so far as we are not forced to disobey God’s laws. The Bible commands us to be good citizens of the country in which we live. We know God has set government over all human beings, and every Christian should ‘be subject unto the higher powers’ (Rom. 13:1). This is with the understanding that our greater, higher, FIRST allegiance belongs to God.

“A similar question involves saluting the flag. Some believe that saluting the flag is idolatrous. However, saluting is not in itself an act of worship, but merely a matter of showing respect. Through Paul, God commands us to render respect and honor where they are due (Rom. 13:1-7).

“We salute the flag, not because it is the symbol of another god, but because it stands for the freedom and blessings which the Most High God has given this nation.”

As expressed above, our foremost allegiance is to God. We pledge allegiance to our flag (or to the nation it represents) only to the extent that the government does not require us to disobey God’s laws, either deliberately or inadvertently (Acts 5:29). We should not view allegiance to country as a sole, absolute or ultimate allegiance. Rather, we are merely declaring to which country we are pledging national allegiance. We have many allegiances—to our spouse and family, our employer, our church organization, our sports team, etc. Our most important allegiance is our allegiance to God and the Kingdom of God. Any allegiance that supersedes allegiance to God is of course idolatry. The clause “under God” expresses an allegiance that is UNDER one’s allegiance to God. Just as we pay taxes and comply with the laws of the land, we should also render honor and respect where it is due. It would therefore not be wrong to salute or pledge allegiance to the flag, if and when the occasion calls for it.

A pledge is not to be confused with an oath. Christ tells us not to swear (compare Matthew 5:33-37), but pledging is not tantamount to swearing. In fact, the word “pledge” has a wide variety of meaning. Black’s Law Dictionary defines a pledge as “a promise or agreement by which one binds himself to do or forbear something.” Pledging to do something is promising to do it; such as pledging money to a fund or to a favorite charity, especially at regular intervals.

The thesaurus also defines a pledge as “a binding commitment to do or give or refrain from something; ‘an assurance of help when needed.'” A pledge may include a solemn vow of poverty or fidelity. We may pledge to honor our husband or our wife. We may pledge our honor or our silence. A few dictionaries define a pledge as an oath; however, this is technically incorrect. They would also define an “affirmation” as an “oath”–which is likewise technically incorrect.

As a pledge is simply a promise to do or not to do something, it is obvious that children, once they are old enough to understand the meaning of a promise, can give a “pledge.” It is of course expected of the parents to explain to their children the meaning of the “Pledge of Allegiance.”

In an editorial, the late Senior Pastor of the Church of the Eternal God, J. Edwin Pope, wrote the following about the Pledge of Allegiance and related topics (see Update 221, December 9, 2005):

“The Pledge of Allegiance to flag and country was originally written by Francis Bellamy in August, 1892. A minor change in a couple of words was made in 1924, and in 1954 the words ‘under God’ were added to the pledge… The motto, ‘In God We Trust’ was placed on U.S. coins largely because of increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. After many appeals in favor of such a move, Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, by letter dated November 20, 1861, as follows: ‘Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition.’

“Samples were presented and the present wording which is used on U.S. coins today was adopted and passed by the U.S. Congress on April 22, 1864. This motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ was added to $1 silver certificates with printings beginning in 1957. In 1964, the motto was added to Federal Reserve Notes in the amounts of $1, $5, $10, as well as with the $5 United States Note, and in 1966 the motto was added to the $50, and $100 Federal Reserve Notes.

“But a program of stamping out religion on national currency began in 1978 and continues today… Programs are ongoing to declare the Pledge of Allegiance as ‘unconstitutional’ and to not allow it to be recited in public schools because it contains the words ‘under God’…

“God established this great nation as He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to the sons of Joseph. Yet, just as He raised it up, He will put it down if it continues to move in the direction upon which it has now established as its course. We, as a people of God, must not cover our faces to what is looming upon the horizon, as prophesied in the Word of God.”

By way of legal background, we sometimes hear that pledging allegiance to the flag is strictly voluntary in each and every circumstance, but this is not necessarily the case, at least not from a practical standpoint. We read the following in the Encyclopedia of Everyday Law:

“In ‘West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette,’ the Supreme Court ruled that requiring the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments… The decision’s practical effect is to permit voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance but to forbid mandatory requirements that students participate. The decision itself has not been challenged in court, but its requirements have not always been observed. In the 1990s, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) repeatedly defended students in school districts who suffered reprisals for failing to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. In 1998, for instance, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against the Fallbrook Union High School District of San Diego, California, after school officials required a dissenting student to stand silently during the pledge, leave the classroom, or face detention; settling the case out of court, the school district agreed to change its policy…

“The situation for the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is… mixed. Most states, in fact, still have decades-old laws relating to the pledge. Thirty-two states mention some form of school participation in their laws, while twenty states require students to recite it… Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks upon the United States,… outpourings of patriotism and strong renewed interest in having students recite the pledge pushed the issue back to the forefront, with some governments declaring they would use old laws and others vowing to pass new ones.”

We should note that pledging allegiance to the U.S. flag is not necessarily a reflection of improper patriotism. Herbert W. Armstrong did note that there is a “KIND of patriotism which, indeed, IS wrong in the sight of God” (Plain Truth, October 1964). It is that kind of patriotism which is expressed in the form of loyalty to country, as OPPOSED TO other countries. It includes an automatic HOSTILITY toward other countries—either passive or active. THAT kind of patriotism, which is specifically manifested in war, is unchristian (For more information, please read our free booklet, “Should You Fight in War?”).

On the other hand, it is not wrong to love our own country—or even to love our own self. But it is wrong to love ourselves more than others. The Pledge of Allegiance, when properly understood, expresses the principle of right patriotism, specifically including the words “one nation under God.” That makes it clear that our allegiance is to God before country. Love and concern for one’s own country—without discrimination or prejudice against or hostility towards other nations, peoples or races—is not wrong.

In addition, it expresses our desire that our country should be a nation under God–sadly realizing at the same time that our nation is drifting farther and farther away from God and His laws. The same can also be said about our desire for “liberty and justice for all”–knowing that true justice and liberty will only come when Jesus Christ will rule here on earth. It is only then that this nation will REALLY become a nation under God, with true liberty and justice for all of its citizens.

At the same time, many in the Church of God sing the song, “Onward Christian Soldiers,” in their weekly Sabbath services. This hymn includes the line, “We are not divided, All one body we; One in hope and doctrine, One in charity.” Sadly, the reality is that these words are not accurate today; rather, we find the body divided, due to different organizations with diverse doctrines and opinions. But it is not wrong to sing these words, anticipating the time when there will be no more schisms within the spiritual body of Christ.

In conclusion, the Church of the Eternal God does not teach that pledging allegiance to the U.S. flag is inherently wrong or opposed to the Bible or biblical principles. If, however, individuals are conscientiously opposed to participation, then they must follow their conviction. At the same time, as is the case with all matters of individual conscience which are not taught per se by the Church, they must be careful not to attempt to influence others to follow their example, as this might cause division in violation of official Church teaching.

In addition, note our cautionary remark on individual conscience, as stated in our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days“:

“It would be advisable, though, to review the Scriptures to see whether your conscience is based on the Bible or merely on man-made traditions. God never accepts our conviction as justification for the violation of His law, and man-made regulations can, as we saw, cloud the intent of God’s commandments in the minds of men.” In cases of uncertainty, it would be advisable to consult with the ministry.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

A new member letter was sent out this week and posted on the Web. In the letter, Norbert Link discusses the perilous times in which we live and our duty and responsibility as Christians not to conform to the philosophies and not to engage in the politics of this war-stricken world.

A new StandingWatch program was posted on StandingWatch and on YouTube. It is titled, “Never Spank Your Child?” In the program, the following is discussed: The British paper, The Telegraph, reported on January 3, 2010, that occasional proper spanking of children up to the age of eleven has positive results, angering children’s right campaigners. What does the Bible say about proper child rearing and discipline?   

A German sermon was recorded this week and posted on the Web. It is titled, “Neid–ein toedliches Gift, Teil 2” (“Envy–A Deadly Poison, Part 2”).

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Between Haste and Hesitation

by Eric Rank

Living at the latitude and altitude that I do in Colorado, the months of winter guarantee a healthy dose of cold temperatures and snow. This is most significant to me because I commute to my job by bicycle every day. Unless the weather is unreasonably nasty, this daily trek is something I look forward to. However, with winter darkness, ice and snow, this wintery commute can be quite dangerous.

If I was the only person on the road, the danger I face would be irrelevant. Snowy and icy roads are nothing compared to the treacherous cars traveling on those roads with me. I have planned my route to work very carefully in order to avoid traffic as much as possible, but I still come into contact with several vehicles.

When I do come into contact with other cars, I often have to make decisions about exactly what to do. Should I speed up and take a dominant position in the road to avoid a dangerous shoulder? Should I slow down and wait patiently for cars to pass or turn? Sometimes it can be quite difficult to determine what the safest choice is. But certainly, making the wrong choice, whether in haste or hesitation, can put lives at risk.

My spiritual life is not much different. An action I choose to take might affect myself and others in a completely different way depending on the timing. An offer to help someone might come too late to truly be helpful. I may make a decision on a quick impulse, finding myself committed to something I later regret. As a Christian, I know that what I do and how I do it is very important. However, the time I take in performing those actions is also important to consider, whether speed or patience is required.

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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

©2024 Church of the Eternal God