Update 616


Something To Pray About

On December 7, 2013, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “Something To Pray About.”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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Getting On Together

by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

We are told that many people have a calling in this life when they feel the call to the clergy, the medical profession, the sciences or many other careers.  However, the greatest calling of all is afforded to those called and chosen by God.   It is a privilege, not to be underestimated in any way. Being a true Christian carries many duties, obligations and requirements.

The Church of God should be a homogenous group, all pulling in the same direction, with the same goal of growing and overcoming, so that we “may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).   In order to achieve that goal, we must pull together as the people of God, not pull apart.  

I have noted over my 40 years in the church that some members are too quick to spot what they see as a problem, use it as an excuse to disappear to another Church of God group and then it can happen all over again in their new place.   And, the same can be said of a minister who wants to be in charge – he just finds a reason to leave and set up his own group – and the number of groups proliferate!   I don’t believe for a minute that it’s a practice that is pleasing in God’s sight.   We will all have to answer for what we do – and don’t do – and we had better be very careful.   The problem with people not getting on together is not a new one – in fact such problems are as old as the hills.

In his paper, “Neuropsychology of Conflict: Implications for peacemaking,” Douglas E. Noll makes these observations:   “Foreign policy was based on the assumption that rational beings could sit together and work through international disputes and conflicts. Economists built an entire field of study on the assumption that consumers acted ‘rationally’ in maximizing their utility. People engaged in peacemaking, from the interpersonal to the international level, assumed that despite the emotions of conflict, people fundamentally were rational.

“The truth is that we are 98 percent emotional and about two percent rational. Thus, the assumptions underlying many disciplines and practices, especially peacemaking, need significant revisions. By being reactive, we might reject the problem, give up, or feel inadequate to deal with the problem. If the problem is persistent, we might struggle or exit. As the conflict develops, we perceive it as a threat, and we may blame, attack or withdraw. These behaviours constitute our fear reaction system.”

These comments, whilst mainly addressing a secular viewpoint, are nevertheless equally important in the lives of those of us engaged in the Christian way of life.

When there is such an eclectic mix within a church group, it should be easy to see that if our conversion leaves something to be desired, then there is quite a capacity or possibility of potential problems with others.   But it should not be so.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).   Getting on together means seeking peace at every opportunity!    Do we try and make peace or are we always right in our own minds, irrespective of the other viewpoint?   In other words, can we be entreated and sort out, quietly and patiently, whatever stands in our way of being unified with other brethren?

Let us never forget that Satan is in the mix, stirring people up whenever and wherever he can, and he is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10).   If we think that none of this applies to us, then we had better be careful because anyone who thinks that he stands should “take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

And if we can’t get on together, then we are hardly in the business of letting our lights shine (compare Matthew 5:16).  

We see world events coming to a climax with seemingly little time left before Christ’s return, and it is futile to concentrate on anything that will detract us from looking forward to that wonderful event and all that it means.   We simply don’t have time to waste our energy on unfruitful exercises, unnecessary conflicts and ungodly practices.   If we do get involved in such action, then we will be playing straight into Satan’s hands.   He is angry and “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).   We are told to be sober and vigilant but often fall prey to the adversary’s clever tactics.   We haven’t any time for that; all of our time should be spent on living God’s way and doing as His Word instructs us.

But none of what I’ve written today should be news to us.   We know what we should do, but how much do we practice it?  

The answer may be a matter of life and death!

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We begin with more revelations about the “historic deal” between “super powers” and Iran, which cannot be described as anything else but “outrageous.” At the same time, Israel finds itself within the midst of criticism about its “relocation policy” of 400,000 Arab Bedouins, and the USA is facing criticism from Afghanistan and Iraq, while startling facts are revealed about America’s past incompetency regarding its “safeguarding” policy of its nuclear missiles. One can only hope that these past actions are indeed things of the past, and that America has learned from its mistakes.

The relationship between the UK and Europe has reached an unparalleled low point, and many voices are heard from both sides of the channel, pleading for the UK’s exit from the EU. The incredible liberty-defying actions of Britain’s social workers, which kind of unconscionable conduct is, sadly, by no means restricted to Britain, is not helping much, either.

We publish a more balanced opinion on the late Nelson Mandela; and events in Ukraine make one wonder whether Putin’s autocratic and dictatorial Russia will again resort to violent military means.

We conclude with reporting on events related to the Temple Mount; terrible weather conditions in Europe and the USA; a massive hailstorm in South Africa—with hailstones the size of golf balls and apples; a conservative Catholic’s opinion on Pope Francis; and the custom of many to wear crosses as fashion statements or for religious reasons.

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Outrageous Iranian “Deal”

On November 29, the Times of Israel published an article with the following headline:

“How Sloppy US Diplomacy Is Empowering Iran!”

The article continued:

“After all the hype about an interim agreement between Iran and world powers on Sunday, it became clear on Wednesday that the deal is not actually finalized. Not only has the six-month interim agreement not come into effect yet, but also Iran is free to proceed with its military program at full speed until the deal’s final ‘technical’ details have been worked out, as US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki put it…

“Psaki was speaking on Tuesday, just a few hours after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced that his country’s interim agreement with the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany — does not obligate it to stop construction of the heavy-water production plant in Arak, which could be used in the production of weapons-grade plutonium. Zarif said the agreement only required Iran to cease heavy water production at the site.

“Various experts have also said that the agreement published by the White House leaves the Iranians the ability to manufacture crucial components for their nuclear program outside the Arak facility and install them if the site is reopened. The highlight came later on Tuesday when the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced that the agreement Washington published was not the one it had agreed to. If it weren’t so sad, it might almost be funny.

“In her earlier announcement, Psaki explained that there is no clear timetable for implementing the signed interim agreement with Iran. If that is really the case, someone on the American negotiating team in Geneva deserves a prize for incompetence – or possibly for misleading the public. Leaving aside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s contempt for the interim accord, and his now openly problematic relationship with President Barack Obama over this most acute of crisis, certain Arab countries, particularly those belonging to the Saudi-Egyptian camp, see the handling of the negotiations with Iran and the resulting agreement as part of [a] trend. The White House, they say, is reliably amateurish and clumsy when attempting to intervene in the Middle East…

“The nuclear issue is not the only one that worries various countries in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia. ‘The [Persian] Gulf countries are now concerned that the US is essentially supporting Iranian hegemony in the region… According to Susser, if these processes continue, the Arab countries will have no choice but to tighten bonds with Iran. ‘They won’t like it but they may not have any other alternative,’ he said.”

It remains doubtful whether Sunni and Shia countries will indeed form a tight confederation. It is more likely that certain Arab countries will seek support from Europe. But the article’s description of American politics in the Middle East is stunning: “sloppy diplomacy,” “incompetence,” “reliably amateurish and clumsy,” “possibly… misleading the public.”

Outrage Over Israel’s “Relocation Plan”

The Wall Street Journal wrote on November 30:

“Thousands of Israelis took to the streets across the country Saturday over a government plan to displace some 40,000 Arab Bedouins from their lands… The demonstrations are part of an ‘International Day of Rage’ against the Prawer Plan, which is expected to be approved by the Israeli parliament in its final reading by the end of this year. Demonstrations also took place in the West Bank, Gaza and about two dozen countries, including Britain, Germany and Egypt…

“On Friday, musicians Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno, along with more than 50 public figures, published a letter opposing the Bedouin relocation plan in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, calling on the British government to link its relationship with Israel conditional to ‘respect for human rights and international law.’

“The Bedouins, some 192,000, are indigenous residents of the Negev. Half of them live in some 40 ‘unrecognized’ villages, for which the Israeli government does not provide public services. Israeli National Insurance defines these villages as the poorest in Israel, which suffer from overpopulation and lack of infrastructure. According to the relocation plan, most of these villages will be dismantled and the villagers will be relocated to seven towns set up by the government in the 1950s and 1970s.”

One is, sadly, reminded of America’s policy of forcibly “relocating” American Indians and placing them in reservations—a terrible procedure which has caused and is still causing, to this day, enormous suffering for those affected by it.

Iraq’s Grim Future

The Independent wrote on November 28:

“The future of Iraq as a united and independent country is endangered by sectarian Shia-Sunni hostility says Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia religious leader whose Mehdi Army militia fought the US and British armies and who remains a powerful figure in Iraqi politics. He warns of the danger that ‘the Iraqi people will disintegrate, its government will disintegrate, and it will be easy for external powers to control the country’… he expressed pessimism about the immediate prospects for Iraq, saying: ‘The near future is dark.’…

“As Mr Sadr sees it, the problem in Iraq is that Iraqis as a whole are traumatised by almost half a century in which there has been a ‘constant cycle of violence: Saddam, occupation, war after war, first Gulf war, then second Gulf war, then the occupation war, then the resistance – this would lead to a change in the psychology of Iraqis’. He explained that Iraqis make the mistake of trying to solve one problem by creating a worse one, such as getting the Americans to topple Saddam Hussein but then having the problem of the US occupation. He compared Iraqis to ‘somebody who found a mouse in his house, then he kept a cat, then he wanted to get the cat out of the house so he kept a dog, then to get the dog out of his house he bought an elephant, so he bought a mouse again’…

“A main theme of Mr Sadr’s approach is to bolster Iraq as an independent nation state, able to make decisions in its own interests. Hence his abiding hostility to the American and British occupation, holding this responsible for many of Iraq’s present ills. To this day, neither he nor anybody from his movement will meet American or British officials. But he is equally hostile to intervention by Iran in Iraqi affairs…

“Why are Iraqi government members so ineffective and corrupt? Mr Sadr believes that ‘they compete to take a share of the cake, rather than competing to serve their people’… At the end of the interview Mr Sadr asked me if I was not frightened of interviewing him and would not this make the British Government consider me a terrorist? Secondly, he wondered if the British Government still considered that it had liberated the Iraqi people, and wondered if he should sue the Government on behalf of the casualties caused by the British occupation.”

To summarize, American and British intervention in Iraq is perceived by Iraqis as a colossal mistake. The stated goal of bringing democracy to the country has been a miserable failure.

Afghan President Condemns US Air Strike

BBC News wrote on November 29:

“Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned a US air strike that killed a small child and injured two women in the southern province of Helmand. Mr Karzai’s spokesman said the raid on a house was another sign of America’s disregard for civilian life. Nato has said it will investigate the strike.

“It comes as Washington and Kabul are finalising a deal allowing US troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014. Mr Karzai refuses to sign the pact, seeking further assurances from the US… Earlier this week his office demanded guarantees that American troops would not raid Afghan homes and that Washington would help start stalled peace talks with the Taliban… Also among his conditions was the return of Afghan nationals held in Guantanamo Bay, according to reports.”

In the midst of “negotiations” regarding American presence in Afghanistan, the USA allegedly engaged in an attack on civilians. Even though the attack was purportedly meant to kill a terrorist, the fact remains that it could not have come at a more inappropriate time. Truly, American conduct overseas seems to be cursed.

Incredible American Incompetency

Mail Online wrote on November 29:

“For nearly 20 years, the secret code to authorize launching U.S. nuclear missiles, and starting World War III, was terrifyingly simple and even noted down on a checklist. From 1962, when John F Kennedy instituted PAL encoding on nuclear weapons, until 1977, the combination to fire the devastating missiles at the height of the Cold War was just 00000000. This was chosen by Strategic Air Command in an effort to make the weapons as quick and as easy to launch as possible…

“The Permissive Action Link (PAL) is a security device for nuclear weapons that it is supposed to prevent unauthorized arming or detonation of the nuclear weapon. JFK signed the National Security Action Memorandum 160 in 1962 that required all nuclear missiles to be fitted with a PAL system… But nuclear experts claim the military was worried about the possibility of command centers or communication lines being destroyed in real nuclear war, stopping soldiers getting the codes or authorization to launch missiles when they were actually needed. So they simply left the security code for the weapons as eight zeros, getting around the security safeguards.

“Dr. Bruce G. Blair worked as a Minuteman launch officer between 1970 and 1974. He has written several articles about nuclear command and control systems… he wrote that Strategic Air Command ‘remained far less concerned about unauthorized launches than about the potential of these safeguards to interfere with the implementation of wartime launch orders.’

“Incredibly, he also writes that the vital combination for America’s nuclear deterrent was even helpfully noted down for the officers. ‘Our launch checklist in fact instructed us, the firing crew, to double-check the locking panel in our underground launch bunker to ensure that no digits other than zero had been inadvertently dialed into the panel,’ Dr Blair wrote…

“Blair wrote an article in 1977 entitled The Terrorist Threat to World Nuclear Programs. This claimed that it would take just four people working together to launch nuclear missiles from the silos he had worked in. That very same year all the PAL systems were activated, and the nuclear codes were changed. Hopefully to something more complicated than 00000000.”

One can always hope, but must wonder…

EU Upset With Britain

Deutsche Welle reported on November 29:

“Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron wants to restrict access for immigrants to the welfare system. EU officials have harshly criticized the proposals. With his campaign, Cameron is attacking a pillar of the EU. In Brussels, Laszlo Andor is not exactly known for his explosive nature. So the interview the EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs gave the BBC on Wednesday (27.11.2013) bordered on an outburst of fury. ‘The unilateral action, unilateral rhetoric, especially as it is happening at this time, is not really helpful. It risks presenting the UK as a kind of nasty country in the European Union. We don’t want that. We have to look into the situation collectively and if there are real problems react accordingly.’

“The Commissioner’s resentment was caused – yet again – by proposals put forward by British Prime Minister David Cameron. In an article for the ‘Financial Times’ he announced plans to curb benefits for immigrants from the European Union for three months and ‘remove’ those who don’t have a job after nine months… EU law, in theory, allows for the expulsion also of EU nationals. But they can come back the following day. That has to stop, says Cameron. He has long called for a ‘re-entry ban’ – 12 months are planned for Romanians and Bulgarians.

“That will be difficult to do under existing law, policy analyst Alex Lazarowicz… believes. ‘That’s a red line under EU law.’ EU citizens can only be banned from entering another EU state under limited conditions – if they’ve committed a crime, for instance. The basic idea behind the freedom of movement is to give EU citizens the option of moving about as freely in the EU as they do in their country of origin (with certain limitations). Restrictions on the free movement of workers may apply to workers from new EU member states for a transitional period of up to seven years. That period runs out for Romania and Bulgaria in January…

“Cameron, therefore, is launching an attack against one of the EU’s fundamental freedoms, without which the internal market is not worth much, say his critics. That’s why the criticism from Brussels was instant and brusque. ‘The freedom of movement for citizens in Europe is a fundamental right which the Commission defends,’ snapped EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, in charge of EU internal affairs. Her colleague Viviane Reding topped it in an interview with news agency Reuters: ‘Free movement is non-negotiable,’ the Justice Commissioner said. ‘If Britain wants to leave the single market, you should say so. But if Britain wants to stay a part of the single market, free movement applies. You cannot have your cake and eat it, Mr Cameron!’”

We are not taking political sides. However, what is interesting to note is the ongoing rift and deepening gulf between Great Britain and continental Europe. The Bible strongly indicates that Great Britain will exit the EU.

Europeans Find UK to Be Hostile to the EU

The Guardian wrote on November 30:

“… a new four-nation poll suggests the UK could be heading out of the EU. The landmark survey of more than 5,000 voters in the UK, Germany, France and Poland finds British people far more hostile to the EU and its policies than those in the other EU states, and strikingly low support for British membership among people on the continent.

“… just 26% of British voters regard the EU as, overall, a ‘good thing’ compared with 42% who say it is a ‘bad thing’. In Poland 62% say it is a good thing and 13% bad; in Germany 55% good and 17% bad, and in France 36% good and 34% bad… Just 9% of Germans and 15% of French people think the UK is a positive influence on the EU, with more Poles, 33%, taking that view.

“Only 16% of Germans and 26% of French people back the idea of a special deal being struck for the UK… The idea of Britain leaving the EU does not appear to worry our European partners unduly. Just 24% of French voters said a UK exit would have a negative effect, compared with 36% of Germans and 51% of Poles…”

The German press, including Der Spiegel and the Local, have picked up the story, saying that the “gulf widens between UK and EU nations.”

Scottish Independence Would Mean Exit from EU

The Telegraph wrote on November 27:

“[Spanish Prime Minister] Mariano Rajoy said it was important that Scots were ‘realistic’ about the consequences of a ‘yes’ vote next year and warned against ‘regions’ of member states embarking on ‘solo adventures’… it would mean Scotland having to apply from scratch for EU membership, a process that would take years, and having to negotiate its own opt-out from the euro. The Spanish Prime Minister confirmed a separate Scotland would require the consent of all 28 existing member states, including his country, to join the EU…

“His comments, made in a joint press conference in Madrid with Francois Hollande, the French President, directly contradicted this week’s Scottish Government White Paper on independence. Published on Tuesday, the document said Scotland ‘will continue as a member of the EU’ by completing accession talks in the 18 months between a ‘yes’ vote in September next year and leaving the UK in March 2016.”

Whatever Scotland may decide regarding independence from the UK, it is expected, based on biblical prophecy, that it will not remain a member in the EU.

Outrageous Conduct by Britain’s Social Workers and High Court

The Telegraph wrote on December 1:

“A pregnant woman has had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers. Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child to be taken from her womb. The council said it was acting in the best interests of the woman, an Italian who was in Britain on a work trip, because she had suffered a mental breakdown. The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still in the care of social services, who are refusing to give her back to the mother, even though she claims to have made a full recovery.

“The case has developed into an international legal row, with lawyers for the woman describing it as ‘unprecedented’. They claim that even if the council had been acting in the woman’s best interests, officials should have consulted her family beforehand and also involved Italian social services, who would be better-placed to look after the child…

“The case… raises fresh questions about the extent of social workers’ powers. It will be raised in Parliament this week by John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP… He said: ‘I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme. It involves the Court of Protection authorising a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed. I worry about the way these decisions about a person’s mental capacity are being taken without any apparent concern as to the effect on the individual being affected.’

“The woman… suffered a panic attack, which her relations believe was due to her failure to take regular medication for an existing bipolar condition. She called the police, who became concerned for her well-being and took her to a hospital, which she then realised was a psychiatric facility. She has told her lawyers that when she said she wanted to return to her hotel, she was restrained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

“Meanwhile, Essex social services obtained a High Court order in August 2012 for the birth ‘to be enforced by way of caesarean section’, according to legal documents seen by this newspaper. The woman, who says she was kept in the dark about the proceedings, says that after five weeks in the ward she was forcibly sedated. When she woke up she was told that the child had been delivered by C-section and taken into care. In February, the mother, who had gone back to Italy, returned to Britain to request the return of her daughter at a hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court.

“Her lawyers say that she had since resumed taking her medication, and that the judge formed a favourable opinion of her. But he ruled that the child should be placed for adoption because of the risk that she might suffer a relapse…”

This is a truly outrageous example of authoritarian and dictatorial conduct of alleged democratic governments. We should note the ongoing restrictions of personal liberties and freedoms imposed by totalitarian measures of governmental, medical and judicial officials.

Nelson Mandela Died at 95 – the Myths and Reality

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 5:

“Media and politicians are vying to outdo one another with their tributes to Nelson Mandela who himself disliked the personality cult… Nelson Mandela was no saint, even though that is how the media are now portraying him. Every headline makes him appear more superhuman and much of the admiration is close to idolatry…

“He repeatedly pointed to the collective achievements of the resistance movement, to figures who preceded him in the fight against injustice… When Prisoner Number 46664 was released after 27 years behind bars, he had become a brand, a worldwide idol, the target of projected hopes and wishes that no human being could fulfil alone…

“Who would dare scratch the shining surface of such a man, list his youthful misdemeanors, his illegitimate children? Who would mention his weakness for women, for models, pop starlets and female journalists with whom he flirted in a politically incorrect way when already a respected elder statesman? Who would speak out critically against the attacks he planned when he headed the ANC armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation)? And who would criticize the way he would often explode in anger or dismiss any opinions other than his own?…

“His record as head of government from 1994 to 1999 is also not above reproach… Overdue decisions were not taken, day to day matters were left to others. When choosing his political friends his judgment was not always perfect. A Mandela grandchild is named after Libyan dictator Colonel Moammar Gadhafi. Seen from today’s perspective, not everything fits the generally accepted picture of visionary and genius.

“But Mandela can be excused these lapses because, despite everything, he achieved more than ordinary human beings. His long period of imprisonment played a significant role here. It did not break him, it formed him… His youthful anger dissolved, he mellowed and acquired the wisdom of age. When he was at last released Mandela was no longer burning with rage, he was no longer a revolutionary. This is what some of his fellow freedom fighters now hold against him, although not in public. They wanted a full-blown revolution.

“Mandela wanted reconciliation, at almost any price. His own transformation was his greatest strength; the ability to break free from ideological thought processes and to be able to see the greater whole, the realisation that those who think differently are not necessarily enemies, the ability to listen, to spread the message of reconciliation…

“When Mandela was released from prison in 1990, the old world order of the Cold War era was collapsing. Mandela stood at the crossroads and set off in the right direction. How easily he could have played with fire, sought revenge, or simply failed. He could have withdrawn from public life or, like other companions in arms, earned millions. Two marriages failed because of the political circumstances. His sons died tragically long before him. It was only when he was 80 and met his third wife, Graca Machel, that he again found warmth, partnership and private happiness.

“Setbacks did not leave him bitter, because he regarded his own life as being less important than the cause he believed in. He served the community humbly, with a sense of responsibility, of duty and willingness to make sacrifices, qualities that are today only rarely encountered…

“How small and pathetic his successors now seem. Their battles for power will probably now be fought even more unscrupulously than in the past…”

Will the Events of the “Prague Spring” Be Repeated in Ukraine?

The Associated Press reported on December 1:

“More than 100,000 demonstrators chased away police to rally in the center of Ukraine’s capital on Sunday, defying a government ban on protests on Independence Square, in the biggest show of anger over the president’s refusal to sign an agreement with the European Union. Thousands of demonstrators tried to storm the nearby presidential administration building, but were driven back by riot police using tear gas and flash grenades, which produce a loud bang but are not intended to cause injury. The standoff continued, with more demonstrators arriving.

“The protest was led by prominent opposition politicians, who demanded that President Viktor Yanukovych and his government resign. They also called for a nationwide strike and for tents to be set up to allow demonstrators to remain on the square around the clock… Chants of ‘revolution’ resounded across a sea of yellow and blue Ukrainian and EU flags on the square, where the government had prohibited rallies starting Sunday.

“The crowd was by far the largest since the protests began more than a week ago. Many of the demonstrators had traveled to Kiev from western Ukraine, where pro-EU sentiment is particularly strong… The EU agreement had been eagerly anticipated by Ukrainians who want their country of 45 million people to break out of Moscow’s orbit. Opinion surveys in recent months showed about 45 percent of Ukrainians supporting closer integration with the EU and a third or less favoring closer ties with Russia.

“Moscow tried to block the deal with the EU by banning some Ukrainian imports and threatening more trade sanctions. A 2009 dispute between Kiev and Moscow on gas prices resulted in a three-week cutoff of gas to Ukraine.”

If these protests continue, will Russia militarily intervene as it did in the past, during the “Prague Spring,” when it brutally suppressed the attempts in Czechoslovakia to free themselves from the clutches of the Russian regime? How will Europe act or react? The next article gives different reasons as to why the demonstrations in Ukraine are taking place.

What Is Behind the Protests in Ukraine?

The EUObserver wrote on December 2:

“Watching hundreds of thousands of people flock to the streets of Ukrainian cities, Western audiences may have a feeling of deja vu and think that a second Orange Revolution is in the making. Hundreds of EU flags on Ukraine’s squares have prompted many to think the protest is about the country’s relations with the EU. The violent dispersal of the ‘Euromaidan’ over the weekend has led many others to believe that Ukraine is turning into another Belarus.

“The answer is much simpler. What is driving Ukrainians to the streets is the desire to change the way their country is run… What they are revolting against is the entire political system… Ukraine faces very turbulent times.  Neither the opposition nor the President seem to be in control of the situation… If the Ukrainian political elites do not find a peaceful solution, the situation may get even worse and people’s appetite for radical solutions might increase…”

Jews Demand Right to Pray on Temple Mount

The Washington Post wrote on December 2:

“A small but growing movement by Jewish activists demanding the right to pray at the site of their destroyed temple, in the heart of this disputed capital’s Old City, is creating a potentially explosive clash with the Muslim world, which considers the spot holy and bans Jews from public worship there.

“Each week, hundreds of Jews ascend the creaky wooden ramp built above the Western Wall and enter what is often called the most contested real estate on Earth. Many then embark upon a game of hide-and-seek with their police escorts — whispering forbidden prayers while pretending to talk into cellphones, and getting in quick but banned bows by dropping coins and then bending to pick them up.

“Their proposals, long dismissed as extremist, are now being debated in the Israeli parliament and embraced by an expansionist wing in the ruling coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.These political leaders, many in Netanyahu’s party, want Israel to assert more, not less, control over the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Old City, including the place known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary…

“Two millenniums ago, this place was the site of the Jews’ Second Temple, destroyed in A.D. 70 by Roman legions under Titus, who cast the Jews into exile. The Western Wall, visited by 10 million people a year, is part of the remaining rampart built around the raised temple complex. Together, the wall and the site of the destroyed temple are the holiest landmarks in Judaism.

“The same courtyard is home to al-Aqsa mosque, one of the oldest in Islam, and the Dome of the Rock, the golden landmark where tradition says the prophet Mohammad made his night journey to heaven. For Palestinians and much of the Muslim world, any mention of changing the status quo at the site, the third-holiest in Islam, is incendiary…

“Non-Muslim tourists are welcome to wander freely around the grounds. But non-Muslim prayer is forbidden. Jews in religious garb are taken aside at the entrance by Israeli security officers, screened more closely and sternly warned not to pray, bow, sing, tear their clothes in mourning or display any religious items.

“Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has ruled that Jews should not enter the Temple Mount esplanade, for fear they will accidentally walk upon ground that is part of the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of the temple, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept and only the high priest was permitted to enter. But political leaders are urging that this stance be reexamined. Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, deputy minister of religious affairs, has proposed giving Jews an hour a day to pray there…

“A frequent visitor to the site is Rabbi Chaim Richman, a director of the Temple Institute, whose mission is to prepare for the building of the Third Temple where the Dome of the Rock now stands. He says he envisions a new temple rising toward the clouds, with underground parking, Internet connectivity, radiant heating for the sanctified floors (the priests, in accordance with Jewish law, will be barefoot), and a return of burnt offerings and animal sacrifice.

“In April, Richman’s Temple Institute moved to a large, renovated space in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter, overlooking the Western Wall. The project was funded by Henry Swieca, the billionaire American investor, and his wife, Estee.

“Inside, researchers and artisans have created silver trumpets, wooden lyres and three-pronged forks that would turn over burnt offerings. They sewed a priest’s robe with a breastplate of golden thread and 12 precious stones, as described in the Bible and representing the 12 tribes of Israel. There is a golden menorah and an ark for the covenants. And there are architectural plans. Evidence, Muslim leaders say, that proves that the Jews have literal designs on the mount…”

Did Jesus Travel To Britain?

The Daily Mail wrote on December 3:

“A theory dating back to the Middle Ages suggests that Jesus of Nazareth traveled to Britain in his youth, settling in Priddy, Somerset, and building the first wattle cabin in Glastonbury.

“During the late 12th century, Joseph of Arimathea, the man who donated his own tomb for the burial of Jesus after crucifixion, became connected with the Arthurian cycle… Legend has it that Joseph supposedly took Christ under his wing years earlier when his mother Mary was widowed.”

Storm Hits England and Continental Europe

The Local wrote on December 5:

“Hurricane Xaver hit northern German late Thursday morning and its strength surpassed expectations. Water levels are expected to rise far high than initially thought, putting cities like Hamburg in danger of flooding… The DWD issued an extreme weather warning for the states of Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and Bremen. Travelling from Greenland – Xaver has already hit Scotland, leaving large areas without electricity and killed one person… The storm is expected to hit at high tide leading to fears of a repeat of the floods which devastated Hamburg in 1962.”


AFP wrote on December 5:

“A fierce storm battered northern Europe with hurricane force winds Thursday, leaving five people dead or missing, disrupting travel and forcing thousands to flee their homes over fears of the worst tidal surge in decades. British authorities evacuated 15,000 homes as flooding started on the North Sea coast while Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden all boosted their flood defences.

“Winds of up to 142 miles per hour (228 kilometres per hour) were recorded in Scotland and Britain’s environment agency said the ‘surge along the east coast of England is expected to be the worst for more than 60 years.’

“Hundreds of flights were cancelled across northern Europe while rail and ferry services were shut down and one of Europe’s longest bridges — connecting Sweden to Denmark — was closed… The biggest fear across Europe was from a potentially devastating storm surge which will coincide with high tides in many areas late Thursday and early Friday.

“Police and council officials said they were evacuating 9,000 homes in the county of Norfolk, eastern England, and 1,000 in Essex, southeastern England, before three high tides over the next 36 hours… There was travel chaos as the storm barrelled across the North Sea from Britain towards Germany and northwest Europe…”

The Times added on December 5:

“The waves hit like a ‘mini-tsunami’, a rolling tidal surge that swept down the east coast of England leaving flooding and devastation in its wake. Coastal communities were left battered and underwater last night by the biggest storm surge to hit the country in 60 years – causing ten thousand homes to be evacuated and leaving tens of thousands more without power.”

Ice Storm Hits USA

AccuWeather.com wrote on December 5:

“An ice storm will affect millions of people into Friday and threaten to cut power for hundreds of thousands from northern Texas to western Kentucky… The storm is similar in size and may be similar in magnitude to a storm just several years ago… According to Jesse Ferrell, weather expert and storm chaser for AccuWeather.com, ‘This will be the worst ice storm for the United States since January 2009 and will affect many of the same areas as that storm.’

“The New York Times reported that 1.4 million homes and businesses lost power in that late January storm. Lingering, and in some cases intensifying, cold air in the wake of the storm will prevent the ice from melting quickly and can make immediate cleanup difficult, if not impossible. Many road crews have limited ice-melting compounds at their disposal.

“Adding to potential damage or complicating cleanup further, a second round of ice will follow in some areas over the weekend, as a second large storm rolls in from the Southwestern states…”

Hailstorms and Darkness in South Africa

News24 wrote on November 28:

“A massive hailstorm has hit Krugersdorp in the West Rand in Gauteng on Thursday afternoon. The area was pelted with hailstones that were reportedly as large as golf balls.”

News 24 added on November 29:

“A heavy hailstorm hit parts of Pretoria and the Witwatersrand on Thursday afternoon… During the storm motorists had to turn into petrol stations for cover. By 4pm, the sky had turned a dark grey and the rain started to pour as darkness fell… The hailstorm lasted less than half an hour, with hailstones the size of apples.”

All of this reminds us of what the book of Revelation predicts to occur in the near future on a much wider and more serious scale.

“Pope Francis Is the Catholic Church’s Obama – God Help Us”

Fox News wrote on December 4:

“Pope Francis is undergoing a popularity surge comparable to the way Barack Obama was greeted by the world in 2008. And just as President Obama has been a disappointment for America, Pope Francis will prove a disaster for the Catholic Church… Just like President Obama loved apologizing for America, Pope Francis likes to apologize for the Catholic Church, thinking that the Church is at its best when it is passive and not offending anyone’s sensibilities.

“In his interviews with those in the left-wing media he seeks to impress, Francis has said that the Church needs to stop being ‘obsessed’ with abortion and gay marriage, and instead of seeking to convert people, ‘we need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.’…

“Just like Obama thought he’d won over Putin by promising a reset, Francis thinks by talking vacuously about the poor, he will be respected…Francis not only panders to enemies and professional grievance mongers, but also attacks his allies. Just as Obama snubs Britain and Israel, Pope Francis swipes at practicing Catholics…

“On world matters, Francis’ statements are embarrassing. About communism, a destructive ideology that slaughtered millions of Catholics, he said: ‘Learning about it through a courageous and honest person was helpful. I realized…an aspect of the social, which I then found in the social doctrine of the Church.’

“Apart from the fact that there is no major nation practicing unfettered capitalism (like Obama, Francis loves attacking straw men) there is more real tyranny in socialist cesspools like Francis’ home of Argentina than in places where capitalism is predominant… Like Obama, Francis is unable to see the problems that are really endangering his people. Like Obama he mistakes the faithful for the enemy, the enemy for his friend, condescension for respect, socialism for justice and capitalism for tyranny…”

Wearing a Cross…

Mail On Line wrote on November 30:

“Wearing the Crucifix is now a fashion statement with no religious meaning, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury… Justin Welby said the Cross has been trivialised and ceases to shock or challenge people… ‘As a friend of mine used to say, you might as well hang a tiny golden gallows or an electric chair around your neck.’…

“Archbishop Welby wrote… that the fact that the early church stuck to the story of the crucifixion – despite attacks on it – proves that it is true.  He added: ‘For God to be fully human, and then to die an ignominious death reserved for a criminal, seems so extraordinary and pointless as to be inexplicable. Indeed in the early centuries of Christianity many of the accusations against the church started with the assumption that you could not seriously believe in a God who undertook such a terrible and dishonourable death.’…

“Crucifixion was used by the Romans to execute robbers and other common criminals. Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, abolished the practice in the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD. The Cross became the symbol of Christianity early in the history of the Church, but it had also been used… as a symbol by other religions and cultures… After a legal battle, the European Court of Human Rights issued a landmark ruling earlier this year saying that Christians may wear a cross at work.”

The article contains some truth and much error. That the cross is being worn today by many as a fashion statement, without any religious significance, cannot be denied. At the same time, wearing a cross is not anything a Christian should do, under any circumstances and for whatever reason. As it is remarked in the article, we might as well wear a golden gallows around our necks. The symbol of the cross is pagan, and as the article points out, it was worn or worshipped long before Jesus Christ’s death: “it had also been used… as a symbol by other religions and cultures.” Further, the cross, as being used and “adored” today, was in all likelihood not the instrument of Christ’s death—rather, the Bible speaks of a tree (1 Peter 2:24).

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Is there any significance to the staffs of Moses and Aaron?

In casually reading passages dealing with the staff of Moses and the staff of Aaron, we might perhaps not think that any important significance should be attached to them. However, upon careful scrutiny, some amazing revelations may come to light.

The Hebrew word for the staffs of Moses and Aaron, is “mattheh.” It can mean staff or rod, and it can also mean “tribe,” showing the connection between the staff and the person and even the tribe which is represented by the person. Of course, both Aaron and Moses were of the tribe of Levi.

We are introduced to Moses’ staff in the early chapters of the book of Exodus. We read in the episode with the burning bush, that Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian (Exodus 3:1). (The Midianites were descendants of Abraham and his second wife, Keturah (Genesis 25:2).) Moses had a staff or a rod in his hand (Exodus 4:2), and God told Moses to throw it to the ground, and it became a serpent. When taking it by the tail, it became a rod in his hand (verses 3-4).  This was one of the signs which Moses was to perform in front of his people in Egypt, so that they would believe that God had sent him.

Commentaries are divided as to the exact nature of the staff. Some say that it was the baton or long stick commonly carried by Egyptians of good position and especially by persons in authority. But it is correctly pointed out that Moses had been in Midian for forty years, and it is therefore not likely that he possessed such an article; nor, if he had possessed it, that he would have taken it with him when shepherding. It is therefore to be concluded that it was a shepherd’s crook (compare Leviticus 27:32)—perhaps a long staff, with a curved head, varying from three to six feet in length.

We later read that his staff is called “the rod of God” (Exodus 4:20), and that he used it to perform the miracle in Egypt in front of the Israelites (verses 17, 30-31).

However, if we do not read the story carefully, we may conclude that Moses used his staff to perform all the miracles in front of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, but this is not true. Moses was accompanied by Aaron, his elder brother, who would become Moses’ spokesman, while Moses would be to him “as God” (Exodus 4:15-16). Aaron had his own staff. And it was Aaron’s staff which became a “serpent” before Pharaoh and which swallowed up the “serpents” of the magicians (Exodus 7:9-12). We should note that the “serpent” in the episode with the burning bush is NOT the same kind of creature as the “serpent” in the episode with Aaron and Pharaoh.

As Friedman, Commentary on the Torah points out on page 11, the word used in the latter episode is “tannin” and describes “some giant serpentlike creatures that were formed at (re-)creation… Later, Aaron’s staff (and the Egyptian magicians’ staffs) turns into such a creature (not merely a snake!) at the Egyptian court.”

In fact, the meaning of the word “tannin” is “dragon.”  Friedman adds on page 192 that Aaron’s staff turned into a serpent. “Not a snake. This is different from the snake (Hebrew nahas or nachash) that Moses’ staff  became in Exodus 4:3. Moses performed the miracle for the Israelite elders (4:30). Now, in front of Pharaoh, Aaron’s staff becomes a ‘tannin.’ This is the term that is used for the big sea serpents that God makes on the fifth day of [re-]creation (Gen. 1:21). They are not merely snakes, as people have often pictured them. They are extraordinary creatures…”

As the story in Egypt unfolds, we see that sometimes Moses uses his staff (which had turned into a snake) in connection with the performance of a miracle (Exodus 7:15; note that here the word “nahas” is used, which should be translated as “snake”—not the word “tannin”, which describes a “serpent” or a “dragon”; compare also Exodus 9:23; 10:13). In addition, Aaron’s staff is also being used in the context of the performance of miracles in Egypt (Exodus 7:19; compare also Exodus 8:5-6, 16-17).

Subsequently, Moses is told to lift up HIS staff and divide the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16). It was indeed the Red Sea and not a “Sea of Reeds,” which the Israelites crossed. Friedman explains on page 214 that “there is no such body of water,” called the Sea of Reeds. He continues that the Tanak refers to the eastern arm of the sea—the body of water [in Hebrew “yam sup”] known as the Gulf of Eilat or the Gulf of Aqaba. He states on page 498, in discussing Numbers 21:4, which again refers to “yam sup” or the “Red Sea”: “… the reference to yam sup here, when the Israelites are no longer anywhere near Egypt, must refer to the eastern arm of the Red Sea, which is the only body of water that extends both up into Egypt and to a location far away in the Sinai.”

We also read that Moses was to strike the rock with his staff, with which he struck the river (Nile), and when he did, water came out from the rock in the desert (Exodus 17:5-6), Further, Moses stood on the top of the hill with the “rod of God” in his hand, while the Israelites fought against the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16; in regard to Amalek, a descendant of Esau, see Genesis 36:9-12).

However, Aaron’s rod would also continue to play a significant role as well. We read about Korah’s, Dathan’s and Abiram’s rebellion against Moses and Aaron in Numbers 16. While Korah, a descendant of Levi, wanted to receive the priesthood from Aaron (verses 8-11), Dathan and Abiram, descendants of Reuben, were after Moses’ function as Israel’s leader (compare Friedman, pages 481-482). But God intervened, and fire devoured those 250 men from Korah’s company who offered incense (a task strictly reserved for Aaron and his descendant (verses 35, 40)), and the earth “opened its mouth and swallowed” up those who participated in the rebellion, including Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their followers.

On the next day, the entire congregation of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, accusing them of having killed “the people of the LORD” (Exodus 16:41). God commanded that the leaders of each tribe should provide a rod, and each name was to be written on his rod. Exodus 17:3-10 states that God said: “‘And you shall write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi… And it shall be that the rod of the man whom I choose will blossom’… [E]ach of the leaders gave (Moses) a rod apiece, for each leader according to their fathers’ houses, twelve rods; and the rod of Aaron was among their rods… [O]n the next day… Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds… And the LORD spoke to Moses, ‘Bring Aaron’s rod back before the Testimony, to be kept as a sign  against the rebels, that you may put their murmurings away from Me, lest they die.’”

In Hebrews 9:2-5, we find a reference to Aaron’s rod that budded which was later “in” or “near” the tabernacle. (See Q&A in Update #574, dated 25/01/13, on Hebrews 9:4 and 1 Kings 8:9.)  As the story continues, the Israelites complained again when there was no water at Kadesh, where Miriam died. They gathered against Moses and Aaron, who went to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and God told Moses: “‘Take the rod… Speak to the rod before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock.’ So Moses took the rod from before the LORD…” (Exodus 20:8-9).

Which rod is God addressing? It appears that it is AARON’S ROD which had blossomed, which was “before” or “in front of” the Testimony (Numbers 17:10). It was placed there “as a sign against the rebels.” Moses took it “from before the LORD”—that is, from before the Tabernacle. God told Moses and Aaron to take the rod and SPEAK to the rod in front of the people (Exodus 20:8)—the word “speak” is in the plural, addressing both Moses and Aaron. But Moses struck the rock twice—apparently with Aaron’s consent. In doing so, they “rebelled” against God (Exodus 20:24) and did not hallow Him (verse 12). The staff of Aaron, which should have been a sign against the rebellious people, was misused by Moses and Aaron and became a sign of rebellion against them.

Friedman has these pointed comments:

“God tells them that they themselves did exactly what they were supposed to stop the people from doing. It is especially painful for Moses, who said, ‘Listen, rebels,’ to hear his God apply that word now to him. Leaders of a congregation cannot violate the very instruction that they uphold and teach to others.”

And so, neither Aaron nor Moses were allowed to enter the Promised Land, but because they repented, they will be in the Kingdom of God. At the same time, all the rebellious people of Israel were likewise prohibited from entering the Promised Land—only their children would be allowed to do so.

From a physical standpoint, Moses’ and Aaron’s staffs (in Hebrew mattheh) signified power (Psalm 110:2, same word)—but they also included a warning against pride (Ezekiel 7:10, same word). And we need to realize that a staff or rod can always be broken (Jeremiah 48:17, same word).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

Norbert and Johanna Link will travel to Germany on April 7th of next year. Plans are being made for counseling brethren as well as conducting services for Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread along with finalizing organizational arrangements for the Church in Germany. The Links will return to the US on May 5, 2014. Also, a new German Member Letter has been sent in which plans for the 2014 Feast of Tabernacles are announced. We will again keep the Feast (from October 8 until October 16, departure date October 17) at the same hotel in the Black Forest (Hotel Birkenhof, Freudenstadt) as we did in 2013.

“True Origin of Christmas Customs,” is the title of a new StandingWatch program presented by Evangelist Norbert Link—here is a summary:

Why do we sing Christmas carols? Why did the Catholic Church ban them in the past? Why do we exchange gifts on Christmas? Who is the real Santa Claus? Why do we use Christmas candles? What is the origin of the Christmas tree? What do pagan beliefs in tree spirits have to do with Christmas? Our free booklet, “Don’t Keep Christmas,” answers these and many more questions. It shows you what God, in His Bible, has to say about all of this.

“Demons On the Loose,” last week’s Sabbath sermon by Norbert Link, is now posted for viewing–here is a summary:

God did not create Satan and demons. And still, they exist! How is this possible? In what way do they influence man? What powers do they have? Could they affect and deceive you? Why is it so dangerous to dabble in the occult? How can we conquer demons?

“Die Herrschaft der Dämonen” is this week’s German sermon, and it covers much of the same material presented in Mr. Link’s sermon noted above. The title in English is, “The Rule of Demons.”

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The Ties That Bind

by Laura Harris

Last year, my older son returned from school with a “wish list” project.  The only thing he wrote on his sheet of paper was, “I wish I had a friend.”  As his mother, my heart broke to read those words.  Although he was well liked by all his classmates, he found it difficult to make a meaningful connection to any of his peers.  I want my son to reap the benefits of healthy friendships, which include an increased sense of belonging and purpose, boost in happiness, ability to cope with trauma and better physical and psychological health.

I know that as humans, we crave genuine contact with others in this world.  Friendships are vital for our well-being, but they take time to develop.  I also had to explain to my son that as with all relationships, friendships go through different stages and cycles, and that in some cases, friendships end. 

I am well aware that with the advent of Facebook and other social media tools, the term “friend” has taken on a new meaning.  I need to ask myself, what makes a good friend?  According to Dr. Lissa Rankin, a true friend can be characterized as:  wanting the best for the other person, showing sympathy and empathy, being honest, having understanding and compassion, enjoying each other’s company, being trustworthy, and having equal reciprocity.  I told my son that in order to keep our friends, we must nurture these relationships by respecting boundaries, not becoming jealous or envious, avoiding gossip and complaining, listening, reserving judgment and respecting privacy.

I am reminded of the many stories in the Bible about friendships, which are meant to inspire me.  I am also warned by God through His Holy Book to be careful whom I choose for friends, as their attitudes and behaviors can impact me.  With guidance from God and His ministers, I can surround myself with positive and uplifting influences in this world.

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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