Update 625


Why Together?

On February 8, 2014, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “Why Together?”

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; 8:30 pm Greenwich Mean Time; 9:30 pm Central European Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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A Misleading Emotional Moment

by Norbert Link

President Barack Obama’s otherwise forgettable State of the Union Address 2014 ended with a carefully staged emotional conclusion, prompting  an “ear-splitting, two-minute standing ovation” from “Congress and the Joint Chiefs of Staff” (Time, January 28). In presenting the recovering 30-year old Army Sergeant 1st Class Cory Remsburg, who, more than four years ago, “ended up floating in an Afghan canal after a roadside bomb detonated nearby with an ear-shattering explosion, sending shrapnel into his brain and right eye, and putting him into a three-month coma,” patriotic feelings and the admiration for America’s military overshadowed for a brief moment the dire and foreboding state of the Union—and with it the sobering realization of the inevitable downfall of our nation which President Obama’s speech could in no way negate or sugar-coat.

When I watched the theater-like circus on television, many questions and emotions ran through my head. I felt sorry for Cory Remsburg—not only for his serious injury and his long road of recovery and for him being used as a spectacle to score some points in the President’s speech—but I also felt sorry for all the Congress men and women and all the others in attendance, and for the overwhelming majority of the American people who, being swept away by falsely understood emotional nationalism, applauded conduct which God simply does not support.

Time Magazine wrote on January 28 that “Sgt. 1st Class Remsburg joined the Army on his 18th birthday, after his father, Craig—a retired Air Force Reserve firefighter—refused to sign the papers for him to join on his own at age 17. Now his father, sitting next to him Tuesday night, and stepmother, Annie, are Remsburg’s caretakers, as he continues his long march, back to being all that he can be.”

And so, we are continuously being confronted with war-related tragedies in the lives of young people—which also affect parents, grandparents, family members and friends—which need not have happened in the first place. But as long as we cheer for war and fighting in war, these terrible situations will continue.

Following the above-mentioned article by Time magazine, some published comments from readers were rather interesting. For instance this one:  “The applause would seem sincere if many of those same individuals had been as enthusiastic about keeping troops out of harm’s way to begin with.”

Another reader said: “What is missing here is the story.  This story has no point.  Guy got injured and is now recovering and coming home.  I’m left wondering what… Obama has to do with anything.”

This last comment prompted an emotional reaction from another reader: “The story is that our military are sacrificing for this nation and other nations in the free world.  The price many of them pay is life long.  The price others pay is permanent. That is the story.”

Herein lie the delusion and the dilemma. Where in the Bible do we read that our nation should sacrifice our young men and women to be maimed or killed in war? Human sacrifice is strongly condemned by God, and so are ALL our human wars.

The website reason.com published this insightful comment:

“The most emotionally powerful moment in Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was also its most morally dubious. The nation’s commander in chief drew attention to a wounded warrior while eliding any responsibility for placing the young man in harm’s way… The government under Republican and Democratic presidents has spent virtually the entire 21st century sending young men and women to fight in ill-defined and unsuccessful elective wars. That’s bad enough, but then to use them as props in political speeches? That’s positively obscene…. What exactly was Remsburg – or any of his fellow soldiers – fighting for in Afghanistan? The president didn’t offer any explanation in his State of the Union address and you’d search his past speeches in vain for a clear and compelling reason, too.”

Even though The Associated Press misconstrued the President’s presentation of Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg as non-political, it had to admit the following in its article of January 29:

“The president used the moment to help draw attention to the sacrifices and stories of wounded veterans who try each day to rebuild bodies and minds torn apart by war… One of those who have fallen is Wendy Holland’s son, Robert Sanchez, 24, who died in the same explosion that wounded Remsburg.”

Robert Sanchez–another young man who died uselessly and needlessly in an ill-defined war. But what we must understand—and what, sadly, our “patriotic” and war-torn nation is simply refusing to acknowledge, is that ALL our wars are wrong. The Bible is full of warnings for us not to fall into the trap of an emotionally motivated approval of human conduct which God condemns.

Jesus Christ gave us this very powerful commandment: “Put your sword in its place, for ALL who take the sword will PERISH by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). The Apostle Paul is telling us in Romans 3:15, 17 that our feet are swift to shed blood, and that we have not known the way to peace. Christ told the Jews at His time that the things that make for peace were hidden from their eyes (Luke 19:42). They are still hidden from our eyes today—from this entire nation and from ALL nations around the world.

Man’s conviction that we can bring peace through war is so misleading, so faulty and so terribly wrong. When Christ returns to this earth to set up the righteous government of God, He will instruct man in the way to peace. Man’s heart will change and be open to correction and sound teaching, and then man will destroy his weapons of war and replace them with instruments of peace (Isaiah 2:4). Man will begin to understand then what true Christians must understand, uphold and exemplify today. They are to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), seeking peace and pursuing it (1 Peter 3:11). They are to be counselors of peace—not war (Proverbs 12:20), and they are to preach the gospel of peace (Romans 10:15; Isaiah 52:7). They are to live in peace, and THEN the God of peace will be with them (2 Corinthians 13:11).

The question is: Are we doing this?

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We begin with developments in the Middle East and Afghanistan and continue with reports about Germany, Russia and Ukraine.

We speak of the frightening creation of a most powerful laser weapon; point out biblical interest –and the lack thereof–of the population in some American cities; and address the demand of many Roman Catholics for reforms in their church.

Other articles report on new findings pertaining to “mad” Ludwig II, king of Bavaria; individual penalties in Obamacare regulations; and the deadly danger of third-hand smoke; and we conclude with weather conditions in Britain, California and Indonesia.

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Israeli Prayers Against John Kerry

rt.com wrote on January 31:

“Thousands of Israeli Jewish hardliners gathered at the Western Wall imploring God to throw a wrench in a peace plan proposed by US Secretary of State John Kerry, which would see a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem and other territorial compromises. Police say around 2,000 people attended the gathering in Jerusalem’s Old City, where participants called on God to strike fear in the hearts of those who might cause harm to the land of Israel. Housing Minister Uri Ariel and other members of the far-right Jewish Home party, which forms part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition but fiercely opposes a two-state solution, were in attendance.

“In a not-so-veiled reference to Kerry’s role in peace negotiations, Ariel said ‘thousands of people came to pray for the people of Israel, to strengthen the government and the one who stands at its head, that he may be able to stand firm against the different pressures coming from the other side of the ocean,’ Israeli National News reported… Kerry, who is set to visit Israel for the 11th time in under a year, has enraged hardliner Israelis with a peace plan that reportedly includes an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital… Moshe Cohen, of the Beit El settlement, who was one of the Western Wall event’s organizers, told AFP: ‘Kerry’s plan endangers us since he wants to separate between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.’…

“Discomfort over Kerry’s plan and the alleged influence he is yielding over Netanyahu has led some in the Israeli government to accuse Kerry of anti-Semitism.  Knesset member Motti Yogev from the right-wing Bayit Yehudi Party told Israeli Radio that Kerry’s ‘anti-Israeli roots’ preclude him from being a fair mediator… Yogev said most senior officials from Netanyahu’s center-right Likud party agree with him…

“Earlier this month, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon was forced to apologize after calling Kerry’s drive for peace as ‘messianic’ and ‘obsessive.’… Meanwhile, Netanyahu sparked a crisis in his governing coalition Sunday by saying that Jews currently living in the West Bank would live under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority (PA)… New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman… who is viewed as being exceptionally close to the Obama administration, said Kerry has been ‘fanatically relentless’ but also ‘highly sophisticated’ in his attempts to bring both sides together. He says Netanyahu is clearly aware ‘that some kind of two-state solution is necessary for Israel’s integrity as a Jewish democratic state, with the healthy ties to Europe and the West that are vital for Israel’s economy,’ but is ‘deeply skeptical about Palestinian intentions.’”

The Telegraph added on February 2:

“John Kerry, the US secretary of state, triggered an angry backlash from Israeli leaders on Sunday after warning Israel faces an economic boycott if it failed to reach a peace accord with the Palestinians… Yuval Steinitz, the intelligence and strategic affairs minister and a close ally of Mr Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said America’s top diplomat was ‘holding a gun to [Israel’s] head’…

“Naftali Bennett, the industry minister and leader of the far-Right Jewish Home party, said: ‘We expect of our friends in the world to stand by our side against the attempts to impose an anti-Semitic boycott on Israel, and not to be their mouthpiece.’ His comments were echoed by Adi Mintz, a senior official in the Settler’s Council, who accused Mr Kerry of ‘an anti-Semitic initiative’. ‘The anti-Semites have always resorted to a very simple method – hit the Jews in their pockets,’ he told Israel’s Channel 10 TV station. Mr Netanyahu was more restrained, telling Sunday’s cabinet meeting that efforts to impose a boycott were ‘immoral and unjust’ and doomed to fail.”

The relationship between the USA and Israel is bound to deteriorate more and more. To label John Kerry as an anti-Semite is absolutely preposterous.

The Unending Conflict in the Middle East

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 31:

“World War I may have ended in 1918, but the violence it triggered in the Middle East still hasn’t come to an end. Arbitrary borders drawn by self-interested imperial powers have left a legacy that the region has not been able to overcome… In no other theater of World War I are the results of that epochal conflict still as current as they are in the Middle East. Nowhere else does the early 20th century orgy of violence still determine political conditions to the same degree. The so-called European Civil War, a term used to describe the period of bloody violence that racked Europe from 1914 onwards, came to an end in 1945. The Cold War ceased in 1990. But the tensions unleashed on the Arab world by World War I remain as acute as ever. Essentially, the Middle East finds itself in the same situation now as Europe did following the 1919 Treaty of Versailles: standing before a map that disregards the region’s ethnic and confessional realities.

“In Africa, Latin America and — following the bloodletting of World War II — Europe, most peoples have largely come to accept the borders that history has forced upon them. But not in the Middle East. The states that were founded in the region after 1914, and the borders that were drawn then, are still seen as illegitimate by many of their own citizens and by their neighbors… No group of countries, particularly given their small sizes, has seen so many wars, civil wars, overthrows and terrorist attacks in recent decades. To understand how this historical anomaly came to pass, several factors must be considered: the region’s depressing history prior to World War I, the failure of the Arab elite and the continual intervention by the superpowers thereafter, the role of political Islam, the discovery of oil, the founding of Israel and the Cold War.

“Perhaps most important, however, was the wanton resolution made by two European colonial powers, Britain and France, that ordered this part of the world in accordance with their own needs and literally drew ‘A Line in the Sand,’ as the British historian James Barr titled his 2011 book about this episode [also referred to as the] ‘Peace to End All Peace,’ as Fromkin’s book is called.

“… the unresolved conflicts left behind by World War I, combined with the spill-over effects from the catastrophic World War II in Europe — the founding of Israel, the Cold War and the race for Persian Gulf resources — added up to a historical burden for the Middle East. And they have resulted in an unending conflict — a conflict that has yet to come to an end even today, almost 100 years after that fateful summer in 1914.”

Actions always have results. What we are seeing in the Middle East has of course been prophesied to occur—but this does not in any way justify past conduct of world powers which at least contributed to the current disaster.

Kerry Admits to Failure of US Policy in Syria

The Washington Times wrote on February 3:

“Two senators said Secretary of State John Kerry admitted to them behind closed doors that the White House position and policy on Syria was failing. He made the startling admission during private remarks to 15 congressional members, said two senators who were in the room, The Daily Beast reported. ‘[Kerry] acknowledged that the chemical weapons [plan] is being slow rolled, the Russians continue to supply arms, we are at a point now where we are going to have to change our strategy,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was in the meeting, which took place on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, The Daily Beast said. The other senator in the room who confirmed the discussions: John McCain, the outlet reported.

“Mr. Kerry also reportedly told the congressional members that he thinks Syria President Bashar Assad is not keeping his promise to turn over chemical weapons as scheduled and that neither the Geneva peace talks nor the Russians were proving helping in forging a peace deal, The Daily Beast said.”

Another US attempt in foreign policy which is failing. Also note the next article.

US Failed Road Building Policy in Afghanistan

The Washington Post wrote on January 30:

“They look like victims of an insurgent attack — their limbs in need of amputation, their skulls cracked — but the patients who pour daily into the Ghazni Provincial Hospital are casualties of another Afghan crisis. They are motorists who drove on the road network built by the U.S. government and other Western donors — a $4 billion project that was once a symbol of promise in post-Taliban Afghanistan but is now falling apart. Western officials say the Afghan government is unable to maintain even a fraction of the roads and highways constructed since 2001, when the country had less than 50 miles of paved roads. The deterioration has hurt commerce and slowed military operations. In many places, the roads once deemed the hallmark of America’s development effort have turned into death traps, full of cars careening into massive bomb-blast craters or sliding off crumbling pavement…

“Since 2012, the United States has refused to fund the Afghan government’s road maintenance projects because it has no faith in the country’s ability to perform even simple tasks, such as dispatching a contractor to fill in a pothole or repaving a stretch of highway. Despite those concerns, the U.S. government is still building new roads in Afghanistan, multimillion-dollar projects whose funds were allocated years ago…

“Before the U.S. invasion in 2001, almost all of Afghanistan’s roads — mostly Soviet-built — had been destroyed by war and neglect. The new, U.S.-built highways seemed to be a godsend for this impoverished nation. But the projects became notorious for their exorbitant costs and poorly implemented contracts. Sometimes, money landed in the hands of the Taliban in exchange for a tacit cease-fire during road construction…”

More Devastating Revelations About the NSA

Der Spiegel Online wrote on February 5:

“It wasn’t only Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone that was on the NSA’s target list… Now it appears that, in addition to eavesdropping German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile communications, the National Security Agency was also eavesdropping on Gerhard Schröder’s phone while he was still chancellor. On Tuesday night, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and NDR reported that Schröder had appeared on the so-called National Sigint Requirement List, a list of people and institutions named for targeting by the intelligence agency whose telephone communications should be monitored…

“The reports cite unnamed US government and NSA insider sources claiming that Schröder was declared a target for monitoring because of his critical position on US preparations for a war in Iraq. A person with knowledge of the action is quoted as saying that the US had reason to believe that Schröder would not help lead the alliance toward success…

“In Germany, the revelations appeared to create new tensions in German-American relations. Speaking to SPIEGEL ONLINE, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas, of Schröder’s center-left Social Democratic Party, accused the NSA of conducting indiscriminate mass surveillance…

“When SPIEGEL reported in October 2013 that Angela Merkel’s mobile phone had been tapped — even as far back as 2002, when she headed the conservative Christian Democratic Union party before becoming German’s leader — the article prompted massive outrage in Berlin. Further stories showed that the US intelligence service had also been eavesdropping on numerous other world leaders. In a speech addressing the NSA scandal, US President Barack Obama pledged that his agencies would no longer eavesdrop on the leaders of allied countries in the future. However, he at the same time imposed conditions that still give the intelligence agencies plenty of room for maneuver…

“In their reports, Süddeutsche and NDR claim the NSA was tasked not only with collecting metadata, but also information about when and with whom each target was speaking. The contents of telephone calls and SMS messages were also captured. And this appears to have applied to both Merkel and Schröder.”

Germany Gives Britain a Lukewarm Reception

The Local wrote on February 3:

“Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier gave a lukewarm reception on Monday to Britain’s hopes of EU treaty change, days after France poured cold water on any renegotiation of London’s membership. Speaking after he met his British counterpart William Hague, Steinmeier said Europe’s economic powerhouse Germany appeared to have different views on the issue of changing the 28-member EU’s treaties. Prime Minister David Cameron’s hopes of renegotiating Britain’s relationship with the EU had largely rested with Germany, after President Francois Hollande of France said last week that treaty change was ‘not a priority’…

“Under pressure from eurosceptics in his Conservative party, Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain’s position in the EU and put the new deal to a referendum in 2017, provided that he wins the next election in May 2015. Cameron in particular wants to repatriate some powers from Brussels, as well as giving extra legal powers to protect the 10 member countries including Britain that do not use the euro currency…”

The UK will not stay within the EU, and it will never adopt the Euro.

Most Germans Opposed to Bigger Military Role

AFP wrote on January 31:

“Most Germans oppose a bigger role for their military in the world’s trouble spots despite a push by the country’s new defence minister, a poll released Friday indicated. Asked whether they would support more deployments of Bundeswehr forces to crisis regions, 61 percent said ‘no’ versus 30 percent who would back such moves… Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new defence chief Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview last weekend that Germany should engage more strongly in Africa by sending additional military trainers to Mali and supporting the French intervention in Central African Republic… The remarks triggered a debate in a country still marked by its militaristic past…”

Even though the majority of the people might not want a bigger military role of their country, sadly, prophecy reveals that, in part due to pressure from other nations, Germany is going to become a very powerful military might. See the next article.

Merkel to Extend German Military Engagement in Afghanistan?

Deutsche Welle reported on February 5:

“Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet on Wednesday recommended to parliament that it extend Germany’s military deployment in Afghanistan until late December, the planned end of the NATO-led international combat mission. The Bundestag parliament is due on February 21 to make decisions on whether to mandate German military deployments, including 10 further months for Afghanistan and a plan to send extra personnel to train Mali’s army…

“Shortly after the cabinet session, it was reported that Germany’s new defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, had set out on a visit to Africa. Her destinations were not disclosed… Germany began a major reorganization of its Bundeswehr armed forces in 2010. The reform foresees 185,000 soldiers of which up to 10,000 could be deployed abroad on internationally mandate missions.”

Russia Warns Ukrainian Opposition

BBC News wrote on February 3:

“Russia has urged Ukrainian opposition leaders to end their campaign of ‘ultimatums and threats’ and to step up negotiations with the government. Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow was concerned by activists’ attempts to ‘inflame’ the situation.

“Protesters in Kiev have repeated their calls for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych, who is now back at work after four days of illness. The EU and US are considering a big loan to help debt-laden Ukraine… It’s an understatement to say that the plan depends on a number of variables. President Yanukovych’s acceptance of the plan – if it is offered – is one of the main ones. Another is the reaction to the protesters on Kiev’s streets, who might not welcome the possibility of a ‘national unity’ government, which leaves Mr Yanukovych in power…

“European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso insisted that the EU was not going to enter into a ‘bidding competition’ with Russia to win Ukraine’s loyalty. Russia promised a $15bn (£9bn) aid package to Ukraine last year, but has indicated the next tranche will not be given until a new government is formed, following the resignation of the prime minister and cabinet last week.”

Ukraine will ultimately turn to Russia and disassociate from Europe.

Most Powerful Laser Weapon Fired

Mail On Line wrote on February 3:

“Lockheed Martin fires most powerful portable LASER weapon it has ever created in hi-tech race to replace missiles… It is a weapon that could mean the end of traditional missiles. Lockheed Martin revealed it has tested the a 30-kilowatt electric fiber laser, the highest power ever fired.

“The firm says the weapon could eventually be mounted on jets, tanks and fighter planes – and will more than triple in strength before being used in combat… The project has received funding from the US Army, which is also working with Boeing on a laser mounted weapon.”
Man has still not learned that his weapons of war will only bring destruction. As he advances in his developments of more and more powerful weapons, he is fast approaching the prophesied threat of total self-annihilation.

Bible Mindedness in American Cities

Time wrote on January 22:

“America, you may have a new Sodom and Gomorrah. The two least ‘Bible-minded’ cities in the United States are the adjacent metros of Providence, R.I., and New Bedford, Mass., according to a study out Wednesday from the American Bible Society. The study defines ‘Bible-mindedness’ as a combination of how often respondents read the Bible and how accurate they think the Bible is…

“Tennessee… is the most devout [state] in the union. Chattanooga was found to be the most Bible-minded city in America, a title it won from last year’s victor, Knoxville… ‘Not surprisingly, many cities in the East Coast continued to rank as the least Bible-minded in 2013,’ says a press release.

“Surprisingly, that den of sin called New York City didn’t make the top ten least Bible-minded cities, coming in at 89th in the list of 100. Suspecting New York’s large Jewish population may have rescued it from the bottom ten, TIME inquired as to whether the Torah counted as the Bible for the purposes of the survey. A spokesperson said questioners left it up to respondents to determine what they considered to be the sacred text, but the question asked was, ‘How many times do you read the bible outside of church or a synagogue?’”

In an accompanying chart, “Bible-minded” cities were listed in Missouri and Alabama, while least “Bible-minded” cities were identified in California and Iowa.

Catholic Church in Need of Reform?

Der Spiegel Online wrote on February 3:

“The Vatican last year sent out a survey to Catholics around the world focusing on attitudes to sex and sexuality. The responses are now in — and they show that the Church is badly in need of reform. Can Pope Francis meet such expectations?…

“SPIEGEL has taken a closer look at the mood in all 27 German dioceses… The outcome is devastating for the guardians of pure doctrine… Even in conservative Bavaria, 86 percent of Catholics do not believe it is a sin to use the pill or condoms, both condemned by the church. A look into the congregations reveals that Rome could soon be facing a wave of protest unlike anything the Vatican has experienced in a long time.

“… could it be that while the tone has changed at the Vatican, the substance remains unchanged? The Argentine pope has not eliminated or even softened a single dogma of his rigid church, even though he has the power to do so…

“The most contentious issue is the church’s strict prohibition of contraception, which almost all Catholics ignore… The Vatican’s notion that couples should only live together and have sex after marriage is equally outdated. Living together before marriage ‘is an unmistakable reality today,’ notes the Diocese of Augsburg. The same conclusions are drawn throughout the alphabet of dioceses, ending with Würzburg, where ‘about 90 percent of all couples practice cohabitation ‘ad experimentum’…

“Hardly anyone among the faithful understands how the various prohibitions are supposed to fit together. To begin with, couples are not supposed to have sex before marriage. Once they are married, they are not permitted to use birth control. And if the marriage fails, the church has other objections. Many Catholics are especially incensed over the treatment of people who have been divorced and then remarried, which, according to the wording of the survey, places them in ‘irregular marriage situations’ and excludes them from communion…

“Another group the church accused of committing sins also enjoys considerable support from the base: homosexuals. ‘Many Christians cannot understand this attitude,”’ the staff of Cologne’s Cardinal Joachim Meisner concluded after reading the survey responses they received…

“Finally, many Christians took advantage of a unique opportunity to tell the pope how they felt about issues that were not even included in the survey. One is the vow of chastity for the clergy… The parishioners [want] to see the church do away with mandatory celibacy.

“… the public pays little attention when the Vatican… energetically defends Catholic doctrine. The church’s new leader has already sent the relevant signals to the Roman Catholic community. ‘I am a son of the church,’ he reassured the curia…

“The retired pope [Benedict]  is the fixed star of the traditionalists in the Roman Catholic Church. His residence, the Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church) monastery, is only a few steps from St. Peter’s Basilica, set idyllically in the Vatican gardens. It forms the intellectual center of old Catholicism. Joseph Ratzinger keeps the strict worldview of his era alive through his presence alone. Benedict was in poor health during the weeks following his resignation. He suffered from heart and circulatory ailments, was emaciated and weak and plagued by depression. Many in his circle were convinced that he was dying. But then he recovered. His ideal of a spiritual church as an antithesis to a secularized, uninhibited society is very much alive. For the conservative establishment, Ratzinger continues to set the standard today.

“Of course, the retired pontiff keeps a low profile when it comes to the public… The old elites are not as discreet…

“A year of decisions is beginning for Francis and his church. Will the calls for attention from the basis be heard behind the thick walls of the Vatican? Can laypeople expect the church to change in accordance with their wishes?… Even Francis’s open-minded advisers are concerned that he will be unable to put the genie back into the bottle. Marcello Semeraro is the secretary of Pope Francis’ ‘crown council,’ the group of eight cardinals from around the world tasked with advising the pope on reforms. Semeraro does everything he can to dampen the overwhelming expectations of ordinary Catholics…”

This article raises quite a few interesting topics. First of all, we should clearly see that Catholic members are totally confused about right and wrong standards. Even where the Church is right, they disagree, as they have become more and more liberal.

For example, the church is absolutely right to speak out against sex before marriage and living together without being married, and it is also right in not justifying homosexual behavior. On the other hand, the church is wrong when prohibiting divorce for any reason or the use of birth control methods; and when it compels celibacy for priests.

We should not expect that major doctrinal reforms will occur in the Catholic Church. It is also noteworthy that the article refers to prior Pope Benedict as someone who is still exerting an important influence. We should not hastily dismiss him as a powerful force within the church.

UN “Interferes” in Church Matters?

BBC News wrote on February 5:

“The UN has said that the Vatican should ‘immediately remove’ all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers. The UN watchdog for children’s rights denounced the Holy See for adopting policies which allowed priests to sexually abuse thousands of children. In a report, it also criticised Vatican attitudes towards homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

“The Vatican responded by saying it would examine the report – but also accused its authors of interference…

“The Vatican has always given precedence to Church law, called Canon Law, over local criminal law in dealing with ecclesiastical crime. It does not easily tolerate interference by civil authorities in ecclesiastical matters. The recent case of a senior Vatican diplomat, a Polish archbishop, who was suddenly recalled to Rome from his post in Santo Domingo after serious police accusations of sexual abuse of minors there is a case in point. The Vatican has refused an extradition request by justice authorities in Poland and says an internal police investigation is under way inside Vatican City…

“The Vatican has denied any official cover-up. However, in December it refused a UN request for data on abuse on the grounds that it only released such information if requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings.”

Sadly, the UN is not the body with any credibility in spiritual matters, which is emphasized by that fact that even though they are right in strongly deploring child abuse by the Catholic clergy, they are wrong in advocating abortion and homosexuality.

Was Bavarian King Ludwig II Really Mad?

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 31:

“People have long believed that Bavarian King Ludwig II, the man responsible for building the famous castle of Neuschwanstein, was mentally ill. Indeed, he was dethroned for that very reason. But a recent study casts doubt on that diagnosis.

“When the fate of the king of Bavaria was placed into his hands, Bernhard von Gudden was a highly regarded figure in medical circles. Not only had the doctor perfected a machine that could cut human brains into fine slices for research purposes. But he had also made a name for himself in the area of psychiatry… Still, the psychiatrist thoroughly botched his most famous case. The doctor, together with several colleagues, provided the following diagnosis: ‘He is teetering like a blind man without guidance on the verge of a precipice.’ The king in question was Ludwig II, the most famous of Bavaria’s monarchs, both for his moniker of ‘Mad King Ludwig’ and for the fact that he built several picturesque castles that still dot the southern German state today, including the famous Neuschwanstein at the foot of the Alps.

“Gudden et. al. declared Ludwig II unfit to conduct government business. The diagnosis led to Ludwig’s being dethroned on June 10, 1886. Three days later he — and, mysteriously, Gudden — drowned in what is now called Lake Starnberg, located just south of Munich.

“But how accurate was this drastic medical report? Did it stem from a proper examination that lived up to medical standards of the time? And who had an interest in Ludwig II being toppled? These questions have now been addressed by a group led by Mannheim-based psychiatrist Heinz Häfner. Their findings, recently published in the journal History of Psychiatry, contradict the conclusions reached by Gudden. Häfner says that at no time did the king’s behavior ‘provide reliable evidence of his purported mental illness.’

“Many historians have refrained from questioning the conclusion that the king from the House of Wittelsbach was mentally ill. After all, Ludwig gave his contemporaries ample reasons to question his sanity. He plunged his kingdom into massive debt with his megalomaniac construction projects… Ludwig hadn’t just angered his family and come close to driving his country to financial ruin. He also embarrassed the Bavarian royal family at every opportunity. War Minister Joseph Maximilian von Maillinger, for example, was forced to leave office in 1885, partly because the gay monarch couldn’t refrain from recruiting his lovers from a cavalry unit, the Bavarian Chevau-légers.

“As such, Gudden’s misguided diagnosis was far from unwelcome. The lethal outcome was probably unintended, but couldn’t be ruled out given that Ludwig faced the prospect of being confined to a royal cell in the Berg palace on the shores of Lake Starnberg, with barred windows, doors with observation slits and no handles. Harsh treatment for a man whose behavior these days would be regarded at worst as the product of a personality disorder. It is a diagnosis that countless people live with these days, without being locked away.”

Obamacare’s Individual Penalties

Market Watch wrote on February 2:

“Starting this year, the Obamacare law imposes a penalty on individuals who fail to have so-called minimum essential health insurance coverage for any month. This coverage requirement is commonly called the individual mandate, and the penalty is the cost for failure to comply. You will owe the penalty if you don’t have minimum essential coverage for yourself and your dependents. Minimum essential coverage includes certain government sponsored programs (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program), eligible employer-sponsored plans, plans obtained in the individual market, certain grandfathered group plans, and other coverage specified by the Feds. However, if you fit into one of [numerous] categories, you are exempt from the penalty… You are supposed to pay any penalty you owe with your Form 1040 for the year—starting with your 2014 return which you will file sometime next year.

“However, the only enforcement mechanism is that the government can subtract any unpaid penalty from your federal income tax refunds. So if you’re not owed a refund for 2014 or a later year, there will never be any consequences for not paying the penalty. (You aren’t subject to criminal prosecution, and the IRS cannot put a lien or levy on your income or assets.).”

Dangerous Third-Hand Smoke

CBS wrote on February 3:

“Exposure to surfaces and objects that have been saturated in cigarette smoke, labeled as ‘third-hand smoke,’ is just as deadly as smoking the cigarette itself. A new study from the University of California, Riverside finds that the third-hand smoke that has soaked into the surfaces, objects and environment around people becomes increasingly toxic over time. Third-hand smoke is defined as the second-hand smoke that is allowed to settle on objects in any environment. Non-smoking children, co-workers, spouses and friends of smokers breathe in such carcinogens left in rooms exposed to smokers…

“The researchers note that smoking tobacco remains a worldwide cause of serious health threats for smokers and nonsmokers alike, affected approximately 1.5 billion people globally…  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Cigarette smoking causes an estimated 440,000 deaths each year in the U.S., which is about one-in-five deaths. The CDC notes that smoking causes more deaths annually than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries and firearm-related incidents.

“CDC data shows that exposure to secondhand smoke has “immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and can cause coronary heart disease.” Secondhand smoke causes an estimated 46,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year in the United States among nonsmokers. Past research has shown that older children whose parents smoke get sick more often, their lungs grow less and wheezing, coughing are more common in children who breathe secondhand smoke.”

As we can see from this article, first-hand, second-hand and third-hand smoke are a terrible curse with bad consequences for the smokers and others. How can we deny the fact that smoking is harmful, and that it causes harm (not just displeasure) to others? In what way can smoking be a reflection of love towards neighbor and self? It is clearly sinful in the eyes of God.

Deluge in England

The Guardian wrote on February 1:

“The deluge that has engulfed southern and central England in recent weeks is the worst winter downpour in almost 250 years… The rainfall… in January was greater than for any winter month since daily recording began there in 1767, and three times the average amount… the region from Devon to Kent and up into the Midlands suffered its wettest January since its records began in 1910.”

On some cities it will rain… but sadly, far too much…

Drought in California

Newsmax wrote on February 2:

“California’s three-year drought could end up being the area’s worst in 500 years, forcing even tougher restrictions on residents who have been cutting back on showers and farming already. On Friday, the State Water Project, which is the main distribution system of municipal water in California, announced it would not be allocating any water from its reservoirs to local agencies this spring. It is the first time it has taken such action in its 54-year history. Drinking water for 25 million people and irrigation for 1 million acres of farmland will be affected… A snow survey Thursday in the Sierra Nevada showed a snowpack of only 12 percent of normal… Reservoirs are lower than in 1977, one of the state’s previous worst drought years.

“With forecasts still calling for no rain, 17 rural communities that provide water to 40,000 people could run out of [it] within 60 to 120 days… And air pollution in Los Angeles, which had been declining over the past 10 years, is on the rise without rain to clean the air. Bans have been put on fireplace wood burning to combat the problem.”

The Associated Press wrote on February 2:

“Amid California’s driest year on record, the nation’s leading agricultural region is locked in drought and bracing for unemployment to soar, sending farm workers to food lines in a place famous for its abundance. One-third of the Central Valley’s jobs are related to farming. Strains on water supplies are expected to force farmers to leave fields unplanted, creating a ripple effect on food processing plant workers, truck drivers and those who sell fertilizer, irrigation equipment and tractors.”

… while there will be no rain on other cities…

Volcano Eruption in Indonesia

Reuters wrote on February 1:

“Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung volcano erupted and killed at least 11 people on the western island of Sumatra on Saturday, the first time it is known to have claimed any lives, a senior government official said. The volcano has becoming increasingly active in recent months, regularly spewing columns of ash several kilometres into the air. The government has evacuated tens of thousands of residents near the area…

“Sinabung is one of nearly 130 active volcanoes in the world’s most populous country, which stands along the ‘Ring of Fire’ volcanic belt around the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Indonesia’s most deadly volcanic eruption in recent years was of Mount Merapi, near the densely populated city of Yogyakarta in central Java. It erupted in late 2010, killing more than 350 people.”

… and eruptions of volcanoes and other terrible natural disasters will continue, as we are nearing the return of Jesus Christ.

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What is the significance of the saying of Jews at Jesus’ time that “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25)?

As will be explained herein, many have taken this statement to justify anti-Semitic sentiments, or to explain horrible incidents like the Holocaust when millions of Jews were killed in gas chambers. But is it possible that a “curse,” which is placed by parents on their children and future generations, can automatically bring about such terrible results? Some turn for an explanation to the “curse” which God placed on parents and children who “hate” Him. 

In a previous Q&A, we asked and answered the question what it means that God will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him (compare Exodus 20:5), and explained that this does not contradict Scriptures such as Deuteronomy 24:16, stating that children are not to be put to death for their fathers, but that a person “shall be put to death for his own sin.”

We pointed out that the children will only be punished if they themselves are sinning, stating: “The Companion Bible comments to Ezekiel 18: 4, 20: ‘Descendants were not punished for the sins of their ancestors unless they persevered in their ancestors’ sins.’ The same thought is expressed in Exodus 20. Note that Exodus 20:5 speaks of those ‘who hate Me.’ Soncino points out that the phrase, ‘of those that hate Me,’ applies to the children, i.e. God will punish the children if they [the children] hate Him. Soncino comments, too, that the punishment will be brought upon the children, ‘when they retain the evil deeds of their fathers.’”

We also explained that “the conduct of the parents may have a lot to do with the fact whether their children or grandchildren love or hate God. The sins of the fathers do affect future generations — and so does the penalty for sin… When Adam and Eve sinned, the penalty imposed on them affected all mankind. Through their sin, they cut themselves – and man – off from God. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), and since all have sinned, all have incurred the death penalty for sin (Romans 5:14). One might say that the sin of Adam and Eve affected, at the very least, the third and fourth generation, but since Cain sinned, his sin affected the next four generations, and so on. The effect of sin is cumulative. Finally, sin had become so all-encompassing that God decided to destroy the entire world in a flood.

“Christ, in showing the evil influence of their parents and their own culpability in their continued hate of God, pointed out in Matthew 23:31-36, how the principle of Exodus 20:6 was fulfilled in the persons of the scribes and Pharisees at Christ’s time.”

We also stressed that the “vicious cycle of sin, penalty, and death can be interrupted, however, when a person turns to God, repents, and obtains forgiveness.” Norbert Link’s recent sermon, “The Fate of Our Children,” explains this topic in much detail, showing that “God determined to call some in this day and age to have a special relationship with Him. This includes the children of called-out parents. Whether they may realize it or not, parents have a tremendous influence on their children and grandchildren—in good and bad ways.”

In light of this concept, let us return to Matthew 27:25. In the context of that passage, Pilate washed his hands and stated that he was “innocent of the blood of this just Person,” Jesus Christ.   In response, the crowd yelled, “His blood be on us and on our children,” demanding His death by crucifixion.

Many commentaries feel indeed that this saying had automatic consequences for their future generations.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary writes: “The Jews’ curse upon themselves has been awfully answered in the sufferings of their nation.”

The Pulpit Commentary says: “A mad and impious imprecation, the fulfillment of which quickly commenced, and has continued unto this day. The terrible events connected with the destruction of Jerusalem, the overthrow of the theocracy, and the eighteen centuries of exile and dispersion, bear witness to the reality of the vengeance thus wantonly invoked.”

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible writes: “… his blood was in the sense they wished it; and for the shedding of it, wrath came upon them to the uttermost, in the entire destruction of their nation, city, and temple, and very remarkable it is, that great numbers of them were put to death by crucifixion; and very likely some of those very persons, that were so clamorous for the crucifying of Christ; and if not, at least their children; five hundred of the Jews and more, were sometimes crucified in a day, whilst Titus was besieging the city; till at length there wanted ‘room for crosses’, ‘and crosses for bodies’, as Josephus (u) says, who was an eyewitness of it: and to this day, this dreadful wish of the blood of Christ upon them, is to be seen in their miserable, abject, and captive state; and will be, until such time that they look to him whom they have pierced, and mourn…”

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says: “The Jews had no right to call down this vengeance on their children, but, in the righteous judgment of God, it has come upon them. In less than forty years their city and temple were overthrown and destroyed. More than a million of people [sic] perished in the siege. Thousands died by famine; thousands by disease; thousands by the sword; and their blood ran down the streets like water, so that, Josephus says, it extinguished things that were burning in the city. Thousands were crucified suffering the same punishment that they had inflicted on the Messiah… To this day, also, the curse has remained. They have been a nation scattered and peeled; persecuted almost everywhere, and a hissing and a byword among people. No single nation, probably, has suffered so much; and yet they have been preserved. All classes of people, all the governments of the earth, have conspired to overwhelm them with calamity, and yet they still live as monuments of the justice of God, and as proofs, going down from age to age, that the Christian religion is true – standing demonstrations of the crime of their fathers in putting the Messiah to death, and in calling down vengeance on their heads.”

Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says: “If this man be innocent, and we put him to death as a guilty person, may the punishment due to such a crime be visited upon us, and upon our children after us! What a dreadful imprecation! and how literally fulfilled!… they fell victims to their own imprecation, being visited with a series of calamities unexampled in the history of the world. They were visited with the same kind of punishment; for the Romans crucified them in such numbers when Jerusalem was taken, that there was found a deficiency of crosses for the condemned, and of places for the crosses. Their children or descendants have had the same curse entailed upon them, and continue to this day a proof of the innocence of Christ, the truth of his religion, and of the justice of God.”

The People’s New Testament says: “His blood be on us. That is, let us have the responsibility and suffer the punishment. A fearful legacy, and awfully inherited. The history of the Jews from that day on has been the darkest recorded in human annals.”

Wesley’s Notes say: “His blood be on us and on our children – As this imprecation was dread, fully answered in the ruin so quickly brought on the Jewish nation, and the calamities which have ever since pursued that wretched people, so it was peculiarly fulfilled by Titus the Roman general, on the Jews whom he took during the siege of Jerusalem. So many, after having been scourged in a terrible manner, were crucified all round the city, that in a while there was not room near the wall for the crosses to stand by each other. Probably this befell some of those who now joined in this cry, as it certainly did many of their children: the very finger of God thus pointing out their crime in crucifying his Son.”

This will suffice. Even though the human mind might hastily conclude that the sufferings of the Jews are the direct result of a curse uttered by parents for them and future generations, such interpretation is not biblical. However, the consequences of this kind of interpretation have indeed been terrible. Adolf Hitler used this Scripture and the concept that the “Jews killed Christ” to exterminate millions of them during the Holocaust. Others, prior to him, had used the same “justification” for their horrible and ungodly deeds towards the Jews. But what is forgotten is the fact that the Jews were persecuted long before the death of Christ—we may recall that in the book of Esther, all the Jews would have been killed if it had not been for Esther’s intervention. Clearly, Satan was behind that attempt to exterminate the Jewish people to make prophecy “fail,” by trying to prevent the birth of Jesus Christ—knowing that He would be a descendant of the house of Judah.

The Nelson Study Bible comments that “The destruction of Jerusalem was one of the results of this sin [the curse uttered by the parents].” For proof, the commentary points at Matthew 23:32-39. However, that passage describes the results of the sins of those who were involved—it does not inflict a curse on innocent children who do not participate in the evil life style of their parents. In addition, we should realize that this was not a curse uttered by God, but a curse uttered by ignorant people. God is not bound by such a curse. To the contrary, we read that no one can curse or effectuate a curse on someone whom God does not curse (Numbers 23:8).

Recognizing the injustice of categorically condemning all future generations to a terrible curse uttered by some of their ancestors, some commentaries take a more differentiated point of view. The New Bible Commentary: Revised states that the “saying has been wrongly used in later generations to persecute the Jews.” The Broadman Bible Commentary agrees, saying: “Verse 25 has unfortunately been used in anti-Semitism, and such use is to be deplored. Jesus was crucified by Romans at Jewish initiative, but not all Jews then supported the crime, and Jews today are no more guilty than any other people. Jesus died on account of the sins of the world, not of the Jews alone.”

This is indeed true. Christ came to die for all men—Jews and Gentiles—and all of us are guilty of His death, because all of us have sinned, and the wages of sin is death. In addition, our sins—not unfriendly words uttered by ignorant men—bring about curses in our lives. Christ came to free us from sin and the death penalty through the shedding of His precious blood, and to remove from us the curse of eternal death (For more information, please read our free booklet, “Jesus Christ—a Great Mystery.”). It is also a fact that this is Satan’s world, and that Satan is anxious to destroy all of mankind. Millions of people have died in wars, famines, disease epidemics and “natural” catastrophes, and millions of Christians were murdered during the times of the Inquisition. As explained in this Q&A, we suffer the consequences of our own misconduct, and we are only responsible for the misconduct of our parents if we adopt their life style and make it our own.  To say that Jews were singled out by God and persecuted and killed throughout history because of a curse uttered by some Jews at the time of Christ’s death is equally as wrong as to hold the current generation of Germans responsible for the crimes of some of their fathers and grandfathers against the Jews and others during Nazi Germany.

We should also focus on another possibility as to how to understand Matthew 27:25. Even though the Jews who uttered these terrible words were misled and meant them as a rejection of Christ to be applied to them and their children—apparently not realizing what they were saying—God might have inspired the recording of these statements to point out quite a different concept. For instance, we read that the high priest recommended the death of Jesus Christ, as “it is expedient to us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:49-50). He meant that Jesus should die so that the Romans would not come in to destroy Judah, but God inspired this saying for quite a different reason. As John 11:51-52 explains: “Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.”

In that sense, some commentaries understand the saying in Matthew 27:25 in a similar way. The One Volume Bible Commentary by J.R. Dummelow refers to the Jews’ saying also as “a blessing upon believers, on whom the blood of Jesus came for sanctification, and the remission of sin, compare John 11:50.” Indeed, when the blood of Jesus covers our sins, this will have a positive influence on our children. When a parent is becoming converted and accepts the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins, his children become “holy” or “sanctified” (1 Corinthians 7:14); that is, they are being set aside for the holy purpose of realizing their potential of entering into a relationship with God. In that sense, the “curse” of the parents in Matthew 27:25 could perhaps be understood, in God’s eyes, as the (unrealized) cry for a blessing for them and their children.

God will answer that cry. He will soon send Jesus Christ to this earth to offer all of mankind—Jews and Gentiles alike—the gift of eternal life and freedom from sin and the curse of eternal death. That is why we are to pray daily for the coming of God’s Kingdom (Matthew 6:10).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

ALL WRONG—Evolution, Creationism and Intelligent Design!,” is the title of a new compelling StandingWatch program presented by Evangelist Norbert Link. Here is a summary:
On February 4, 2014, a debate took place between two proponents of the (atheistic) Evolution concept and of Creationism. The subsequent responses were telling—TV Evangelist Pat Robertson rejected “Young Earth Creationism” and stated that he believes in God-guided Evolution—a position which is also embraced by the Catholic Church. Others felt that “Old Earth Creationism” and “Intelligent Design” (ID) should have been discussed as alternatives. This program shows that all of these concepts are wrong, and explains what the Bible REALLY SAYS about the origins of the earth and of man.

“Krieg oder Frieden?,” is the title of the first installment of a new series of German sermons in which Norbert Link addresses choices which lead to war or to peace.

Also, Mr. Link has written a new German member letter. It addresses the need to make reservations at the Feast 2014 Hotel in Germany and includes the German translation of our recent Q&A on not adding to or deleting from God’s Word.

The Hilton Garden Inn at Pismo Beach, California, is this year’s location for the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day observance in the US.  We reserved 15 rooms with more available, as needed. Please contact us as soon as possible and tell us that you want to stay in the hotel. We are composing an assignment list. Once this intial sign-up is complete, we will add detailed information about the hotel on the CEG website.

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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

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While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

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